Who knew that when Frank Loesser penned the cheery duet “Baby It’s Cold Outside” in 1944, that it would become the magnet for controversy decades later?
The song has long been challenged based on issues tied to sexual consent, but now it’s getting banned outright at various radio stations in the US and Canada.
The song is frequently framed as a predatory male coercing a trapped female into a sexual encounter, sometimes even plying her with date-rape drugs when the line “Say what’s in this drink?” is cited. That boiled over this holiday season, with Cleveland radio station WDOK 102.1 abruptly pulling the song from its holiday playlist.
A poll on station the ‘Star 102’ Facebook page showed that 92% of listeners wanted to keep the song on the station’s playlist, but a few complaints are apparently enough to get it pulled.
“We used to play the song ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ but you’re the Christmas Executive Officer at Star 102 and you told us it’s no longer appropriate,” wrote station host Glenn Anderson on Star 102’s website. “I gotta be honest, I didn’t understand why the lyrics were so bad… until I read them.”
“Now, I do realize that when the song was written in 1944, it was a different time, but now while reading it, it seems very manipulative and wrong. The world we live in is extra sensitive now, and people get easily offended, but in a world where #MeToo has finally given women the voice they deserve, the song has no place.”
Now, WDOK’s ban is spreading.
In Canada, a large number of stations are outright nixing the classic. Just yesterday, several major Canadian broadcast conglomerates announced the removal of the song, including Bell Media, Rogers and CBC. “CBC Music will be pulling the song from its rotation as of midnight and has no plans to play it going forward,” CBC’s head of public affairs Chuck Thompson stated.
The consolidated strike-down means that “Baby It’s Cold Outside” will be a scarce commodity on Canadian radio waves.
Separately, we’ve heard of at least one removal in Europe as well. In Ireland, Christmas FM has now removed the song because “it doesn’t resonate well with our listeners”.
A major problem with this song is that the lyrics are so ambiguous.
Loesser wrote the song for just him and his wife to perform at parties. The back-and-forth lyrics have a female staying at a male’s residence, expressing a desire to go home, while the male is pitted as persuading her to stay based on it being too cold to go out at night, with ulterior motives hinted.
As is often the case with old media withering under the harsh light of politically correct scrutiny, modern audiences are perhaps reading too much between the lines out of context. For instance, for an unmarried man and woman to spend the night in the same housing in 1944 would have been considered taboo, so the song could be interpreted as both of them, consensually, trying to find justification to break the taboo — hence, she’s using the alcohol as a weak excuse.
Also worth noting: the concept of a date rape drug did not exist in 1944, at least not enough to make a recognizable reference for the general public.
Nevertheless, even though it’s an enduring Christmas classic (which doesn’t mention Christmas at all), maybe we’re better off without the song in rotation, if for no other reason than to move on as a society.