MSG Network built a tongue-in-cheek billboard campaign for their New York Knicks broadcasts this season, but some gay men and Broadway dancers aren't laughing. The particular ad in question, which you can see to the right, compared a certain friendly neighborhood superhero...
It's Friday night. You can either see a Broadway malfunction or you can watch real men fly.
Instinct Magazine wasn't quite sure what to think, opening the door to a "gay men dance on Broadway and they're not real men" interpretation. Various gay blogs immediately claimed homophobia and lashed out at MSG. From Jamie McGonnigal posted at LGBTQNation:
As a kid who grew up doing musicals, seeing an ad like this would have hurt me. Gay kids out there who happen to be attracted to something other than athletics are putting up with enough bullying from their peers and in many cases their families. They don't need it from Madison Square Garden too.
In recent years I've become more sensitive about messages like this, particularly because of the message it sends to youth. But this one just doesn't bug me. To me, the "real men" refers to actual, real men -- not fictional superheroes. I have no idea if the person in the Spider-man costume is gay, but I do know Spider-man isn't real. And the comparison was, to me, clearly aimed at the "flying" fictional superhero.
Patrick Burke, head of the You Can Play project, worked with MSG on the issue and came to the same conclusion:
I believe there's ambiguity here. And from talking to the folks at MSG, I'm absolutely and entirely convinced that they meant it solely as a reference to Spider-man being a "character" and not to Broadway actors not being "real men." What I love about their response is that, as a sign of support for New York's LGBT community, they chose to err on the side of being more inclusive. Taking down the ads, designing new ones, and re-hanging them takes time, money, and effort. And I think a lot of companies would have let the ambiguity hang and dismissed the concerns of the LGBT community as them missing the joke. Instead, MSG was proactive and worked hard to ensure their LGBT fans in New York know that MSG is an ally and wants to be seen as such.
What do you think? Was MSG saying gay men aren't real men?