A take on the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” controversy
Clarissa Sabile, Contributor
Last month, CBC banned the classic holiday song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” following other radio stations across North America. Most responses on social media were initially full of confusion and, progressively, outrage, as the song is played every Christmas season without issue. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a duet depicting a man trying to convince a woman to stay with him rather than going home because it’s, you guessed it, too cold outside. The lyrics were interpreted as inappropriate and people made complaints that emphasized the song “had no place” in this #MeToo world. With the movement and listener’s concerns in mind, CBC did not want to risk promoting improper themes to their audience, leading to the ban. Radio stations across Canada and the US followed suit, causing a variety of reactions from lovers of the irreplaceable tune.
During the most wonderful time of the year, is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” offensive or harmless, and was CBC’s ban necessary? Yes and no. In the end, according to Cleveland’s Rape Crisis Center CEO and President Sondra Miller, “It’s taking a 2018 lens on a song that was written a long time ago”. While the themes of the song might not translate well to this generation, the sensitivity is misplaced. Contextually, the song made sense within the era.
With this context people argued that the duet was filmed and sung in the 1940s, where the politically correct culture and #MeToo movement did not exist yet. Others explained that the duet between the acting pair Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams was romantic, so his advances were acceptable. Finally, with respect to sexual abuse advocates, most believed that those that took offense to the song were being “extra sensitive”.
On the other side, specific lyrics, and even the video of late actors Montalban and Williams from the 1940s film Neptune’s Daughter, suggested offensive themes of date rape, unwanted advances and ignored consent. However, this viewpoint does not take into account how the song was originally meant as a story of a woman fighting against societal expectations of her, “She really can’t stay,” but she wants to.
Global BC polled people in Vancouver on the controversy. Some said they enjoyed the song and understood the suggestive themes it presents, while others believed that taking the song off the air would not educate anyone. Banning the song ironically makes people want to listen to it elsewhere. Ultimately, radio stations must know that they cannot satisfy everyone’s preferences. Oversensitivity seems to be an ingredient for controversial topics, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary.