SPOILER ALERT! I might ruin this song for you forever, or at least be accused of trying. If that would be the end of your world, please don’t read any further.
I know it’s an endearing moment in Elf and every duet that has ever existed has covered it, some much better than others. But is the song Baby It’s Cold Outside a bit of a guilty pleasure for anyone besides me? (the lyrics)
Christmas is a storied holiday, rich with various narratives. We of course have the birth narrative of Christ, but not satisfied with that, we invent Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch and little sidelines for the Christ story like the Little Drummer Boy. Will Farrell’s Elf is one of my favorites and a newer addition to the fun Christmas story lineup.
But is the story of Baby It’s Cold Outside really one that I want my kids humming the tune to? It’s a story of a guy using weather, booze and shmooze to further his sexual conquests with a lady friend. Really.
I know the songwriter wrote it and debuted it with his wife… and maybe it’s cutesy, innocent fun when they sang it. But I can’t help but cringe when I hear the line, “What’s the sense in hurting my pride?” What? What!? Because a man’s pride is in how many women he can seduce?
And I’m not just being an anti-sex prude here. I like sex. Really. I’m talking about a song that blithely objectifies a woman into a sexual object to be manipulated. Why do we dig on this song so much? Other than the catchy tune, it should make us sorta mad that it celebrates the use of use of booze and bad weather to maneuver a woman into that position. It also reinforces the old myth that when a woman says “no” she really means “yes,” so the guy just needs to go for it. Or at least he needs to pour her another drink, and another, and another until the answer magically becomes “yes.”
Is the song irredeemable? No, it’s probably not. It shamelessly uses the word “swell,” so it at least has that going for it. The ending is almost totally open… she could still escape! I just think that of all the Christmas stories out there, this is not the one that I want stuck in my head. But with that masterfully written tune and lyrical banter, it’s going to be stuck in there forever.