Out on the airwaves there has again arisen a clatter, when the rest of us ask: what’s actually the matter? In the days before Christmas, the annual conversation begins: are these songs offensive?
With a desire to always be respectful of all, let’s honestly unpack some of the songs, each of which is being called on by more than some to retire…
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”…
The catchy tune was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 and won the Academy Award for “Best Original Song” in 1949 when featured in the film, Neptune’s Daughter. It has been re-recorded at least 58 times by 106 celebrities, ranging from Ray Charles and Betty Carter to Martina McBride and Dean Martin to Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé.
Why might the song be offensive? In the wake of the #MeToo movement, it encourages a rape culture in that it pressures the woman to do something she doesn’t want to do, as she repeatedly expresses her desire to go home.
Why might it not? It’s a non-serious song about flirtation. Besides the fact that flirtation is considered an accepted social interaction, this song was written for a husband and wife.
According to Loesser’s daughter, the controversy surrounding this song has increased most substantially since Saturday Night Live utilized it in a 2015 skit, mocking Bill Cosby.
Or… “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”…
This song was written by Johnny Marks based on a 1939 story his brother wrote for the Montgomery Ward Company. Gene Autry later recorded the song, which hit #1 on the U.S. charts during Christmas of 1949. The song was popularized further when it accompanied the similarly named TV special created in 1964.
Why might the song be offensive? It encourages bullying, as due to his red nose, Rudolph is laughed at, called names, and not allowed to “join in any reindeer games.”
Why might it not? The song (and story) are clearly fictional, and in the end, Rudolph becomes the leader and hero, solving the issue at hand precisely because of his uniqueness.
And… “White Christmas”…
This winter classic was written by Irving Berlin in 1942, and the version sung by Bing Crosby is the world’s best-selling single with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies.
Why might the song be offensive? It ignores the celebration of Christmas by persons of other skin colors.
Why might it not? The color description refers to snow.
Recognizing the above list is incomplete, let’s reiterate our desire to always be respectful of all, as we summarize the realities in play:
- Times change.
- Classics may not be appropriate forever.
- Offensive to some does not equate to wrong for all.
- People feel differently.
- Wisdom is gleaned by learning from those who feel differently.
I had one wise friend suppose that the solution is not simply to demand these songs be dismissed. Maybe that’s part of it; maybe it’s not. But the greater growth seems to come in the societal conversation regarding possible, prevalent unhealthy attitudes made manifest in the classic’s content. Such may or may not prompt need for dismissal.
Granted, if such prompts need for dismissal, to be consistent, we may need to examine multiple, non-Christmas songs in regard to their potentially offensive content — some of those rap or pop hits encouraging violence, vulgarity and/or infidelity, for example.
It’s tough, friends. It’s a slippery slope… since what’s offensive to some does not equate to wrong for all. Maybe that’s the question: when does what’s offensive to some equate to wrong for all?
Sounds like once again we need to be respectful, listen, and learn from those who feel differently than we.