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December 24, 2006

"Baby, It's Cold Outside"

Brad has an interesting post on the Baby It's Cold Outside. I'm glad I'm not the only person who finds the full lyrics to the song somewhat disturbing.

Contemporary radio versions usually omit what appear to be date rape jokes...

My mother will start to worry. (Beautiful, what's your hurry?)
And father will be pacing the floor. (Listen to that fireplace roar.)
So really I'd better scurry. (Beautiful, please don't hurry.)
Well, maybe just a half a drink more. (Put some records on while I pour.)

The neighbors might think ... (Baby, it's bad out there.)
Say, what's in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how ... (Your eyes are like starlight now.)
To break the spell. (I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell.)

I ought to say no, no, no sir. (Mind if I move in closer?)
At least I'm gonna say that I tried. (What's the sense of hurtin' my pride?)
I really can't stay ... (Baby, don't hold out.)
Ah, but it's cold outside.

Brad has some very interesting observations about the history of the song. I agree that the song is intended as a light-hearted parody of seduction--not as a straight-faced endorsement of date rape. This is supposed to be a mellow, funny song about seduction. The joke is that the guy will go to any lengths to get this woman to stay over. But some of his ploys just don't sound as funny to a contemporary audience. At the time the song was written, the average listener probably didn't consider date rape to be rape. These days, it's not as easy to laugh along.

Moving from the questionable to the downright icky, Why I Hate DC has a delightfully scathing synopsis Franklin Schneider's creepy adventures in the DC bar scene.


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I'm reminded of the "outcry" against "Under My Thumb."

he holiday season frequently features both selfless charity and empty gestures. For Barbara and George H.W. Bush, 2006 proved no exception.

Appearing on ABC's This Week on Christmas Eve, the President's parents recalled their work over the past week ringing the bell for the Salvation Army in Houston. Calling it "the Lord's work," Bush the Elder declared "There's so many people in need, so many people that need help." Mrs. Bush concurred, adding:

"Giving is so easy...We just ought to share. We have so much. And it's a joy to share."

Of course, former First Lady Barbara Bush hasn't always found such joy in sharing with the poor, the disadvantaged and the destitute...

For the details, see:
"Happy Holidays from Barbara and George H.W. Bush."

I would have thought this whole discussion was an overreaction, but I remember how creepy "On the Street Where You Live" seemed when I was dealing with a stalker.

I feel the same way about Pepe Le Pew. Not only a date rapist, but a really offensive French stereotype.

I don't have a darker interpretation of the lyrics. I'm not saying the song is really about winter rape.

It's supposed to be a funny flirty song about a guy who won't take no for an answer and, in most interpretations, a woman who wants to be talked into staying over after going through the "nice girl" motions.

Remember in the movie "Crimes and Misdemeanors" how Alan Alda's character keeps repeating the following inane, but nevertheless apt, mantra about comedy: "If it bends, it's funny. If it breaks, it's not funny."?

Some of the jokes in the song break instead of bending, at least for me. Jokes about slipping the girl a mickey just don't fit with the fun, silly vibe.

Doesn't mean it's not a great song, or that the creators and performers had dark intentions. It just makes me feel a little creeped out as a listener.

Speaking of music, I see James Brown has died. Heaven's about to crank up the funk.

Lyrics like "Black and proud" and "Payback" were a welcome lenitive to those of us tired of all the hippy love, love, love crap floating around then.

"Night train, night train, carry me home..."

Some good comments here, but also a lot of temporal imperialism.

It's very easy to judge people in the past as naive, or stupid, or ignorant, or otherwise somehow shameful because they perceived things or conducted themselves differently from us. They weren't, they simply lived in a different milieu.

The song isn't about date rape. The song is about the social dance one had to go through to satisfy the Pecksniffs and Grundys of the day. If you're going to do an exegesis of the text, you should first find this: an unmarried woman is alone in a private location with a man. Society will have already judged her to be in the wrong, for mores to have been violated. Contextually, they are now moving towards a pas de deux, as they can find internal justifications for themselves and each other.

Today? It'd be coitus or date-rape, and nobody but repressed weirdos or virginity-fetishist religionists would care about consensual sex. Now, because of prevailing attitudes about sex/power/violence it seems some people can't it's just a little dance of two people doing what people like doing (talking themselves into something naughty and fun), not a rape instruction song.

As opposed to wholesome songs like, say "Pete the Bondage Freak", "(You're Like) Rock Candy (Hard, Sweet, and Sticky)" (5:05 of total embarrassment for this one-time DJ), "Bobby Brown", "Vibrator Dependent", "The Queer Song", or "For the Inauguration".

Maybe it's date rape. Maybe it's just establishing deniability. Thing is, there's something deeply fucked up about a society where these two are indistinguishable.

I'm sorry I'm late to this b/c I've always had a problem with those lyrics, which is a shame b/c I like the song. (Like Fergalicious) If you want a better look at the same theme and a story where the man is clearly desirable, the woman is completely in control and all judgment is deftly removed by a clever refrain, try "She Didn't Say Yes."

She didn't say yes
She didn't say no
She didn't say stay
She didn't say go

She only knew that he had spied her there
And then she knew he sat beside her there

At first there was heard not one little word
Then coyly she took one sly little look
And something awoke and smiled inside
Her heart began beating wild inside

So what did she do?
I leave it to you
She did just what you'd do too

She didn't say yes
She didn't say no
They very soon stood beside his chateau
They lingered like two poor waifs outside
For well she knew `twas only safe outside

In there it was warm, out there it was cold
The sleet and the storm said, "better be bold"
She murmured, "i'm not afraid of ice,
I only wish that i was made of ice"

So what did she do?
I leave it to you
She did just what you'd do too

She didn't say yes
She didn't say no
She wanted to stay
But knew she should go

She wasn't so sure that he'd be good
She wasn't even sure that she'd be good

She wanted to rest
All cuddled and pressed
A palpable part of somebody's heart
She'd love to be on rapport with him
But not behind a bolted door with him

And what did she do?
I leave it to you
She did just what you'd do too

She didn't say yes
She didn't say no
For heaven was near
She wanted it so

Above her sweet love was beckoning
And yet she knew there'd be a reckoning

She wanted to climb
But dreaded to fall
So bided her time
And clung to the wall

She wanted to act ad libitum
But feared to lose her equilibrium

So what did she do?
I leave it to you
She did just what you'd do too

I don't find the song offensive.

She could say "Goodbye" in the first line if she wanted to, and walk out the door.

That's a different song, Eric.

But as far as mainstream songs that grow more disturbing with each passing decade, nothing can hold a candle to "Thank Heaven For Little Girls".

Personally I loathe the song for its glibness.

Now here's a dirty verse from Cole Porter, "But in the morning no," from "DuBarry was a Lady."

He:Do you like the Democrats? Kindly tell me if so.
She: Yes I like the Democrats, but in the morning no.
He: Do you like Republicans? Kindly tell me if so.
She: Yes I like Republicans, but in the morning no.
He: Do like third parties dear, kindly tell me if so?
She: Yes I like third parties dear, but in the morning no. When the sun through the blind starts to burn my poor behind, that's the time when I'm in low.

The line, "Say, what's in this drink?" isn't necessarily a drug reference. She could be asking about strong alcohol.

Four words - Lighten the fuck up!

Temporal imperialism? No.

I find the song iffy (to quote Mnemosyne) because there are aspects, in the lyrics, of his not being willing to take repeated no for an answer. This might be negotiation (I've been in situations where that seems to have been what was happening), but they "what's in this drink", seems strained to me.

I'm not judging the song on "then" but rather in the now, because in the present "wearing down her resistance" with booze, drugs, etc. is reprehensible.

As an aside, my dojo (aikido) did this song at the anniversary/holiday party... the female part closed the piece by tossing the guy over her shoulder, and walking away.


How very modern of you.

Somewhere I heard a saying about how different cultures have different degrees of nuance for different concepts, depending on their environment and need for nuance, like Eskimos supposedly have many more words for snow than people who live in more temperate climates, or they did at least back before global warming became so much of an issue. Maybe too our degree of articulateness can change with the season, with us using or at least recognizing more words for snow, for example, as we go through winter each year.

It says something about how our progressive, jazz-sensitive culture and sexuality has changed that with supposed progress and feminist awareness we have seem to have fewer words and strain more with the words we have for sexual consent, while developing more words and nuance to describe rape or sexual assault and coercion. I think it's progress to set a high standard, of course, for consent, but I'd also want to recognize that there are different ways, and more than one acceptable way, of getting to "yes". I think this song is about the different ways that men and women rationalized within themselves and negotiated between themselves how they'd get to "yes".

The term "jazz" itself is a sexual metaphor, and jazz music was considered as edgy and sexual as rock-and-roll and rap have been in recent decades. While I'm sure some people in the 1940s when this song came out might have taken these lyrics to rationalize coercion, I'd like to think mature fans would have gotten the sexual nuances in this song and not found it to be condoning coercion, and would have talked about the song as Lindsay did here, to encourage clearer discourse of what what consent is supposed to be.

I don't know that song but the words sort of remind me of "Have some madeira, m'dear".

I have always loved the various versions of this song. It is timeless and classic. Maybe the second part of the song lyrics should have been posted to bring the whole song into context. It's a sad commentary that our society is so PC that we look at a Bing Crosby song and allege it is a date rape manifesto.

I guess it speaks as to why we will never see classics like "Blazing Saddles", "Archie Bunker", "The Jeffersons", etc. any more. We are so worried about people's feelings that we can't just appreciate humor or light-heartedness, like the Bing Crosby song.

Here are the full lyrics:

I really can't stay. (Baby, it's cold outside.)

I've got to go 'way. (But baby, it's cold outside.)

This evening has been ... (Been hoping that you'd drop in.)

So very nice. (I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice.)

My mother will start to worry. (Beautiful, what's your hurry?)

And father will be pacing the floor. (Listen to that fireplace roar.)

So really I'd better scurry. (Beautiful, please don't hurry.)

Well, maybe just a half a drink more. (Put some records on while I pour.)

The neighbors might think ... (Baby, it's bad out there.)

Say, what's in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)

I wish I knew how ... (Your eyes are like starlight now.)

To break the spell. (I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell.)

I ought to say no, no, no sir. (Mind if I move in closer?)

At least I'm gonna say that I tried. (What's the sense of hurtin' my pride?)

I really can't stay ... (Baby, don't hold out.)

Ah, but it's cold outside.

I simply must go. (But baby it's cold outside.)

The answer is no! (I say that it's cold outside.)

The welcome has been ... (How lucky that you dropped in.)

So nice and warm. (Look out the window at that storm!)

My sister will be suspicious. (Gosh, your lips look delicious ...)

My brother will be there at the door. (Like waves upon a tropical shore.)

My maiden aunt's mind is vicious. (Gosh, your lips sure are delicious.)

Well, maybe just a cigarette more. (Never such a blizzard before.)

I've got to go home. (Baby, you'll freeze out there.)

Say, lend me your comb. (It's up to your knees out there.)

You've really been grand ... (I thrill when you touch my hand.)

But don't you see? (How can you do this thing to me?)

There's bound to be talk tomorrow. (Think of my lifelong sorrow ...)

At least there will be plenty implied. (If you caught pneumonia and died.)

I really can't stay ... (Get over that hold-out.)

Duet: Oh but it's cold ... out ... side!

Some fans are more worked up than the critics. ("Lighten the fuck up!" "Stop being uptight!", etc.) It's as if it's sacrilege to say that a work of art is disconcerting on some levels. Nobody's advocating censorship, or implying that fans of the song are bad people for liking it. For the nth time, it's not a manifesto about anything. It's a little scene for two actors.

I don't think the historical context undercuts the creepiness of the song. Back in the old days, women had even less power than they do today. It's obvious from the song that the woman is knows she's in a very compromised position by being in this guy's apartment in the first place, and she's nervous about what people will think. She's a captive audience.

The implication is that she's alone with someone who won't take no for an answer when there's a raging blizzard outside. Of course seduction is nuanced and the woman is expected to put up some resistance, especially by the standards of her day. The creepy part about this social hypocrisy is that women are expected to say "no" regardless of what they really mean. So we have to assume that we don't know whether she wants to stay or not.

I don't see why we "have to assume that we don't know" what the Mouse wants if we look at the structure of the lyric--which in the full version is clearly quite elaborately worked through-- and notice the two key turns announced with the phrase "Well, maybe." These seem pretty clear indications as to who wants what here, as does the fact that the melody belongs to the Mouse. (In the same way, in La Ci Darem, it's Zerlina rather than the Don who's leading with "Andiam'." Whoever first mentioned La Ci Darem hit on the perfect example. Loesser and Mozart and da Ponte were both writing double seduction songs. The difference is, as I said before, the Wolf is a nebbish, which Don G. never is.)

I don't disagree that there are many, many popular songs with creepy lyrics. (For my money, the worst offender of the past 40 years is "As Long as He Needs Me" from Oliver!, the co-dependent's national anthem.) I just really think that the case against this song is overstated.

I agree with you about the lyrics qua lyrics, but as you already know a performed song is the intersection of the text and the performers' interpretation(s), and with that in mind(admittedly, not having heard tons of different versions), I imagine the song has the capacity to mean something besides the sum of the lyrics.

Offhand, it occurs to me that just the possibilities that it could be performed

1. as a duet,

2. just by a man, either suggesting his future intentions, or how he remembers the evening,

3. Or just by a woman, either bitterly, or with ironic lack of awareness,

for starters, allows for considerable breadth of interpretation, and I'm sure I've barely scratched the surface. But what do I know, I'm just up late reading blogs.

as far as the lyricists go, I'm willing to give them credit that they sincerely didn't see nor intend misogyny in their work. I remember attending a creative writing class years ago in which we had to read what we were writing once a week and the whole class was creeped out by the misogyny and unprocessed rage of one student, and it was pretty clear he was blithely unaware of it.

WOW!! I know you people are smart and you like to stretch your "legs" so to speak mentally and analyze, but come on!! It's a fricking Christmas song! Ask yourself, "Does it really need this much evaluation?" If the answer is yes, it is just another sad example of our current social situation. In all honesty, some of you people here sound like the whacko religious righties! This something they would do to try to ban a song or writing. It's a classic song and is great entertainment when performed properly. Why can't it just be that?

Have a Happy New year all!!

It’s fine for Lindsay and others to see some creepiness in the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. There is an element of resistance and negotiation, but all I’m saying – and I think I have this in common with other fans of the song, feminist-identified or not -- that’s resistance and negotiation is an ESSENTIAL part of the song’s allure and romantic imagery. Coercion and one-sided manipulation is not an intended nor is it a reasonable interpretation of the song’s lyrics, though I’d want to treat with respect anyone who finds the lyrics offensive or triggering.

The song seems to me to turn in each stanza from negotiation and subtle hints and moves by the woman and man, ending with an erotically charged mutual statement, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” – meaning not just that it’s cold or colder outside, but rather it’s … much … warmer … inside … than when the song began for both parties. I think – I hope – it’s clear by that point that their encounter is sexual and consensual, from a very female-centered view of sexual arousal and consent.

The song is creepy and sexy (or maybe crazy/beautiful?) at the same time, like some of the older cartoons of Charles Addams, creator of the “Addams Family” comics and TV series. Some of his older cartoons for the New Yorker were edgy and sexually charged in much the same way, and came out in an era when jazz songs like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” were at their height of popularity. Like his older cartoons which were aimed at young urban adults – not children, and not truly crazy people – “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is aimed at adults old enough to drive and go out to clubs and other forms of urban entertainment and hear this song sung (they didn’t have cable TV or internet back then) – and mature enough, I think, to not only understand but also appreciate the mix of humor and sexuality in the song.

Another analogy that Lindsay as a photographer might especially appreciate might be to the “Vargas Girls” of Alberto Vargas from the 1940s through 1960s, and cartoons by Michelle Urry, Playboy’s cartoon editor (who was a feminist point-person for Playboy in the 1970s, before Playboy was targeted by the Moral Majority and some anti-porn extremists who were much more closely connected with Eagle Forum than Andrea Dwokin), Jules Feiffer, the less explicit (and more popular) photographs of Betty Page, among others.

Those drawings, cartoons, and posed photographs can be seen as stereotypes and caricatures, and they should be, that’s what they are – sketches, illustrations, suggestive works of art in many ways. But they’re works of **art**, not porn, and many of them were heroines and positive sexual role models (as much as any representation of women was) for women of their era. There’s more than fifty years difference between a Varga Girl and a Suicide Girl, there’s as much difference as there is between a fantasy involving a “girl next door” and a dysfunctional, underpaid, amateur porn star. Yes, one can still see themes implicit involving subordination or exploitation, but like a good detective novel from that era, fans were supposed to see those themes as something to investigate, solve, and DO something about, and not just fantasize over.

If one wants to read more about this sort of sense of sexiness and humor from a feminist perspective, one of the best works I’ve read is “Flirting with Danger: Young Women’s Reflections on Sexuality and Domination” by Lynn Phillips, 2000, NYU Press. Check it out. It’s like Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs” without pictures or cartoons, but the footnotes more than make up for it!

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