Editorial: Consuming Older Media Through a Modern Lens

This holiday season has bestowed upon us a familiar issue involving a beloved song that contains possibly sensitive material. Of course, I’m talking about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and its questionable lyrics. The song has been banned from being played on some radio stations while the ban seems to have boosted sales of the song. However one interprets the lyrics, it brings up a familiar argument when it comes to old media.

In today’s world, people are more aware of how people’s feelings are affected by media. Trigger warnings are applied to pieces that contain subject matter that may be traumatizing to some consumers because we now understand that stories, songs, movies, and other media can cause people to experience their trauma again through the media. It is considered a courtesy by more progressive people, but is viewed as being too sensitive and weak by conservatives. The divide between the level of compassion and consideration seems to be wide.

The common argument conservatives, or at least supporters of the older media piece, is that they insist the media be consumed in the “context of when it was made.” The problem with that argument is that we are consuming the piece of media now, not then. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written in 1944. Social progression has grown by leaps and bounds since then and now that we’re neck deep in the #MeToo movement, people are more critical of media that could perpetuate harmful ideas.

Frank Loesser penned the song to sing as a duet with his wife at parties, according to Loesser’s daughter, Susan. She insists the song is not portraying sexual assault, but that “she’s flirting like crazy. She’s wanting to stay, but she’s worried about what people will think.” The line referencing what is in the woman’s drink “was common at the time, signifying only that having an alcoholic beverage was cool.”

I think the biggest reason why this is such an issue is that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a mainstay on radio station and department store playlists throughout the holidays. People who are in the department store cannot control what is being played on the store PA system, therefore they cannot avoid the song if they deem it triggering. Radio stations banning the song is as simple as the programmers realizing their listener base may contain people who find the song offensive. They realize they may offend fans of the song, but if people want to hear the song so badly, they can find a copy of it themselves. It’s all about giving the consumer the choice to listen to the song, which has always been the basis of censoring media. If you don’t like it, you can choose not to consume it, and vice versa.

Of course, things like this make headlines because we’re still getting used to reviewing and choosing to give up traditional pieces of media. People have the right to choose which traditions are upheld and which are rejected. Those who hold tradition close to their heart will always get angry when something they love is rejected by others. What they don’t understand is that it’s perfectly fine for them to hold onto a tradition, but it is also fine for others to drop it.

We’re in a period of growing pains, but society has experienced these similar pains in the past. The difference between leaps of progress in the past and now is that larger groups of people are exposed to those changes via the Internet. More people have a voice when it comes to societal change now and that makes people feel entitled to make sure everyone else knows their position, regardless of whether that position is helpful or not. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a song that can be interpreted through the morals and values of modern, progressive people as being a song about a guy trying to force a woman to stay and have sex with him against her will. Those who subscribe to those morals and values have the right to never hear that song again. Those who believe differently have the right to listen to the song at their leisure, but not on Macy’s in-store radio or on the local radio station. Inconvenient, maybe. But if you’re that big of a fan of the song, you’ll find a way to listen to it. If you complain about the exclusion of the song simply because it is being excluded, then you’re complaining just to complain and are adding nothing to the discussion.