Image: USA Today
Image: USA Today

'Baby It's Cold Outside' Gets the Cold Shoulder This Yule Season

Add Frank Loesser’s call and response song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” to a growing list of pop hits that have become branded politically unacceptable.

The controversy over Michael Bublé’s sanitized edition of the Yuletime classic started when WDOK-FM Cleveland purged it from its Christmas playlist after an unspecified number of listeners called in to complain about the song's content.

In an interview with CNN, WDOK midday host Desiray explains, "People might say, 'Oh, enough with that #MeToo,' but if you really put that aside and read the lyrics, it's not something that I would want my daughter to be in that kind of a situation." When you search 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' on Urban Dictionary, the site defines it as the "Christmas Date Rape Song."

However, when the radio station conducted a poll on their Facebook page to gauge whether their listeners thought the song should be banned, only 5-percent thought it was inappropriate. 

Since then, a chorus of Canadian radio stations has followed Cleveland's example. CBC said Tuesday it would join  Rogers Media and Bell Media by removing the holiday favourite out of their rotations this season.

The BBC gets to the heart of why what was once acceptable has become taboo, the National Post’s Tristin Hopper begs the question, Is Baby It’s Cold Outside an ode to rape that deserves its sudden banishment from Canadian radio? And The Toronto Star’s Vinay Menon weighs in with the thought that there other Yuletide staples in need of closer scrutiny.

Emily Crocket explores how cultural mores have changed, particularly so in the Trumpian era, and how this song blurs the parameters of sexual consent.

"Given the historical and musical context, you don’t have to turn in your feminist card if you don’t interpret the original 'Baby, It’s Cold Outside' lyrics as a literal description of a date rape," she writes in Vox. "In 1944, affirmative consent wasn’t even an option for the woman in the song; she would have had to protect her reputation by either playing hard to get or not allowing herself to be gotten at all. And the way the song is written — a playful call-and-response duet that resolves harmoniously — definitely sounds like mutual desire.

"But every sexual situation is dependent on context."

Perhaps the best reporting about the song’s history and the current controversy is penned by Elise Taylor in Vanity Fair. Among the many nuggets put forward in the feature is Frank Loesser’s son, John Loesser, stating that if his father were alive today, he would be mortified over what’s happened to his “Baby.”

“It was never anything other than a sweet couple’s number for him and his spouse,” he told VF.com over the phone.

Over the years, the song has had many covers. Here's Lady Gaga performing the controversial song on the Muppets Holiday Spectacular in 2013.

And here’s an exaggerated, even menacing adaptation of the song done by the American video comedy troupe, Funny or Die and first published three years ago on Dec. 1.

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