As the culture continues to evolve, language used in films, TV series, and music from bygone eras that were once thought acceptable are now seen as offensive, a situation that is escalating as the holidays approach and familiar favourites are trotted out that offer a harsh reminder of the time when now-controversial words were less so.
For example, several radio stations throughout North American and Europe are removing the holiday classic “Baby It’s Cold Outside” from the air after complaints that the song is a “rape anthem” in which a man attempts to thwart a woman’s attempts to leave his home by convincing her it’s too cold, and she should stay.
Another holiday favourite now under the spotlight is the Pogues’ 1987 hit “Fairytale of New York”, which is being criticized for one line in particular, when singer Kirsty McColl sings of the Irish band’s frontman, Shane MacGowan, “you scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy f****t.”
Debate over whether the song should be censored for its offending word has been raging on social media, with some Twitter users insisting the song should be bleeped, or simply taken off Christmas radio playlists entirely.
Others took the opposing view, that society has become too sensitive and that censoring works of art from previous eras because they’re now deemed offensive is a perilous path.
Earlier this year, Molly Ringwald sparked a similar debate when she wrote an essay for the New Yorker admitting she was shocked when rewatching some of her 1980s hit movies, realizing they “could also be considered racist, misogynistic, and, at times, homophobic.”
However, Ringwald also insisted that context is key when viewing or listening to a movie or song through the lens of modern-day cultural standards and that shouldn’t negate the original works.
“The conversations about them will change, and they should,” she explained. “It’s up to the following generations to figure out how to continue those conversations and make them their own — to keep talking, in schools, in activism and art — and trust that we care.”