After much deliberation, I have made my conclusion about a very pressing matter. Allow me to elaborate.
Once upon a recent time, the world around us changed. The election of Donald Trump to the United States presidency shocked many, appalled more, and continues to confound all. In the two years of the Twilight Zone reality show episode, we have witnessed the distortion of fact, the deck-stacking of the Supreme Court, and the legitimizing of extremist nationalism. Fox News, the television equivalent of the National Enquirer, has poisoned the media well. Any news outlet that speaks against Fox is immediately cast as biased against the right, and therefore labeled as ‘fake news’. The irony here is just too much. I remember reading the Enquirer when I was growing up. My grandmother loved the tabloids. She even believed some of the stories. I found it hard to believe that Liz Taylor was really that important, that any of those celebs were actually gay, or that Ronald Reagan actually saw a UFO. It all seems a little harmless in hindsight.
People who actually still value real facts and honest journalism have had to adjust. When the most powerful voice in the world decries the media, all bets are off. There are an alarming number of people that will blindly follow his lead, and as a result the rest of us are left to question everything. The reality is that not all of Trump’s supporters are uneducated, ignorant hicks. There are an even more staggering number of educated people that support his views. They are tireless in their pursuit of evidence to back their claims. They have statistics that can explain away the most bizarre of theories. For as many scientists that believe climate change is real, there will always be outliers that will defend the far-right delusions. They hide behind their computer screens and speak in tacky memes. If you call them on their inappropriate mockery, they either hide behind the right to free speech or accuse the left of being too soft. ‘Snowflake’ is the popular term among far-rightists. ‘Cuck’ is the more vulgar label. It has devolved to the point that anyone who shows compassion toward any marginalized group is weak. We have actually reached that point.
Anyone could be an enemy of the state. It might be the trans-gendered. A far-rightist would argue that people are either born with a penis or a vagina, therefore they are either male or female respectively. That’s a convenient and comfortable position. Honestly, if that were the case, life would be much easier. It was so much easier to buy for a baby girl when all you had to do was look for the pink section at Babies ‘R Us. Boys liked to play rough, snap training bra straps, catch bullfrogs and fix engines. Girls learned how to make supper, sew, and rear the children. But leave it to the transgenders to come along and claim that penis does not necessarily equal male. What’s more, they even want gender-neutral bathrooms. The far-right will claim that there will suddenly be perverted men masquerading as women preying on our little girls in public restrooms. While there is no evidence this has happened, rest assured there are vigilant citizens scouring the internet for any example to post as proof we are under siege from sexually-confused deviants. They seem to have a lot of time on their hands.
Perhaps this is an example of why the arrival of the #metoo movement was so necessary. When groups like the Proud Boys receive equal time to spew misogyny and racism, it is refreshing for women to finally stand up and say ‘you know what, enough of this nonsense’. The staggering number of ladies from every creed and colour openly saying men have harassed, assaulted, or violated them is a stark reminder that no matter what you choose to believe, women are not treated equally. Celebrities were toppled. Harvey Weinstein, Danny Masterson, and Bill Cosby have seen their careers destroyed and their reputations irreparably damaged. Far-righters will often claim that the sudden revelation of all these women is suspect. I mean, if you get raped, why don’t you say something? That kind of statement is about the same as saying it’s really cold outside (baby), so much for climate change. Or penis equals male. Or caring for people makes you a snowflake.
The fallout from #metoo has changed our world forever. We can reasonably say it has changed for the better. We all benefit from our girls growing up to be confident young women. Men lose nothing by sharing the wealth. We’ve begun to move away from affirmative action policies; women don’t need to be hired to fill quotas anymore. We aren’t there yet, but we are closing the gap at a record pace.
#metoo has taught us that women have historically not been comfortable revealing abuse committed against them. Rather than place the burden of proof on a victim, we now choose to believe them first. It is always unfortunate when anyone, male or female, takes advantage of a situation and levels false accusations. Still, the overwhelming majority will not wish to draw attention like this upon themselves. I don’t know anyone who wants to be in the news as a rape victim. To make that up about themselves would indeed be heinous, but honestly, it’s really not very likely. Plausible, maybe. But we are better served listening to people who come forward. I have to believe that honesty has the best chance of winning.
The side effect of #metoo is a little less disconcerting. Not long ago, The Dukes of Hazzard, the beloved ‘good ‘ole boys’ show that was just a bit of harmless fun, faced banning because of its use of the Confederate flag as its primary symbol. We know, or at least those of us snowflakes that see beyond our own selfish instincts, that the confederate cross is a racist symbol. No matter how much you want to ‘take it back’, the symbol has been ruined forever by its association with slavery. Millions of people living today have ancestors that fought under that banner. It must be really uncomfortable to know their great-great grandparents advocated state-sponsored racism. Most Germans today are likely familiar with that sentiment. Still, today, most people don’t harbour those views. Or at least they say they don’t.
In light of #metoo, we look at things differently. All those Bill Cosby bits about slipping a little something into a pretty young thing’s drink are just not funny anymore. It’s fine if you laughed at them in the 70’s. Most did. After all, Bill Cosby was a family-friendly comic that never swore, raised kids, and portrayed the archetypal father for generations of young men. But even if he didn’t turn out to be a sexual predator, the joke has long since lost its legitimacy. Drugging women should always have been seen as wrong. As a society, we have finally woken from the hangover and realized that bad decisions were made. Far-rightists that feel that life back then when people weren’t so easily offended was better, notwithstanding, we are better for it today. Bill Cosby’s conviction has proven that women who are brave enough to speak out will be believed, and those who commit crimes against them will be held accountable for their actions. Judge Kavanaugh notwithstanding, we seem to be doing somewhat better in that regard.
The scrutiny of what we accept as entertainment has therefore become intense. And justly so, I think. I loved Tone-Loc’s ‘Funky Cold Medina’. I actually own the album. But damn if I don’t cringe when I read the lyrics today. Whether it’s the fact that FCM is really a date rape drug or the big ‘ole mess that ‘Sheena was a man’, it’s kind of embarrassing that we actually found this song entertaining. The Beastie Boys’ ‘Brass Monkey’ fits the same description. Both of these are still catchy songs, but the content is clearly unacceptable through today’s filter. I once vehemently defended Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’ verse that describes ‘the little faggot with the earring and the makeup’ as a character’s narrative in the context of the song. I will still listen to it today, but I am at peace with the radio edit that is allowed to air on radio nowadays.
But none of these have drawn the ire of the public like the furor of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’.
While this song has actually been scrutinized before over the years for its controversial depiction of a woman being convinced to stay with her lover who keeps pouring her drinks, it remains a much-beloved standard in the western holiday canon. It’s been covered by everyone from Dean Martin to Zooey Deschanel. It’s as Christmas as mistletoe. And as such, it is different from the hip-hop hits of the 80’s I mentioned above because it is universally sentimental. I mean, if someone came along and declared that Jingle Bells was racist, more than just far-rightists would be disappointed.
For the record, I don’t believe the song is as lascivious as it has been suggested. I’m indifferent to the ban from radio, since I personally don’t get fuzzy feelings when I hear it, but even if I did, I know I can play it anytime I like. It’s still on YouTube, on Spotify, on CD or vinyl—hell, it’s still sung by Zooey in the shower while Buddy hangs out not-creepily-at-all on the sink. I usually skip Christmas songs on the radio just because I don’t like being inundated by them against my will. Let me play my Kenny and Dolly or Jim Reeves records while I decorate my living room and I’m happy.
Also for the record, I am glad we are having this debate. To question intelligently and calmly what is or is not acceptable for our entertainment, regardless of our comfort level or sentiment, is proof that our society is evolving. The pullback against the far-rightists is working. Banning ‘Baby’ is not a loss for us. It is a victory for a process that is ultimately making us a better society. Make no mistake, I believe it was in error that the song was banned. I believe it is a teachable moment for us to recognize #metoo and to admit that the playful lyrics from a bygone era are maybe not malevolent, but still worthy of review today. I predict this ban will be dropped eventually. You can poke fun at me if I’m wrong.
What is most disappointing, for me, however is the reaction from the non-far-rightists. In a twist I never saw coming, people of all stripes are copping out to sentiment over reason. Gone is the obligation to question with rationality. In its place is knee-jerk reaction, emotionally-driven hollering and meme-culture opinion. Instead of taking the time to think it over, we seem quick to draw false comparison. Whether or not they ban Cardi B has nothing to do with ‘Baby’. Suddenly, anyone who calls this staple of our holiday bliss into question is ironically now a snowflake. The ban of this song is apparently symbolic of a world whose feelings are too easily hurt. This is a narrative that sounds really familiar.
Call me a snowflake if you like, but I simply cannot apologize for doing my due diligence. I am perfectly happy living in a world where in this case, censorship may have gone too far, but the apparatus now exists where we can apply the sober second thought of which our heroine of song may or may not have had the luxury.
Happy holidays! Or Merry Christmas, or whatever.