Of Madonna and Big Tex

Posted on 22 Oct 2012 at 1:46pm

Oct. 19, 2012, may we be considered Dallas’ Black Friday — or at least, Blackened Friday.

The day began with the surprising news that Big Tex, the animatronic corporate logo for the State Fair of Texas (the Fair’s website is even BigTex.org), caught fire and burned up faster than a joint in Snoop Dogg’s trailer. Pictures of the flamer (I knew it!) became the latest meme to dominate Facebook; news sourced from as far away as the BBC reported on it.

Then, less than 12 hours later, came more devastating news: Madonna was canceling the first of her two concerts at American Airlines Center. I was at an event with tons of gay folks, and the news spread faster … well, faster than flames over Big Tex.

How much can one community be expected to endure?!?!

The thing is, neither of these event is, really, such a big deal. Oohhhh, Madonna has laryngitis; it happens. She still performed last night (and, by all accounts, was fully recovered) and so many of her fans still got what they wanted. And Big Tex? Well, the fair was almost over anyway, and while the majority of the skeleton may have been around for 60 years, it was, in the end, a badly dressed scaffolding with a loudspeaker in his chest. It was not, in the end, a tragedy of any sort.

So why were people acting as if both of them were?

A Facebook friend of mine went to far as to post — and I’m paraphrasing here — that seeing the outpouring of support for Big Tex (“Get well soon!” encouraged one billboard) was heartwarming in a city know for its corporate snobbery and occasional inhumanity. I commented that I disagreed; that falling into lock-step sentimentality behind a shill whose main function is to help generate the $36-plus million in revenues the Fair netted this year is hardly evidence of civic progress. It would be more spiritually enriching if people showed as much concern over, say, the homeless or PWA or, well, anything but Big Tex.

My friend doubled down, accusing me of setting up a straw man (excuse me, but isn’t a burning effigy like Big Tex an actual straw man?!) and being a Debbie Downer who can’t recognizing community support without demanding something more serious. But the thing is, I wasn’t being a downer; I was saying that the very premise — that people “coming together” in their wistfulness over a corny (dog) symbol of kitsch — is no more evidence of humanity than water-cooler conversations on the Monday following a sporting event. Relevant? Sure. Important to some people? Absolutely. A sign of hope for the melting of cold detachment and the humanizing of an impersonal city? Not on your life. What human is involved, anyway? Reminder: Big Tex was not a real person. He wasn’t even Pinocchio.

Of course, the same could be said for the Madonna cancelation. I was attending a fundraiser for DIFFA when the news hit. DIFFA raises money to combat AIDS and HIV — a laudable goal. Madonna’s great, and a real ally. And missing the concert was certainly a disappointment (or at least inconvenience) for many who had tickets on Saturday night. But a tragedy? Hardly. (One of my friends was almost excited: “Honey, we just saved $1,000 on tickets, food, drinks, parking and the hotel room we booked for after the concert!”)

Still, I acknowledge that the one-two punch to Dallas on the same day of these sudden and even shocking events was not frivolous; I never thought either were. But let’s also keep these things in perspective: The election is two weeks from tomorrow. The results of what happens that day will be far more important to folks (gay folks especially) than Big Tex or Madonna.

Which is my way of saying: Go out and vote early.

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