Sarcastic Saturday :: the worst Christmas gift Frank Loesser accidentally gave the world.

24 Dec

From Wikipedia, with hotlinks removed:

“‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is a pop standard with words and music by Frank Loesser. Originally, it was never intended to be a Christmas song. In its early years it was played year round. In recent years, however, it was recorded by numerous Adult Contemporary artists and began being played as a Christmas Song.” [sic – because Song isn’t a proper noun, but that’s how it was typed there]

Frank Loesser is a legitimate fellow.  He’s responsible for dozens of songs, including the scores to Guys and Dolls and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.  Classics.  Maybe not my taste, always, but I respect him.  But he also wrote the now-Christmas “classic” tune “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and for that… I don’t know if I ever can forgive him.  Not even my Zooey and my M. Ward can make it completely better on the Very She & Him Christmas album.  (Closer, because I can imagine that they’re just friends messing around with each other, but it’s still icky.)

Part of my aversion to the song is just that I’ve heard it too many times, by contemporary singers trying to be cute or by old singers being cute.  Most of my aversion to the song is stemmed from the fact that, as my friend pointed out recently, it’s basically about date rape.  Or it really could be.  Wikipedia also says that the parts in the song are written as “mouse” and “wolf” in the scores, and that the mouse is often (not always) sung by a woman and the wolf by a man.  This has been reversed sometimes, in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter, for example, and actually by Zooey and M. Ward (which adds to the playful thing I can imagine with them, which is not to say that a female-on-male date rape is impossible, but the way they sing it, it does seem less creepy somehow — or maybe they just weren’t thinking about it and singing a bunch of Christmas standards, which, okay, think about it kids, but I guess I’ll forgive you this one mistake).

Before I continue, I’d like to say that I’m not trying to make light of date rape or anything.  It’s serious business, and it’s not cool.  Which is why the song bothers me.  If you have the wrong people singing it, it just sounds really sketchy and perpetuates a “no means yes” culture, and that’s seriously bad.  It’s stupid that “no means yes” is still accepted as truth, even though a lot of times that it’s advocated, it’s done in a joking matter.  But that’s not cool either.

For evidence, I will dissect it.  The lyrics, with the “wolf” bolded, interspersed with analysis:

I really can’t stay
But baby, it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away
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

It starts out pretty innocently.  It’s cold outside, don’t leave, you don’t want to get stuck in the storm.  Maybe that hand-holding is unwanted physical attention, but it’s easy to tell someone to stop holding your hands, right?

My mother will start worry
Beautiful whats your hurry
My father will be pacing the floor
Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I’d better scurry
Beautiful please don’t hurry
But maybe just a half a drink more
Put some records on while I pour

So never mind the parental panic that may ensue, the “wolf” is trying to get the “mouse” to stay in.  Please?  Maybe it’s just safer not to travel in the bad weather.  Maybe it’s a storm.  And it would seem like the “mouse” initiates the drink.

The neighbors might faint
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 this spell
I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell

The neighbors aren’t going to think well of their staying over together, even if the storm is really bad.  Which leads me to believe that either the storm isn’t that bad and the “wolf” is just talking out their ass, or the neighbors are giant prudes.  But then… nope, BAD.  “What’s in this drink”?  Even if the “mouse” did suggest the drink, did the “wolf” put something in it?  At the very least, give the “mouse” something stronger than they wanted?  That’s not good.  And as the “wolf” is full of flattery and the prelude to undressing (a hat isn’t really getting naked, but it’s one less thing) the “mouse” is going, basically, “WTF is going on and HTF (?) do I leave??”

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 in hurtin’ my pride
I really can’t stay
Oh baby don’t hold out

Yep.  Straight-up no from the “mouse,” even as the “wolf” refuses to listen to it.  The “mouse” tried to resist the “wolf,” but when they’ve been drinking and they’re with someone who seems nice, maybe it’s gonna be okay, right?  Wrong.  If the “mouse” wants to leave, the “mouse” should leave.  Even if it does make the “wolf” cranky.  If the “mouse” needs to call the cops, the “mouse” should.

Baby it’s cold outside

I simply must go
But baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no
But baby, it’s cold outside
Your welcome has been
How lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm
Look out the window at that storm

Now it’s the “wolf” making a last-ditch effort as the “mouse” is saying no more firmly.

My sister will be suspicious
Gosh your lips look delicious
My brother will be there at the door
Waves upon the tropical shore
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
Gosh your lips are delicous
But maybe just a cigarette more
Never such a blizzard before

More valid reasons the “mouse” wants to get home, even if dropping that maiden aunt in could be a sign that the “mouse” is just screwing around.  This could be a completely consensual bit of banter.  I acknowledge that.  If it’s done correctly, it could be fine.  But so many people have that smirky, predatory lech thing going when they sing it, and that… just isn’t all right.

I’ve gotta get home
But baby, you’d freeze out there
Say, lend me a coat
It’s up to your knees out there
You’ve really been grand
I thrill when you touch my hand

How many more ways can the “mouse” say no?  How many more ways can the “wolf” try to be persuasive?

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 got pneumonia and died
I really can’t stay
Get over that old out

The “mouse” is reputation-conscious, yes, but it’s also a consciousness of what might happen and what they don’t want to happen.  The “wolf” is almost refusing to hear it.  “Get over that old out?”  That’s basically just saying “you’re lying, you’re just being a tease, let me in, let me in.”

Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside

So.  Yeah.  I will again say that I’m sure that many and most of the people who have recorded this song over the years have not considered this.  I’m sure Frank Loesser didn’t write it that way.  But it still sounds… very, very, very creepy, and it’s a throwback to a time with different values.  But even then, no didn’t mean yes.  And nowadays, no doesn’t mean yes.  So no, I’ll never pretend to sing this song at a crummy Christmas party.  Never ever.  Even if subconsciously, it’s allowing an attitude that isn’t acceptable to continue.

–your fangirl heroine.


One Response to “Sarcastic Saturday :: the worst Christmas gift Frank Loesser accidentally gave the world.”


  1. Wikipedia 12/25 2:58 | Chantler 411 - December 2011

    […] Sarcastic Saturday :: the worst Christmas gift Frank Loesser … From Wikipedia, with hotlinks removed: “'Baby, It's Cold … Wikipedia also says that the parts in the song are written as “mouse” and “wolf” in the scores, and that the mouse is often (not always) sung by a woman and the wolf by a man. This has … — Sat, 24 Dec 2011 23:39:00 -0800 […]

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