You've seen these tacky (yet clearly memorable) Power 106/Big Boy billboards throughout town all summer: "Big Boy's Got Gas."
Juvenile way to promote KPWR's free gas campaign? Perhaps. But that's no surprise: Big Boy has starred in many slightly tacky billboard campaigns through the years (remember his "Morning Obsession" Calvin Klein parody, when Big Boy -- then over 500 pounds -- was naked, sprawled across the billboard?)
Nonetheless, WestLAOnline blogger Jim Bursch, who somehow had never heard of or seen Big Boy before (even though the guy has hosted one of L.A.'s top-rated morning shows for ten years) registered his offense:
Context counts, and in this case, the context is a predominantly non-black neighborhood where referring to an adult black man as "boy" is wrong and racist. Also, there are contexts in which fart jokes are funny, but not on a public street where you see the same offensive "joke" every day, day after day.
This is just wrong.
Help us to get this bigoted blight removed by spreading the word that this is offensive and unwelcome.
That led to a series of comments from readers, most of whom tore into Bursch like this:
Big Boy is not a racist caricature, yet to find this offensive that must be how you are viewing him. If it was a white man it would just be a crude fart joke. Even a white man named "Big Boy." You are the one attaching any sort of racial connotation here. You are the one paying attention to the fact that he is black and not just a human being. You are looking for the racial subtext when there is none. It is just a crude fart joke with a man who just happens to answer to the self-chosen name "Big Boy" and just happens to be black.
So, I guess my point is, you are an idiot.
Blogging.la also got into the act, posting a take from contributor Kent Nichols, who wrote:
Jim, stop being scared and drop the white man's burden. You don't need to be offended on behalf of other people, especially not millionaire radio personalities.
Bursch ended the chain of emails yesterday by at least admitting that he enjoyed the exchange. Today, he adds:
So, the billboard has accomplished its primary mission: it has drawn attention to itself. I now know who Big Boy is, and I am actually kind of curious to listen to him to find out why he is so popular.
On the point that the billboard seemed to achieve its goal, I think we can all agree.