Film and TV

BBC agrees not to broadcast homophobic Fairytale of New York slur in Gavin and Stacey Christmas special

Emma Powys Maurice December 24, 2020
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Gavin and Stacey

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

The BBC has agreed not to broadcast a homophobic slur on Christmas Eve when it airs a repeat of the Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special.

The controversial episode sees two characters perform a karaoke duet of The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York”, including the lyric: “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot.”

Viewers were horrified to hear the homophobic slur on last year’s Christmas Day pre-watershed comedy special, and the broadcaster was hit with more than 900 complaints for offensive language.

The BBC defended its decision not to censor the slur, claiming it “isn’t linked to homosexuality”, and threatened to invite further controversy by announcing that the episode would run again on 24 December.

Thankfully, it has now been announced that the lyric will be cut from the Gavin and Stacey re-run on BBC1.

The decision came not from the BBC but from production firm Fulwell 73, The Sun reports, which opted to keep the scene with Bryn singing but remove the line in question.

“Fulwell 73 thought long and hard about this and they hope the change will ensure the special can be enjoyed by all audiences, present and future, without causing any unintended offence,” a source said.

BBC Radio 1 will also play an “alternative” version of the song that does not include the word.

The BBC said in a statement: “We know the song is considered a Christmas classic and we will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience.”

“Fairytale of New York” debate is an unfortunate Christmas tradition

The homophobic slur in The Pogues’ 1987 song has long been controversial and the tired debate is now almost as synonymous with Christmas as mince pies and family feuds.

The Pogues’ frontman Shane MacGowan continues to defend its use but said in 2018 and again in 2020 that he has no issue with the lyric being bleeped or replaced.

From 1992 onwards Kirsty MacColl happily omitted the problematic lyric from live performances by replacing it with “you’re cheap and you’re haggard”, and the world kept on turning.

Yet every year without fail comes the predictable onslaught of people attempting to justify the lyrics by saying that they have “always” been that way.

The issue divides people even within the LGBT+ community, with many feeling it is acceptable in context while for others it evokes painful memories of trauma.

Tweeting after last year’s Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special, the LGBT+ artist Graeme Fullwood perfectly explained why it can be so hurtful to hear people get a “thrill [out] of shouting a word you know can bring harm to many”.

“I remember as a young queer kid being surrounded by drunken straight people in a pub, who got such thrill to shout that word when the song reached it. Every other word was sang normally, but that word was shouted, followed by cheering and laughter,” he said.

“Every time the song plays around my parents, I have to occupy myself during that line. What does that say? I have to pretend I’m doing something in order to avoid the inevitable ‘are you offended?’ question. Well, quite frankly yes I am. And so f**king what if I am?

“That word is ours. Not yours. You don’t have the right to use it, you never did.”

Related topics: BBC, Fairytale of New York, Gavin and Stacey, the pogues

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