I think it bears mentioning that I am a Gen Xer. As such, I find Millennials a most curious lot. One of their biggest traits, to my mind, is their unshakeable idea that they are always right. ALWAYS. They are never wrong. The decades of bestowing Participation Trophies, of being rewarded for effort as opposed to actual merit, has convinced them of their moral and intellectual superiority over all their elders: from those cynical Gen Xers to those racist/sexist/homophobic Boomers.
Let's not even get on the horror that is the Greatest Generation (a misnomer to these kids, since everyone knows THEY are the Greatest, they being told their entire lives how great they are).
Those old people, the ones who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, they didn't realize that Baby, It's Cold Outside was an ode to rape. They just weren't as enlightened as Millennials, who have to show the world at large the error of their ways. Thus enter the real-life couple of Lydia Liza, 22, and Josiah Lomanski, 25.
Our two lovebirds/songwriters share a mutual disdain for the original Baby, It's Cold Outside. Says Liza, "It was meant to be playful, but all those lyrics just sit wrong with me---especially being from this generation (emphasis mine)".
As they find that Baby, It's Cold Outside has developed in their view 'a creepy vibe', with undercurrents of date rape and a lack of consent from the female in this male-and-female duet, they've decided to 'improve' on the song by rewriting the lyrics to reflect a more respectful, enlightened view on the issue of male/female relationships.
Their version of Baby, It's Cold Outside, they insist, emphasizes consent, where the woman saying she wants to leave is respected rather than the man pushing for her to stay.
I think that Liza and Lomanski are well-intentioned kids, sincere in their beliefs, like most of their fellow Millennials. I also think they are so, so wrong in their interpretation and thinking and haven't a clear idea of what they are talking about.
Before we begin our jolly jaunt through our questioned song, a little history lesson.
Baby, It's Cold Outside, contrary to popular opinion, is not a Christmas song. It has nothing to do with Christmas or the Christmas season. The only reason it has been adopted as a Yuletide tune is because it's about 'staying out of a snowstorm'. The song was written for the film Neptune's Daughter and in the film performed twice. The first time it is a duet between Esther Williams (the first speaker, or the call) and Ricardo Montalban (the second, or the response). The second time it is between Betty Garrett (the call) and Red Skelton (the response). The film is a romantic comedy about mistaken identities and isn't meant to be taken seriously.
Baby, It's Cold Outside went on to win the Best Original Song Oscar for 1949.
I present Version A, the song in question. The first section is usually the female line, the second the male line.
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
My mother will start to worry/Beautiful, what's your hurry?
My father will be pacing the floor/Listen to the fireplace roar
So really I'd better scurry/Beautiful, please don't hurry
Well, maybe just half a drink more/Put some records on while I pour
The neighbors might think/Baby, it's bad out there
Say what's in this drink?/No cabs to be had out there
I wish I knew how/Your eyes are like starlight now
To break this spell/I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell
I ought to say, 'No, no, no, sir'/Mind if I move in closer?
At least I'm gonna say that I tried/Where's the sense of hurting my pride?
I really can't stay/Baby don't hold doubt
(Together) Baby, It's Cold Outside
I simply must go/Baby, It's Cold Outside
The answer is no/Baby, it's cold outside
The welcome has been/How lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm/Look out the window at the storm
My sister will be suspicious/Gosh your lips look delicious
My brother will be there at the door/Waves upon a tropical shore
My maiden aunt's mind is vicious/Gosh your lips look delicious
But maybe just a cigarette more/Never such a blizzard before
I got to get home/But baby, you'd freeze out there
Say lend me a coat/It's up to your knees up there
You've really been grand/I thrill when you touch my hand
But don't you see/How can you do this thing to me?
There's bound to be talk tomorrow/Think of my lifelong sorrow
At least there will be plenty implied/If you caught pneumonia and died
I really can't stay/Get over that old doubt
(Together) Baby, It's Cold
(Together) Baby, It's Cold Outside
Now we go to the Millennial Version, or Version B.
Like in the original, the woman is singing the call and the man singing the response.
I really can't stay/Baby, I'm Fine With That
I've got to go away/Baby, I'm cool with that
This evening has been/Been hoping you'd get home safe
So very nice/I'm glad you had a real good time
My mother will start to worry/Call her so she knows that you're coming
And Father will be pacing the floor/Better get your car home
So really I better scurry/ (Spoken) Take your time
Should I use the front or back door?/Which one are you pulling towards more?
The neighbors might think/That you're a real nice girl
Say, what is this drink?/Pomegranate Le Croix
I wish I knew how/Maybe I'll help you out
To break this spell/I don't know what you're talking about
I ought to say 'No, no, no, sir'/You reserve the right to say no
At least I'm gonna say that I tried/You reserve the right to say no
I really can't stay/No you don't have to
(Woman alone) Ah but it's cold outside
I've got to get home/Do you know how to get there from here?
Say, where is my coat?/I'll go and grab it my dear
You've really been grand/We'll have to do this again
Yes, I agree/How 'bout the Cheesecake Factory?
We're bound to be talking tomorrow/Text me at your earliest convenience
At least I've been getting that vibe/Unless I catch pneumonia and die
I'll be on my way/Thanks for the great night
(Spoken) Bye! (Woman)
(Spoken) Bye! Drive safe, please. (Man)
(Spoken) Don't watch that episode of Breaking Bad without me. (Woman)
(Spoken) I won't. I'll save it for you. (Man)
In Version B, the song is about two people, ostensibly a man and woman, who are ending what I figure is their date. The woman is getting ready to leave, the man is happy to see her go and not only has no objection to ending their time together but encourages her to take great precautions as she leaves his place. They agree to talk (or text, I figure it's the same thing to them) the next day and meet at the Cheesecake Factory, with the promise that they will get together later to watch an episode of Breaking Bad.
Before I begin my exploration of Version A vs. Version B, I would like to offer my view that watching an episode of a show about a meth crime lord who grows more dangerous/murderous with power doth not for a romantic night make, but then that's just me.
One of the big complaints that Liza and Lemanski have with regards to Version A is that it is very ambiguous. "We started thinking of the open-ended questions the song has," she says. "You never figure out if she gets to go home. You never figure out if there was something in her drink."
Well, let's touch on that. I think Version A leaves it up to the listener to make his/her own mind as to how the night ended. It's important to note that in Version A, they sing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" together (the only part of the song where they duet, no pun intended). Note also that the male/response is the one repeating that 'baby, it's cold outside', and the song on two occasions ends with them singing that phrase in unison. In essence, She is agreeing with him that it is too cold/snowy to leave just yet and that She should stay a little bit longer (wonder if Liza and Lemanski will freak out over THAT song).
What exactly is wrong with there being a bit of mystery over whether she stayed or not, or how long she stayed? Despite what Liza/Lemanski think (or appear to think) the Woman wasn't held prisoner in some secret lair or held against her will. Consent does not have to be literal to be understood. It can be implied, understood, but I figure Millennials would find such things illogical: that one can draw inferences, even consent, without stating overtly, "I say yes".
Look at the two times in Baby, It's Cold Outside Version A where The Woman stops herself from leaving, of her own free will. "Well, maybe just half a drink more," The Woman says right after saying she 'better scurry'. "But maybe just a cigarette more," The Woman says the second time after listing how her family is waiting up for her. Both times The Woman stops herself, finding an excuse to extend her time with The Man. In short, she gives consent, not necessarily to sleep with him, but to spend more time with The Man.
In Version A, when she says, "I ought to say, 'No, no, no, sir'", She wasn't making a declarative statement. "Ought" is an important word in the lyric. It is stating that society expects her, a single, unmarried woman, to decline an 'indecent proposal' of spending the night (have sex) with someone not her husband. Throughout Version A, Her concern is her reputation and what might be said of Her, not Her personal safety. She is concerned about what others might think (the neighbors, her maiden aunt, her siblings, her parents). Nowhere is it understood that she fears rape or that The Man is going to rape Her.
Perhaps the concept of 'hooking up' wasn't prevalent when Version A was written and thus, something got lost in translation.
As for the 'what's in this drink?', line, I will concede that to today's listener that line might sound questionable, but two things on that. First, through the rest of Version A, she remains perfectly lucid throughout the song. Yes, a Millennial might argue, but how do we know she didn't have effects of 'date-rape drugs' later? For me to accept that premise, I have to accept that in Neptune's Daughter (again, where the song originated), that The Man slipped something. There's no evidence of that, and as such, I reject facts not in evidence.
Second, the phrase "what's in this drink?" shouldn't be taken as a declaration of some roofie slipped in to force sex because Rohypnol wasn't even available until 1974. From what I understand, this was a joke in the 1940s, as a way to rationalize questionable behavior. Its original meaning has been lost, and now a new interpretation is given, one that was not originally intended.
However, I can see why people would think that something was slipped in her drink, but I would argue that she probably didn't have enough to knock her out. For all we know, one sip may have been enough to dissuade her from finishing it. Still, maybe today it sounds wrong, but we should put ourselves in 1940s mindset, not 2010s.
Looking at Version B, it reads like a parody of a date/one-night stand gone horribly, almost comically
wrong. I put it to my reading of human nature, and you tell me if I'm wrong, but I know of no man, hetero or homosexual, who upon getting the person he's interested in romantically/sexually to spend time alone with him, would be 'fine' or 'cool' with her/him deciding to leave. It's one thing to accept he won't get any nookie that night, and another to essentially say, "You don't want to even make out? OK, no worries".
To my ears, Version B is actually creepier than Version A. The Man seems extremely, almost excessively concerned about The Woman. He encourages Her to call her mother, to leave as soon as possible. He's even willing to grab her coat so she can make a faster exit. He comes across as too polite, as if trying to impress Her not with his sexual prowess or even looks, but with 'what a nice, almost neutered guy he is'. It is to me a case of 'he doth protest too much'.
For her part, she seems almost desperate to leave. She asks which door should She use to leave. "We're bound to be talking tomorrow," She says, but that sounds almost as if she's resigned to that fact rather than looking forward to doing that. For His part, He suggests that She 'text him at (her) earliest convenience'. He doesn't seem all that eager to hear from Her, leaving the time of contact to Her discretion.
Again, his excessive politeness to me comes across as being too overblown, as if he wants her to think he's a 'nice, very nice, almost pathologically nice' guy. He also comes across as excessively casual, almost disinterested. She can contact him whenever She wants. HE won't take any initiative in reaching out to Her. He has no interest in putting up even a token protest to having Her spend more time with him. It doesn't necessarily mean Her having sex with Him that evening, but few times have I had a good time where I actually wanted it to end.
When She says "I wish I knew how/to break this spell," He responds with "I don't know what you're talking about," and it is the creepiest moment in a song that is unintentionally funny in its sincerity. His clenched teeth, his tense face, his hesitancy in saying that line, to me suggests that in His mind, She caught on to His nefarious plans, that He was found out and can't find a way to explain His actions.
I have a sense that in Version B, they are taking that 'spell' part literally. I understand that one of the traits of Millennials is their inability to understand things like sarcasm or vocal inflections/body language to mean something other than what is literally being said, missing things like subtext or puns. I know that whenever I see a Millennial and tap my wrists with my fingers, they are genuinely puzzled at my meaning. They are unaware this means you are asking if they have the time, since most Millennials now rely on their cell phones and since they don't wear watches, don't understand the reference to wearing one.
As such, when in Versions A and B, She is talking about 'breaking a spell', Millennials may not follow that the reference is rhetorical. Just as Screaming Jay Hawkins didn't literally 'put a spell on (me)' or Muddy Waters didn't literally get 'his mojo working' to use to seduce me, there was no actual 'spell' or outside force, chemical or supernatural, to get Her to be with Him.
The spell was Love.
It's interesting that in Version B, it's The Man's lines that have been changed, not The Woman's. For most of the first part, Her lines in Version B pretty much are the same in Version A. It's just my own view on this point, but The Man is a bit of a wimp. He's too docile in his actions and words, too weak, too eager to sound correct to Her.
What is funny is how sincere Version B is. What I get from Version B is that neither The Man or The Woman want to be with the other. Her biggest decision is what door to use. He practically rushes to get her coat so She can get out. Despite the protests that Version B is an updated love song, I find no actual love or romance in it.
I understand that Liza and Lemanski are trying to make a point about consent, about how a woman (or a man in Red Skelton's case) shouldn't be forced into a sexual relationship against her (or his, poor Red) will. What Liza and Lemanski don't seem to understand is that their 'update/correction' sucks the subtle romance, the coy flirtation, out of Baby, It's Cold Outside. Instead, it makes the song into a very unromantic number.
Think of it: She wants to leave, and He is happy to see her go. He doesn't want to spend as much time as possible with Her. He doesn't ask, "Are you sure?". Instead, he's 'cool' with her leaving. His comments about how She 'reserves the right to say no' strike me as a little condescending (and he says it twice). She doesn't 'reserve' the right to say no...she HAS the right to say no. If she had said "the answer is no" (like in Version A), his response makes sense. However, She opts to say she 'ought' to say no. Why would she 'ought' to say no? There's no societal pressure for her to not sleep around. After all, Millennials are the Hookup Generation, where sex really is like a handshake.
When she says "At least I'm gonna say that I tried," Version A implies she's going to try and save her reputation. Version B implies that The (Gentle) Man assaulted her.
The fact that he says is twice, to me, sounds more like a resignation that he isn't getting any.
Again, I know of no man of any sexual persuasion that is thrilled when he's told he's not getting any sex.
There are many things I don't understand about Millennials or their worldview. I don't understand 'safe spaces', trigger warnings, cultural appropriation, and therapy dogs, not to help them with any physical disabilities, but their emotional needs. I don't understand how they maintain that genetics dictate sexual orientation and/but feelings dictate sexual identity (I would figure genetics would dictate both).
I don't understand how this particular generation has no problem weakening the First Amendment if they consider certain speech 'offensive' to anyone.
I don't understand Millennials' penchant to chronicle every act they do on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter or their idea that the world is/should be endlessly fascinated with their narcissism. I don't understand a generation that would rather take endless selfies at a baseball game rather than actually watch that baseball game.
I don't' understand a generation that can name every member of the extended Kardashian/Jenner clan but couldn't name a single Supreme Court Justice (and some who wouldn't know the difference between the Supreme Court or The Supremes...or even know who The Supremes are).
Finally, as well-meaning and sincere as Millennials (and Liza/Lemanski are), I don't understand why they think I or anyone else would have a different interpretation of a song like Baby, It's Cold Outside, one that didn't suggest that a rape had taken place. I don't need them to 'reeducate me'.
Millennials: the only generation that insists they can improve on everything and anyone without actually knowing anything.
Please, Millennials. Speaking as someone from Generation X, help me understand.