Every holiday season we’re exposed to the same cheap and easy articles written by this years group of young hacks who need a holiday article to fulfill their quota. In recent years a trend has surfaced which young left leaning liberals seem to enjoy repeating: Baby It’s Cold Outside is “Rapey”. (Salon, in an act of near self-parody, has an article which goes so far as to call it a date-rape anthem.) Baby It’s Cold Outside was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser as a duet for he and his wife to sing together. In 1949 it won the Oscar for Best Original Song, which is impressive as that was when movies still had a great many original songs made for them. So, how did we come from this song winning the Best Original Song Oscar, to it being a supposed date rape anthem? Simple; you change the context from theirs to yours.
(Here are the Lyrics in full. The Man is in Parenthesis. Read them if you doubt me or think I’m skipping something.)
If you have no sense of humor and have never had a flirtatious evening of your own, or you are of the very stringent radical feminist world view, then this song could read like a woman stating, very clearly, that she wants to leave, the man refusing to let her, and possibly spiking her drink. DATE RAPE!!!!!!!111one. But this is not the fault of the writer in producing a too ambiguous song. It is the fault of the literal and unironic mind, reading its own worldview into places where it doesn’t belong.
The actual context of the song is that it was written by Loesser for he and his wife to sing as a duet. So, unless you think it’s probable that Loesser (and his wife) thought a song about a date rapist spiking drinks was a romantic ballad to sing together, then you’re forced to consider the actual context. Picture two very happy and horny people back from a date, and as much as both want to keep the night going, she isn’t allowed to due to her over-protective family and the sexual double standards of society in the 40’s. As a thought experiment lets read it like a monologue of just her lines. I choose to focus on the woman in this exchange because not only is the male part repetitive, she’s often criticized as a victim in this song. I beg to differ. I’ll interject with my view and you can judge if it best fits the context of the time and the lines in the song.
I really can’t stay. I’ve got to go away. This evening has been so very nice.
So far she says she has to go but that the evening was so very nice. Perhaps the other character asks why?
My mother will start to worry. My father will be pacing the floor. So really I’d better scurry. But maybe just a half a drink more.
Ah, so her family will be worried that she’s out later than they would like, with a man. Not that she personally wants to leave. She wants to stay. In fact she does stay for half a drink more. She goes on to worry:
The neighbors might think
Now societies sexual mores come into play. Today we wouldn’t give a toss for what our neighbors thought of our dating habits. But, remember, this is 1944.
Say, what’s in this drink?
And out come the howl’s that she’s been drugged (which wasn’t a thing in 1944) or that the guy has spiked her drink with what? More alcohol? Again, back to the original context: this was written by the writer to sing with his wife. Not to mention blaming your flirtatious behavior on your drink is yet another way to say things without having to state them outright. Otherwise known as, flirting. Also, if we truly agree that this is a dance between people who want to have sex, then this line is quickly explained by the next one.
I wish I knew how to break this spell.
I want to stay and have sex but I can’t be straight forward, so I’ll hint at it by blaming it on the booze and then on some kind of spell. A thin veneer, granted, but that’s expected when you’re walking the delicate thread of saying things without saying them, but still trying to be clear that you are indeed saying them. It’s complicated, yes, but I didn’t create human mating rituals. Either this, or you can stay in the literal minded camp and are forced to, what? Believe that he’s a warlock?
I ought to say no, no, no, sir. At least I’m gonna say that I tried.
And the defense rests. This is a woman who wants sex as much as the male in the song but doesn’t yet live in a society where she’s allowed to simply state as much. “I’m gunna say that I tried” implies only one thing: She’s staying.
I really can’t stay. Oh, but it’s cold outside.
Here she begins to suggest that the excuses being given by the guy are a good enough excuse to use with the family. This could be the end of the song, but we need one more wallop of crazy family and worry before it’s a done deal.
I simply must go. The answer is no. This welcome has been so nice and warm.
Basically, we have a nearly identical line from the top of the song. This bodes badly for our monologue, but once we remember this is a song with repeating stanzas, it makes more sense that we have to do it all over again. Still, it does furnish us with some more of the crazy family!
My sister will be suspicious. My brother will be there at the door. My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious. But maybe just a cigarette more.
So here’s the score so far: Mother is worried, Father is pacing, Sister is suspicious and her fucking Brother will actually be waiting at the door. Oh, and her maiden Aunt has a vicious mind. So what possible pressure and reason could she have to want to get home? Must be that date-rapey guy she wants to get away from that she keeps finding excuses to spend more time with.
I’ve got to get home. Say, lend me your coat. You’ve really been grand, but don’t you see? There’s bound to be talk tomorrow. At least there will be plenty implied. I really can’t stay.
This bit actually makes me sad. “I want to stay with you but people will talk.”
Oh, but it’s cold outside – Sung Together
And yet, they end the song together, in agreement. Sex is on.
And there you have it. If one can pull their head out of their ass for a few minutes, an empowering song of sexual freedom could be heard. Up to you.
The lesson here is that everything that was ever written or made wasn’t done with ourselves and our time period, with it’s myriad idiosyncrasies, in mind. The world throughout time does not revolve around us and the way we read or hear things. So before we go on to speak about how something long before our time was “this” or “that”, do the due diligence and find out what the context was back then. Only in that way can you be truly assured that you don’t write for Salon.