Have you seen this video of Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt? It purports to involve a seduction.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a duet written in 1944 and has all the sexual baggage you might assume from that era. Especially when interpreted in ours. The “mouse” (as written in the score) or “prey” (as some might interpret the situation today) wants to go home but the “wolf” (then) or “predator” (now) tries to get the mouse to stay. And it’s pretty obvious why the wolf is a concern troll about the weather outside.
You can have a lot of fun at your next holiday party by asking whether this song is about a coy mouse that really wants to play or a predator that is about to commit date rape.
But that’s not what is at issue here. Let’s assume that any singer who performs the song is not trying to enable or justify bad behavior. After all, we humans don’t always say exactly what’s on our minds (did he really just write that?) since we are really social animals constantly trying to balance our own desires with what we think the herd expects from us (oh my God, he did just write that!). So when you can corral feminists like Miss Piggy to sing this tune (albeit as the wolf), it’s safe to claim that for many, even the highly sensitive, the song’s charms are about examining us humans as odd creatures whose words – despite being literal – cannot always be taken literally.
Which brings us to the hammy performance above (Lady Gaga, not Miss Piggy). It’s cute to reverse the traditional gender roles and place Lady Gaga in the role of the wolf. This gives the song a bit of an update. If we went further and made Lady Gaga’s duet partner the très féminin Miss Piggy (remember, this is a “Muppet Holiday Spectacular”), you’d update things even more. And convince the righteous religious that Hollywood really is pushing the idea of inter-species matrimony. (Another light topic for your next holiday party.)
Playing it safe, however, the producers hired Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the role of the mouse. To be fair, he isn’t known as a singer, but I’ll give Gordon-Levitt (and the producers) a pass here. To make the song work, it’s more important for us to believe that Lady Gaga wants to make beautiful music with him rather than actually have Lady Gaga make beautiful music with him. I can even make allowances for Gordon-Levitt singing the line “my father will be pacing the floor” – which should have been rewritten to have any hope of dramatic credibility. (Mothers will worry regardless.)
So what is the problem with the video? It’s that our divine Miss Gaga is racing through the song. Trying to swing, rather than sway, Gordon-Levitt. In short (she’s only 5 feet 1 inch), Lady Gaga isn’t seducing like a man. More like a teenaged boy.
Some things, like ketchup and the DMV, simply can’t be rushed.
Yes, I know this is a broadcast television holiday special tied to the Muppets. Sure, the viewers represent a wide demographic but isn’t it possible to talk to two audiences at the same time? Gentle subtlety is, after all, the point of the song. Besides, since the children are already hearing the lyric “say, what’s in this drink?” we might as well hint that no one is trying to poison anyone to death.
Which is a more appropriate topic for the Brothers Grimm anyway.
So let’s recouple the andante back with the pantie. Uptempo is not the rhythm of seduction. Here’s an example of one slow wolf, who could easily swing with the groove of Ray Charles, demonstrating this exact point. Enjoy the cochlear cleansing: