SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A filmmaker has criticized the Utah State Fair Board's decision to pull television spots that feature a black singer celebrating the fair, saying he fears racism is behind the move.
Fair board members told the Salt Lake Tribune that they took the action Friday because the ads were too suggestive and reached the wrong "demographics."
But Jared Hess noted the board didn't pull the radio ads, which contain the audio from the television spots. "They're identical, but you can't see the actor. You do the math," said the filmmaker noted for the quirky humor of his 2004 "Napoleon Dynamite."
"It's very strange. The spots celebrate the iconic things you can only find at the state fair. I can't help but think that the main actor being African-American is the reason they pulled them, which is very disturbing," he added.
Board Chairman Lorin Moench said the spots didn't accurately portray the state fair to the people the board was trying to attract.
Board members say they found the sexual tone of the two "The Utah State Fair: Uncommonly Good" ads offensive.
"We felt the ads didn't meet the demographics that we felt need to happen," he told the Tribune. "We are trying to get families to come to the fair and to represent the agriculture interests of the state."
He insisted his "demographics" comment in no way referred to the star of the ads being a sultry black singer reminiscent of Barry White.
"No. Absolutely not," Moench said. "We want all kinds of people to come to the fair."
In one of the ads, the actor sings about the glories of a hog: "When I see your shoulders - I know that you might make a great stew. And when I see your hamhocks - yeah, I love your ham, baby - I know I'm falling in love with you. And your rib meat, so beautifully sweet."
The second spot is an ode to funnel cakes: "I'm going to put you in the butter. Turn your heat up higher. Sprinkle sugar all over you."
Many board members thought the spots were "a little too edgy and a little too provocative," said Roger Beattie, board vice chairman.
"This would not incentivize me and my family and my circle of influence to attend the fair," he said.
The ads were selected by state fair staff, but weren't previewed by the board.
The board passed a motion Thursday requiring it to preview all fair advertising in the future.
The fair began Thursday and runs through Sept. 19.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune
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