The great thing about being a kid is that you take everything at face value. Children don’t read into or take anything out of context. They generally believe what you say because you’re someone they trust and that’s good enough for them.
It’s only as adults we start inserting subtext into everything. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, and sometimes it’s just funny.
We’ve been watching a lot of old holiday movies lately. My daughter is especially fond of Babes in Toyland- the Tommy Sands/Annette Funicello version- and Santa Claus is Coming to Town from Rankin and Bass. If I didn’t have these movies memorized before, I do now.
As we were watching Babes in Toyland for the fifteenth time the song “Just a Toy” caught my attention. I’ve listened to this song for years and never really thought about the lyrics. But when you actually pay attention to it, it becomes a little disturbing. Annette starts out singing about/to a doll. How much it will be loved and adored on Christmas morning and what a fantastic surprise it will be to some little girl.
There’s nothing terrible about that. Then Tommy takes over and things get creepy. He sings about how he would like a doll just for himself and how this doll would be designed just for him…which really when you think about it means he’s wishing for a blow up doll from Santa. What makes it even weirder is that while he’s singing his verse, he ‘poses’ Annette as if she’s the doll.
Then there’s Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It’s always been a holiday favorite of mine and my daughter too seems to love it. But there is one musical number which as an adult I find disturbing. It’s sung by Kris Kringle to the children of the town about his giving them toys and is entitled “Be Prepared To Pay.”
So before we even get to the lyrics it’s already one level of wrong.
Now for the lyrics. In part, the song says “If you sit on my lap today, a kiss a toy is the price you’ll pay. When you tell what you wish for-in a whisper- be prepared to pay.”
Now I realize times are different, but this was written around 1970 and you can’t tell me people missed the obvious overtones on this one. Really, it’s not so much an overtone as a flashing ‘This is Wrong’ sign.
Luckily my kid isn’t old enough to catch any of this and can still enjoy these movies without the yuck factor interfering. I however, will never be able to listen to either song the same way again.