We regret to inform you the Fairytale of New York homophobia debate is back once again

·4-min read

It’s officially the Christmas season, which can only mean one thing – the annual “Fairytale of New York” discourse has started once again.

Each year, at the start of December, people start fervently discussing the use of a certain homophobic slur in The Pogues’ classic Christmas tune “Fairytale of New York”.

The discourse is generally fairly predictable – someone says the song should be banned, or it shouldn’t be played on the radio. Somebody who closely resembles a gammon kicks off about cancel culture.

Suddenly, Twitter is in a heap; columnists are sitting down in front of their computers ready to unleash their latest treatise on cancel culture on the world; the rest of us start tearing our hair out as we mournfully delete the Twitter app, desperately hoping the conversation will end so we can go back to looking at memes.

The pointless, endless discussion has taken place each December for the last few years – and this year is no exception. The Christmas season has hardly even begun, and the usual suspects are already shouting at each other online over whether the word was intended as a slur or if Kirsty MacColl was insinuating that Shane MacGowan is actually a delicious meatball.

At this stage, the start of the discourse sends a clear signal to queer Twitter users that it’s time to pack their bags and run away from the platform before the “aul lads” take over.

There are so many things we should be talking about instead of ‘Fairytale of New York’

The annual “Fairytale of New York” discourse crops up each year despite the fact that there are literally countless more important things going on in the world. A new COVID variant has just emerged; queer people are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic; there’s a wave of transphobic violence happening across the world and nobody seems to care; conversion therapy is still legal; hate crimes are on the rise.

This December, one thing is almost guaranteed: newspapers will devote column inches to “Fairytale of New York”, we’ll have to endure panel discussions on television about the song, and Daily Mail readers will be outraged at the mere idea that a homophobic slur be censored on the radio.

All of those major media platforms will also continue largely ignoring the plethora of issues faced by the LGBT+ community today. They’ll blithely turn a blind eye to the fact that the queer community is going through a mental health crisis, and they’ll do their very best to completely ignore the crisis in trans healthcare that’s been rumbling on for years.

The point is that there is an endless list of things the world could be talking about – but instead we choose to have the same redundant conversation every year.

Even The Pogues would prefer that the discourse around the song stopped – in fact, the band made it clear last year that they don’t even care whether the original version of the song is played on the radio.

The band spoke out in November 2020 after BBC Radio 1 announced that it would be playing an “alternative” version of “Fairytale of New York” to avoid offending younger listeners who would be justifiably appalled at hearing a homophobic slur blasting from the radio at work. Because the world truly can’t escape the discourse, Twitter quickly erupted, with right-wing mouthpieces rushing to the front of the queue to express their rage at the move.

Responding to the furore, The Pogues shared a tweet which said straight people “being so angry and outraged” over the censoring of the word was the most unsettling part of the entire discussion. To make the band’s response even better, they proceeded to lash out at actor and right-wing commentator Laurence Fox, who called for the BBC to be defunded over its decision to play an alternative version of the song.

“F**k off you little herrenvolk s***e,” was The Pogues’ response.

That response was very much in line with what The Pogues have always stood for. It’s also worth noting that Kirsty MacColl had started singing an alternative version of the song before her tragic death in 2000 – indicating that even she was at least partly uncomfortable with the inclusion of the homophobic slur.

So you can dedicate this December to arguing about “Fairytale of New York” on Twitter if you want to – but you should probably be aware that not even The Pogues care about the endless discourse.

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