November 16, 2009

In which Shirley Bassey twists the collective tit

There's a great story about Dame Judi Dench, in which a London cabbie yells at her, "You stupid cunt!" and Dench replies, "That's Dame Cunt to you!" Brilliant, whether it's true or not. The dame/diva brandishes wit as a weapon. Shirley Bassey's brilliant new album - more on it soon - has a track written for her by Rufus Wainwright. It's called Apartment (hear it below) and one line leaps out:

I don't want to kiss that faggot froggy
Lyrically, the song features a lot of references to fables and children's stories like Rapunzel and Cinderella, so the full line is

I don't want to kiss that faggot froggy / Don't want to fall in love with the beast or the beauty / Get me out of this, this here fairytale / According to me, dreams are hell.

In these situations, we have to look at what we already know: That Rufus is a literate, gay writer with a dry sense of humor. That Bassey has a legion of gay fans and her own dry sense of humor. That, in context, it seems to mean priss... or something.
When she performed it at Electric Proms, she highlighted it with a smile. There is clearly no malicious intent.

But in these situations, it's hard not to look at the flip side of what we know: That faggot, when used in a certain tone and context, is a truly vicious word, in my opinion far worse than a word like fairy (which, in this case, would have been a pun). It's unlikely Wainwright would have "co-opted" any other fill-in-the-blank derogatory term and equally unlikely the label would have allowed said word onto the album, Shirley's "grand return."

Rufus Wainwright is often too clever for his own good. Why bait Bassey? But then, I suspect a Dame calls her own shots.

What do you think?


Martin said...

It's a line that certainly stands up and says hello.

But I'm not sure that we're supposed to think that the narrator of the song is someone we're supposed to like. Divas (such as Bassey, or Wainwright) are beings in whom we deposit our dreams and fantasies. Therefore, a narrative in which we hear that "dreams are hell" is a narrative about an emotionally stunted person.

Who doesn't want to fall in love?
Who doesn't emotionally invest in fairy tales?
People who use the word "faggot," that's who.

Myfizzypop said...

It's not a word I'm a huge fan of, so it rankles me that it's so prominently used in the song. I'm not political enough to know all the ramifications of the use of the word, only that I'm very uncomfortable with it in any context (same with queer - only reasons being they have negative connatations from my youth!) Anyway that's just my twopence, and I understand the argument about reclaiming words and think well each wordsmith to their own!

DanProject76 said...

Nothing wrong with it, in my opinion. The tune couldn't be gayer what with Rufus and Shirley involved and words are only offensive when you look at the context and intent.

I'm looking forward to this album, good mix of people who have proven that they know how to write songs.

Memento Mori said...

it is absolutely ordinary but this is not surprising because this woman is vulgar