Defending Tim and Kate (a special I’m-not-really-here post)

So yet again, Christmas is approaching and, as they have for about 17 years now, the department store Myer is selling their annual The Spirit of Christmas CD with proceeds donated to The Salvation Army. This year’s CD features the song White Wine in the Sun, written and originally performed by Tim Minchin. This version is performed by the fantastic Kate Miller-Heidke.

The song has been denounced as “disrespectful” and “a sick joke” by family and Christian groups, and the Salvos themselves were “disappointed” by the song, according to a report in Melbourne’s Herald-Sun newspaper. This reaction was sparked by the song’s athiest-leaning lyrics, such as

I am hardly religious
I’d rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu
To be honest


I don’t go for ancient wisdom
I dont believe just cos ideas are tenacious
It means they’re worthy


I’m freaked out by churches
Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords
Though the lyrics are dodgy

And yes I have all of the usual objections
To the miseducation of children who, in tax-exempt institutions,
Are taught to externalise blame
And to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong
But I quite like the songs

Needless to say, I think this criticism of the song is simply ridiculous. My response can be summed up in just four words:

Tim Minchin is awesome.

While this one line is response enough in the eyes of Minchin’s legion of fans, for the uninitiated, I’ll go into a bit more detail about why this song is undeserving of attack.

First and foremost, White Wine in the Sun is the best evocation ever written of what a Christmas in Australia is really like. It’s sunshine and alcohol and food and above all, family. This song never fails to bring a lump to my throat and a sense of longing for that safe warm place, surrounded by family who are always there for you, even if you live far away, even if Christmas is the only time you get to see them. It’s beautiful song that manages to express these things while still making comment on the religious and commercial aspects of Christmas. Furthermore, it’s a truly Australian Christmas song that completely avoids the nauseating Australiana that pervades and ruins every other attempt at capturing an Aussie Christmas in song.

While Minchin, very clearly an athiest, takes a couple of shots at religion, he also attacks the overbloated commercialisation of Christmas:

And yes I have all of the usual objections to consumerism
The commercialisation of ancient religions
And the westernisation of a dead Palestinian
Press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer*

He’s even defending Jesus in that verse! Sort of.

The truth, although churches and religious groups would be loath to admit it, is that Christmas for most people is not a religious festival anymore. Jesus has nothing to do with it. How many families only go to church at Christmas and Easter out of some misplaced sense of duty? Christmas has become about Santa Claus and presents and a big family get-together. The paradoxical thing about Christmas in Australia is that our culture is still so heavily dominated by the Northern Hemisphere that we keep singing songs about Christmas in the snow, in the dead of Winter. Many idiots still decorate their homes with fake snow! It’s ridiculous.

Most of the other songs on this year’s Spirit of Christmas CD aren’t about the spiritual or religious side of Christmas either. Track 2, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, is a golden oldie on the same theme of family togetherness expressed in a benign and, frankly, bland manner. Tina Arena’s contribution is a cover of the George Michael hit Last Christmas, a song about heartbreak and unrequited love. Oh so Christmassy! Right in tune with the spirit of the fucking season, that is. Other songs on the compilation include Merry Christmas Baby, All I Want For Christmas Is You, I Wish Christmas Day Would Last All Year and Street Parade, a song about, what a surprise, a street parade! Not one fucking word about Christianity in any of them. So why aren’t these songs deemed inappropriate? They’re not about the meaning of Christmas. It’s okay, apparently, to have Christmas love songs or songs about the trappings of the event, but by god, you can’t have a song with a point of view about it all.

Minchin sagely pointed out on Twitter that the first Spirit of Christmas CD, back in 1993, had a version of John Lennon’s Imagine that no-one said a word about. Imagine features lyrics that some religious types might object to. I should know, I sat through a long and pompous sermon delivered by the priest of the Catholic church I grew up attending, denouncing Imagine for its unChristian overtones.

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky**

Never mind that the song was all about peace and brotherhood and acceptance, all very Christian values. It said something that denied doctrine, so it was Wrong. Shouldn’t the church be embracing a song about abolishing barriers, about equality between people, about love between all mankind, rather than reinforcing barriers? It was this sermon, above all others, that turned me away from the church for a long time.

I can’t believe that White Wine in the Sun has been characterised as “a sick joke” and that the Salvos hope that people will still buy the CD despite the presence of the song on it. Shouldn’t such organisations be willing to tolerate accept differences in beliefs? (Do not get me started on the religious use of the word tolerance instead of acceptance.) The “sick joke” quote is attributed to a Bill Muehlenberg of the Family Council of Victoria, an organisation that is all about (archaic) family values. The song is all about the close ties of family you fucking moron! It is the height of hypocrisy for such people to attack this song.

We should be far more offended by the truly appalling choice of winner’s single (Somewhere in the World) on The X Factor. No matter who wins, this cheesy, clichéd abomination will be inflicted upon us.

I actually don’t like white wine, but I’ll take a glass or three of red or a glass of the champagne that’s usually on offer too, and happily spend Christmas Day in the company of a warm family. (There’s also sadness there, for the family I’m not with, but that’s another story entirely.)

Do yourself a favour and check out the song on YouTube, as performed by Tim Minchin (link at beginning of post) or Kate Miller-Heidke.

*Please note that lyrics from White Wine in the Sun are written by Tim Minchin and appear here without any authorisation whatsoever. However, I’m really hoping he’d be okay with it.

**Ditto for John Lennon, may he rest in peace, for the lines from Imagine.

(For those of you who read my previous post – Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t be around for a while, and I’m not here really. I just couldn’t let this one pass by without ranting about it. I’ll be back in a little while. Still sorting my shit out.)


2 Responses to “Defending Tim and Kate (a special I’m-not-really-here post)”

  1. Couldn’t have put it better myself 🙂 xo

  2. thankyou thankyou thankyou for posting this – this is MY Christmas all over 🙂

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