Material girls in the holidays
or: Why Eartha Kitt is sexier than Madonna & Betty Boop combined! ;)
by Collie Collier
Some years ago I heard a Christmas song I thought was rather appalling. The singer was petulant and whiny, childishly demanding an enormous amount of gifts. She seemed to pretty much blatantly assume she'd get what she wanted, because she was willing to give Santa sex. Needless to say, I was revolted at the entire song -- it seemed a truly twisted bastardization of the entire spirit of the season.
I later found out that singer was Madonna, for a 1987 album titled A Very Special Christmas. The song itself, I discovered, was titled Santa Baby, written by J. Javits and P. Springer. I was also informed the original singer was Eartha Kitt, and that she'd done a marvelous job with the song.
I was dubious such a greedy, manipulative song could be salvaged by even the best singer, but my friend insisted I should keep an ear out for the original rendition, and I'd see what the song was really supposed to be like.
Oooh, my, yeees... what a difference a singer can make! You can find the Eartha Kitt version on her recent 2003 album, Platinum & Gold Collection, and check it out for yourself.
Don't get me wrong, of course -- Madonna does have a well-trained voice, and she has several songs I enjoy listening to. However, I don't think she's quite grasped the difference between alluringly sultry and childishly whiny, in order to get one's way. Swapping sex for things appears to be eminently practical to her, and you can easily imagine her behaving like a pouty, pseudo-cutesy little girl to get more stuff. It either appears she's not interested at all, or her sexuality is Right In Your Face -- she doesn't seem to have any less jarring, in-between form of behavior.
To be fair to Madonna, I should note she hits two of my hot buttons in her rendition. First, she whines, and I absolutely loathe whining -- it makes me want to smack the whiner and yell, "SHUT UP!"
Second, I am not a Betty Boop fan. I've never been able to fathom her appeal, and I find her characteristic childish, "Boop oop a doop! *squeak*" extremely irritating. For Madonna to include a rendition of Betty Boop's call in the song made me want to clutch my head in agony, and snarl at her to grow up!
Eartha Kitt, on the other hand, delivered the song Santa Baby in a low, rich, purr which never lost that background hint of humor. Her rendition was indeed sensuous, but I never felt she descended to Madonna's tawdry implied promise of cheap sex. You got the feeling Eartha understood quite well she wasn't going to get everything she was asking for -- a yacht, a convertible, a platinum mine, and more? -but she'd have a great time in the asking!
I think that's why I enjoyed Eartha's rendition so much, and disliked Madonna's -- Eartha seemed to have clearly grasped both the humor of the song, and what Christmas is really all about. It's not demanding expensive toys in exchange for sex (or some other cheaply held bauble), which was what I got from Madonna. I don't care to see the entire holiday degenerated into nothing more than a selfish orgy of greed.
Corny though it sounds, to me the holiday season is about togetherness. It's the warmth and closeness of love and friendship holding on through the darkest part of the year, and the gift-giving which symbolizes that feeling. It's the delight of musing over and considering, carefully selecting, then wrapping and giving wonderful gifts to those you care about -- and then getting to see or hear of the other person simply lighting up with pleasure at what you've offered them. That feels so enormously good!
Conversely, there's a joy in discreetly -- maybe even gently and teasingly -- letting those dear to you know what you'd truly like, so they too get a chance to watch you appreciatively light up as well at their gift giving. Gift-giving and -receiving has always been a symbol of generosity and caring towards those you love, and showing friendship in such a fashion at year's end is a wonderful tradition, regardless of what religious rituals you choose to participate in.
In the yearly ceremonies of friendship gift-giving, you don't demand, nor do you assume you'll get everything you want. You understand the holiday is a participative joy, a fun and humorous back-and-forth of pleasure and sharing happiness between people who care deeply about each other.
May you all have a very, very merry and joyous holiday season. May your loved ones all take joy in being close to you. And if you've been an angel all year, may Santa Baby hurry down the chimney to trim your tree on Christmas night. ;)
08.01.04: Kelly's thoughts
(and replies from me)
I've not heard Eartha Kitt's rendition of Santa Baby, but will certainly be on the lookout for it. Madonna's version is like fingernails on a chalkboard... forks on china... and the ever popular Blue Screen of Death.
Oh my god, tell me about it. Makes me want to throw things at the speakers. ;-p
Just who is it that considers childishness sexy? Like you, I want to slap people who whine. Childishness is childish, not sexy. That whole Betty Boop thing just creeps me out. If Harrison Ford acted like a spoiled five-year-old, would that be sexy? Oh, HELL no! He's sexy because he's an adult who acts like one. (And he's got a great bod, a rugged face, and outstanding acting skills. ;) ) Or how about Glenn Close? Try imagining her acting like a spoiled child. Nope, I can't either. But I think she's pretty darn sexy. (Equal opportunity admirer... that's me!)
Oh, thank god -- someone else who just doesn't get Betty Boop -- yay! Hooray! Calloo callay! I thought it was just me! ;)
Gadzooks, the weird things people do. I don't get it. But I've been saying since high school that I don't understand humans. :D I doubt I ever will. I'm still working on understand ME. LOL
*wry grin* I hear that one... I'm still working on myself too. Then again, I figure it's a lifelong endeavor, right?
Interesting that you're already working on your holiday theme. I've started making my holiday cards for this year. Of course, I make many to sell, so I have to start early so I have enough. It's great fun.
Oh, that's so cool -- I had no idea you sold the cards too! Very nifty; hope you enjoy it! I've started making a few cards just for fun myself too. I tend to scan them in, upload them here so I never lose them -- and then send them to folks!
As Tiny Tim should have said, "God and Goddess bless us, every one!"
Hear, hear! ;)
08.01.04: George P.'s thoughts
(and replies from me)
I am not fond of either singer, but then, I am not fond of singing.
Oh, too bad! I think you're missing out, if so. Some of the songs I know never fail to give me a lift when I'm singing them or dancing to them, and some of the classical choral pieces I have can still move me to tears.
I am not sure 'trade sex for presents' counts as childish, but I gather under modern conditions many 12 year olds would differ. (That's an observation on reality, no more.)
Hm. I should better define that, I guess. What I was aiming at was more a condemnation of the utter manipulativeness of something I feel should be either entirely a gift between people who care about each other, or entirely a business proposition.
Actual childish behavior, over the top, orregular, misbehaving to embarass) also does not strike me as being alluring.
Me either, and I've seen that pouty, whiny, stampy feet effect used by grown women to get what they want from grown men -- and worse, I've seen it work. Always makes me want to shudder, then ask them both (the men as well as the women), with incredulous horror, if they realize how moronic that makes them appear.
Just because I have this letter from the Brussel War Crimes Tribunal explaining that broadcasts of my singing count as weapons of mass destruction is no reason to suppose that I cannot sing.
08.12.04: Lou's thoughts
(and replies from me)
More reviewing. Yay, another Firestarter. =) I didn't think I had much to say about this. Ha! I went off at great length.
Cool! Don't feel bad about going off, Lou -- I love when that happens! Usually (as with this time) it means I get to learn something nifty and new. ;)
You're right; Madonna missed. Her version of that song is past "alluring" and into "demanding." As you noted, Madonna often misses.
Childishness is sexy? Bleh. I would never say "childishness is sexy." I think that to say that from this one example is kind of a reach; do you have other examples?
You very well may. Our society's ideal beauty, that almost androgynous, overly thin, impossibly tall shape of the fashion model is almost childish in many ways, and, um, strange. I spent too long with a fashion-designer-in-training to see that as unquestionably sexy any more, and more as an act or a product.
Well, I decided to change the title, to reflect the slightly different 'take' on the subject which I was creating. On the other hand, the question is still an excellent one -- because yes, it'd be extremely easy to come up with a whole bunch of such examples. I'll write a Firestarter on it at some point. ;)
A book review you wrote mentions that it seems to be impossible for people involved in a romance to actually communicate with each other, and to suffer on in silence until things are horribly bad and wrong, only to have to cope with it at the worst possible moment. That strikes me as childish too -- adults would stop and solve problems and not let them fester until it's a disaster.
That was actually me describing one of the key elements in much romantic fiction. I admit, though, I've never understood the allure of most romances.
Of course, there are an awful lot of childish people wandering around in the world, even driving cars and working at "adult" jobs. Our society seems to encourage and reward some of those behaviors on its own, rather than encouraging people to be responsible for themselves and to think about their actions and the consequences.
I also think you've missed the point of Betty Boop. What we've got left from Betty Boop today is a strange, unnatural shape with a worn and meaningless tagline. The reason she exists at all any more is because someone owns the trademark and is cashing in on the name. This is a great fall from her debut, and you're right, it is shallow, pointless, and childish.
Betty Boop was a very, very early cartoon. She was artistically different -- she had real arms and legs and an expressive face, rather than rubber hoses for arms and legs and a mostly static face. She was sexy, rather than being a stick figure, cariacture, or funny animal. She was one of the first cartoon characters aimed at entertaining the adults -- mostly the men -- in the audience, rather than the children.
These were cartoon shorts shown before feature films. Betty Boop was the star from 1932 to 1936; this was a very different culture than we have today. The idea that they'd show the silhouette of a woman's body behind a screen was lascivious and racy, and that's what they did. They suggested that these aren't pictures, but that they're people, and they made her a desirable person at that.
In the 30's... during the Great Depression... the idea that she would be shown on-screen, doing a topless dance for Popeye (from the back, mind you) was astonishing and racy. It meant a great deal. Today it means nothing, particularly in black and white, as all of her cartoons were animated.
In fact, as many of those very early cartoons were, some of the Boop cartoons are nearly psychedelic and unfathomable. They're surreal and bizzarre, and they aren't shown any more. I don't have any of the Boops in my collection -- a sad oversight now that I think of it! -- but I do have some of the very early and contemporary Warner work, and it's the same way. The part that's most interesting is that Betty Boop was one of the first who was not entirely that way, and who told a story rather than just gyrating on the screen.
Now, some of the things she told, according to the bits I found on the web, you might disagree with. Apparently at the end of "Betty Boop and the Little King" it's suggested, never stated, but suggested that she's become his mistress. Some of the cartoons were apparently dark commentary on the world of the day.
Here's an essay that covers this (and where some of my information comes from): http://www.freeessays.cc/db/6/ame35.shtml
Here's the IMDB search for her, which lists the films: http://www.imdb.com/find?more=tt;nr=1;q=betty%20boop
That doesn't mean that the Betty Boop that's come down through the decades isn't childish and horrible, a terrible caricature of sexiness, but that's not the fault of the character.
Cool! I love learning new things -- thank you, Lou.
As a note, "Fair Use" says you can put up to 30 seconds of sample on your web page. If you can find a place Madonna is screechy or overly demanding and Eartha Kitt is engaging and alluring, you might do so.
Hm! Good idea -- I'll see if I can find some! ;)
12.01.04: Jim's thoughts
(and replies from me)
BTW, I do NOT consider sex to be a "cheaply held bauble" -- On the contrary, I consider it to be the closest a man and a woman can ever get and extremely rewarding ... and fun!
Other than that, I fully agree with this.
Well, as I noted in this Firestarter, I was objecting to the objectivization of sex in that fashion by Madonna. ;)