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No Love for 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

This must be an American thing because I’ve heard the song no less than twice in grocery stores since December started. And I don’t go out as much as I should, so that says something. But the classic Christmas Carol (though I’ve heard ‘classic’ be used to describe songs and movies that came out two years ago), ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ has been banned.

And everyone seems to be split on whether it’s a justifiable act of dismissing something that had been largely tolerated because of Rape Culture, or whether this is an ultra-PC instance of unnecessary censorship. I, for one, am quite fond of the song... well, mostly. There are some elements of the song (and one lyric in particular) that can be a little problematic.

I’d like to be clear — people literally freeze to death this time of year. Like, a lot of people. And yet, I’ve never seen such a stink about people dying as I do about the ongoing war on neo-puritan American Values™. Now, we are indeed in the #MeToo era, so I can understand that a song about sexual coercion and casual date rape isn’t going to fly. And it shouldn’t. But I don’t think this song in particular fits the bill.

See, the song tells a story of a woman who was ‘in the neighbourhood’ of her beau’s flat. And because it was a little chilly, she stopped in to 'warm up'. It’s never clear what she was doing outside, or why she was around her boyfriend’s place, but it’s clear that she stopped in for a bit of companionship.

Please, read into all the innuendos, they’re meant to be read into.

The guest’s role is a LOT harder to sing than the host’s, because there needs to be a few layers of intentions. It’s a quintessential Jazz number where the singer’s voice needs to tell as much of a story as the lyrics.

Now, some of my favourites versions of the song are when the male and female parts are flipped, where the woman is pressuring her boyfriend to stay for a night cap. So, from here I’ll describe our usual suspects as ‘the host’ and ‘the guest’, unless otherwise apropos.

The only line in the song that I really have a problem with is "what's in this drink?” That’s a little cringy and a little creepy no matter how you sing it. But in context, the song was written out of a prohibition-era bathtub-gin cocktails mindset; it’s meant to point out that the drinks were mixed very strong.

But people have been changing lyrics in Christmas carols since Catholic missionaries converted Europe, so there's no reason why it can't be changed to fit the times.

Then, the problem becomes with how the song is performed. Reading the host’s part as Hannibal Lecter gives a vastly different portrayal of this character than if you read it like Steve Rogers.

When in doubt, any time there’s an issue about how something is written versus how it is said, I go to Hamlet.

If you read the titular character’s lines, he comes across as a wuss who sucks at making decisions. That’s why you need an actor to interpret the role. Some take a version of Hamlet who is just that whiney and entitled.

Others depict Hamlet as a much more tragically heroic figure who is torn between his own sense of morality, and a quest that has been given to him by Ghost Dad. Others depict him as a little bit insane. None of them are wrong — it depends on the story the actor and director are trying to tell, using Shakespeare’s classic stage play.

This becomes the main problem with ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. Because on the flip side, when the guest actually performs the song as it ought to be, the guest, who is most commonly a woman, is accused of being a slut.

Because women don’t want to have sex. Ever. Haven’t you heard?

When you get down to it, the suggestive flirtation here isn’t anything you don’t hear/see in modern popular music that gets radio dominance the other 11 months of the year.

That said, it is Christmas/Hanukkah/Quanza/others — and a staple of literally all of these religious rights of the season is to be cool. Change that one lyric, stop slut shaming, and give some m oney to homeless people. BAM. Christmas spirit.

But… at the end of the day the only reason this topic has latched on to public awareness is so people can use it to create related content and use the cultural awareness to generate traction for their chosen media platform. Being for or against this song’s banning really isn’t the relevant point when people talk about it. They want you to click on whatever they produced so they can get those clicks.

I’m not really… above that, you know?

I hope this accurately illustrates why I hate Elf on the Shelf so much.


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