The author is dead, but is the performer?

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thoreau
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The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by thoreau » 05 Dec 2018, 13:48

Many people are now engaged in the annual tradition of debating whether it's OK to listen to "Baby It's Cold Outside." On the one hand, I'm exactly the sort of person who should be offended by people who are offended. I should be out there saying "But look at the context of when it was written! Look at the couple that first wrote and performed it! Damn Kids These Days with their political correctness!"

At the same time, I don't want engagement with art to begin and end with reading a biography of the artist. Art will produce different impressions and responses in different people and that's great. And art can be great when taken out of its historical context. Plays written centuries or millennia ago can take on new and great meaning when done with costumes or staging from a more modern era. Cover versions of songs can take on a completely different mood when sung and played differently. That's all great.

So I'm not quite comfortable saying that original intent and original context are all that matter. But I'm also not comfortable saying that the current performer's contributions are irrelevant. Forget what happened decades ago, what about what's happening right now on stage? If the performer enjoying it and trying to convey a playful mood rather than a rapey mood, doesn't that also matter?

Yes, in practice everything is subjective and the ultimate call comes down to whether a given venue, radio station, event DJ, concert organizer, school choral director, or whoever faces enough pressure from enough people. It's all ultimately their opinion and either market forces or political forces will decide it, and if I'm not an advertiser or sponsor or board member or whatever then what does my opinion matter? And we're back to gryllularity.

But beyond the immediate "Who will actually decide?" question, there's an implicit moral question whenever a work of art is analyzed this way. If we enjoy it we are implicitly either saying that we honestly see something else in the art, or else that we see it there but don't care. Most here would say that it's reasonable to enjoy a performance of "Baby It's Cold Outside" if the female vocalist is doing it voluntarily and is enjoying singing it as a playful song. Most of us would say that it's reasonable to enjoy a song that is unambiguously about a very dark and violent topic if the singer is using it to work through or critique the problem rather than endorse the problem. Most of us would probably say that it's unreasonable to be perfectly fine with a minstrel show. In this way, we've all accepted some critiques (e.g. the minstrel show cannot justify itself) while rejecting others (e.g. gangster rap isn't automatically irredeemable; you need to look at context).

But if I'm being honest, ultimately this comes down to the fact that I don't think Tipper Gore gets to tell us what "Under The Blade" is about.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Warren » 05 Dec 2018, 14:00

So with all the talk about it, this is the latest thing that has occurred to me. The complaint is that He is pressuring Her into doing something She doesn't want to do. But the context of the song makes it clear that She does want to stay with him. What He's doing, is trying to convince her to do what She wants to do. The only reason She thinks She shouldn't, is out of fear for her reputation. What the woke crowd should be complaining about is that She has been made to feel guilty for being sexually active, and a woman should be allowed to fuck anyone anywhere without consequence amen. But the problem is She wants to fuck a man and all sex is rape.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by thoreau » 05 Dec 2018, 14:09

The lyrics do leave room for the other interpretation. Not as much room, but still. For starters, the line "The answer is no" is followed by his refusal to take "no" for an answer, and people can make something of that. Also, the "What's in this drink?" line has been explained in terms of historical context, but is historical context everything? Songs and plays are subject to multiple interpretations and renditions. People routinely take Shakespeare and even Greek tragedies and do modern versions with modern costume, modern staging, and connections to modern controversies or problems. Why are we limited to what that line meant in old movies?

I think the more salient point is not what the line meant in the 1940's but what sort of emotion or hints the modern singers put into it.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Ellie » 05 Dec 2018, 14:19

thoreau wrote:
05 Dec 2018, 14:09
The lyrics do leave room for the other interpretation. Not as much room, but still. For starters, the line "The answer is no" is followed by his refusal to take "no" for an answer, and people can make something of that.
That's the part that I've seen the most people referring to as upsetting or triggering them, even when they are familiar with the feminist, "empowered woman navigating a slut-shaming culture" understanding of the song.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by D.A. Ridgely » 06 Dec 2018, 12:47

Old joke which in its day both men and women laughed at without, as far as I know, feeling the need to deconstruct and criticize it:

What's the difference between a diplomat and a lady? If a diplomat says yes he means maybe, if he says maybe he means no and if he says no he's no diplomat. If a lady says no she means maybe, if she says maybe she means yes and if she says yes she's no lady.

That actually better depicts cultural norms a generation older than me; in other words, the norms prevalent when "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was first popular. But I would submit that all the eisegesis aside, there remains enough truth to the underlying understanding of the still prevailing cultural expectation that men "chase" women (until, as the old joke goes, the woman finally "catches" the man) and not vice versa.

I mean, have women ceased dressing to be not merely attractive but, when the occasion calls for it, sexually attractive? Are they inviting men out for dinner, asking to get men's phone numbers or, more to the point, pressing men early in their relationships for sex? I'm sure there are plenty of counter examples, but are they normative yet? Because I certainly don't observe corresponding behavior on the part of young men. Jadagul aside -- as he pretty much always is -- do guys go shopping for clothing they believe will result in women finding them more sexually attractive? Are they waiting to be asked out for dinner or for the woman to ask for their phone number, etc.? I don't think so.

On the one hand, the standards for actual sexual conduct have become much closer to equal than they were generations ago, but I'm not at all sure the "courting" and "mating" rules, such as they are, have changed all that much. Which, among other reasons, is why most people who don't make a habit of dissecting every bit of popular culture for nefarious connotations and hidden meanings still think its a funny, light-hearted song.

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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Jasper » 06 Dec 2018, 12:51

Stephen Fry wrote:So fucking what?
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by thoreau » 06 Dec 2018, 13:33

I won't contest DAR's observations about certain patterns of human behavior, but the validity or accuracy of those observations is not necessarily a useful lens for interpreting a song. A song could play off of very real patterns or completely unrealistic patterns, to great effect either way. A song could laud certain patterns, lament them, or subvert them.

A duo could easily do a performance of "Baby It's Cold Outside" that portrays the situation negatively and the woman as vulnerable. It would probably be more apparent in a live performance, acted out with body language while singing, but in principle I guess it could be done as a purely vocal performance. I'm skeptical that it could be done without coming across as ham-handed commentary, but if someone proved me wrong and did it deftly I would be fascinated to see that performance.

But if a duo performs the song playfully, whether or not it reflects patterns in the wider society is less important to me than the fact that the woman who is actually performing is NOT performing as a victim, she is actually performing as a woman who is freely enjoying a game. Maybe the world is full of women like that, maybe it isn't, but that's what she herself is doing on that stage in that performance. I am fine with the idea that the author is irrelevant, but I'm not convinced that the performer is irrelevant. They're putting something into it.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Warren » 06 Dec 2018, 13:51

But the question of "Do the sexes still do the same steps in the courtship dance?" is salient. When I first caught wind BiCO finger wagging, I considered it "timeless". Now I'm not so sure. But from where I'm sitting (a day's ride outside of North Bumfuck and the wrong side of 50) I have no idea.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Aresen » 06 Dec 2018, 18:17

Jasper wrote:
06 Dec 2018, 12:51
Stephen Fry wrote:So fucking what?
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Jennifer » 06 Dec 2018, 20:56

Copying what I said about this once before:
Even though the song Baby It's Cold Outside is older than my parents, I was not aware of it until a couple years ago, when I first read an article on the theme "This song is terrible and promotes rape." But ... I listened to the song, and read the lyrics, and I still don't see it. The only way that interpretation even makes semi-sense to me is if you read it with the interpretation "Modern liberated sexual mores have always applied--there was never, ever a time when women were raised to believe that 'nice girls' never wanted or even thought about sex until they were legally wed and about to embark on their honeymoon."

When you read the "woman's" lyrics, it's obvious she wants to stay at the man's house, but she's worried about what other people will think of her if she does -- "My sister will be suspicious, my maiden aunt's mind is vicious...." -snip- Going back to what I said in my first post -- that the "rapey" connotations of the song only make sense if you ignore the whole "Nice women don't want sex" idea -- if a modern American teenage girl hears that song for the first time and is appalled by the lyrics, in a way I think that's kind of a good thing, in that it suggests the girl has NOT been raised with such an idea.

Perhaps it's a generational thing -- I'm mid-Gen X, born after Gloria Steinem, The Pill and second-wave feminism, but with the double standard still going strong: "Sexually active men are admirable studs; sexually active women are contemptible sluts." Even though I'm a full generation younger than that song, I was still raised to be familiar with that attitude.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Warren » 10 Dec 2018, 19:37

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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by thoreau » Yesterday, 14:17

BICO played a role in the rise of radical Islam. Seriously.

https://qz.com/1491525/baby-its-cold-ou ... ssion=true
"ike Wile E. Coyote salivating over a "4000 Ways To Prepare Roadrunner" cookbook without watching his surroundings, the Road Runner of Societal Inertia snuck up on them both and beepbeeped them off the mesa."
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Aresen » Yesterday, 14:35

thoreau wrote:
Yesterday, 14:17
BICO played a role in the rise of radical Islam. Seriously.

https://qz.com/1491525/baby-its-cold-ou ... ssion=true
*Puts Christmas record on gramophone, causes a terrorist attack.*
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Ellie » Today, 00:53

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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Warren » Today, 00:58

Ellie wrote:
Today, 00:53
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While sitting on the floor at the public benefits office or GTFO.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by lunchstealer » Today, 02:13

Warren wrote:
Ellie wrote:
Today, 00:53
Image
While sitting on the floor at the public benefits office or GTFO.
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Re: The author is dead, but is the performer?

Post by Warren » Today, 11:13

lunchstealer wrote:
Today, 02:13
It’s like none of you has even heard of unpasteurized Stilton.
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