There has been controversy recently, as some of you may have heard, about the lyrics of the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” which was composed in 1944 and included in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter.”
Now, in the days of the “#MeToo movement, there have been radio stations that have pulled the song because of its alleged sexism. That, in turn, has created it’s own backlash, with people complaining to radio stations about their having pulled the song.
We, on the progressive side of the ledger sometimes wonder why conservatives hate us so much. They’ve been preaching to us about Jesus Christ and family values and abortion, and we’ve been preaching to them about racism and sexism and homophobia. Each side with its certain sense of moral superiority.
The version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” that I know best is the version that James Taylor did with Natalie Cole.
I think it’s clear, if you listen to the song, that this is a flirtation. First of all, it was written in 1944, well before the sexual revolution and third wave feminism and other social changes that we now take for granted. It was written in the days where it was still important for women to defend their “reputation.”
But also, one has to listen to more than just the lyrics. The mood of the song is flirtatious. The tone of the singers is flirtatious. It has a gentle swing beat, with a kind of clever chord structure. It’s “easy listening,” in the best sense of those words.
Clearly it’s a little pas de deux, a little duet, a bit of a cheeky game with both sides engaging in a bit of a put-on.
Will she stay? Who knows?
But not against her will.
Why do I believe that? Because everything in the song indicates that he wants to have an on-going romance with her. He’s trying to woo her, in the old-fashioned sense of that word.
If we don’t want to continue alienating the other side of the political spectrum, if we don’t want conservatives to look at us and think that we’re completely ridiculous, we really do have to lighten up a little bit. Context isn’t everything, but it’s almost everything.
Some time after Trump is gone, we are going to have to engage in a dialogue with each other. We’re going to have to find people on both sides who are capable of dialoging with each other, and again, knowing how to put things in context could provide a nice assist in that effort.