Greg Dennis: Baby, it’s politically incorrect outside
I had to laugh when I read that the Politically Correct Police are upset about the words to “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Can’t we just have a little innocent holiday fun without putting every male-female interaction under a microscope?
Then I took a closer look at the song’s lyrics. And decided that in this case, the word cops do have a point.
The song never mentions Christmas but it’s become a holiday classic. Frank Loesser wrote it in the 1940s. He and his wife initially performed it as a gag at Hollywood parties, and it won an Academy Award in 1950.
The lyrics to “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” of course, consist of clever repartee between an unmarried man and woman on a blizzardy evening when she’s visiting him at his home.
He’s trying to talk her into staying for the evening and perhaps the night.
She is — depending on your perspective — either cleverly resisting his advances or offering, first, objections and then tacit agreement to his suggestion that she should stay because otherwise, “you’d freeze out there, it’s up to your knees out there.”
I’d always heard the song as its original performers intended it: a lively and somewhat tongue-in-cheek depiction of what sometimes occurred, in that era, between single men and women who were on the verge of something more serious. He’s intent on seduction. She’s listing the reasons (or are they pro-forma excuses?) that a woman felt she couldn’t (or truly did not want to) stay.
When she prepares to go, he inappropriately pressures: “How can you do this thing to me?” he objects. Clearly he’s afraid there will be a cold shower in his immediate future.
But then she says “maybe just a half a drink more,” that she’s under his spell even though she “ought to say no.”
But then — and this is where things again get a little creepy — she asks “What’s in this drink?” It’s hard not to think of Bill Cosby’s roofies when we ponder that line today.
True, even some feminist writers have defended the song given its period context. But its critics object that as the man repeatedly presses his point and she finally gives up and says “at least I’m gonna say that I tried” to say no, the song can seem, as they’ve put it “a little bit rapey.”
The young singers Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski have recorded an amusing, politically correct version. In their take, the woman protests that she needs to go home and he replies, “Baby, I’m cool with that.” When she says “I really can’t stay” he answers, “Well, you really don’t have to.”
She asks “What’s in this drink?” and he reassures her that it’s only pomegranate LaCroix water. He encourages her to call her mother to say she’ll be home soon, and requests that she “please text me at your earliest convenience.”
All of which got me wondering, in a lighter vein, if perhaps we’ll see other young songwriters reworking Christmas songs in light of 21st-century standards.
Take “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” for example. Gene Autry never did say why Rudolph’s nose was red. What if Rudy was an alcoholic? Wouldn’t that make it dangerous for Santa and the other reindeer to be flying under the influence?
Rudolph with your nose so bright
I think you’d better stay home tonight
Plenty of songs feature holiday drinking. John Denver brought us “Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas,” which at least had the right message. Compare that to Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas” where on the 12th day, his true love brought to him:
12 pack of Bud
11 wrastlin’ tickets
Tin a’ Copenhagen
9 years probation
8 table dancers
7 packs of Redman
6 cans of spam
F-i-i-i-ve flannel shirts!
4 big mud tires
3 shotgun shells
2 huntin’ dogs
and some parts to a Mustang GT.
Then there’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” In this sad tale the poor old woman gets leveled by “hoof prints on her forehead and incriminating Claus marks on her back.”
It seems that grandma had “been drinking too much eggnog and we begged her not to go. But she forgot her medication and she staggered out the door into the snow.” The moral of the song? “They should never give a license to a man who drives a sleigh.”
Maybe we need a new version where Santa sees that grandma’s in trouble and checks her into rehab.
And surely both feminists and men’s rights advocates can be expected to join forces against “Santa Baby.” It features a baby-voiced woman who hits up ol’ Kris Kringle for one bauble after another: first a sable, then a convertible, then the deed to a platinum mine, a duplex and checks, decorations bought at Tiffany’s and, oh yeah, a ring.
I mean, the woman is obviously a gold digger. She’s only into the guy for his money.
All kidding aside, it’s a bit of a tradition in this space to offer these wishes every year, from Old Blue Eyes’ version of a favorite Christmas song:
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days once more
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years
We all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star
Upon the highest bough
And have yourself
A merry little Christmas now.
Greg Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @greengregdennis.
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