The place of chivalry

The progressive detractors of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and Beauty and the Beast have it all wrong. 

Progressive denigration has focused on alleged sexual harassment and abuse lurking in the lyrics of the song, and blatant Stockholm syndrome in the Disney movie.  In their rigid obsessions, they have overlooked critical points, context, and the quixotic notion of chivalry. 

Chivalry, a unicorn of an ideal, connotes a mythical brotherhood of men who exhibit high moral and ethical behavior in all manner of activities, and especially in their behavior toward women.  Many women, albeit perhaps secretly, value chivalry. 

In the cultural era of "Baby it's Cold Outside", sex was a masculine pursuit.  Female virginity was prized, as was "virtue."  It was a time when female genital organs were not defined in print or spoken about out loud.  Women dressed modestly.  They "played hard to get" – the more purportedly uninterested, the more valued their company.  The flashing of one's naked body and frequent wardrobe malfunctions and celebrities competing for the most "liked" seductive photograph distributed globally were beyond comprehension.  One-night stands and click-by sexual encounters were delegated solely to red light districts. 

Seen in that context, Bing was not harassing or abusing Baby.  Rather, in his sweet reasonings to stay, he was chivalrously giving her cover for dallying and succumbing to her own, unadmitted, sexual longings.  He even assured her that familial ostracism was not at risk.  One doubts that Baby actually wanted to leave. 

The risible allegations against Beauty and the Beast deny the fundamental facts of the storyline.  The term "Stockholm syndrome" came into vogue in 1973 after Swedish bank robbery hostages expressed sympathy for their captors, even testifying in their favor at the trial.

The storyline in Beauty and the Beast simply defies the definition of Stockholm syndrome.  The heroine, Belle, is every bit the iconic personification of today's female superhero: brainy, bookish, independent, and strong.  She values intelligence, familial relations, and kindness. 

Gaston, the ripped, swaggering egomaniac, ignores the hordes of swooning town girls and wants only Belle – not for who she inherently is, but solely for her rare beauty.  Belle disdains Gaston. 

Out of town, in an isolated, rundown castle, lives the Beast.  This being a fairy tale, he's not actually a beast, but a handsome prince put under a spell by a witch.  If, within a certain time period, he is not kissed by a true love, he will remain a beast forever. 

Through a series of plot machinations, Belle's sick father is held hostage by the Beast.  Fearing he will die in captivity, Belle offers herself as a substitute.  The Beast agrees, and so, once upon a time begins. 

Antagonists from the onset, a thaw occurs – not through the gentle persuasion of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," or by a kidnapper's brute force, or even from the familiarity of minimal daily contact.  No, the thaw actually begins because the Beast approvingly sees Belle's innate qualities and chivalrously gifts her with the contents of his massive library.

Ultimately, and once again chivalrously, the Beast grants Belle her freedom, knowing his time for redemption is almost gone, and her exit will seal his doom. 

Turning the usual fairy tale ending on its head, Belle returns, kisses the Beast, and saves his life, and as the spell is broken, the Beast transforms back into a handsome prince, this time with humility.   

Today, chivalry is all around us.  Men open doors for women, carry their bags, lug out the garbage, and hoist carry-on luggage into overhead plane racks for female strangers.  Accepting these little kindnesses is a blessing and makes life more civil, not less.

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