Among my favorite Christmas songs is “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” It’s pretty, and fun, and it makes me happy. But there’s just one pesky little thing about it.
Okay, surely, these people are just reading into things too much, right? Even in the forties, people weren’t broadcasting rape, I don’t think. And then, Funny or Die adds the following video accompaniment to the song, and you’re like, well shit.
Does it have to be like that? Can’t the song just be a back-and-forth between a 1940s girl who wants to spend the night at her fuckboy’s house, but feels obligated to leave because of what other people will say about her. The neighbors will think. Her mother will worry. Her father will pace the floor. Her sister will be suspicious. But as for her? Maybe just a half a drink more.
At the time the song was written, it was actually received as incredibly feminist. The leading lady acted on her own desires and stayed despite what everyone else thought. It was sexually empowering and liberating. She lived in a world where she wasn’t “allowed” to want sex — she ought to say no, no, no — but she did want to stay the night, so she did, albeit giving the excuse that it was cold outside (which she also gave at many points throughout the song), but she stayed nonetheless. Amazing how a 2015 mind can change the narrative of a 1945 story.
Still, one line remains that makes people tick. “Say, what’s in this drink?” Undeniably, kind of rapey. Or maybe it is deniable? One feminist blogger, in her lengthy defense of the song, explains things in a way that allows me to sing this song and sleep at night:
I think that the line “Say, what’s in this drink” needs to be explained in a broader context to refute the idea that he spiked her drink. “Say, what’s in this drink” is a well-used phrase that was common in movies of the time period and isn’t really used in the same manner any longer. The phrase generally referred to someone saying or doing something they thought they wouldn’t in normal circumstances; it’s a nod to the idea that alcohol is “making” them do something unusual. But the joke is almost always that there is nothing in the drink. The drink is the excuse. The drink is the shield someone gets to hold up in front of them to protect from criticism. And it’s not just used in these sort of romantic situations. I’ve heard it in many investigation type scenes where the stoolpigeon character is giving up bits of information they’re supposed to be protecting, in screwball comedies where someone is making a fool of themselves, and, yes, in romantic movies where someone is experiencing feelings they are not supposed to have.
So, is this rape? Coercion? Or just a girl saying “Fuck it. Judge me, bitches. I’m going to get mine.”.