Not every column works. The more I dug into Big Boy restaurants swapping out their iconic Big Boy for Dolly, a minor character in the Big Boy Saga, the more it seemed an IHOP-like scam (which pretended to change its name to IHOb, International House of Burgers, for a month) designed to plug their chicken sandwich. And besides, there is no single Big Boy chain, but a balkanized group, including realms such as Frisch's Big Boy, which isn't involved in the ploy.* Anyway, so this failed the newspaper-worthy test. But it might prove amusing for those here at EGD. It was either this or another letter from a gobsmacked Trump supporter, and I'm kinda sick of those.
Big Boy's new mascot is a girl.
Her name is Dolly.
Let me say right off the bat, that I'm not outraged or offended. Even though outrage is the coin of the realm in our social media world. If only I could manage sputtering shock on command, if only rending my garments and rolling my eyes in goggled horror were my metier, well, then maybe I would be on television right now and you would all love me.
Heck, it's their restaurant. If you want a girl to be the mascot for Big Boy, well, fine. It's actually kinda of-the-moment.
Sincerely. Were I writing fiction, and wanted to somehow take the current kerfuffle over racist sports mascots and mash it together with the and-now-for-something-completely-different unease of processing the latest advance in gender fluidity, seasoned by the recent toppling of statues of erstwhile heroes—remember Big Boy restaurants are sometimes marked with large fiberglas figures of their burger deity—the arrival of Dolly, a supporting character in the Big Boy pantheon up to this point, with her own namesake sandwich, well, it's too perfect, right?
Mascots are powerful. For instance, you probably know about Big Boy, even though the last Big Boy in Illinois, in Danville, bailed out of the franchise in 2017. I grew up in Berea, Ohio, and we had our own Big Boy—it might have been our first sit-down restaurant. It must have been youthful lack of standards that imprinted the place in my affections, but growing familiarity with the chain—think of them as a Denny's with quality control issues—did not sour my liking for its funky hydrocephalic household god. A state of affairs outlined here a few years back.
And yet, despite a series of awful dining experiences—the food arriving cold, or never arriving at all, leading my weeping children out to restaurant where the food does arrive—I don't blame the Boy. It isn't as if he knew.
Dolly is not an adequate replacement, not because she isn't male, but because she isn't big. Not a trace of chubbiness there, that you would expect if you actually ate the 1200-calorie sandwich. (Big Boy doesn't actually list the calories of the new Dolly sandwich; probably haven't done the chemical analysis yet. But a comparable sandwich is 1260, and Dolly's must be about the same, which itself is astounding. People knowingly eat that?)
Nor does she have the retro charm of Big Boy. No checkered coveralls. No Reaganesque coif. No evil twinkle. She's a whitebread Smurf in drag.
I think we're done here. The more I picked over the rhetoric coming from the Big Boy folks, the more I noticed they were creating a back door to yank their change back at any time. The shift might be temporary: poor Dolly, given the job as a symbolic token, unaware it'll be given back to the male when she's served her purpose. I began to suspect that what is happening here: Big Boy's is casting an envious eye on the fluke success of Popeye's chicken sandwich last year. Big Boy thought it would get it the game, and cooked up this half-hearted, half-assed PR scam. It was that, or actually make a quality chicken sandwich that people would want to eat, mascot be damned, and that obviously is beyond their capacities. Typical.
Just to be clear, I wouldn't eat at a Big Boy under any circumstance, and don't want to be responsible for anyone else eating there. I even put away my Big Boy statuette collection, depicted above. We have to grow up eventually.
* After this was posted, Frisch's Big Boy got back to me with a statement:
“You may have heard that some Big Boy restaurants in Michigan, not affiliated with Frisch’s, are temporarily changing their mascot. At Frisch’s Big Boy, which operates in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, we’re remaining faithful to our beloved Big Boy. For more than 70 years, neighborhood Frisch’s restaurants have made memories with your family as the home of burgers, breakfast and Big Boy. We intend that to be the case for at least 70 more.”