How Fairytale of New York became Britain's favourite Christmas culture war

How Fairytale of New York became Britain's favourite Christmas culture war

Each Christmas, discussion about Fairytale of New York is as certain as a mid-afternoon food baby, an argument over the roast potatoes and a Boxing Day hangover.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, The Pogues song – which is among the most beloved Christmas tunes ever recorded – is considered offensive to some people because its lyrics include the homophobic slur “f*****”.

Lots of people, particularly gay men, think that the word “f*****” has no place in modern society. The song was released and recorded in 1987, but times have most definitely changed.

Now, the BBC has come under fire for airing the word during the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special as the song was being sung by characters on the show. This has reignited the debate over the offensiveness of the lyric.

Why is this word so offensive?

The word “f*****” can be extremely hurtful to gay people, in any context. Many have had it shouted at them in public or at school. It has often been the last word many people have heard during homophobic attacks. Reports of hate crimes have sharply risen in the last five years, so this problem hasn’t gone away.

Why do people have an issue with the song?

Many LGBT+ people take issue with the glee with which people seem to scream this particular lyric – almost like it's a treat. But there’s also a strong and often angry reaction from the opposite side when it’s suggested that the lyric should be censored in public places, on the radio and pre-watershed.

Of course it’s an old song. But times have changed and if a vulnerable group of people are offended or upset about something, shouldn’t we listen?

Why are people annoyed with the BBC?

In this context, the word “f*****” is obviously a part of a song lyric, which complicates things. In this instance, the lyrics are also being sang by fictional characters too, which complicates things further.

Gavin & Stacey is a family show which aired at 8pm, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that LGBT+ people would find a homophobic slur being watched by millions of people, including children, fairly distressing.

James Corden, who wrote the show, claims to be an LGBT+ ally. So many people are disappointed with his inclusion of the word.

Why has this turned into such a culture war?

The debate over the slur taps into an ongoing culture war that’s been going on for some time.

One side thinks those offended are “snowflakes” or “politically correct gone mad” who are looking for any excuse to be outraged and take the joy out of things. Whereas those who are upset about it, to varying degrees, just want people to understand why words like this are hurtful and why they matter.

It’s worth noting that a very small number of people want the song banned, just censored in certain contexts.

On social media, people have been sharing their reasons for being upset with the BBC.

But others still aren’t getting it…

More: 14 of the best (spoiler-free) reactions to the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special​

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