Christmas Unwrapped: Creepy Carols

Disclaimer: I LOVE Christmas Carols. Love, love, love! I would start listening to them at Halloween if I could. For a never old, always funny musical commentary on this and other out-there, commercialized, and single-minded Christmas qualities, check out Straight No Chaser’s “Christmas Can-Can.” I originally started this post because I keep hearing Christmas songs (overplayed much?) that totally creep me out. For instance, every time one of the tons of renditions of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” comes on the radio, I shudder a smidge. I struggled with it at first, because I know all of the words, and I would sing it to myself, and think about snuggling with my partner. Really happy thoughts! Enter feminist analysis. There are totally times when I wish I could turn my brain off. Creepy Christmas Carols constitute one of those times.

There were some creepy passages, like “the answer is no” and “hey, what’s in this drink?” When I started checking into it, it got worse. I found out that the score of the song, written as a duet, has parts for a “wolf” and a “mouse.” Is there room for playful banter in safe, consensual, romantic relationships? Of course there is! Does it seem that way the hundredth time you hear this song? No, not really. Now, I think of that song as the coercion song.

When I started researching creepy songs, I found some really great commentary. Feminist Frequency provides a video outlining the top 5 Creepy and/or Sexist Christmas songs and explains how these songs contribute to establishing a patriarchal rape culture. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was number 1.

Another carol that really makes my skin crawl is Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas. Every time this song comes on the radio I can’t help thinking about the “us vs. them” dichotomy that it sets up. Consider the lyric: “And the Christmas bells that ring there/Are the clanging chimes of doom/ We'll, tonight, thank God, it's them/ Instead of you.”  This reeks of orientalist discourse. While certainly the lyrics ring true in some ways—for instance, access to clean water is a very real issue in many parts of the global south, largely due to resource exploitation by the global north—it also sets up a theme of taking pity on those poor, unfortunate, ignorant souls. The closing plea in this song is to feed the world. Instead, consider not participating in entitled exploitation and promoting sustainable, fair industry.

This leads us into a shameless plug for the final edition of Christmas Unwrapped, where we’ll explore Cruel Candy and discuss cool concepts like fair trade chocolate! Gotta love a good, chocolatey blog post. Until then my merry friends!