A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” - A Teachable Moment

In recent years, several radio stations around the country have bowed to the pressure of the #MeToo movement to ban the Oscar winning Christmas season song Baby It’s Cold Outside from their play lists during the holiday season.  While these actions are well-intentioned, they can also be counter-productive.

First, some back story about the song composed by Frank Loesser in 1944.  Loesser and his wife Lynn Garland would sing this song at parties when entertaining, or an act was expected from all of the party guests.  It was the couple’s exclusive party bit for years until Loesser sold the rights to MGM, who included the song in their Esther Williams musical Neptune’s Daughter in 1949.  From that point on, it has been covered numerous times by a number of singing duos.

It was more innocent in the context of the time it was written: the artistic and destructive crucible of World War Two.  This was a time when many couples were separated by the global conflict: the woman were at home keeping the (stereotypical) “home fires burning” and working in the factories, while their men were off risking all in the fight against bigotry and intolerance.  The idea that these people could be on the same continent, let alone in a cozy room protected from the elements, could have been a very heart-warming antidote to the misery and loneliness of fighting a war.

Sadly, the song was not recorded in time to have this effect on the fighting heroes and heroines of the Greatest Generation. Still, we can only imagine the effect on morale it could have had if it had been recorded and rushed into mass production like The Christmas Song and I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

Until a few years ago, the song was always seen as a cute, possibly risqué, work of art about a flirting couple debating the merits of the woman going home in a freezing blizzard.  The man invites her to stay and because the narrative ends just when the woman consents to staying (let’s repeat this part boldly, consents to staying) it is left to the listening audience and their discerning minds to imagine what happens next.  We can only conclude that since many people in the audience are now thinking that it’s about date rape that we in the audience are a dirty-minded lot.

The fellow in the song could have bowed to the strict moral code of the times, gave up his bed for the night for the woman’s comfort while he slept on the couch.  I would argue that this is entirely plausible outcome which is, once again, left to the imaginations of the receiving audience.  Regardless if the outcome did turn out to be this innocent, the woman in the song does raise a valid point: the neighbors will still talk.

I reiterate that the song is a work of art subject to wide interpretation of its meaning like all other works of art. We shouldn’t have to say this but perhaps we do: Baby It’s Cold Outside did not invent the idea of using chemicals to seduce a lover.  This idea has been around I dare say for at least a millennium or two, or possibly three.  In that time, many of us of the male gender have for the most part behaved like and conducted ourselves as perfect gentlemen.  While other times, we have allowed our hormones to conquer our logic and sense of right/wrong and behaved like absolute pigs. 

Now it appears that the proponents of the #MeToo movement believe that banning this song will put to rest these animalistic tendencies forever.  Sorry, this is unlikely to happen.  Reality must seem so inconvenient for the naïve among us.

Banning the song would be much like denying our history.  Now don’t make me play the “If-you-don’t-know-your-history-then-you’re-doomed-to-repeat-it” card. This is not just a tenet of the history discipline; it’s common sense.  If one makes a mistake that hurts others, and doesn’t realize that he has hurt others, then he is most likely to do the same action over and over again, and hurting more and more people each time he repeats this same action.

Date rape is a very serious problem and has hurt a lot of people.  It deserves to be talked about so that more people are aware of the gravity of this act.  Hopefully, it would happen less and less as time goes on, and also hopefully it would happen regardless if this song and our attendant history are swept under our cultural carpet as if the problem doesn’t exist.

The song, if you choose to interpret it as recipe for committing sexual assault (and it is your choice to interpret it as such), then it can be used as a teachable moment of morality. 

Granted that this should not have to be taught, but judging from the many Weinsteins, Cosbys, and Ailes of the world, it is clearly not understood as being wrong by everyone.  In any event, banning the song is tantamount to pretending that the problem doesn’t exist.

(Thank you for reading. Nothing humorous to read here. Move along.)


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

The world is so overflowing with contemporary "teachable moments" about sexual harrassment that I don't really think we need this old example from the 1940s. And you know, radio stations and other music venues choose not to play a lot of stuff for whatever reasons. Songs come into favour and then fall out of favour, never to be heard again, for all kinds of reasons, good and bad. Personally, I will not be sad never to hear this creepy song again.

Even if this song was originally meant to be "harmlessly flirtatious," it just doesn't translate well today. And I would argue that it has always been objectionable, for the following reason. I am old enough that I was socialized about gender relationships in (yikes) pre-feminist times. A lot of what we girls were socialized to perceive as "flirtatious" behaviour by men really was simply training us to minimize and ignore sexual harassment when it occurred. Or worse, to make us think we were supposed to feel flattered by such "attention." We don't need to perpetuate such nonsense any more.

Wow, for my first comment on your blog, this is a doozy, LOL! Drop by my blog tomorrow for a fun video with "revised" lyrics to this song -- it's a hoot, I promise!

December 10, 2018 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Many things, songs, words, themes,were harmless in their day, but, as we move forward, we realize they aren't the same harmless little nothings we thought they were; not today.

December 10, 2018 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger Raybeard said...

Just a brief word on Frank Loesser. It's a crying shame that for such sheer craftsmanship of the art of songwriting his name has never been fully recognised. Even now I doubt if most would know him (or even spell/pronounce his name) yet surely most would know his songs. I'd put him right up there with Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, all true geniuses of the rarity who could write both music and lyrics to perfection, yet even today, Loesser still remains the 'unknown' one.

December 10, 2018 at 11:35 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, Debra for your passionate comments. You make some good, thoughtful points. I must admit I have thought about the rapey aspect of the song in the past, but otherwise I would shrug it off. Perhaps my reaction is part of the problem.

Thank you, Bob. It's true the passage of time is not kind to many notions which we never gave a second thought about it.

Thank you Raybeard. I believe I was in a Loesser musical in college: Guys and Dolls. That was a fun show.
Perhaps his reputation has been affected by the seemingly recent negative reaction to this song.

December 11, 2018 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger Dave R said...

Time has always been an adversary of content, especially for those who feel the need to judge by current standards. They will never learn the lessons of time, how lifestyles and attitude changes and how those things they find offensive provide insight into the past and help us understand what was considered relevant... or entertaining... and innocent.

December 16, 2018 at 5:31 PM  
Blogger Raybeard said...

Sorry to return to offer an afterthought long after your original posting, RTG, but I cant resist following up your mention of 'Guys and Dolls'. It's been said that if a poll was taken of those involved in theatre (in this country at least) for the most perfect musical ever devised, 'Guys' would win hands down. It may will be the same in USA, I don't know. I'm not sure if I'd go quite that far with so many breathtakingly brilliant contenders from the 1920s right up to the present time, but that claim does exemplify the high regard in which 'Guys' is deservedly held, and for which Loesser himself even now is given little credit.

December 17, 2018 at 12:12 AM  

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