In this ever-changing world in which we're living, song lyrics can come back and bite you. It's nearing Christmas time, and the holiday touchstone "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is being put on the black list for some on the airwaves. Which of course is making folks mad. Unfortunately, it's a classic song that's beginning to age, and the light of the modern world is casting a sexual-harassment-tinted spotlight on the silver fox of a song. Rather than a black and white issue, this is again becoming a blue and red issue, as some see it as a liberal move to keep an agenda in the forefront and erase a classic composition from modern memory — although, I've not heard anyone on the left of the political spectrum say, 'You know what should be our target this year? That song from the 1948 film "Neptune's Daughter!'
Now, first off, it's a creepy song. There's no way around it. With lyrics like, "I ought to say no, no no" and my personal favorite "Hey, what's in this drink?" the scene it calls to mind isn't the same as it was likely intended to be (and let's not even discuss the fact that the duet parts are named "Wolf" and "Mouse"…yowzah). Now, to be clear, I don't for a minute think that was composer Frank Loesser's intent when he penned the lyrics. Unfortunately, our intentions are about as eternal as we are. Folks, that's life. Things change. Phrases take on new meanings. Time marches on.
And it's surely not the first song to cause DJs to questioned whether they should drop the needle (yes, I know turntables aren't what they use nowadays, but I bet somebody still does), and it won't be the last. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is under the microscope now because of what's happening in real life. Perhaps instead of blaming the proverbial left for orchestrating the loss of a yuletide tradition, we should be blaming the predators who actually put things in women's drinks. If powerful businessmen and TV personalities were being exposed for sexual assault in 1948, maybe Loesser's lyrics would have been different (and I guarantee you, the day a string of elderly men frame forest creatures for their wives' murders, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" will get pulled from the airwaves too).
Frankly, I don't think the problem with "Baby" is whether Loesser's song helps enforce the evil deeds of modern men. I think the problem is we believe a decision to not play the song reflects on us personally for enjoying it in the past. This is the very same argument you have with your extended family members who still use the word "oriental" instead of "Asian" (I'm told oriental is still fine when referring to rugs and other inanimate objects — the more you know).
The former used to be fine, the latter is now the non-bigoted term. Times changed. Terms changed. People adapted.
Ignorance is one thing. Yes, people were each raised a certain way. Some were raised to say "soda" instead of "pop." Some were raised to say "bucket" instead of "pail." Some were raised to have an unnecessarily complex delineation between what constitutes "dinner" versus "supper." But those things aren't people. They are objects. The real sign of a problem is when we're told our words or actions are derogatory to another human being, and we choose to remain unchanged.
That's a sign we don't care about other people.
So let's circle back to "Baby" (and nobody puts "Baby" in a corner). Times have changed. Things are happening nowadays that we all would like to see never happen again. And, unfortunately, "Baby" sounds somewhat like those things but, at the same time, "Baby" can't say anything else. It's an object just like a bucket (or a pail, don't get worked up). If we care about what men like Weinstein, Franken, Lauer, Nassar and anybody else on the list of recently-icky fellas did, we have to at least be willing to raise our eyebrows just a bit higher at "Baby."
But here's the relief. Even if they don't play it on the radio, you can still play it for yourself. If you, like me, happen to like that song, you can buy yourself a copy (I happen to own a cover performed by Zoe Deschanel and Matthew Ward). It's not hard, and there's no law that says you can't listen to it, just like there's no law that requires DJs to play it at Christmas time.
So, in the spirit of Christmas, let's all just agree to disagree on this one. As much as I feel like there's merit in this discussion (notice I said discussion and not action — very important to distinguish the two, especially in local politics), we can afford to let it go. It's just a song, and a secular one at that. But, if someone wants to pull "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," I'll be the first to cry fowl...err...pachyderm.