The latest political correctness battle erupted earlier this month when a Cleveland radio station announced it would no longer play the 1944 Christmas classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because its lyrics made some listeners uneasy in a #MeToo sort of way.
The song, written in 1944, features a flirty and fun call-and-response exchange between a man and a woman. The woman initially says she has to go home. The man tried to convince her to stay. In the end, the woman decides to stay of her own volition. Yet in today’s #MeToo environment, some interpret the man as pressuring the woman to stay, perhaps by trying to get her drunk.
Some have even got as far as to call this the “Christmas date rape song.” “The man seems to think no means yes!” they say. “Predatory undertones!” Others also point to composer Frank Loesser’s original intentions where the guy in the song is noted as the “Wolf” in the song. Perhaps but Loessner was merely capturing gender and sexual mores of the day. He wrote it for his wife so they could have fun singing it at parties. Have we become so hypersexualized and paranoid that we can only hear the song in terms of date rape? (Note, too, when the song was written, the modern roofie did not exist.)
I quote the lyrics:
Say what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell) (Why thank you)
I ought to say no, no, no sir (Mind if move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (Baby don’t hold out)
Baby, it’s cold outside
The story went viral like herpes with other radio stations banning the song, including the CBC and 24/7 Christmas stations operated by Bell and Rogers.
Here’s another comment:
I’m so tired of this. The song seems odd now not cuz it’s about coercing sex but about a woman who knows her reputation is ruined if she stays. “Say what’s in this drink” is an old movie line from the 30’s that means “I’m telling the truth.” She wanted to get down and stay over. https://t.co/3TaQbUSoB1
— JEN KIRKMAN (@JenKirkman) December 1, 2018
Look, we all listen with bias. And it’s very true that the current generation will look at the art of previous generations differently. We are never obligated to accept the standards and practices that were once considered okay. Times and attitudes change. We’ve jettisoned many things from the past because they clearly no longer align with modernity.
But if you feel applying such strict judgments to a Christmas song are a bit much, you’re not alone. A station in Denver surveyed its listeners about the song and the audience overwhelmingly voted to have the song re-added to the station’s playlist. Others say that we should recognize what the song was meant to describe when it was written.
Before you leave a comment blasting me for defending what many consider song that many find offensive, don’t bother. I’m just bemused by the whole issue. The things people get excited about, you know?
However, we also have to be very careful about how we apply modern standards to other Christmas songs. Vinay Menon of The Toronto Star had a brilliant column where he singles out other Christmas songs that are, well creepy and could thus be victims to the same sort of political correctness assaults under the right circumstances.
I’ve got a couple, too.
- “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”: It’s all about body-shaming! Think of all the people with difficult-to-treat nose-borne rosacea!
- Any Christmas song by The Chipmunks: Most of them are only about getting presents. How greedy! Materialistic!
- “The Christmas Shoes”: MUCH too depressing. What about all the people who are reminded about lost loved ones at this time of year? They could be triggered. And no one wants to cry on Christmas. (Actually, I agree with this one simply because it’s a dreadful, dreadful song.)
- “Deck the Halls”: “Don we now our gay apparel?” Think about the poor homophobes who might be triggered by this!
- “Dominick the Donkey”: This 1960 song by Lou Monte is loaded with Italian stereotypes.
- “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”: What if you’re allergic to figgy pudding? Those people will feel excluded and shamed.
- “Silent Night”: Clearly offensive to deaf people.
- “The Christmas Song” by David Hasselhoff: Because, well, the Hoff.
- Any song that mentions Santa: Obviously a pagan supernatural being. A false idol.
- ANY song mentioning Christmas: What about those of other religions? Or agnostics? Or atheists?
Any others you can think of?