I am sure you have heard the ruckus raised in early December 2018 when several radio stations and Canadian broadcaster, CBC Radio, decided to ban the traditional Christmastime song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” one of the more outlandish offshoots of the #MeToo movement.
After numerous complaints of censorship, including a highly visible campaign by Star Trek star William Shatner, CBC restored the song to its Christmas lineup, as did two of the four radio stations that initiated the ban.
The banning of the recording did not go over well. After days of backlash from outraged listeners, KOIT in San Francisco relented and returned the song to its holiday offerings.
I want to make it perfectly clear I support the ongoing efforts of women and men calling attention to sexual abuse, date-rape and bullying in the workplace.
Sometimes, however, even the best of intentions are misguided and get off track. I see this as one of these cases.
As with many nationwide controversies where something is banned or censored, interest soars.
As one news outlet said, the song “may be getting the cold shoulder from some listeners, but the uptick in sales and streaming shows that many people are still enjoying the holiday classic.”
As if it were making a statement, Sirius XM Radio played five versions of the song during a one-hour interval just before Christmas.
Of course, let’s not forget the curiosity factor. Some younger people who had never heard the song wanted to listen to the lyrics for themselves to see what all the hubbub was about.
I played the song for my grandson and his girlfriend, both 23, and they looked at each other, shrugged and wondered what all the fuss was about.
The song was written nearly 75 years ago by famed songwriter Frank Loesser, but it really caught on five years later when it was performed in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter” starring swimming star Esther Williams and Latin heartthrob Ricardo Montalban.
The song won that year’s Academy Award for best song in a motion picture.
One of the most popular versions was recorded in 1959 and was sung by Dean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell. Sales soared by 54 percent to 8.2 million streams in one week in December.
Responding to the controversy, Martin’s daughter, Deana, said her father “would be going insane” if he were alive and heard that the song was banned on some stations.
So what prompted this censorship? Executives at WDOK in Cleveland and KOIT in San Francisco said some listeners complained the song contained lyrics that sent the wrong message about consent.
The first time I heard the song as a teenager, I thought it was cute, a little on the flirty side with this back and forth over whether the woman should spend the night as her companion suggests out of concern for her safety or whether she should stick to the conventions of the day and go forth into that stormy, windy and snowy night.
She’s torn over what her parents, her sister, her maiden aunt and the neighbors would think if she stayed.
We never know for sure what she decided.
Let’s examine some of the lyrics in this duet — regular type is what the female sings. Parentheses represent the male rejoinders.
I really can’t stay (But baby it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (But baby it’s cold outside)
My mother will start to worry (Beautiful, what’s your hurry?)
And father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)
So, really, I’d better scurry (Beautiful, please don’t hurry)
Well, maybe just a half a drink more (Put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think … (Baby, it’s bad out there)
Say, what’s in this drink? (No cabs to be had out there)
Some complaints centered on the woman’s question of what was in the drink. In modern times, of course, the first thought is that the man spiked her drink, but back in the ’40s when the song was written, the question implies the drink is stronger than expected.
Later in the song, there is this exchange, which also brought complaints from some listeners:
I simply must go (But baby, it’s cold outside),
The answer is “no” (But baby, it’s cold outside).
The concern is that the woman has said “no,” but her companion keeps insisting that she should stay.
Some call “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” the “date-rape anthem,” while others roll their eyes and urge the critics to “get a life.”
Editor’s Note: Bruce Frassinelli is a former newspaper editor and currently a contributor to the opinion page of the TIMES NEWS, our sister daily paper.