Baby, It’s Cold Outside…

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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.

4 thoughts on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside…

    Jason L. said:
    December 14, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    It’s so funny to hear you say that. I was just having a conversation a few days ago with a friend of mine and he was telling me how the lyrics to this song, especially in today’s day and age, sounds a bit… wrong. Read a certain way, it sounds a bit like the start of a date-rape scenario: “Say, what’s in this drink?” Oh, I don’t know.. rohypnol maybe? Perhaps with the empowering of womens rights, and our heightened sensitivity to political correctness, it’s just easy to read a situation where the woman is saying “Look, I’ve got to go” and the man is being very “No, no, you don’t.”

    Now its really hard for me to listen to the song without feeling just a smidge uncomfortable.

    That said, the *tune* is really charming. Just recently heard a version sung by two gay men to each other and it was hard not to be charmed by it.

    Mike Croghan said:
    December 14, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I don’t have kids, so I think I can still love the song, even while acknowledging its creepiness. I mean, the dynamic could totally range from cute to evil based on who the two characters were. But the tune is too much fun for me to get all moral on it. Call me a hypocrite if you must.

    Here’s the “Glee” version, with Chris Colfer and Darren Criss, which is probably the one that Jason is referring to. Go ahead, try not to be charmed. And does this context relive the creepiness? Or what if it were a married couple, as you suggest was the original setting? (Actually, Tina and I have been practicing the song.) I think context is everything, and I choose to imagine a situation without a creepy power differential when I belt out this tune. 🙂

    Renee Casey said:
    December 14, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    while i agree that the song has somewhat of a creepy air when viewed from the viewpoint of political correctness and the current times, i tend to disagree that the song is creepy in and of itself. and it certainly wasn’t viewed as creepy when it came out.

    when i hear the song, i think of two full-grown adults, who know exactly what they’re doing. she’s flirting, and playing hard-to-get at the same time. that whole, “i know you like me, so i’m going to make you chase me and work for it” vibe. and the guy, while trying to be convincing, is really just playing along to the ruse. she fully knows that she’s not going anywhere, and he knows that she’s not either. they’re doing that fun flirtatious dance that we all do when we meet someone new that we like.

    now, whether or not it’s kid-friendly is at the parents’ discretion, but i view the song as a cute, flirty song from the era it debuted.

    Shannon Brescher Shea said:
    December 30, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    I find it creepy too, and I actually like the James Taylor version.

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