In light of the crappy weather we had over the weekend (it snowed, traffic was a mess, and the flora looks a bit weepy now,) the current flurry of harassment resignations, and the Holiday season, we’re going to talk controversial Christmas songs.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a winterscape song generally equated with our Christmas Holiday. It was originally recorded for the Esther Williams film, Neptune’s Daughter!
In the movie, it is performed by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban as well as Betty Garrett and Red Skelton. Watch it all the way to the end please…
Written by Tin Pan Alley legend, Frank Loesser in 1944, he premiered it with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel apartment in New York City during a house warming party.
The couple sang the song late in the evening as a signal for everyone to vamoose, adios, get the heck out!
The lyrics written in a “call and response” format, simulate a conversation between a man and a woman, or in today’s age, a woman and a woman, a man and a man, and a who know’s what and a man, a who know’s what …and you get the point.
It’s a duet.
She starts by saying “I really can’t stay.”
He replies with, “Baby, it’s cold outside.”
Every line is in the she/he format.
The gal is trying to save her reputation, which I might add, she’s already jeopardized by going to his place alone – and get the heck out of there.
He’s giving her every reason to stay.
Vanity Fair says the song is “…predatory…undeniably, unquestionably, predatory. And just kind of like, unforgivable.”
First of all, Vanity Fiar, SMH.
Secondly, “like” in an essay. Mildred Carson would not be pleased!
The song for 70 years was essentially harmless, a Christmas standard, recorded by everyone from Ray Charles to Dolly Parton, and well, just generally loved by all.
And then, as we history buffs like to say, “The shit hit the fan.”
I’m not sure just exactly what or whom it was that caused the awakening to these predatory, rape culture, sexist lyrics, but I’d like to find them and, gee, I don’t know, throw a (virgin) martini in their face.
It’s a song!
Some folks, obviously those with a lot of time on their hands, point out that “What’s in this drink” and the man’s unrelenting pressure for the woman to stay in spite of her repeated “I really can’t stays” suggest an acceptance of his predatory behavior.
It was 1944 folks, “What’s in this drink?,” was a stock joke in the era, and people, men and women alike, used the line to excuse behavior that might be deemed questionable.
It was 1944 folks, an unchaperoned woman at a man’s home – well it just wasn’t done.
But, hey, she was there, so worrying about the neighbors and her maiden aunt’s vicious mind came a little late.
The song makes sense in context; society at the time expected single women to reject men’s advances whether they wanted to or not.
Helen didn’t write Sex and the Single Girl until 1962.
The male in the song offers her excuses to break those rules.
OK, one excuse,” It’s cold outside.”
She uses all the culturally accepted signals that say she wants to stay, but can’t say it out right.
“I ought to say, no, no, no…”
“…at least I’m gonna say I tried.”
When the song ends, they are singing in harmony – really terrific harmony if you listen closely.
Some might go as far to say the song is about the empowerment of women. In a society built at the time to prohibit her from making her own sexual decisions, she is trying to find a way to take charge of her own sexuality and her own life.
In 1944, women weren’t supposed to say yes, but no one gave them a clear way to say no.
That was then.
Now, in light of current news headlines from all parts of the world, many view it as a song that justifies coercion and even rape.
Talk about your war on Christmas!
Frankly, I view it as a courtship dance – that’s probably what Loesser and Garland intended.
Here’s a current version. Idina Menzel and Michael Buble.
In case you need a laugh now, read this version…
And, it really is cold outside!