Have you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days…weeks…years? Sure you have. These are the songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.
“Chains of Love” by Erasure
As much as it seems that things are scary right now (and they certainly can be), or that all hope is lost, it makes me feel better to notice the progress that we have made as a society. Tragedy and the constant barrage of awful news on cable TV notwithstanding, some of that progress is very obvious, like the Supreme Court making marriage legal for all, but there are also seem to be some cultural shifts in our collective conscience that happen so gradually that we barely even register the change…until we think about it for a second. Just as I feel that my generation is much more accepting of difference than my parents’ ever was, it seems that the generation coming up behind me, with as often as it is chastised, dissected, and unfairly dismissed in a seemingly endless barrage of snarky editorials, articles, and viral memes, is even more so.
My case in point comes in the form of synth pop band Erasure’s “Chains of Love,” from the 1988 album The Innocents, and the appreciation it garnered from a group of dudes in a car a decade and a half ago. Even at the turn of the century, it could be deemed as suspect for three guys to know all of the words to this slick and dancey 80’s jam, much less to be singing it in unison…loudly…with the windows down and the breeze blowing in our faces. By suspect, of course I mean “gay.”
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s and onward into early adulthood, I can’t really say that our popular culture was just a bastion of tolerance and acceptance. Sure it was a better time than generations prior, but this was still an era where Bill and Ted would call each other fags, or Thor would be referred to as a homo, or everything lame was gay. Oh, the insult! Oh, the humanity! As a young kid/teenage boy, it could be difficult or embarrassing to express interest in anything that could be considered feminine or homosexual, especially coming of age in small town Texas as I did. You just didn’t want to be seen enjoying something that could get you mocked, or made fun of, or beat up. You didn’t want them to think you were gay. It didn’t matter if you were or were not, it was just about protecting yourself in the veritable shithole that is adolescence. And that fucking sucked. It sucked because we let a misogynist, homophobic, and uneducated faction of our peers dictate what we could like. And it sucked because we never did anything to try and change it. At best we were complaisant, and at worst apathetic. I know I fell in line with it back then. I regret it, and I wish I hadn’t, but what can you do? It takes a little growing up, some learning, and experience to reach the point where you like what you like, and you’re comfortable with that and yourself, and you don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks or says. If you want to sing along with Erasure, you go right ahead and sing along with Erasure. I’ve felt that way for a long time, but I wish I had had that mentality as a kid.
As we got older and moved forward, a lot of these terms and slurs were relegated to the bullies and villains of cinema, television, and music, disappearing from the verbiage of our protagonists and icons, until it seemed to all but vanish from our modern pop cultural lexicon (some unfortunate subcultures aside). And in and of itself, that is good. It means we’re making progress, and I think a lot of it goes beyond just your bland political correctness or finger wagging. It doesn’t fell imposed. In art, if it makes since for a character to use a slur, then make him use the slur. That fact that said slur can cut or shock more than it did even 20 years ago means it’s lost its ordinariness in our culture. It’s not so commonplace anymore. And I feel like that change in outlook has been an organic one. I don’t hear kids calling each other fag or homo anymore, or at least not as often or with such pedestrian aloofness as I did when I was growing up, and that means we’re evolving. That means we’re getting better.
And if this generation can be better than mine is, then maybe the next one will be better than it. And so on. And so on. And then we can all listen to “Chains of Love,” and we can all sing it out at the top of our lungs.
Or maybe I’m just being naïve.
I hope that I’m not naïve.
From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.