Two years ago I wrote about one of my favorite Christmas songs – “Baby It’s Cold Outside“.
While there are multiple versions of the song, I noted a couple of my favorites in that post, one featuring Bobby Mercer and Margaret Whiting:
and this one from the movie Elf:
But a story in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer about the song gave me pause. Reporter Dan DeLuca notes that as “Baby” has gotten increased exposure, pop culture observers have hastened to point out that the lyrics are about a guy (characterized as the “Wolf” in Loesser’s original composition) who is unscrupulous in using whatever means necessary to get the woman (the “Mouse”) to sleep with him.
In today’s environment, with all of the high profile sexual harassment and assault accusations, such lyrics would be cause for concern. DeLuca also notes that as a result of such concerns, two local radio stations have taken the song off their holiday playlist.
But these concerns are not new. Back in 2012, Salon wrote a story titled “Is ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ a date-rape anthem?“, noting the concerns expressed above.
However, there are other views about the song. In 2010, Slay Belle, an editor at Persephone, wrote a piece titled, “Listening While Feminist: In Defense of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. In here essay, Belle notes that, “… it’s not a song about rape. It’s a song about the desires even good girls have.”
And as for the question about what’s in the drink, Belle notes that the line, “Say, what’s in this drink” is a well-used phrase that was common in movies of the time period and isn’t really used in the same manner any longer. The phrase generally referred to someone saying or doing something they thought they wouldn’t in normal circumstances; it’s a nod to the idea that alcohol is “making” them do something unusual.
Much like my general dislike of book bans, I’m not of fan of banning songs either. Let the reader, or in this case, the listener, decide what he or she wants to listen to.
And so I’m on Belle’s side with this on. Let’s recognize the song for what it was meant to portray when it was first written.
It’s still on my playlist, and in fact I learned about two more popular versions of the song that came out in the past few years.
Here’s one by Michael Buble and Idina Menzel:
Here’s one by Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw:
One by Willie Nelson and Norah Jones:
And finally a role reversal version, featuring Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon Levitt: