Christmas Songs day 1: Baby It’s Cold Outside (And a contest!)

Let’s start this off right, and by right, I mean really, really wrong. Have you ever listened to the lyrics to popular Christmas song “Baby it’s cold outside”? Because I hate to break it to you, but it’s not exactly the most progressive of songs. I like to call it “the date-rape song”.

This is probably the original recording:

Or here’s a nice country version if that’s more your speed:

The gist of the song seems to be that she “really can’t stay” and “has to go away”, but his protest is that it’s “cold outside”. May I call your attention to certain key lyrics:

The neighbors might think

Baby it’s bad out there

Say, what’s in this drink?

No cabs to be had out there

That, of course, is the verse that immediately grabs the attention of the modern listener, but the rest of the song is hardly innocent; he continually compliments her while she continually tries to get away. His lyrics get less persuasive and more openly sexual as time progresses and he sees he’s getting his way; early in the song he says things like “What’s the sense in hurting my pride” (clearly more concerned with his conquest than her protests), but by the middle of the song he’s openly going on about how her “lips look delicious” (followed by “Gosh, your lips are delicious, so presumably he got his kiss?)

Of course, I highly doubt the song was meant to come off so… aggressively. Instead, it merely seeks to reinforce the stereotype that men chase while women feign protest, holding that up as a picture of a healthy, consensual relationship… which is, on the surface, indistinguishable from a rape situation. So despite being probably well-meaning, it actively reinforces one of the more unsavory aspects of the patriarchy, making it all the more insidious.

Several modern covers have attempted to correct for the sleeziness by casting both parties as male, including the Glee cover:

While they’re beautiful and talented, I’m not sure it helps much. There’s also the image of homosexual men as doubly predatory, after all.

Others turn it into an over the top comedy, like this cover by the stars of Scrubs:

(Notice the total lack of cold or snow in their southern California location, and the lack of drinks or seductive atmosphere).

Meanwhile, She & Him went for a gender-reversed (and up-tempo) version:

But their version is also noticeably less seductive in tone.

What do you think? Is it time to just retire this song? Or can it be saved?

CONTEST: Submit a video or audio recording (linked in the comments) of an… amusing… rendition you’ve done (or I suppose you can nominate someone else’s version, so long as it’s amateur). I’ve rounded up a few people on my end to make the first entries; you have until the 15th to submit something, and then we’ll vote for a winner.

This entry was posted in Christmas Music Special, Deconstructions, Music and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Christmas Songs day 1: Baby It’s Cold Outside (And a contest!)

  1. smilodon says:

    Retire, please. I really think this song is unsalvagable.

  2. depizan says:

    Retire. Along with a few other Christmas songs (old and new) that have serious issues.

  3. Firedrake says:

    I think it would need to be so heavily rewritten that one might as well just write something new instead.

  4. Snowflake says:

    It’s just a song. Don’t take it so seriously. The woman is teasing him, that’s all. The ‘what’s in this drink?’ line is about the strength of the alcohol.
    I think seeing everything through the prism of social justice destroys a lot of fun things. When you’re deconstructing silly Christmas songs, you’ve gone too far.
    It’s a good song and it would be a shame to lose it. Instead of retiring songs for fear of offending people, it would be better to focus on making rape through drugging a thing of the past, so that the sinister meaning of the song didn’t even occur to people anymore.

    • yamikuronue says:

      Even leaving out the line about the drink, he utterly ignores her protests, and even frames the possibility of her death as a terrible thing for him because it would make him sad rather than something she should fear in its own right. I’m just not seeing redeemable behavior on the male part in this song. But it’s good to know I’ve “gone too far” by writing a blog post that offended you. Clearly, my blog post pointing out unfortunate implications in Christmas songs is the real threat to society here.

      I will agree with you on one thing: rape is definitely something that should be abolished.

  5. Pingback: Deconstruction Round Up, December 14th 2012 « The Slacktiverse

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