It’s December, that time of year for everyone to complain, yet again, that they hate the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” This winter, after many years of pointing out the creepy date-rape undertones of Frank Loesser’s classic winter ballad, the #MeToo movement has finally succeeded in getting the song banned from several radio stations.
For the record, I like the song a lot and don’t find it creepy. When viewed in the context of the original movie, Neptune’s Daughter (1949), the man and woman are playfully flirting with each other, and the fact that “it’s cold outside” is clearly a flimsy excuse for her to spend the night. She can see him pouring her a shot of whiskey, there’s little ambiguity about what’s happening and what she’s drinking.
Anyway, even though I do love the song, I’m all for striking it from the airwaves. It doesn’t fare well out of context, making it problematic as a radio song. Without the visual, lines like “Say, what’s in this drink?” can be read as mocking date rape.
(As a side note, people who are defending the original as being “progressive” – just, no. There’s a wide gulf between “not date rape” and “feminist.” In the gender-flipped version, the fact that Betty Garrett’s character aggressively pursues sex like a man is played for laughs, because a woman with independent sexuality is oh so funny. Also, none of these articles have mentioned that she’s singing to Red Skelton, a white guy, doing a pretty offensive Mexican accent. CAN WE BE ANGRY ABOUT THAT FOR ONE SECOND, PEOPLE???)
However, while it’s nice to see a 70+-year-old song finally held to task for its perpetuation of rape culture, I have to wonder whether the collective fury is directed at the right target. We currently have a president who’s almost definitely raped several women (and possibly one child) and people are fixated on a single song.
What about everything else? When are we going to ban “Blurred Lines”? And all of the rap songs that denigrate women? And like, literally 90% of all our culture, ever?
“Baby It’s Cold Outside” is pretty tame compared to songs like “Kim,” in which Enimen fantasizes about murdering his real life partner Kim. While you can definitely read date-rape into “Baby It’s Cold,” Eminem’s song is a bit less subtle:“Sit down, bitch! You move again / I’ll beat the shit out of you” and “Quit crying, bitch! Why do you always make me shout at you?! / How could you just leave me and love him out the blue?!” And yet people are still calling it not just Eminem’s best song, but romantic at that. A Rolling Stone writer says, “’Kim’ has Eminem screaming at his ex in an insane stream-of-consciousness hate spew. There’s little humor to blunt the shock of the hellbent animosity of ‘Kim.’ What makes it powerful is that, of course, he doesn’t just hate her. It’s the most harrowing sick-love song since Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Used to Love Her.’”
It’s easy to see the problems from a distance, but I’d rather see artists held to task while they’re still alive to face the consequences.