Here’s a post I wrote on December 14, 2018. I’m reposting it as/is, because it goes with my fresh content posted today. And yes, I would probably pause if Bill Cosby sang this… but it wasn’t written with guys like Cosby in mind. Why should a classic song be banned because of a few “rapey” bad apples? Why don’t we ban rapey creeps like Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, instead? The song is innocent.
Last year, I wrote a post on my music blog about the controversy surrounding the holiday classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. I remember a few murmurs last year about the “rapey” lyrics of the song, which was written by Frank Loesser and originally intended as a “parlor act” for himself and his ex wife, Lynn. Someone wrote a very informative Facebook post about the history of the song, and its original intent. I decided to write about it on my blog.
This year, it seems “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, which was never meant to be a holiday song, is more controversial than ever. Radio stations across the United States have been pulling it from their playlists in the wake of the #metoo movement. The song, which was written in 1944 as a “call and response” between a man and a woman, was never intended to be a date rape anthem. In the 1940s, it was improper for unmarried couples to spend the night together. In order to look respectable, a woman had to protest an invitation to stay the night, even if she wanted to stay. And the man who was inviting her had to appear to be concerned about her welfare. Otherwise, her reputation might be negatively affected.
Unfortunately, people have a tendency to see and hear things through modern lenses. In 2018, lyrics like “Say, what’s in this drink?”, especially in the wake of Bill Cosby’s drink drugging scandal, seem inappropriate and tasteless. But in 1944, no one gave a thought to a man spiking a woman’s beverage. It was more a comment about the potential of a drink going to one’s head.
Although I’m definitely not a fan of “rapey” comments or song lyrics, I do think it’s ridiculous that people are clutching their pearls over an old song like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Of all the things a person could get outraged about– like, the fact that our president brags about grabbing women by the pussy– a classic parlor song that was never meant to be inappropriate seems like a poor choice to me. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has never been a favorite song of mine– especially when James Taylor sang it with Natalie Cole– but I don’t necessarily dislike it because of its lyrics. It’s just that there are other holiday staples I like better.
The larger issue, to me, is that I believe there is a place for “the inappropriate”. I don’t like to see books, songs, movies, or artwork banned. I remember in the 80s, there were conservative Christian groups lobbying to ban classic books like Slaughterhouse Five and The Catcher in the Rye. I remember some people were outraged that students were reading books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird. In those days, it seemed more like banning books was more of a conservative idea, to keep students from reading things deemed indecent or immoral.
Now, it seems like the liberal left wants to do the same thing with certain classic songs, like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Maybe some people would say it’s different because Loesser’s classic seems to promote “date rape”. I don’t see a difference at all, though. Even if the lyrics were “rapey”, which they really aren’t, the song is still a classic. It should be heard and examined by people. You don’t have to agree with the content. Just don’t presume to make that decision for other people.
I just read an interesting New York Times piece about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which, once again, explains the song’s original intent. I’m glad to read that many folks aren’t taking this song banning business lying down… although I have read some surprisingly vitriolic arguments with people over this issue. People like controversy, and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is enjoying new popularity as a download, even as radio stations are striking it from their holiday playlists. Good. Frank Loesser wasn’t intending to promote date rape or anything else untoward. His song was intended to be a lighthearted, flirtatious, fun look at a couple in an era when respectable unmarried folks didn’t spend the night. I think people should consider the context before they start demanding bans. And then, after they do that, perhaps they should read a classic banned book. The opportunity to learn will present itself accordingly.