Can You Like A Movie Or That Has Something Wrong? Times Readers Respond
Sometimes movies or songs don’t age well, but you find yourself watching or humming along to them anyway, offensive lyrics, wince-inducing scenes and all. That is especially true during the holiday season, when traditions and modern sensibilities collide in an acute way.
So, how do you balance your warm feelings for a traditional song or movie with whatever cringe factor it may sometimes produce?
That is the question we asked Times readers this week. Many responded with reflections on holiday standards, like the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as well as pop culture standbys one might encounter at any time of year, like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
We also heard from Shane MacGowan, the lead singer of the rock band The Pogues and the writer of its 1987 Christmas song, “Fairytale of New York,” which has been criticized in recent years for its derogatory language toward women and gay people.
Art shouldn’t be “sanitized” or tinkered with “to suit the changing attitudes of the times,” Mr. MacGowan said in an expletive-filled statement that used a word stronger than tinkered.
“We don’t look at ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in the same way now as people did when Shakespeare was writing it, now it would be outrageous,” said Mr. MacGowan, who added that the characters in his song used offensive language because they were meant to be seen as screw-ups.
“Society is constantly changing and the lyrics of songs don’t have to change to suit the times, they are doing their job by reflecting the changing times,” he said.
When it comes to the importance of context, many readers agreed with him. But others said they had fond feelings for some songs or movies that they were unlikely to recommend to their kids.
Below are a selection of responses from Times readers that have been edited for length and clarity.
Ronettes holiday songs
I keep in mind that the artists (Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes) didn’t have anything to do with Phil Spector’s actions. They shouldn’t be ostracized or discounted because of what Phil Spector did.
SONYA CARNEY, 51, Columbia, Mo.
Take Your Pick
1. My parents said over 30 years ago that “Gone with the Wind” was racist, more so by ridiculing the slaves’ plight.
2. Pretty much any Doris Day/Rock Hudson rom-com.
3. Any Tarantino movie.
5. “The Family Stone”: Diane Keaton’s treatment of Sarah Jessica Parker is unacceptable.
6. Bruce Springsteen’s “Hey, little girl, is your daddy home?”
7. Many, many hip-hop songs going on about hoes and cuties with booties, but great to work out to.
8. Leave “Love, Actually” and Disney princesses alone!
I put it in context. Different times, different mores. Some values should be absolute. On the wiggle room afforded by art, better (though harder) to discuss than to ban or vilify.
DRAGANA LAKY, 49, Chicago
Don’t sweat the oldies
I don’t worry about them, context is everything, and explaining that context is easily done. Not every era was as “enlightened” as this one.
If someone is really insistent that we not listen to a song, I’ll skip it.
DAN PACK, 43, Sacramento
One, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Mostly this goes back to the antiwar songs of the late sixties and early seventies. We usually agreed that the music was enjoyable even if the lyrics might be objectionable.
MARTY SAMPLE, 72, Carson City, Nev.
Keeping it from the kids
I’ll skip over “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and while I will still watch “Love, Actually,” I doubt I’ll pass my affinity for the film on to my daughter, who is a toddler now.
NICOLLE FAGAN, 32, Boston
A couple of years ago, my wife, on point, mimicked the whip cracking in “Sleigh Ride.” Such a catchy tune, but now all I think about is someone whipping horses.
Even though I still hum the song, I talk about how barbaric it is to whip animals.
LISA SEBASCO, 53, Oakland
There’s nothing offensive per se in the lyrical content of the song, but it’s always smacked of being an act of “cultural appropriation” to me. The song is — or attempts to be — ”cute,” but it seems to exoticize and trivialize genuine Hawaiian culture.
It’s catchy and bouncy and almost impossible to resist. But it always makes me uncomfortable.
MICHAEL IRETON, 59, Calgary, Canada
‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’
Hey, it was the ‘80s and some things weren’t on our radar. They call each other “fag” and drink beer (and still in high school). Bill even asked his stepmother, Missy, to prom! But what a great movie — I just watched it with my kids, 8 and 10.
JONATHAN B., 52, Newport Beach, Calif.
Watch those scissors
At my hair salon, boy were a few of the stylists up in arms about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” meaning they were furious at those objecting. I really didn’t want to get into a battle with the stylists. So I talked hair dryers with the salon owner.
LINDA BERNSTEIN, New York City