The classic Christmas song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, has been under fire since 2009 when the MeToo movement really gained momentum. The primary complaint against it is how it promotes date-rape culture as the male singer is giving off a vibe that he is trying to get a woman to stay overnight against her will.
The song was written by Frank Loesser back in 1944 and made its appearance in the 1949 movie Neptune’s Daughter, but it wasn’t initially a Christmas song. At the time, it was viewed as flirtatious banter between a man and a woman, but what people fail to take into consideration were the societal norms at the time for dating.
In the 1940s, the dating scene and protocols were vastly different compared to today. It was considered uncouth for a single woman to spend the night at a man’s place if she was not already married to him. Of course, like with all societal rules, there are exceptions to be had.
This is where this song takes its base from. The premise given is that this couple is really getting along, however, it is getting late, so the woman must be getting back to her place to avoid a scandal. What the man is doing in this scenario is giving the woman a list of valid excuses for her to stay the night, but not cause too much of a ripple. The weather is bad outside, it would be ungentlemanly of the man to let the lady leave in such conditions and society would understand. Maybe she drove there and the alcohol in the drink is too much, so it would be irresponsible for him to let her drive home.
A couple of sets of lyrics where it shows that the woman is keen on staying are as follows “At least I’m gonna say that I tried” and “But maybe just a cigarette more”. While arguments can be pulled from the rest of the song, it appears these lyrics are ignored and the man is seen as badgering her to stay. It ignores the fact that the woman might actually want to stay but doesn’t want to cause a scandal, so she tries to go along with the excuses he’s giving as a playful give-and-take.
While those are just a couple of reasons listed in the song, one of them, in particular, seems to stand out due to scandals in the last decade with the Bill Cosby scandal. As more and more women spoke up about the unjust sexual acts that were forced upon them, society began to reexamine the songs that were being played. As a result of this new culture that gained a much louder voice, radio stations in 2018 began banning the song from being played, according to an article by NPR.
The chain reaction also went a step further when, in 2019, John Legend rewrote the song with more politically-correct lyrics. Some of the new lyrics include lines such as “your body your choice”, “I ought to say ‘No, no, no, sir’(then you really ought to go, go, go)” and “I want you to stay, it’s not up to me”.
In response to this, the daughter, Susan Loesser, of the songwriter gave an interview with NBC, saying that it was upsetting people view the song as date-rape and blames Bill Cosby as the primary cause of this. Additionally, she explains how her father wrote it to sing with her mother at parties that they attended.
While continued updates of political correctness and light being shown to serious issues such as date-rape culture are important and do need to happen as a society to move forward, it becomes a problem when modern-day societal norms are placed up the music of the past that had more innocent origins. Loesser herself even stated in the interview that while she does understand the issues arising with women in today’s’ world, but would be a good thing for people to view the song within the context of when it was written.
Society has over-thought the meaning of this classic song and because of this, it was banned for simply being a song about playful banter between two people. This song should not suffer simply as a result of those unable to remember that dating rules and societal humor were much different nearly 75 years ago.
Leave the song be and interpret it as it was intended, playful banter between two people who are dating during a different time.