It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when people feel a need to talk about “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” People like me, I suppose.
They’re menacing, the Wolf’s lines. They’s insistent, the Mouse’s lines.
There’s reasonable modern discomfort with this sort of pressure. Discomfort is, to put it mildly, putting it mildly. No means no.
And also there’s the reasonable contextual read that, basically, goes like this: the Mouse is expressing agency in the conventions of the time. In this read, the Mouse is a woman’s role in the relationship, and the Wolf’s in a man’s role, and they’re both stuck–wanting to be together, but constrained by an acknowledgement that, in middle decades of the 20th Century, what she wants comes with great social costs.
The song has its private background, and its public performance history. Here’s a video compiling the two renditions which appeared in Neptune’s Daughter. The song was introduced to the general culture in this 1949 movie, and it won an Academy Award from that appearance.
Gender roles were inverted, and the interpersonal and societal control issues they represent were highlighted right away when the song enters popular awareness. This does not make the underlying mid-century social standards OK; but it does make it OK to view some versions as subverting those standards, and others as simply playing them out.
Here’s a version that really knows what it’s doing.
Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton were totally foolin’ around in this live performance from Satchmo at Pasadena. They know what the song is about, but are too cool to say.