Jack Knox: ’Tis the season for Christmas Outrages

Jack Knox mugshot genericBaby, It’s Cold Outside, and people are hot under the collar.

Hot because some radio stations have banned the song.

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Hot because it is this year’s Christmas Outrage, and we would not be happy without one.

Christmas Outrages have become an annual holiday tradition, just like turkey dinner, or carolling, or fistfights over the last parking spot at the mall. They’re as much a part of the season as shortbread and short tempers.

It always follows the same pattern: A) Somebody declares that some holiday tradition that other people cherish is, in fact, offensive and B) this prompts a backlash that results in said somebody’s chestnuts being roasted over an open fire.

Usually Christmas Outrages are triggered by people who, in true Canadian fashion, are not themselves offended, but are acting on behalf of some theoretical others who could potentially feel slighted, though when you ask these potential offendees whether they are, in fact, in need of grief counselling they look at you as though you have three heads.

I’m not sure that’s the case with this year’s fuss, which involves the classic 1940s duet Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Controversy over the lyrics has simmered for awhile, but this fall came to a boil when some U.S. radio stations, followed by others in Canada, decided to stop playing the song. Fans say the lyrics, a back-and-forth between a man and woman, are charmingly flirtatious, but critics say all they really flirt with is sexual assault.

I don’t know what to think, which is probably OK because nobody needs to hear another old guy weigh in, anyway. I don’t particularly like the song in the first place. Nor do I share the rest of the world’s love of the movie Elf, in which Will Ferrell’s Buddy innocently invades the women’s locker room to sing the song with Zoey Deschanel while she’s in the shower stall, which, gosh, hardly seems creepy at all given the circumstances.

I was, however, rocked by what came next: Calls for the Pogues’ 30-year-old Fairytale of New York to also be pulled from radio play, or at least bleeped, because of its lyrics. Fairytale, yet another back-and-forth between a man and woman, includes an earthy exchange in which Kirsty MacColl snarls at Shane MacGowan: “You scumbag, you maggot/ You cheap lousy faggot/ Happy Christmas your arse/ I pray God it’s our last.”

This, of course, appalls those who are offended by the words “God” and “Christmas.” Wait, no, that’s not right. …

No, no, it’s the uttering of the F-word that has resulted in an online tug-of-war over whether its use in that context is homophobic, which jeez (and here I apologize to anyone offended by the vaguely religious “jeez”), I hope it isn’t, because I love that song. Or maybe there is no context in which that word is acceptable.

This year we are also supposed to be upset about the 1964 animated-for-television version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Although a just-released poll identified it as the most beloved Christmas movie of all time, we also heard it was being condemned for Santa’s “bullying” of Rudolph and Donner’s failure to accept his red-nosed son. OK, it turns out these criticisms were all tongue-in-cheek, but that didn’t stop news outlets from responding with indignant Christmas Outrage stories condemning the non-existent condemnation.

Me, I like to save my Christmas Outrage for more traditional targets, such as the Orwellian Thought Police to whom any suggestion that there may be room for Christ in Christmas is as offensive as a fart in church (I hereby apologize to anyone offended by the word “church”) and who insist on store clerks saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry C-word.”

Or the Big Brother Talibureaucrats who clip the wings of school-play angels and censor the lyrics of (bleep)mas carols during the Holiday That Must Not Be Named, or Winter Festival, or the Generic Celebration of Nothing in Particular, or whatever the hell (again, apologies) they’re calling it in pursuit of their goal of ensuring that the beliefs and traditions — Christmas trees, niqabs in government offices, whatever — of all Canadians are treated equally, which is to say suppressed like the Riel Rebellion.

I’m usually halfway through this rant — my sputtering, purple-faced indignation having descended into a doubled-over-at-the-waist, gripping-my-knees coughing fit — when someone suggests that it might be better for all if I chose a different path to follow in search of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.

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