Restaurant Chain Criticized for Ads Perceived As Anti-Gay

by Dan Meyer

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday December 26, 2012

Advertising in America has drawn plenty of criticism from the LGBT community in recent years because of anti-gay themes. A recent Legal Sea Foods ad entitled "Buddies" makes a "Brokeback Mountain" joke that possibly suggests that the two men depicted fishing together would have sex just because they're alone on the seashore for hours on end.

But it's not funny to Dan Landry, a 47-year old straight man in Boston with experience in the restaurant industry. He tried on multiple occasions to get Legal Sea Foods to apologize for what he saw as offensive ads. Company officials refused and said that the ads were intended to be a joke and not aimed at attacking the gay community.

Before "Buddies," there were two Legal Sea Foods ads in 2009 that made fairly blatant gay jokes. In one, a fishing boat captain earns a new nickname after making a big catch worthy of serving at Legal Sea Foods. At the end, the narrator says the captain "greatly preferred [this] over his previous nickname: The Cocklegobbler."

"I'm actually shocked that there hasn't been a huge backlash to these ads going back to 2009 when I first saw that terrible 'Cocklegobbler' ad," Landry told EDGE. "That one really shocked me. Clearly they are calling [the fisherman] a cocksucker."

Others have mixed feelings about the ad.

"It's not 100 percent clear they're calling the captain [that]," said Gwen Catley, a teacher in Boston. "At the same time, some one obviously noticed that the word was in there, and that could be considered a deliberate choice of words in poor taste."

Legal Sea Foods is a restaurant chain based in Washington, D.C., with outlets in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.

The other ad, entitled "First Mate," tells the story of Captain Wilbert Taft who gets so drunk celebrating his first catch worthy of being sold to Legal Seafood he "swabbed his First Mate's deck...if you know what I mean," the announcer concludes.

EDGE Boston contacted Legal Sea Foods and the advertising agency responsible for the "First Mate" ad, but calls were not returned nor were emails responded to.

"If people are reading these as anti-gay, then I don't agree with the content as I'm completely supportive of LGBT rights and equality. However, just because there's a hint of a homosexual theme, doesn't mean that it's anti-gay," said Catley, referring to all of the adverts.

On Google News, no reports turned up regarding any backlash in the press from those ads in 2009 or the "Brokeback Mountain" one. Comments are split on YouTube on the page containing "Buddies." One comment says the ad is "hilarious" while another calls it "homophobic."

"I didn't laugh at that type of stuff when I was in junior high school. It just doesn't fit at all. [Maybe] they really don't see it, and I bet others don't either," added Landry, referring to the seafood restaurant chain's possible anti-gay messages. "They just make their 'Brokeback Mountain' jokes and hope people will get a chuckle and choose them the next time they go out for a piece of fish and a glass of wine."

Other Ads Perceived As Homophobic

Other recent examples of advertisements some perceived as possibly homophobic include a poster in front of Madison Square Garden in New York City that drew ire from some passersby. The ad stated that the New York Knicks are "real men" and performers on Broadway are not.

"It's Friday night. You can either see a Broadway harness malfunction or you can watch real men fly," reads the ad. The malfunction reference is easily identified as a jab towards "Spiderman: Turn off the Dark," whose cast members have suffered a number of injuries.

According to the New York Post, as soon as the offended parties notified Madison Square Garden, the giant sports arena decided to take the ad down.

"The ad was simply bad judgment on our part," the Post quoted a representative from the Garden as saying. "We're in the process of having them immediately removed. We apologize to anyone who was offended."

"Others, including myself, found the ad to be very thinly-veiled homophobia," wrote the blogger for website Talk About Equality. "Anytime the term 'real men' is used in comparison to someone else, it has historically been a way to feminize someone or in essence, call them a 'sissy,' or a 'fag.' Well done, everyone who contacted MSG and shared the story with your friends. Little victories like this do make a difference!"

EDGE tried to contact the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD for comment regarding anti-gay messages in advertisements but due to the holiday season, spokespersons were unavailable.

In another example, just a month before the MSG ad, an ad from the National Organization for Marriage that accused President Barack Obama of trying to "force homosexual marriage on everyone" was found on YouTube, next to a video of Sally Field accepting an Ally For Equality award from the Human Rights Campaign. The ad no longer appears next to the video, however, and it's unclear whether it was put there on purpose or was a random incident.

Dan Meyer is a young professional whose stories have appeared in publications such as The Advocate online and UCLA's LGBT magazine entitled "OutWrite." He is also a part-time ESL teacher in Boston.