It’s that time of year: Mariah Carey’s on the radio, downtowns are lit up with hanging LED-and-garland sculptures that don’t quite look like the snowflakes they’re supposed to emulate but are nice to see anyway, and people are bickering about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”
Christmastime is for tradition. It is a retreat into a cultural womb of familiarity. There’s joy in repetition, as Prince said. And so, part of our modern conception of Christmas depends on the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” debate. Resolving whether “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” should be banned for being a rapey relic of unenlightened times or can continue to be enjoyed with impunity, would rob us of a ritual. We must talk about it. (By “we,” I don’t mean all of us, I mean... enough people out there speaking at a loud enough volume to make this feel like a perennially pressing issue.) In 2018, we argued about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Also in 2017. Ditto 2016. 2015? You guessed it. Here we are as in olden days: riffs and takes, riffs and takes, riffs and takes. Rolling Stone says the debate dates back to a 2004 op-ed in Canada’s National Post that ostensibly called out the song for “an ode to statutory rape,” but was actually a satire on PC culture. But then the satire came true, as it is wont to do in this wild world of ours, and kept going and going and going. Regardless of whether you think “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a gift, you cannot deny that it keeps on giving.
For the record, the Jezebel Editorial Board (made up entirely of the women who I work with—I am merely here to observe and uplift) stance on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is: This doesn’t matter. “Of all the things to get your panties in a knot over this is the like so minimal,” says managing editor Megan Reynolds. “At this point I feel like it’s a 2013 talking point,” observes staff writer Ashley Reese. “The only people who have been bothered by the song have been men explaining why it’s so bad to be me at parties,” reports deputy editor Alexis Sobel Fitts. “We have more important things to discuss like No. 1 Chris,” points out Clover Hope.
This is true, and I agree. That said, to some it does matter. So let’s examine their minds. At this moment, those squabbling loudest about this song are Sharon Osbourne and Chrissy Teigen. USA Today has a rundown of their “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” beef, which at this point is intricate and extensive. It started last week on The Talk when Sharon Osbourne called the John Legend-Kelly Clarkson re-rub of the song “ridiculous” for appealing to what they think people want in the MeToo era (“What will my friends think... If I have one more drink?” sings Clarkson, to which Legend answers, “It’s your body, and your choice”).
Tiegen, Legend’s wife, responded to Osbourne’s criticism on the red carpet of the 2019 Baby2Baby gala. I cannot even begin to imagine a more perfect forum for this discourse. “Sharon’s always going to have something to say; it’s her job,” she said to ET. “I remember those days of getting to talk shit for money. It’s very fun.” I like it. It’s not quite shade, but it’s cutting. It’s the same kind of ugh peasants tone that Mariah Carey takes on when discussing peers that have slighted or intimidated her. She’s the Queen of Christmas, so evoking her is particularly apt.
Obviously, this couldn’t die there. On Tuesday’s episode of The Talk, Sharon Osbourne clapped back at the clapback. “It’s amazing that you remember those days, because the show you were on didn’t even last a season,” said Osbourne, referring to the roundtable talk show Tiegen cohosted, FabLife, which actually did last a season (but just one: 2015-16). “We don’t get paid to talk what she just said about anyone. We are self-made women at this table, who have lived very interesting lives. Every one of us has led a very deep, interesting life,” said Osbourne in a rather oh-I-guess-this-is-going-there-huh turn.
“I don’t want to start anything, I think that John Legend is an amazingly multitalented person,” said Osbourne. “He is incredible, and I think she’s lovely. They have a beautiful little family. They do. They’re just the perfect couple. I don’t have a bone to pick, but I’m also entitled, Chrissy, to my opinion. That’s all I was saying. I just thought the lyric was silly, and that’s it.” She also issued a warning: “Don’t start anything, because I know it will get ugly, so don’t start.” See how Christmas brings people together?
Hilariously, USA Today also quotes a Fox News interview with Deana Martin, whose father Dean Martin helped popularize the song with his 1959 rendition:
“I think it’s insane,” said Martin, whose father recorded a famous version of the 1944 song. “First of all, I love John Legend and Kelly. They’re fabulous entertainers, but what on Earth are they thinking?”
Martin said she always thought of the song as “sweet, classy, flirtatious” and didn’t think there was anything wrong with the original lyrics.
Legend and Clarkson’s version “has made it more sexual,” Martin argued. “’It’s your body and your choice?’ That wasn’t in the original... I think (Legend) should write a new song. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This is exhausting, but ain’t that Christmas for ya? Happy holidays.