Puritans to the left of me

I’m not especially comfortable talking about social issues, so mostly I don’t. Although I do read about them, and sometimes comment elsewhere on them. A lot of leftists and mixed up folk have found out that I’m an orthodox Christian that way. Nor am I ashamed of it, its just that other people do a better job of talking about it. But sometimes it gets so egregious and silly, that I decide to talk about it as well. Like now. From William Murchison in The American Spectator.

[A]s Cole Porter slyly reminds us: “In olden days a glimpse of stocking/Was looked on as something shocking/Now heaven knows/Anything goes…”

Well, you know: depending on the state of Puritan politics at a given moment. The Puritan habit of scolding, and gazing sourly, on others for Improper Behavior is a human constant. And not just among long-faced conservatives, I beg to point out.

Let us contemplate — if we have to, and I guess we do — the current attempt to deplore a non-Porter song written before most living Americans were born, having fun with a guy’s attempt to coax a girlfriend into staying put amid the warmth of his apartment. The song, of course, is Frank Loesser’s rollicking duet, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” written in 1944 as a Hollywood party act for Loesser and his wife; subsequently made famous, and Academy Awarded, in the movie Neptune’s Daughter. The song is a hoot: “I really can’t stay (But baby it’s cold outside)… My mother will start to worry (Beautiful, what’s your hurry)/My father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)… But maybe just a half drink more…” And so on. No wonder we’ve been listening to it ever since Truman was president.

But wipe that smile from your face. Various “woke” folk launched an initially successful movement to ban “Baby” from the airwaves: their idea being, the song covers up bad male behavior, including date rape.

Which aside from being ridiculously judgemental, is very demeaning to the woman played by Esther Williams who does just fine standing up to Ricardo Montalban, not to mention the delightful reprise, where the roles are switched and Red Skelton becomes the pursued. When this first brewed up, I ran the video, you can find it here. It’s been covered by almost everyone and is a very fun number.

And that is the problem, increasingly the left is reminding me of H.L. Mencken’s comment, “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” And that is increasingly the definition of the left.

Well, you know in some ways, I kind of like it. Used to be that us religious traddies had a reputation as blue-nosed, censorious, killjoys and to an extent it was true. But we were always more concerned about conduct and beliefs, we weren’t against fun (in modern times) we just had higher standards. We might tut-tut Montalban in the song for what he has in mind, but we can be very proud of Ester Williams for not succumbing. Yeah, that might be true, but it’s still bullshit, it’s very simply a very fun song with two (really four) appealing characters.

The moral understanding in “Baby” is that a morally educated girl has to watch out, and will. But life in the Truman era wasn’t a Stalinist indoctrination class. You could laugh and smile and yearn — man or woman — within the rule system, enjoying the richness of life. That privilege, seemingly, gets rarer and rarer as the Puritans and control freaks of the left shake scandalized forefingers.

Dumb? Put-upon? The women of pre-Weinstein times? They were smart in that most of them, most of the time, knew what was what and what to do about it — to the wonder of whoopee-wide-open modern folk.

Few, I trust, depreciate the awfulness of date-rape. But “Baby It’s Cold Outside” doesn’t celebrate violence and brutality. It celebrates the rituals of moral understanding that keep brutality at bay. It celebrates normal, everyday human relationships, carried on with devotion, decency, and, not least, a sense of humor.

Boy, they don’t write ’em that way anymore, do they?

%d bloggers like this: