What Was Wrong With ‘Big Otto’?

All this talk about mascots – how gutted were we a few years ago when we finally heard the result of the Orange Lodge ’s competition to name their cuddly cartoon character designed to promote the friendlier face of the Lodge to the kiddies.

diamond dan

Not one of the names we sent in to Headquarters was chosen, and we sent a fair few: “Sash Gordon”, “The Boyne Wonder”, “Big Otto” (bit too subtle for the Lodge maybe), “Jan Der Tal”, “Tim Love”, “Apollo Jest” (for lots of things), “Spottie Leopard”, “Shankill Butcher”, “Brian Cell”, “Stu Pid”, “Sam Auldshite”, “Lief N Indapast”, “Nopope Ovrome”, “Dick Head”, “Bo Lerhat”, “Dod O’Denier”, “Nossur Ender”, “Captain Tosspot”,“Atilla”, “Bigot Man”, “Fat Man”, “The Urinator”, “the Intolerator”and “Yesterday Man”.

All of them rejected in favour of “Diamond Dan the Orange Man”, which, according to the local Belfast paper, was arrived at, “after months of deliberating”.

The winning entry also begs other questions, such as why, if he’s ‘Diamond’ Dan, does he have a star on his chest? Not to mention why, if he’s in the Lodge, does he have a full set of teeth? Does that costume have a quick release fly mechanism in case Dan is caught short in the middle of a busy street and has to do a wee wee? Why doesn’t he have a can of cheap lager in his hand? And why isn’t he smoking?

The fey quiff, tights and lycra bodystocking I can understand, given the Orange Prince’s alleged sexual proclivities, but the really confusing bit is the press release from somebody called David Scott, the somewhat ironically titled ‘Education Officer’ for the Order, who said: “Diamond Dan will be the kind of person who offers his seat on a crowded bus to an elderly lady (Like a nun, maybe? Sceptical Earwig). He won’t drop litter and he will be keen on recycling, He will also be committed to the Orange Order and to the Junior movement and will make efforts to know all he can about his history and culture.”

Pity Dan wasn’t hanging around Picadilly Manchester when the UEFA Cup final was played there. Not only would he have had plenty of arch-villians to deal with for dropping litter, he would have had so much recycling on his hands he would have ended up looking like Superman eating a Kryptonite kebab.

bugle hun

The history and culture reference also appears to have intrigued an organisation called The Design Research Group, who had one of its cultural commentators take a look at the design. Among other things he wrote: “What to say? It is in a typically cartoonish manner, albeit in a very juvenile way. The body and facial features are stylised and owe more to the Jetsons or Fred Flintstone than to Marvel comics. Interestingly that places it within a visual language aimed at a very young market, and imagery that is effectively sanitised, and also, arguably sitting within a visual discourse shaped by commercial advertising. In that respect this is a highly unlikely ’superhero’. One has to admire the incorporation of the sash in a series of simple lines.”

“highly unlikely superhero” is surely the understatement of the century. The article goes on: “What is interesting is how it eschews the more usual ’super-hero’ like forms familiar from comic strips. But perhaps in the more contentious conceptual (and practical) area it must operate a softened, less implicitly aggressive imagery was deemed more appropriate. An Orangeman along the lines of Superman or the Silver Surfer might give rise to difficult, even contradictory, significations. Who or what would he be an heroic representation of? Who or what might he be a representation against?”

Er, I think that last question’s an easy one to answer.

What isn’t made clear at all is how Dan despatches his enemies. He has a tiny belt which looks as if it has two pouches in it, but they hardly look big enough to hold anything larger than a shot glass (in case he bumps into Alan McGregor or Barry Ferguson), a retractable flute or a rolled up copy of The Evening Times. Does he have some kind of death ray glare? Or does he render you incapacitated with his halitosis?

If only Dan had kept his bowler hat, then he could finish off his enemies like Oddjob from Goldfinger.

We still think he should have a sidekick called Apprentice Boy.

As if all this whacky fun modernising wasn’t enough, apparently Dan comes hot on the heels of another initiative to catch them while their heads are still soft in the shape of 20,000 pop-up booklets that have been distributed to schools. Can’t you just picture Dan now, springing out of the page, inspiring the young with: “Hi there kids, I’m your new Loyalist superhero. Remember to take your oath that you will never marry a Catholic just like your daddy has. And don’t even think about going to one of those Catholic funerals, even if the dead person was a close, personal friend.”

All kidding aside, at least they’re starting to lighten up a bit and throw off their image as dour-faced lemon-suckers who are like black holes of misery draining everyone around them of the will to live. Pretty soon they’ll be like the wee fella pictured below, who could be twirling a big stick at a parade near you very soon.

gay orange man

By 2020 the marchers heading for Drumcree will be all be dressed like Diamond Dan and Boy George will be mixing the tunes for the bands.

Can hardly wait.

The Earwig

PS: Just in from the modern not taking things too seriously Grand Master;

Q: What do you get when you offer an Orangeman a penny for his thoughts?

A: Change.

Boom Boom!


Above: Apart from names for their new seat-offering, litter-collecting, recycling superhero, we also offered the Lodge first dibs on this patented exercise device should the weather be inclement during the marching season and the brethren confined indoors. They still haven’t got back to us.

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