On being … a lesson in bah humbug

By Ingrid Sapona

I may as well start by confessing that Baby It’s Cold Outside has always been one of my favourite songs. As a kid growing up in Buffalo, my idea of the best present ever was a snow day on my birthday. First and foremost, I think of the song as an ode to the joy of staying in on a snowy night.

As I got older, my appreciation for the lyrics changed when I understood what was meant by “The neighbors will be suspicious”, or “There’s bound to be talk tomorrow”, and of course, that particularly nasty barb: “my maiden aunt’s mind is vicious”. But, to be honest, those lyrics just make me appreciate how far we’ve come. I hear the lyrics and I think about how lucky I am to have grown up in an age where I’ve never worried about what the neighbors might think, regardless of the time I get home or who I bring home, for that matter.

As for the mild protestations: “I really can’t stay”, “I’d better scurry”, and even: “I ought to say No, No, No” – clearly that’s just playful banter between two folks who are interested in each other. Indeed, surely I’m not the only one who swoons at the idea of having James Taylor sing that he’s been hoping I’d drop in then and tell me to “Put on some records while I pour”, much less hear him say “Gosh your lips are delicious”. But regardless of who the recording is by, I find the song empowering for women. To me, it’s all about the woman deciding to stay…

But now, some folks are saying that in light of the #MeToo movement, the song should be banned because of the predatory nature of the lyrics. One commentator even went so far as to call it a date rape song, pointing to the lyric: “What’s in this drink”? Come on – the song was written in 1944 – I always figured maybe he put some peppermint schnapps in the hot chocolate…

Then there’s Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. The stop motion animated show (the Ranking/Bass Production) is my all-time favourite Christmas television show. Like millions, I watch it every year and can pretty much recite all the lines. Somehow, this year, people have suddenly twigged on the fact that poor Rudolph is ostracized – bullied even. Really? The show was produced in 1964 and they’re just now figuring that out? What part of the lyric: “They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games” didn’t they understand?

The whole show is about being rejected by one’s peers. Poor Rudolph runs away with Hermey, the elf that’s mocked because he wants to be a dentist. And then there’s the Island of Misfit Toys, which is full of unloved and unwanted toys (my favourite being the Charlie in the Box).

But in the end, it’s really a redemption story. Santa comes around and apologizes to Rudolph. Our little red-nosed friend saves Christmas and Santa finds a home for all the misfit toys. Hermey works his dental magic and everyone realizes the Abominable Snow Monster is really a sweetie – he was just miserable because he had a toothache. And, the Head Elf promises to let Hermey open up a dental office the week after Christmas.

I remember seeing Rudolph when I was a small child and I remember feeling sad for Rudolph when his father was embarrassed by him and so he wanted to run away. I also remember empathising with Santa about having to decide whether to “cancel Christmas”. (Ok, maybe when I was really little the nature of my concern about a cancelled Christmas was a bit more selfish, but eventually I saw the businessperson’s dilemma.) I also remember feeling relieved that Rudolph came back and that in the end, everyone appreciated him because of his uniqueness. Those are the messages I took away.

But now, some people want to ban Rudolph because of the bullying aspects. Some also think that it sends the message that you’ll only be accepted if you can do something for someone. Man, how cynical can you get? (I’m surprised no one’s accused Santa of exploiting all the “flying reindeer”!)

There are so many things wrong with the world today… I guess we each pick and choose the things we get exercised about and we pick and choose our reactions. For those who worry that Baby Its’ Cold Outside and Rudolph are a bad influence on their kids, I say why not use them as an opportunity to start a dialog with your kids. And, for the rest of us who think these things are non-issues, I think the appropriate reaction is a simple bah humbug…

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona


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