“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a seasonal hit from 1944, was recently banned from a Cleveland radio station because its lyrics tell the tale of a woman who keeps saying no, while a man just doesn’t listen, overriding her objections, even pouring her a drink with questionable contents. To be honest, this song always creeped me out as I imagined a slick player using any excuse to entice an attractive woman into staying the night. There never seemed to be a doubt in my mind he’d dump her in the morning.
But, speaking of dumping, maybe the reevaluation of that holiday song’s appropriateness could lead to a discussion of other odd seasonal hits that should take a trip to the “No Play” zone.
For example, surely PETA can be nudged into declaring “Dominick the Donkey” an offensive paean to the abuse of animals. Forcing Dominick to show an obese old man in a silly red suit up through the treacherous mountain trails of Italy must cause animal lovers everywhere to shudder in horror. Get that donkey back in the crèche where he belongs.
Animals play a role in another seasonal tune that perhaps should be discarded, the one about bullying. Yes, I’m talking “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” (Note, I’m focusing on the song here, not the film, which has received its own critiques lately.) Why should poor bullied Rudolph have to prove his worth by leading the rest of Santa’s hoof-footed, antler-wearing dunderheads through the night? He should have dumped them all and let them see how they fared on their own, if they’re so sure of their navigational and game-playing skills. They only loved poor Rudolph once he could be of use to them. But he had value from the beginning, without heroic acts. I’d like to hear this verse tacked on at least: “Then one snowy Christmas night, Rudolph went away. He thought that with his nose so bright, he’d find another sleigh.” That would be a sweet piece of anti-bullying karma.
Here’s another one to put on the off-air roster: “Jingle Bells.” Any old version of this chestnut includes a verse about a Miss Fanny Bright getting in the sleigh, things going pear-shaped, and the riders getting “upsot.” After that, I think the lyricist might have had a tot too many because a subsequent verse has the rider lying in the snow, discovered by a neighbor who ignores him, but, what ho, he still sings the praises of the one-horse open sleigh. There even seems to be a reference to using a whip on the horse. (“Crack, you’ll take the lead.”) C’mon, PETA. Where are you when we need you? I could do without that ear worm every day of the season.
Speaking of ear worms, maybe we should reevaluate Wham’s “Last Christmas,” a story of re-gifting gone awry. First, the singer gives his heart to his love, then she gives it away, so he retaliates by giving it to “someone special” this year, even as he confesses to being tempted by the old love who’d re-gifted his heart in the first place. If he does that, though, won’t his new “someone special” be singing “Last Christmas” next year and we’ll all be trapped in a kind of Groundhog Day of holiday love song loops? Even though this song’s peppy tune has a lot to offer, its message confuses with so many plot points between “Last Christmas” and this year’s.
Finally, one I think we can all agree must be preserved for the ages: “Momma got run over by a reindeer.” This is an epic tale of great faith and deep family feeling summed up in its refrain’s last line: “You might say there is no such thing as Santa, but as for me and grandpa, we believe.”
We can certainly all rally around that heartwarming message.
Whatever your holiday song likes and dislikes…I wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Libby Malin Sternberg is a novelist whose novel Fire Me (by Libby Malin) was recently hailed by Publishers Weekly as “an amusing tale of a woman who finds herself and love while trying to get fired.”