If there’s holiday season topic that gets people angrier than the question of “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays,” it’s the emerging war over “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
The popular song, which was written by Frank Loesser in 1944, has been a perennial holiday standard for decades. Sure, it’s not technically a Christmas song- more of a winter one – but it’s still regularly heard on holiday playlists each December. The song has been covered numerous times in its nearly 75-year history, and a younger generation associates it with the 2003 movie Elf.
But in recent years, especially in the era of #MeToo, it’s frequently been pointed out that some of the lyrics of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” are somewhat problematic, if not a depiction of actual date rape. This has led, in 2018, to some radio stations choosing to drop the tune from their holiday season playlists.
This has resulted in endless news segments, mostly on Fox News Channel, about how out of control political correctness has gotten and #MeToo has gone too far, now that culture gatekeepers are reaching so far as to “ban” such a beloved song as “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
In reality, the song has not been “banned” in any meaningful way – it’s been dropped from the playlist on only a small handful of radio stations – and you’re still very likely to hear the song if you spend any time in shopping malls this season. And now, one writer is defending the song, arguing that it’s not “rapey” at all, and is in fact in line with feminist principles.
In an opinion piece for Variety, music writer Chris Willman defends the song as “witty, ahead-of-its-time avowal of women owning their own sexual agency.” The argument, versions of which have been made before on social media, is that the woman in the song very much wants to stay and have sex with the man, but that societal and familial expectations are telling her that she shouldn’t. Willman also calls the song “the ultimate pre-Walk of Shame anthem.”
I’m so tired of this. The song seems odd now not cuz it’s about coercing sex but about a woman who knows her reputation is ruined if she stays. “Say what’s in this drink” is an old movie line from the 30’s that means “I’m telling the truth.” She wanted to get down and stay over. https://t.co/3TaQbUSoB1— JEN KIRKMAN (@JenKirkman) December 1, 2018
In addition, Willman points out that the line “what’s in this drink?” is a reference not to roofies, but rather was a phrase with a different connotation at the time that the song was written in the 1940s. Comedian Jen Kirkman had made the same point in a widely shared tweet earlier this week, as referenced in Willman’s piece.
With “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” marking its 75th anniversary next year, the battle over the song is far from over. But it’s clear that it hasn’t actually been censored or banned.