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Charles Lewis: Baby, it’s getting way too cold for us

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  • December 23, 2018

I often admonish my brother for labeling too many things he dislikes as “stupid.” That word should be reserved for that which goes beyond the merely foolish or inane to the really, really stupid.

I have now found something that is not only stupid but qualifies for a whole new category of stupid.

You may have heard that the CBC, Rogers Media and other media giants banned the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for being a song about rape, male privilege and oppression. It is an offence to the #metoo movement and God knows what else.

The evidence, say those who take umbrage with this American classic, is so totally obvious. Just read these outrageous lyrics:

“I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)

I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)

This evening has been (been hoping that you’d drop in)

So very nice (I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)”

The song, often associated with Christmas but not a Christmas song, is about adult men and adult women engaging in the oldest ritual there is: seduction.

Fred Loesser, who was a consummate writer of classic show tunes, penned it in 1944 for his wife, Lynn. What a lovely gift it was.

He also wrote the music and lyrics for Guys and Dolls and he shared a Pulitzer for the songs he penned for How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Yet, the singing duo of Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, as reported in The New York Times, re-wrote a consensual version of the song. Liza told the NYT she found the original version “creepy.” So they came up with this:

“I really can’t stay, (Baby I’m fine with that)

I’ve got to go away (I’m cool with that)

My mother will start to worry (call her so she knows you are fine)”

I am sure their concerts are tons of fun. Though I hear that men are frisked at the door for any signs of chauvinism and fun.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a song of its time. Just listening to the opening bars you know it is a song from the past. The expression, “they don’t write songs like that anymore,” is perfectly apt here. It also shows a kind of gentleness between the sexes. Compare it with the awful lyrics of many rap songs in which women are just a step below synthetic sex dolls.

The CBC, after hearing from their outraged listeners, said it decided to put the song back on the air. As of this writing, other media outlets such as Rogers are sticking with the ban.

Corporations these days hate the slightest bit of controversy. With Twitter and other social media they know that these things spread like wildfire. But so what? Do these companies imagine the equivalent of Bastille Day or the storming of the Tsar’s Winter Palace? I know tweets are annoying but they can be ignored. Most outrage these days lasts for a few minutes until some other offence against liberal secularism pops up.

This reminds me of attending a Unitarian wedding service years ago. The couple wanted the minister to do a reading from The Little Prince, a beautiful little book by the late French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The minister decided to refer to the book as The Little Princess.

Having the awful habit of never letting anything go, I confronted the minister after and asked why she changed the title. She explained to me, as if I was the biggest dolt in the room, that “these days we really need diversity.”

Of course: How could I have been so unfeeling?

So back to the song.

I think this controversy over “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is indicative of something that has gone terribly wrong in our society.

Those who have railed against the song are like many people today. For this screeching group, there is no history. Everything is “now.” There is no such thing as context or looking at a work of art, like a song, in the time it was written.

The new world is rootless and nothing means anything except spur of the moment feelings that trigger outrage and, worse, a lecture.

Those of us who follow a religious faith, who think that abortion should at least be talked about and that people who are sick should not be killed by the health care system, should know what I am getting at.

No one debates these issues because someone may be offended. And I think it is fair to say that going back as far as Abraham there are always going to be some who will feel put out.

We are sinking into a world of uniformity. This is totalitarianism from the bottom up. The world outside is getting colder for those who dare to think for themselves. Baby, It’s Really, Really Cold Outside.

(Lewis is a Toronto writer and regular contributor to The Register.)

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