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Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Annual "Baby, It's Cold Outside" Discussion

Posted by on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 3:54 PM

The 1944 song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" gets a bunch of play around the holidays, and I had long ago written it off as being super creepy (some have even called it the "Date Rape Christmas Carol".) This is why I was surprised to read the feminist magazine Persephone had published a defense of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The feminist reading of the song claims that the message conveyed is actually one of sexual independence, at a time when a woman could not blatantly voice her desires. The woman in the song is having a great time and wants to stay over, and her date is simply offering her excuses that she needs to give her family and community in order to do what she wants to. The fact the song ends with the woman doing what she wants to do, not what everyone expects her to do, is inherently a great message. The biggest criticism of the song is centered around that "say, what's in that drink" line:

"Say, what’s in this drink” is a well-used phrase common in movies of the time period, and isn’t 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. But the joke is almost always that there is nothing in the drink. The drink is the excuse.

That brings up some interesting points, but even in versions that reverse genders—like the duet by She and Him—in the recording of the song, the traditionally male aggressor being sung by a woman, still sounds pushy and creepy, never taking "no" for an answer.


Comments (28) RSS

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Will in Seattle 1
While technically AOTA, I chose 2.
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 7, 2012 at 12:46 PM · Report this
Griffin 2
I like the version by Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten. I'm pretty sure that in that cover, no one involved is planning on date raping anyone else.
Posted by Griffin on December 7, 2012 at 12:56 PM · Report this
Mary P. Traverse 3
Key & Peele just parodied this, pretty dead on:
Posted by Mary P. Traverse on December 7, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Fnarf 4
It's a great song. The offending line is about as evil as going "WOO-EE!" to indicate that your new drink is strong, or teenagers trying to convince each other that J├Ągermeister has hallucinogens in it.
Posted by Fnarf on December 7, 2012 at 1:19 PM · Report this
I've always found the song fun and flirty. I also find the nickname "The Date Rape Christmas Carol" to be pretty funny.

@3--Thanks for the link to Key and Peele. That had the people in my office laughing out loud.
Posted by Clayton on December 7, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
This is like worrying that Harry Potter books encourage witchcraft.
Posted by GermanSausage on December 7, 2012 at 1:28 PM · Report this
OK, I thought this song was creepy from memory, but after this version, now I remember how much I liked it.…
Posted by rca on December 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM · Report this
There is nothing offensive or creepy about "Baby It's Cold Outside." It's a cute and memorable duet recorded by many talented people. Always a joy to hear it.
Posted by Meat Weapon on December 7, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
fletc3her 9
My biggest problem with the song is that so many people torture it. They don't get the timing at all right between the two parts so it comes off feeling really awkward

The Olivia Newton John Travolta version gets my award for most awkward version this year.…

Compare to Elle Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan…

Honorable mention to Velma Middleton and Louis Armstrong…
Posted by fletc3her on December 7, 2012 at 1:49 PM · Report this
MarkyMark 10
By far my favorite version, from the jazz-singer goddess Blossom Dearie.

Then there's this fun gender-reversal version with Broadway musical goddess Betty Garrett.

The ultimate may be this version with Country-music comedians June Carter Cash and Homer and Jethro.
Posted by MarkyMark on December 7, 2012 at 1:52 PM · Report this
Antiquated vernacular! As you would no longer say:

"I just had rousing intercourse with John in the hall! We had a gay old time!"

to mean that you had a high-spirited conversation with John in the hallway.
Posted by WenWino on December 7, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Report this
Womyn2me 12
what, no mention of the Scrubs version?…

Zack Braff is adorable.
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on December 7, 2012 at 2:32 PM · Report this
I don't know how to do those new-fangled blue link thingies, but back when Buster Poindexter was a regular on SNL, he did a great version with Sigourney Weaver. Lookit up!
Posted by catsnbanjos on December 7, 2012 at 2:53 PM · Report this
Fistique 14
Certainly we could take historical context into account, but it's now now.
Posted by Fistique on December 7, 2012 at 3:00 PM · Report this
Hyzenthlayk9 15
@3 Glad that you provided the link to the Key & Peele parody.

I had mentioned to a friend on Facebook when the date-rapey aspects of the song were being discussed.
Posted by Hyzenthlayk9 on December 7, 2012 at 4:02 PM · Report this
It's not only an endorsement of rape but it actually drives all mammals who are with in three miles of hearing it to rape the nearest defenseless mammal not also currently engaged in wanton rapage. This song caused the Korean war and polio. This song is worse than Hitler or gay marriage or a gay marriage to Hitler. In fact this song is so evil it's almost as bad a Reddit meme. Yes. THAT bad!
Posted by tkc on December 7, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
@16 wins the Internet today. Perhaps not immediately, but maybe after half a drink more.
Posted by Clayton on December 7, 2012 at 5:21 PM · Report this
Simone 18
I like it.

I like it because it is not about the spirit of christmas or chestnuts or santa or presents (I like presents btw) or jesus or the most wonderful time of the year or dreaming of a white christmas or...
Posted by Simone on December 7, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
ArtBasketSara 19
@2 What! Really? Why haven't I heard of this? I have failed, the WORLD has failed me in not informing me of this sooner!!!
Posted by ArtBasketSara on December 7, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
ArtBasketSara 20
Ahhhh...sweet's ok, it's all ok. Wonderful version!
Posted by ArtBasketSara on December 7, 2012 at 6:07 PM · Report this
The joke about the spiked drink isn't the creepiest thing about "Baby, It's Cold Outside." The creepiest thing is that it was played at a party in Colorado attended by a religious young Egyptian, Sayyid Qutb, who was so upset by the sexy way people danced to it that he decided that American culture, and Americans, should die. As Mark Steyn wrote in his review of Lawrence Wright's masterpiece The Looming Tower:
"What was so awful about Sayyid Qutb's experience in America that led him to regard modernity as an abomination? Well, he went to a dance in Greeley, Colo. a dance in Greeley, Colo.: 'The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . .'
In 1949, Greeley, Colo., was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser's charm song Baby, It's Cold Outside. But it was enough to start a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri in Egypt to bin Laden in Saudi Arabia to the mullahs in Iran to the man arrested in Afghanistan on Sept. 11. And it's a useful reminder of how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists. A world without Baby, It's Cold Outside will be very cold indeed."
Posted by Tim Appelo on December 7, 2012 at 7:51 PM · Report this
raku 22
It's shocking to me that anyone could find that song acceptable outside of a history class. If this song is "cute" or "okay", what in the world would cross the line of misogyny? Anything?

Even if you buy the argument that it was okay to berate women who say variants of "the answer is no" over and over back in the 40's, what is that supposed to prove? We don't play blackface Christmas specials or Frito Bandito ads anymore. We shouldn't play ridiculously sexist shit anymore either, women aren't garbage in this society anymore.
Posted by raku on December 8, 2012 at 1:14 AM · Report this
Tempest in a teapot.
Posted by ELBSeattle on December 8, 2012 at 5:54 PM · Report this
@22: Compared to "He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss)"?

Maybe it's down to acting: if the female can convey that staying were entirely what she wanted, and the male that he were not in the least going to physically stand in the way of her leaving....

Next: require that all singers of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" sound decently plaintive and eschew the 'hang a shining star' excresence for the original 'muddle through' line.
Posted by Gerald Fnord on December 8, 2012 at 6:01 PM · Report this
leek 25
Yay, June Carter Cash shoutout!

@Womyn2me: That Scrubs version was great! They are either really good singers (particularly Donald Faison) or heavily produced. :>
Posted by leek on December 8, 2012 at 9:53 PM · Report this
mr. herriman 26
haven't you ever wished that the night could go on forever, that the person you were with would stay just a little longer? if you haven't felt that, then you haven't lived.

he's not begging her for sex (well, not directly, though i agree it's implied - by that "not hurting my pride" line, among others) but misogyny? really? anyone who came to that conclusion is trying too hard, in my opinion.

here's one: guns and roses, i don't know the name of the song, but "turn around bitch, i got a use for you/besides you ain't got nothing better to do, and i'm bored."

see the difference? no? well then, never mind, go back to your hand-wringing over "baby, it's cold outside."
Posted by mr. herriman on December 9, 2012 at 3:19 AM · Report this
Biennial Slog discussion?…
Posted by idiot1700 on December 9, 2012 at 4:22 AM · Report this
@22 you must live in a perpetual state of shock.
Posted by tkc on December 10, 2012 at 4:04 PM · Report this

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