It was with some dismay (but not surprise) that I read recently about a Cleveland radio station's decision to ban the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" from its holiday playlist. You knew this was coming, right?
OK, I admit I always found the song a little creepy. When you get right down to it, it's about a guy trying to persuade his date to — er, um — stay the night. She keeps saying "no," but he persists, in total violation of the #MeToo playbook. The song dates back to 1944, and when you hear the lady ask, "What's in this drink?" you can't help but wonder if it gave the young Bill Cosby some ideas. And, let's face it, when the singers are Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga — a 90-something and a 30-something — it's hard to avoid a gag reflex.
Times change, of course, and our attitudes with them. But one cannot help but wonder if the Cleveland station's ban — sure to be echoed by other stations around the country — isn't the first volley in a war that could affect other Christmas playlists.
So I say we get it out of the way right now and remove all toxic Christmas songs from the airwaves in one fell swoop. Here are my candidates for banishment to satellite radio purgatory:
"Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas." You just know this will be the next one they go after, with that line about someone waiting under the mistletoe and a guy being advised, without benefit of counsel, to "kiss her once for me." First of all, these days there's no being sure the person waiting for you under the mistletoe is a "she." At the very least, the lyrics need to be changed to be more woke to LGBTQ sensibilities.
Even though I could argue that the song is a female empowerment anthem — after all, it is the "she" who is taking charge here and standing under the weed, having knowledge of and giving her implied consent to the possible consequences. However, at the end of the day, this is something you don't want happening at your office holiday party.
"I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." This song has always been based on a questionable premise, namely that the Santa Claus who is seen being kissed is, in fact, Mommy's lawfully wedded husband in a Santa suit. The kid who witnesses the kiss is none the wiser, and thinks it would be a "laugh" if Dad showed up at that moment. Now, that may have been cute back in the day when kids believed in Kris Kringle up until the age of 30, but if a modern fantasy-free kid saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus and suspected even for a moment it wasn't Poppa, he or she would need therapy. And if Dad came home at that moment and witnessed the scene (trust me, it will NOT be a "laugh"), the kid would need treatment for PTSD as well.
"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." He sees you when you're sleeping? He knows when you're awake? Hey, this guy works for Facebook!
"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." Need I explain? Violence against women, praise of rural white redneck values (hey, you just know these people went for Trump in 2016!), casting shade on people who drive alternative vehicles and "play with elves," and encouraging bogus merchandise returns, this one's got it all. Trash the sucker.
"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." A paean to runaway late-stage capitalism ("toys in every store", the "glistening" five-and-ten) that not only supports the gun lobby but perpetuates gender stereotypes ("a pistol that shoots" for Barney and Ben, "dolls that will talk and will go for a walk" for Janice and Jen).
Of course, any Christmas songs that were appropriated from oppressed cultures have to go: start with "Mary's Little Boy Child" and "Mele Kalikimaka."
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I am of two minds about this one. On the one hand, it's the story of a differently abled animal that triumphs over hate and prejudice and saves the day. On the other hand, those lyrics about bullying in the reindeer play area may be a bit too traumatic for the little ones, since you know the red-nosed one probably harbored suicidal thoughts before Santa showed up. Putting Rudolph in the lead was a good first step towards inclusion, but it doesn't go far enough. He should have put the other privileged reindeer out to pasture and hired some antelope, gnu, oryx, springbok, maybe a plain old deer to please the Republicans, and (is it too much to ask?) a moose.
The problem here is that most of our Christmas music harks back to the greatest generation, now virtually gone (and much missed). We need updated Christmas music that caters to millennial sensibilities. Some suggestions:
—"Christmas on My Smartphone" (or "The Santa App").
—"We're Having Hummus for Christmas."
—"Amazon Is Coming to Town" (Alexa does see you when you're sleeping).
—"All I Want for Christmas Is a Guaranteed Income and Free Health Care."
So let's clean up the airwaves once and for all, people, and have a safe, sustainable, nonbinary, post-capitalist, diverse, inclusionary and politically correct holiday season.
And for you traditionalists, don't despair: There's always "White Christmas." Uh, wait a minute...
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.