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Reaction to Caitlyn Jenner joke on Baltimore menu goes national

Caitlyn Jenner comment on Nacho Mama's menu goes national

A joke about Caitlyn Jenner that appeared on the printed menu at Nacho Mama's, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Canton, has gained national attention.

Stories about the joke, and the public's reaction to it, have surfaced on such national trend-watching websites as Mashable (Restaurant won't apologize for tasteless Caitlyn Jenner joke on their menus) and Grub Street (Restaurant realizes too late that a Caitlyn Jenner menu joke was a bad idea.)

The joke appeared on the Nacho Mama's specials insert, which often includes a topical comment, presented in a cartoon speech bubble coming from the restaurant's sombrero-wearing Mr. Boh mascot.

"I guess Caitlyn Jenner will be the only Kardashian on a magazine cover with clothes on," the mascot says.

Underneath is a photo of the Austin Powers movie character with his stock phrase, "That's a man baby!"

A detail image of the menu began appearing on Baltimore-based social media on Monday, where it excited comment on both sides, some commenters defending the attempt at humor and others decrying it.

By Monday afternoon, the restaurant responded on its Facebook page.

"Thank you for reaching out to us, the comment on the top of our Specials Menu has been removed," the restaurant posted.

Past mascot comments, which can be seen on the Nacho Mama's Facebook page, typically have taken shots as such controversial sports figures as Alex Rodriguez and Ben Roethlisberger.

But the mascot has "commented" at least once previously on Caitlyn Jenner. The menu posted to the Nacho Mama's Facebook page on May 14, when the celebrity was still known as Bruce Jenner, says, "Possible punishments for Tom Brady in "Deflate Gate" -- 1) Dancing with the Stars with Bruce Jenner as his partner."

A longtime fixture on O'Donnell Square, Nacho Mama's was opened in 1994 by the late Patrick 'Scunny' McCusker, the unofficial "Mayor of Canton," who was known for his business acumen, philanthropy and offbeat humor, like dressing in an Elvis costume to attend the Super Bowl.

Some defenders of Nacho Mama's pointed out McCusker's, and the restuarant's contributions to Canton in the past.

"NACHO MAMAS and Scunny have made the Canton Square what it is today. If you don't like good fun humor go [home]," said one commenter.

But many commenters faulted the restaurant for what they said was an insensitive joke, and for not issuing a more explicit apology.

"The people running this restaurant need to apologize to the public," a commenter said. "Transphobic 'jokes' aren't funny and all the rednecks who use terms like 'PC police' had better get with the program because the rest of us are tired of young people committing suicide because of your need to ridicule others."

One transgender activist said she was not interested in an apology from Nacho Mama's.

"Sorrys don't mean anything," said Jen Fischetti, director of TransMaryland, an advocacy group for transgender and gender non-conforming Marylanders.

"Whether there’s a public apology or not, what’s important is whether the behavior continues,” Fischetti said.  “I’m willing to give people the benefit moving forward. Rather than an apology, I’d rather see change within the company … so they’ll never be in a position to have to apologize again.”

Rahne Alexander, a Baltimore-based transgender artist and musician and former curator/organizer of the avant-garde Transmodern Festival, said the response from commenters upset by the joke was noteworthy.

"A glib sex-change joke is a time-honored tradition,” Alexander said. "It’s nothing new, and it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before."

In the past, Alexander said, only those already sympathetic to transgender issues would have spoken up about an incident like this, if at all. Now, she said, the concerned responses form more of a community chorus.

"It’s an interesting phenomenon now where there’s a shift in the cultural landscape where I’m not feeling so alone in the dialog," Alexander said. "[The dialog] is shifting. It’s great. It’s certainly not something I expected to see."

Sean Leahy, a manager at Nacho Mama’s, referred questions about the matter to the restaurant's owner, Jackie McCusker, Patrick McCusker's widow, who could not be reached for immediate comment.

 

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