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Film and TV

BBC bizarrely defends using homophobic slur in Gavin and Stacey by claiming it ‘isn’t linked to homosexuality’

Nick Duffy January 9, 2020
Gavin and Stacey

BBC bosses defended the decision to broadcast the uncensored version of 'Fairytale of New York' in Gavin and Stacey (BBC)

The BBC has defended airing a homophobic slur in the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.

The broadcaster faced complaints from LGBT+ viewers over the scene, which saw Bryn and Nessa – played by the show’s co-creator Ruth Jones and comic Rod Brydon – singing along to ‘Fairytale of New York’.

The track, recorded by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues, includes the line: “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot, Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last.”

The use of the homophobic slur has long been controversial, with MacColl omitting it from live performances prior to her death in in 2000 – while Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan continues to defend its use.

BBC says song ‘reflects language used in the 1940s’.

In a response to complaints seen by PinkNews on Thursday, the BBC defended the use of the homophobic slur in the pre-watershed comedy special, which aired at 8pm.

A spokesperson said: “‘Fairytale of New York’ is a well-established, much-loved Christmas song which tells the story of a troubled couple in 1940s New York.

“The descent of their relationship is reflected in the increasingly abusive and offensive terms they use to address each other; insults which are intended to reflect the language that such characters might have used in that era.

“The origin of the word includes a definition which describes it as a contemptuous and antiquated word for laziness, and the author of the song has cited this inference behind his inclusion of that line.

“While the word ‘faggot’ is now widely acknowledged as having the potential to offend, the song never suggests or implies that this is, or was ever, an appropriate way to address another person, nor does it link it to homosexuality.”

Gavin and Stacey: Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones' characters Bryn and Nessa s
Rob Brydon and Ruth Jones’ characters Bryn and Nessa

Gavin and Stacey special ‘had no intention to offend’.

The spokesperson continued: “Nessa and Bryn were seen singing the original lines and we can assure you there was no intention to offend viewers. We understand that some people will find it offensive in any context but we also recognise that the song is widely played and enjoyed in its original form.

“Ofcom have previously stated that they feel it is ‘unlikely that audiences would widely perceive [the song] as a serious attempt to denigrate the homosexual community’.”

The show’s stars have also defended the moment.

When asked by The Sun if she had considered a backlash, Jones said: “It is a different climate. But we have to remain true to the characters, to who they were.

“Characters in Gavin and Stacey are kind and big-hearted, I believe. So I think no one is going to be intentionally hurtful. But by the same token, they’re not necessarily going to be completely politically correct or be aware of political correctness.”

More: BBC, Fairytale of New York, Gavin and Stacey, Homophobia

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