This Christmas/holiday season, a social media row rages in the shadows of the #MeToo movement, and a holiday classic penned in 1944 is reinterpreted for #today. The central claim is that the content stems directly from a rape culture in the United States. I am not going to argue whether the US have a rape culture or are forged from and tempered by violence—they do; they are.
My contention is about the reinterpretation of language, vilifying an author who is quite literally dead, deceased, demised, expired, no more—unable to defend himself.
The song is about a man and a woman playing a courting game. In my interpretation, she is being coy so as not to be slut-shamed, seeking plausible deniability as she worries about what her mother and father, the neighbours, her brother and sister, and even her aunt, might think.
The kicker for the revisionists is ‘Say, what’s in this drink’ as if it’s been spiked; she’s been roofied; he’s plying her with some date rate drug. This interpretation is preferred to the more period-probable scenario that she’s conveying a signal that she’s feeling a bit tipsy and giving him the go-ahead with a wink and a nod. The decorum of the day suggests that she ‘ought to say no, no, no’, but she wants to say yes and stretches the encounter with another cigarette.
Frank Loesser is dead. Perhaps this is merciful.