Scoot: Where is the malicious intent in “Baby it’s Cold Outside?”

Scoot
December 08, 2018 - 6:12 pm
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Is the 1944 Christmas classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a song about date-rape?  Years ago that would have been a ridiculous question, but in the shadow of the #MeToo movement and the incidents that spawned the movement should have made the question predictable.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 and in the context of those times the idea of a single woman spending the night with a single man was scandalous.  The holiday classic has been performed by numerous male/female combos, but my favorite version I have used when talking about the controversy on my radio show is the one by Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton.

In the song, a man is singing to a woman, who is responding with her answers to the question of whether she should spend the night at his place.  The man points out that she should stay because “baby, it’s cold outside.”  

The man is enjoying his date with the woman at his place and he wants her to stay, but she resists because she’s worried about what her mother, father and the neighbors would think.  Her reluctance to spend the night seems a bit weak by her resistance to leave his place.  The only thing she appears worried about is what others would think - not what she really wants to do.

At one point in the song, the woman asks, “Say, what’s in this drink?” That line has been interpreted to suggest that the man might have put a “Molly” in her drink.  In the context of 1944 when the song was conceived, date-rape drugs were not part of society, and the implication that a date-rape drug was a realistic concern is absurd.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a holiday classic that has suddenly been tainted by the application of modern-day standards.  If the song were written today with the backdrop of the actions of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and former New Orleans Saints player Darren Sharper, yes, concern about a “roofie” in the drink would be legit, but not in 1944.

Because of the new controversy over the meaning of the song, some radio stations across the country have pulled the song from the air, after complaints that were obviously the direct result of a few activist-minded individuals creating a new controversy.  CNN aired a feature with Brian Figula, Program Director of 96.5 KOIT-FM in San Francisco, who justified banning the song on his station following hundreds of complaints within a week.  

To put that in perspective, it is imperative to point out that sudden surges of complaints from listeners are usually inspired by an individual or a small group bringing new meaning to something that was previously deemed harmless and innocent.  A controversy gains traction when friends call friends and ask them to join the crusade to force change.  There is also the element of feeling the power to manifest change that is an added factor of inspiration for a listener crusade.

Emily Crockett wrote in her article on the vox.com website, “Culture matters.  We send and receive signals every day about who we are, who we want to be, or who we ought to be through the books, movies and music we consume.  And people often take offense to the suggestion that something they like is no longer acceptable by the public at large.  That offense can manifest as complaints about ‘political correctness’ run amok - and those complaints can become deep resentments, the kind that Trump tapped into masterfully during his successful presidential campaign.”  

The debate that Crockett focuses on “gets to the heart of a major culture war over sexual assault, consent and ‘political correctness.’”  She finds the classic hit unacceptable in today’s society because of “our modern understanding of how sexual consent and sexual assault work.  Regardless of what Loesser intended, it’s a lost model for romance that normalizes sexual coercion and date rape.”

Stop right there! Has society lost its collective common sense?  Are we to start judging everything by today’s norms?  

Let’s start with the most important thing I learned in a Communications Theory class:  with every communication there is intent and there is reception.  Often, the intent does not match reception.

When “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written in 1944, the intent was not overt sexual coercion or date-rape.  The intent was to reflect the struggle between sexual urge and society’s standards.  To suggest that the song is somehow promoting date-rape is to ignore the intent of the song.  

The composer’s daughter, Susan Loesser, 74, told NBC News, “Way before #MeToo, I would hear from time to time people call it a date-rape song.  I would get annoyed because it’s a song my father wrote for him and my mother to sing at parties.  But ever since Cosby was accused of drugging women I hear the date-rape thing all the time.”

We are reaching a dangerous edge, when we start judging artistic endeavors from the past in context with society today.  If past popular shows still on the air in reruns were judged against modern society, many would be banned.  On “The Andy Griffith Show,” there were episodes when Andy lit up and smoked a cigarette at stressful times.  Smoking is not allowed in sitcoms today, so should the show be banned? The wholesome sitcom, “Leave It To Beaver,” consistently made reference to fathers beating their kids.  A typical line might have been, “Hey, will you stay over because when my dad finds out about this he won’t hit me as hard if you’re here.” Should those shows and many others be pulled from TV reruns, because the content would not be written that way today.  The answer is “hell no!”

 

Think of the many songs that continue to be played on radio stations across the country that contain questionable lyrics?  “Christine Sixteen” by KISS, “Into The Night” by Bennie Mardones (“she was only 16”) and“You’re Sixteen” by Ringo Starr are just a few of the songs, that if judged by today’s standards, would have to be banned from radio.

 

I remember some complaints about Rod Stewart’s 1978 hit, “Tonight’s The Night,” but we never stopped playing it and the song is heard often on classic rock stations everywhere.  But read the lyrics of one passage from the song and tell me this shouldn’t be banned if “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is banned:

C'mon angel my heart's on fire

Don't deny your man's desire

You'd be a fool to stop this tide

Spread your wings and let me come inside

 

And what about the timeless classic, “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” written in 1957 and performed by Maurice Chevalier:

 

Each time I see a little girl

Of five or six or seven

I can’t resist a joyous urge

To smile and say

Thank heaven for little girls

 

The lyrics of that song make it obvious that a grown man is thinking about having sex every time he sees a young girl of 5, 6 or 7. I guess the redeeming factor is that he is willing to wait until they get older, but that does not change the fact that the man is thinking about sex whenever he sees young girls.

 

So, America, let’s just relax and stop looking for evil where evil does not exist.  Entertainment reflects the times in which it was conceived and it’s wrong to add sinister meaning to advance an agenda.  

 

Many aspects of The Bible are misunderstood, because of the failure to consider that it mirrored a society at the time it was written.

 

Those who have added malicious intent to the Christmas classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” should take credit for trying to poison a time-honored song for the purpose of bringing attention to a cause.  And BTW, the cause is a worthy cause, but that does not justify destroying the intent of past art.

 

Art reflects the time in which it was created and should not be reevaluated to fit into current day society.

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