McMullen: I don’t quite dig this year’s Missouri State Fair theme

July 9, 2013

Let me start this column with a disclaimer: I’m not suffering under any delusion that it is easy to come up with a new theme for the Missouri State Fair each and every year or that I would have any hope of doing it better than the fine people who handle that sort of thing.

With that being said, I’m not sure if I like the theme for this year’s Missouri State Fair: “Chicks Dig It”.

In 2012, it was “Celebrate Then and Wow” in honor of the 110th anniversary of the fair. In 2011, it was “It’s A Show-Me Thing.” That one’s probably my favorite in recent memory, even if it is slightly redundant.

Yes, this year’s theme has been known for a while now — technically since last year’s fair and I’ve been thinking it over and I’ve reached one conclusion: I don’t really think that it is beneficial to market the fair towards the juvenile gallus gallus domesticus.

Chickens are not known for their disposable income and baby chickens are even worse. Most land fowl probably lack the sentience to enjoy most of the entertainment at Sedalia’s biggest event anyhow.

And I don’t even know if it’s true: do chicks dig it? It seems to me that tough poultry competition would be reasonably stressful for both handler and hen. The human half of the team might be on top of the world but I imagine that it is nothing but taxing for the animal. I don’t know, maybe the Missouri State Fair is like farm animal paradise.

All right, so it’s not really about making the fair appealing to chickens, or reinforcing that idea.

Opinions vary on whether or not “chick” is an offensive term to use when referring to a woman. To some, it has been fully taken back from any misogynistic trappings that it might have had. To others, it’s still a little demeaning — sometimes even a little more than a little, depending on the context. But for better or for worse it is a commonly used phrase.

And even though the promotional materials for the fair have tried to push the small yellow bird interpretation via cutesy drawings and chicken dance contests it seems that the other definition of the word is the one that really goes with the phrase.

The idea that the residual visual effects of pain are inherently attractive is an old one, and the phrase was around before it was uttered by Keanu Reeves as plucky scab quarterback Shane Falco in 2000’s “The Replacements”: “Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever.”

The thing that chicks dug became a little more vague in 2003 when country singer Chris Cagle released the single “Chicks Dig It” from his self-titled sophomore album. The song tells the tale of a daredevil modern man who does outrageous and dangerous things because he thinks that women love that sort of thing. For future reference, that isn’t actually a legal defense so if you’re hurting yourself for love, you should make sure that you’re not hurting anyone else in the process.

I’ve got a few other suggestions in that same vein: The Missouri State Fair: Ladies Night! The Missouri State Fair: No true Scotsman Would Miss it! The Missouri State Fair: You Love it, I Assure You!

Maybe it bothers me because it seems to contain a subtle impilication that the fair is naturally a male sort of thing. I guess you could also read it as a challenge: maybe dudes don’t dig it enough. Maybe this is the fair’s way of saying to people that people of any gender can work in agriculture.

The recently completed “Missouri State Fair’s Women In Agriculture Contest” seems to lend support to that idea: it’s good to see saturation of the idea that nobody should be limited in their career opportunities because of their gender.

I don’t know if chicks dig it at a rate higher than any other demographic, but I guess in the end the quality of the theme doesn’t really have much affect either way on the quality of the fair in general.