“Baby It’s Cold Outside” gets a tap dance twist

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/16/baby-its-cold-outside.html

I love musicals. I love that song. I don’t like this.


Too bad this song is creepy in the worst way.


Obligatory Key and Peele? Is that a thing? In my heart it is.


Not this crap again.

If you actually listen to the song, the actual lyrics, not spoofs or inferences, and view it through the lens of context of when it was written and performed, it’s clearly two people who BOTH want the same thing, but the woman is conflicted between her own desires and the expectations of society and close family. She is clearly looking for a rational to get what she wants, without incurring the social penalties for doing so that would have been nearly automatic in that time and place.

Yet another example of why you can’t take a cultural artifact out of the general context of the culture it existed in, and subject it to analysis outside that context and expect to find any kind of meaningful result.


In other words, no doesn’t necessarily mean no.


Exactly, the song celebrates of the art of seduction, and it is clearly mutual.


In that time and place, where saying it was required as a matter of social form, regardless of one’s own actual desires? Perhaps, yes, actually.

That’s obviously not the case today, so, the closest I could compare it to would be, say, you agreeing to a Terms of Service with some wacky clause in it. So, in that case, “I Agree” doesn’t necessarily mean “I Agree”, It’s simply the thing that everyone clicks as a matter of course. If this song was written today, then of course it would have a much stranger, even sinister meaning.

But the fact is, it WASN’T. And it can’t really be evaluated with today’s norms.


What you’re really saying is that we shouldn’t be performing this song anymore.


It was written by Frank Loesser and his wife to perform at Hollywood parties.

I still think the original version is the best. No snow at all — it’s Los Angeles in the summer. It’s not creepy, but that would depend upon your opinion of Ricardo Montalban. Esther Williams, alhough mainly known for swimming, holds her own.

A good counterpoint is the second half of the number performed by Red Skelton and the great Betty Garrett. Red is speaking wih an odd accent because he’s ineptly pretending to be a South American polo player, who is in reality Ricardo.


Well, that kind of depends…

As a matter of taste for the song, or, out of some kind of social consciousness?

Frankly, I find the song sappy and a poor addition to the “christmas” repertoire, mostly kept around because if we tossed all the sappy crap we’d be left with about 4-5 songs on a loop this time of year. So, yeah, the song taken as a whole? I wouldn’t mind if I never heard it again.

But, should we not sing/listen to it specifically and only because it’s lyrics are no longer relevant to us, presuming we otherwise enjoy it as a piece of music? My stance is, that would be a big mistake. For the same reason that I don’t have an issue as an atheist performing a Mozart Requiem, even though I don’t have any belief in the meaning of the words.

Obviously, Mozart this is NOT. But, if the discussion is should we cease performing works only on the basis that they have lyrics that are no longer relevant, or, have meanings that sound strange in a modern context, I’d argue No.


Context always maters. Not just the context surrounding the creation of an artifact but the context in which it is performed. Most performances of this song play it straight which makes the lyrics seem particularly creepy. In something like the video @TheGreatParis posted it’s still portrayed as a conflict. There’s very little that’s coy about it. I can see how it’s possible to perform the song as more of a negotiation than a coercion, but I haven’t seen or heard it yet.


I’d say a dig for versions as performed by the authors, Frank and Lynn Loesser, would be for the best. I did a quick look for a recording done by them, obviously video from that time period is likely nonexistent, but there seems to be an audio recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pfvZo2gmm8

And obviously just listening to audio, a lot is left to how you interpret the voices, and therefore highly subjective and open to applying our own biases as a filter. However, seems very much a flirtation from both ends.

As to other interpretations, that’s an interesting question. Assume a version clearly depicted as a date rape setup. Does that reflect poorly on the original version, or on the idea of the piece as a concept?

If Marilyn Manson performs a hymn in a way that makes it a sacrilegious piece, does that piece then forever carry that taint? Or does it require some critical mass of a piece being interpreted in similar ways? Does the underlying piece not have a life of it’s own, independent of it’s many performances and interpretations?

Obviously if an individual production of the work is done in a way that’s clearly squicky, one can condemn that particular performance or interpretation. But to condemn the underlying piece itself on anything other than it’s core aspects, in the case of music, the notes and words written, and the context and place those things came from, I think is unfair, at least discussing it as a general piece of art.

I don’t think sexist, racist, homophobic and so on works should no longer be performed. If people want to squelch their awareness of such elements in pursuit of other pleasures, hey, it’s still a free country. But as with say, those who overlook (or don’t even see) the vile Orientalism of Madama Butterfly so that they can enjoy the music and the supposedly beautiful story, I’d rather not be around those who overlook (or don’t even see) the predatory sexism of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” so that they can enjoy . . . whatever the hell it is they’re enjoying.


After all this, it would take a really stupid person, a really insensitive person, or a really politically incorrect person to say they liked it.

I liked it. Bang in the feels it were. Let battle commence.


No no, the debate is, If you liked it, Do you simply have horrible taste in music, or, are you an Officially Horrible Person ™. I think it seems generally agreed that if you like it, you’re wrong, it’s just a question of why, and how wrong.


Why not both?


Yeah if you take a product of a very sexist culture that embodies that culture and transport it to a less sexist culture for analysis, it might seem sexist.

Disney made a “controversial” movie around the same time called “Song of the South”. There is plenty of demand to purchase copies of this movie but Disney doesn’t release it because it’s apparently pretty racist. Viewed in the context of a racist culture it might seem less racist… but that’s because a fish in water doesn’t seem wet.

The most galling line of the songs is “What’s in this drink?” which, at the time, was a saying of sorts - a joke that blamed inappropriate behaviour on unexpectedly strong alcohol. It would not have been meant or taken literally to suggest that there was anything inappropriate about the drink. Obviously today it invokes images of slipping date rape drugs into drinks while women aren’t looking, something that couldn’t have possibly been intended by the original writers/performers.

If you want to study the history of the song then you could learn something about the time it was written in, but if you just listen to it on the radio it’s super-rapey - those two facts aren’t at odds. If the full title was “Baby it’s cold outside so let’s think about the social expectations put on women in the 1940’s” then I don’t think we’d see celebrities performing it every holiday.


You mean we aren’t?

Seriously though, the best Christmas songs out there IMO are also the most religious. Most stores will balk at playing them because they’re so overly religious, so they’ll only play the cheesy come-buy-our-crap “holiday” songs. I don’t celebrate Christmas in any religious way, but commercial crap is both commercial and crap. There’s nothing to it, no deeper meaning. I love Handel’s Messiah, but it’s not anything your local drugstore will have on loop :wink:

I’m a Frank Loesser fan, but he hasn’t always been the most politically correct person in the world, especially not by today’s standards. Different times, I guess.

Alright then. In response to this non-creepy Frank Loesser song performed in a creepy context, here’s a creepy Frank Loesser song performed in a non-creepy context. Enjoy!

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If only there was some way of not playing Christmas songs everywhere for an entire month of the year or more.

If only we could think of a way…