When I think of the song “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” I also often think of the bull on wall street.
The Charging Bull of Wall Street is a 7,000 lbs bronze statue that was installed in the middle of the night without permission, raging against the crash of 1987. It was to represent “the courage and the willpower of Americans against the greed of Wall Street1.”
Then Fearless Girl showed up in March of 2017 and completely changed the meaning of the piece. Now the bull wasn’t the oppressed, but the oppressor. Now the American people, the American future, was represented by a child, standing her ground against it, unflinching.
The Bull’s artist, Di Modica, was not happy. The placement of the girl had changed the meaning of his work2.
There is a very interesting discussion there about art and boundaries. Can one change the meaning of another’s work? What is the right, the responsibility, of one artist who makes a piece that connects to another and changes completely the original artist’s intent?
And yet, with “Baby it’s Cold Outside” that’s exactly what Time itself has done. Yes, there is much discussion about the origins, which are progressive and feminist. The fact that the two singers are in harmony is also a huge part as well. This isn’t a single phrase, nor just dialogue, but a song, and all parts work together.
But that doesn’t change what Time has done to the phrase “…what’s in this drink?” Once a playful joke, is now a very real danger faced by millions of women. The man who doesn’t take no for an answer. The decision between the snow and the sleepover. All of these things ring to a different sound now.
Which makes the analogy to the Bull and to the drink complete. If you view the Bull alone, as raging against the greed of 1987, it will look different than if you stand back and see the Fearless Girl standing defiantly in front of it.
“Baby it’s Cold Outside” is both progressive and problematic, based more on where you are standing than anything else.
So like it. Or don’t. Just make sure you look at the whole picture first.