On Banning Baby, It’s Cold Outside

One of the by products of the new ban on Baby, It’s Cold Outside is that I can’t stop humming it. It’s so eminently hummable.  It doesn’t help that we listened to four hours of Christmas music last night, or that I’ve heard everyone from Dolly Parton to Dean Martin sing it in cover versions going back to the 1940s.  In our extensive seasonal music collection, we must have at least a dozen versions and there are many more. 

I never minded this song.  I always thought it was cute.  It was clear, to me anyway, that the lyrics were bantering — joking, that is — about the same things that bother modern listeners today.  Sure, there were guys who’d spike a girl’s drink, but in the context of this song, there was nothing in the drink and both of the protagonists, girl and guy, knew that.  When she says there’ll be talk if she stays, that’s what she means.  It doesn’t matter whether they make out or play tiddly-winks — people will talk.  She isn’t going to stay, but it’s cold outside.  She’s stalling as much as he’s cajoling.  But does he intend to rape her on the parlor floor?  I think not.  She’s too nice to hang around with a guy like that, and he hardly seems the type.

That’s my take, for what it’s worth.  Meanwhile, around the country, radio stations are on the front lines of the Baby, It’s Cold Outside flappery.  One station in Colorado reported that in a survey run after they pulled the song from their playlist, 95% of respondents wanted the song reinstated.  Said another station manager, lightly paraphrased:  “don’t mess with people’s Christmas music.”  Still another noted that people’s interpretations of the song differed from the more literal interpretation of the song’s detractors. (Read news story here.)

I get, you get, the songwriters got that date rape is bad.  It’s just that not everyone thinks this is a song about date rape.

Will Baby, Its Cold Outside survive this attack on its decency and indeed, commercial viability?  I’m going to guess yes, at least for the short term.  As long as people still enjoy it, it will be played.  But its days are numbered.  A new generation of Americans, whose values were formed in the recent past and who haven’t the background to be able to do a nuanced interpretation of a song this subtle, will simply stop enjoying it.  And then, it will go the way of Wheezy in Toy Story — back shelf, historical interest only.

Comments | 7

  • Feeling

    I do not have an opinion about the song itself, but do have a feeling about this comment:
    ” But does he intend to rape her on the parlor floor? I think not. She’s too nice to hang around with a guy like that, and he hardly seems the type. ”

    Nice girls have hung around with guys who do not seem the type. There has been rape. We need to be careful to indicate that we are implicating the victim that if she were nicer then a different outcome would have happened. One can wrongly assume that the one who “hardly seems the type” does , or did, not rape.

  • On Baby it's Cold Outside

    How about another oldie, “Your Lips Tell me ‘No, no,’ but there’s ‘Yes, yes,’ in Your Eyes?”

    Bob Fagelson

  • Free to dislike whatever we don't like

    In today’s super sensitive climate, I think we might have to ban almost everything older than last week. We just watched Elf again, a comparatively recent flick, and wouldn’t you know, the heroine sings a duet of Cold Outside with the male lead, in, of all places, the women’s bathroom. Ooops, and double oops. Should this cute and heartwarming film be banned? I’m going to say yes, out of sheer contrariness… 😉

  • Sensibility

    Rather than being concerned about the song or movie, it seems reasonable to have some sensitivity regarding the possible implications of this quote, especially for those women who were too nice to have been harmed, but were. Some feel judged that somehow it was their fault for not knowing a rapist did not have a particular type.
    “” But does he intend to rape her on the parlor floor? I think not. She’s too nice to hang around with a guy like that, and he hardly seems the type. ”

  • Interpretation is free

    Oh, dear, dear. I’m a female who came of age in the late 70s. I know all about sexual harassment. Even with my experience of lots of it back in the day, I still don’t find this song offensive because I don’t think anyone in this song was being harassed. Does that make me insensitive? Guess so, by some folks standards. But it’s still my take. I guess I’m not as sensitive as some with more modern sensibilities.

  • a funny, romantic, grown-up song

    I like the song. It’s always made me think of playful winter flirting on the part of both characters. The song doesn’t end in disaster – they are happy, singing in harmony.

    The roles could be reversed and the song would still work. It could be sung by two people of any determination who liked one another.

    One nice version is in the movie Elf – the intimacy of the song becomes a punch line when a naive Elf surprises a coworker by singing along. It moves the story along by bringing two characters closer together.

    There are other versions, too. I like Homer and Jethro’s version. Jimmy Fallon reversed the roles in an SNL sketch version a couple of years back – tried to get his date to leave but she wouldn’t go, if I remember correctly.

    To me, the song had both characters dragging out the evening when they know, in 1944, that people may talk. Asking what’s in a drink might be asking for a recipe, or any number of things. They are teasing one another, and getting along in the song.

    Our next discussion can be about Santa Baby. : )

  • No Problem

    Rather than concern with the song or movie my concern is with the implications of the comment : “” But does he intend to rape her on the parlor floor? I think not. She’s too nice to hang around with a guy like that, and he hardly seems the type. ”

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