We’ve seen this movie before: We’re going to make an admission:
Until yesterday, we had never listened to the lyrics of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a non-Christmas Christmas song which publicly dates to the 1949 Esther Williams film, Neptune’s Daughter.
Yesterday, we listened for the first time, inspired by Salon’s street-fighting agent of change, Daniel D’Addario. Reprising what is fast becoming a seasonal tradition at Salon, he told the on-line magazine’s readers what the song is really about:
D’ADDARIO (12/19/13): “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is one of those Christmas songs that really has nothing to do with Christmas—it’s just about cold weather, and also sexual coercion.Say what? Is Baby, It’s Cold Outside really “about sexual coercion?” Such matters are in the eye of the troubled beholder.
In D’Addario’s case, he has apparently struggled with the song for some time. He offers six versions of the song which “have particularly creeped us out in recent years.”
Us? He doesn’t explain.
Based upon his selections, D’Addario gets the creeps fairly easy. He’s troubled by the fact that Willie Nelson is 46 years older than Norah Jones, with whom he has recorded the song.
(“Hearing him rasp, ‘What’s the sense in hurting my pride?’ to the young lady he’s just served a drink is not how we want to celebrate the season,” the Salonista complains.)
We? Again, no explanation.
D’Addario finds another version of the song “depressing.” (Explanation: Teenagers shouldn’t be singing it.) Here’s his reaction to hearing John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John:
D’ADDARIO: In this deeply strange, gender-swapped version, Newton-John tries to seduce her “Grease” costar, who’s worried about his parents overreacting to his coming home late. Travolta was 58 when this song came out, unlikely to be worried about his parents or, allegedly, the particular charms of a woman like Newton-John, who nearly blows out her larynx trying to sound kittenish.Salon takes down Newton-John!
At some point, the thought begins to intrude—D’Addario may be amazingly dumb. But we don’t think that’s it.
Before we reveal what it actually is, a few observations:
The song was instantly “gender-swapped” when it debuted in Neptune’s Daughter. In that film, Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams do the song first. Later, Red Skelton sings it with Betty Garrett, with Garrett—the girl!—cast in the role of the smitten partner who wants to extend the evening.
Garrett, who started out in the Borscht Belt, is very funny and very winning. Betty Garrett could really perform! It’s actually worth watching the second half of the tape.
Second observation: A lot of people have sung this song, which is probably fun for singers to sing. Sometimes, a pair of singers singing a standard is just a pair of singers singing.
We believe Abraham Lincoln said that.
Note to Salonistas: You actually aren’t supposed to imagine that Willie Nelson is trying to hit on Norah Jones. You aren’t supposed to ask yourself whether Travolta would really worry about his parents.
D’Addario graduated from Yale in 2010. What made him offer this strained pisspiddle? Here goes:
At Salon, we’d have to say that something is happenin’ and we do know what it is. Or so it appears, Mr. Jones!
At Salon, a new generation is declaring its break from all that has gone before. The children seem to be casting about, rejecting all cultural markers.
Something similar happened in the 1960s, when we kids were busy stopping a war. Never trust anyone over 30! In many ways, the determined inanity of our generation didn’t work out super well, although there were also large gains.
So it may be with the kids at Salon! For whatever reason, they’re declaring a revolution. It’s one they frequently stage inanely, but it may lead to good things.
That said, our generation, in its excesses, helped spawn an era of Reaganist reaction. Hopefully, the Salonista won’t attract enough attention to provoke a similar backlash. But God knows they’re going to try!
As usual, many commenters rolled their eyes as Salon jumped the standard. (“Oh, for crying out loud. Leave it to Salon to turn a delightful, funny, and romantic song into a hyper-sexualized hymn to rape culture.”)
For ourselves, we couldn’t help wondering:
Did their parents send them to Yale to get creeped out in such ways?
An instant holiday tradition: For last year’s critique of this song at Salon, just click here. We’re quoting:
“Especially for a tune so closely associated with the holidays, Baby, It’s Cold Outside is icky at best, at worst reprehensible: It describes what may be a date rape.”
In conclusion, it isn’t the values to which we object. It’s the blinding stupidity of the way the values are being pursued. When “liberals” stage generational jags of this type, things may not turn out super well.