Thursday, December 10, 2009


Grace tried out for the talent show at her high school this week. They were required to sing a passage from Don't Stop Believin that old chestnut by Journey which seems to be resurrected every few years by politicians, sports teams, and this year our new favorite show, Glee. They gave her a copy of the sheet music to practice and Lilly was looking it over when she said, "Hey, they cut out the line that says 'smell of wine and cheap perfume'. It just says 'smell of cheap perfume'." We all puzzled over this odd bit of editing. It was clear the word "wine" had been whited-out (is that the past-tense of white-out?). Grace worked on the music a while trying to figure out how you even sing the song without enough syllables.

The next day in glee club Grace's teacher mentioned it. "I cut out the w-i-n-e word," she said spelling it out as if it were a curse word.

Is wine a bad word now? This is the same school that just put on To Kill a Mockingbird and wisely kept the "n" word. What the fuh? The "n" word stays but the "w" word goes? I didn't even know it was the "w" word. What would this teacher think if she knew I sometimes have a glass of "w" right in front of my children!

The puzzling thing is that this appears to be the decision of a single teacher. It's not like the school has a "no singing songs with alcohol in them" policy (well, I don't think they do). Though if they did you might wonder how they would sing a lot of songs like Days of "w" and Roses or Bob Marley's Red Red "w". (A side note, The Days of Wine and Roses was the prom theme when my sister was a high school senior, which was only slightly more inappropriate than my prom theme which was Nights in White Satin which kind of makes you wonder where the adult supervision was in our school but then again that's what we get for electing a burnout as our class president that year.)

Anyhoo back to the censorship at hand: for some reason this teacher took it upon herself to edit the song. I don't know why. There are no banned books at my kids' school and this spring they are going to put on the play Rent. I hope this teacher doesn't get her hands on that script because instead of the play being about a bunch of gay people battling AIDS she might change it to a bunch of heterosexuals who all contract really bad cases of mono from kissing.

I'm kind of perplexed by this "w" thing. Would it be appropriate for me to protest to the school about censoring music? On the one hand it is a song by Journey and I'm not sure they've exactly earned the right to artistic freedom. On the other hand, if we let this go what's to stop it from escalating? I can only imagine the Holiday Concert in which Holly Jolly Christmas would have a line that says "and have a cup of cocoa" or the line from Baby It's Cold Outside (which my kids call the creepiest date rape song of all time--and it really is if you listen to the words) could be "hey what's in this milk?"

I was mulling over the right to free speech and my duty as a bleeding heart liberal in all of this when Grace told me a story that made me realize I did not need to intervene. It seems that during the audition process one of the seniors sang the song his own way in protest. He got a big laugh when he sang, "Smell of fermented grape juice and cheap perfume," and I have to hand it to him because really, one of the most effective tools against censorship has to be a good dose of teen-aged ridicule.

Don't stop believin.


  1. You should tell that teacher that you'd rather smell wine than her cheap perfume.

  2. You go, Judy. If it were me, I'd protest. I hate censorship. The Board of Education tried to censor Kurt Kinde's production of the Fantasticks years ago. There's a song with the word "rape" in it (the other meaning, kidnap)--they had to change it to "mug".