Is Dire Straits' 'Money for Nothing' homophobic?

mark-knopflerImage Credit: Graham Wiltshire/RedfernsBritish rockers Dire Straits are not among rock’s natural controversy magnets. But a brouhaha has erupted in the past few days over their 1985 track “Money For Nothing,” which private broadcasters in Canada are no longer allowed to play because it features the word “faggot.”

Last Wednesday, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that  “Money for Nothing” is “extremely offensive” and inappropriate for airing on radio or television because it contains repeated use of the anti-gay slur. CBSC chairman Ron Cohen told the Washington Times the decision effectively sets a “nationwide” precedent binding on all private license holders for TV, cable-TV and radio broadcasting. The CBSC is an independent, non-governmental organization which administers standards established by private broadcasters.

Yesterday, Dire Straits keyboard player Guy Fletcher responded to the controversy on his website. “MFN does not ‘celebrate’ a slur,” he wrote. “In it, Mark uses real everyday U.S. street language to describe how a numbskull worker in a hardware department in a television/custom kitchen/refrigerator/microwave appliance store, feels about a video being shown in the store.” The Consumers’ Association of Canada has also urged federal broadcast regulator the Canadian Radiotelevision Telecommunication Commission to review the decision.

What do you think? Is this an example of “political correctness gone mad”? Or an entirely reasonable decision inspired by an unwillingness to tolerate homophobic slurs, regardless of context? Let us know!

More from EW.com:
A chat with Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopler

Comments (117 total) Add your comment
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  • Matthew

    No more offensive than Archie Bunker. It’s in the same spirit.

    • Hans M.

      Matthew’s right it represents the language of a “numbskull.” This is PC-ness going over the edge. The use of the word in this context should be considered more insightful than insulting.

      • Matt

        I don’t know. I think I disagree. The word has come to have the same kind of offensiveness as the n-word. I don’t think many people would disagree with that word being not allowed to be broadcast, whether it’s in a certain context or not. This is like that.

      • Kwise

        Does the average listener know that these lyrics represent the thoughts of a “numbskull,” who is being mocked? My guess is no. I’ve sung this song for years and never really thought about what the lyrics meant. And empirical research on music supports this – most listeners of music have no idea what a song is about, or what its message is. Thus, the fact that this slur was used in a particular context is going to be lost on a great # of people. As such, I don’t think we should allow slurs like this “in certain contexts,” if a majority of people don’t even realize the context. Admit it -without reading the article above, I bet most here didn’t know the context in which this word was used in this song.

      • Trent

        In your boneheaded dreams, Kwise. You may have been too thick to understand the meaning of this song, but most people seem to get it. If you’re going to reference “empirical research on music,” please cite your sources.

      • Katyo

        @Kwise – so, if people don’t like to “think” about what they’re listening to, we should ban certain songs for their lyrics? That’s insane.

      • WKSmith

        This truly is ignorant.

        So therefore we should remove the “n” word from all of Mark Twain’s novels, wow that would seriously dismember the intent of the book.

        Money for Nothing is my favourite DS song, fantatstic riff and is meant to be a sligh commentary on the high flying world of MTV musicians in the excess driven 1980s. Like the article says was written in a hardware store by Mark Knopfler (legend) after he overheard a worker singing some garb about MTV lol. This is PC gone nuts. It shud also be noted that Elton John and Mark Knopfler did a fantastic rendition of this song with Eric Clapton and Sting for charity. So if Elton ain’t offended why should anyone else be?!

      • Grim

        @Kwise

        Your “argument” holds no water whatsoever. Are you fond of the concept that you are allowed to freely express an opinion about what you believe to be correct?

        If so, you must also accept the idea that others have the right to freely express an opinion different from yours. Even if Knopfler was serious about hating gay people, nobody has the right to “shut him up.” Tolerance of thought, expression, and speech only works when all viewpoints, even ugly ones, are tolerated. Otherwise, it’s not tolerance. It’s two sides of the same coin. Get it?

        In the event you don’t get it, I don’t have a problem with how anybody lives their private life because I don’t have to walk in their shoes. If you’re gay, then be gay and be happy. More power to you.

        What I have a problem with is people legislating thought and speech – ESPECIALLY artistic expression. If you don’t think about the lyrics that you feed your own mind, that is YOUR problem. The rest of us don’t need to be “protected” because we don’t know any better. It is not the responsibility of a government to think for you. If you want that, move to China. They would be happy to oblige you.

    • Plato

      The song mocks morons and homophobes.

    • Cici

      All it took was 1 person from the maritimes in Canada to be offended and get this ridiculous action to happen. Unbelievable ! Madness !

      • G. Wiz.

        Newfoundland, not the Maritimes.

  • JLC

    Once again, context goes out the window in the name of purifying the language.

  • whatevs

    They could play the song and bleep out that word like they do for rap songs.

    • Daniel

      US radio stations I’ve heard this song on play an alternate version with just the music and the verse stripped out.

      • Tag

        The video that ran on TV all those years never included that particular verse. Classic rock stations play the uncut version all the time. It’s strange that it’s becoming an issue now.

      • wakeforce

        What is this, 1985?

    • sunny

      you’re right whatevs, and that was the ruling actually. the song can be played if the word is edited out.

  • a

    And they are just realizing the lyric 25 years later?
    It’s meant to show the ignorance of the narrator of the song.

    • imahrtbrkbeat

      I was just thinking that — it’s like, clearly, they aren’t listening to the song. If it was such a concern, it should have never been played. It’s a classic. Leave it alone.

    • Dream out loud

      It’s Canada. It’s probably new to them.

      • ktownmessiah

        Funny – u probably think we live in igloos too. At least we wont have Sarah Palin for a future leader

    • Rock Golf

      NO, they aren’t “just recognizing it now”, but times have changed and that word, which was never really acceptable in the first place doesn’t need to be used for entertainment purposes.
      Even Knopfler himself when performing the song live replaces the word.
      And before you get all high and mighty, listen to Kanye’s “Gold Digger” or Cee Lo Green “F*** You” on American radio. They’ve had offensive words bleeped, slurred or replaced since the beginning.

  • stevie g

    ridiculous…there really is no account for context anymore…anyone who has actually heard the song before and knows the lyrics knows that the “worker” is making fun of a rich group of rock stars (such as the dire straits themselves)…PC is completely running amock

    • pisces

      Exactly – they were making fun of what blue collar guys probably think of them.

      • Juke

        In the video, the cartoon idiots are pointing at TVs playing Dire Straits concert footage.

  • pitt

    This would have made so much more sense, um, 25 years ago. Now it just seems odd. Can’t they just blank out the word like they do on so many other songs with offenses phrases/words these days?

    • jp

      You’re talking censorship. Hell to the no.

  • SM

    I didn’t even realize this word was in the song until this ban was announced last week. PC has gone too far – you have to look at it in the spirit it was intended. People need to start getting a thicker skin about these things – pretty soon no one will be able open there mouths without fear of being labeled racist or homophobic!

    • Paradiso

      Let me guess – you are straight and white?? Nice of you to tell me what I can be offended by.

      • SM

        Why yes I am and I am female – what does it matter? I am not offended when someone calls me “cracker” – I know that they are just ignorant and feel sorry for them and their narrow-mindedness. I don’t see people by their skin color or sexual orientation – I see them as they are – a person. I think it is you who is the hypocrit!

      • Jay

        I agree, Paradiso is the one who is a hypocrite. Maybe he needs to go back to kindergarten to learn the “sticks & stones…” phrase

      • SM

        Thank you Jay. It’s like the line in Harry Potter – fear of the name creates fear of the thing itself.

      • jp

        Friend, the person narrating the song is a caricature of a boorish, ignorant bigot. If you are offended by this song (which I’m guessing is probably older than you are), you are more close-minded than the lout being portrayed in the song. Try to see the forest through the trees, aka the CONTEXT.

      • Devien

        Freedom of expression is quoted over and over again in these posts. The gentleman above is trying to make a point that if you don’t belong to the group that is being slurred it is difficult to understand its impact. I am saddened and shocked by the response this desenting point of view has received.

      • AcaseofGeo

        @ Devien: IF the poster was merely expressing an opinion his choice of post would NOT have begun with “Let me guess you’re straight and your white”. That was an INFLAMMATORY response. Add in the condescending tone of “Nice of you to tell me….” and its clear this person meant to be incendiary and NOT merely express a view that some people might be offended by this. We cannot cleanse the English language through censorship.

  • ToMajorTom

    “Intent” is a major part of something being offensive or not. Personally, I don’t believe their intent was to offend or project homophobia. (But, clearly, I wasn’t there when they wrote & recorded the song, so what do I know?)

  • mrs b

    What is not mentioned in this story posted here but on countless Canadian Newsbroadcasts is that it was one person out of 35 million Canadians that complained. only 1 person. That is what has really angered me. 1 person has the right to dictate what 35 million people are allowed to listen to on the radio and 25 years after the song had started playing on radio too!

    • David D

      To add to this, I was the video editor on a popular cable television series several years ago, and two years after an episode aired where the host used the word “wussy,” ONE PERSON complained that it was offensive — AND THE NETWORK MADE US TAKE IT OUT. For “wussy”!! As to this non-issue, it reminds me of the outrage and the albums that were burned when Randy Newman released “Short People” — a point of view in a song or a film or a novel is not always that of the creator! This isn’t always autobiography, people!

    • Niix Starkyller

      Scoop of the year (here in Canada) would be finding out that person’s name and then we could publicly vilify them for ruining our traditional summertime “Greatest” rock song countdowns. To be stereotypical, that person is a real hoser.

  • erin

    Ice-T also wrote the song “Cop Killer” in third-person, from the point of view of an unbalanced individual. That didn’t stop thousands of people from being outraged about the song and claiming that Ice-T wanted cops to die. People don’t understand rhetorical voice.

    • daisyj

      But, even taking it in context, there are plenty of people who listen to the song and identify with the viewpoint character, even if that wasn’t the band’s intent. And by broadcasting it on the public airwaves, you are making the tacit statement that, even if this sort of speech isn’t ideal, it is still acceptable.

  • daisyj

    Even if it wasn’t really “meant” by the singer of the song, it’s an offensive, insulting slur and I think it’s reasonable not to broadcast it on the radio. But I hardly think that banning the entire song is necessary, particularly when most stations here have been playing it with the word bleeped or distorted for years.
    (Also, speaking of distorted lyrics, was I the only person who went through childhood thinking they were singing, “Money for nothing and your checks for free?”)

    • Caryn

      no, you’re not the only one – I thought that until I just read your post – haha!!

      • Devien

        Me three lol about the “checks for free” thing.
        You summed that up very nicely daisy, thank you. It is an offensive word and there is no reason it can’t be bleeped out. It’s been played without that word in Canada for years. Why are people talking of censorship and faulting political correctness after so many years? I don’t get it.

      • Jay

        @Devain – political correctness is just a form of censorship, which is morally wrong on any level

    • Niix Starkyller

      Yeah, well enjoy your reading of the ‘alternate’ version of Huckleberry Finn, you Philistine.
      (Oh, wait. That may be insulting to Philistines…)
      You heathen!
      (Oh, wait…)

    • regguy

      You mean it’s not “checks”? It’s “chicks”?!?! How offensive!

  • Jay

    Political Correctness is evil… not a silly song, or even a slur.

    If someone is offended by someone else calling them a name, I suggest they go back to kindergarten to get over it.

    • James

      So if I called your mother a name, you’d tell her to chill out and stop being so PC if she objected, right?

      • jodipo

        I’d laugh as my mom kicked your a$$

      • MajorWhoaButWhy

        Jodipo, best reply ever.

  • kaydevo

    So 26 years later these geniuses notice the lyrics of this song? Did they listen to the entire lyrics? This whole story seems really odd.

    • David

      Yep – wait till they hear ‘Brown Sugar’ by the Rolling Stones.

      • Juke

        And Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young.”

  • PN

    But does anybody remember when MTV showed the video a lot with that little f verse in the fall of 1985 that’s not on the radio version? I don’t know why no one mentioned that or did something about it. They just kept running it to match with the pace of the music video. Fortunately, I never liked that part of the song–the rest of the song is okay.

  • Mary

    Most of the time when I hear this song on 80s station, that particular verse is removed anyway. So the song can be played, technically.

    • BJohnson

      Yeah, they are a little late on that one. I rarely saw or heard the unedited one in the 80s. Maybe later in the 80s I found out that verse even existed.

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