These past few months have been tumultuous for everyone, and that includes food mascots. Already Aunt Jemima, Land O’Lakes’ Mia, and the namesake of Eskimo Pies have been retired, while Uncle Ben, Mrs. Butterworth, and the chef on the Cream of Wheat box await their thorough review. And now add Big Boy to the list of the unemployed. He didn’t lose his job because he’s a mediocre white dude, though. He just happened to be on the wrong side of sandwich politics.
For the past 70 years or so, Big Boy has stood guard outside his namesake restaurants, which began in California and spread across the U.S. and Japan. He is a potbellied little boy in red-checked overalls with a quiff of brown hair. When he stands guard, he holds aloft his other namesake, the hamburger chain’s signature sandwich, a Big Mac–style double cheeseburger with special sauce. But these are not good times for burgers, at least burgers made from meat that originally came from an animal. Popeyes showed everyone that chicken is where it’s at.
So now Big Boy has a chicken sandwich, launched yesterday to coincide with National Fried Chicken Day. And to show that it has moved on with the times, it has a new mascot, a Big Girl with a bouncy blond ponytail named Dolly.
According to Big Boy execs, Dolly was a character in the Adventures of Big Boy comic books that were distributed to kids at Big Boy restaurants and which disappeared in 1995.
“It is Dolly’s time to shine now with our chicken sandwich. So, she’s taken the forefront right now. She’s in charge,” Big Boy director of training Frank Alessandrini told western Michigan’s WOOD-TV.
The chain will, however, still be called Big Boy. Which leads one to believe that no one will be tearing down Big Boy statues anytime soon and that Dolly will have to put up with the same shit women in business have been dealing with for generations: after cracking the
glass fiberglass ceiling (or, in this case, breaching the fiberglass bun), she will be expected to repair, overnight, the company’s failing fortunes, always with a smile and never a bad mood. And if she does not, she will be punished accordingly—that is, be replaced by another white male—and will blame herself for not leaning in harder. (At least she hasn’t yet faced any criticism for her wardrobe, but there’s plenty of time for that.) And, naturally, there has already been some resistance: Frisch’s Big Boy, the regional franchise in Ohio, has refused to accept Dolly’s promotion and is keeping the Big Boy mascot, according to WLWT5 in Cincinnati.
In fact, another Big Boy exec, Jon Maurer, vice president of marketing, practically said straight out that Dolly is just a temp. “The Big Boy icon isn’t going away, there’s just another seat at the dining room table and her name is Dolly,” he said in a news release quoted by the Detroit Free Press. Perhaps he considers it progress that Dolly has a seat at the table instead of in the kitchen. Or maybe Dolly is simply destined to be the IHOB of 2020.