I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the Barilla brand, but over here –in Italy-, it’s kind of an institution. Ever since I can remember I have seen Barilla ads, and I’ve always found them beautiful. They are all based on good feelings, family, love. After all, their slogan is Dove c’è Barilla c’è casa (your home is where Barilla is).
I’ve always thought that their ads were charming and, despite their exaggerated amount of sweetness and good feelings, they could always make me smile. Unfortunately though, even Barilla, even the sweet institution with good feelings and everything, had to specify –or at least its chairman did- that there’s only room for one type of family in their commercials, and that family is definitely not gay. According to Barilla’s chairman, Guido Barilla, the only family that has a right to appear in one of their advertisements is the “traditional” family, the real one, that one that –in case it wasn’t clear-, is made up by a man and a woman.
This was Barilla’s statement on La Zanzara (a famous Italian radio broadcast) on September 26th . Statement that circled the globe in less than 24 hours and that made Italy look despicable yet again.
Later on, as if it hadn’t been enough, Guido added “If gays aren’t OK with it, they can go eat someone else’s pasta”.
They can go eat someone else’s pasta. Does it feel discriminatory? A tiny bit? In many other countries, countries where human rights are more evolved, this statement would have been treated as discriminatory, that’s for sure. The Italian gay community reacted right away, and thousands of people started tweeting about this topic. Of course this only helped getting an explanation statement Isinbayeva style where dear Guido added “I respect gay marriage and freedom, I only wanted to highlight the woman’s central role within a family”. I would really like to ask him out of curiosity, what he thinks of a lesbian couple for one of his ads. Go figure, there are two women in one of those!
We should also asks ourselves why Guido retracted. Good feelings maybe? The fear of being misunderstood and the intention of stating that he actually respects gay people? Or maybe the realization –that has come a little too late, in a typically Italian way- that by saying something like that he was actually jeopardizing a big chunk of the market?
What puzzles me the most is that whenever somebody says “gay” on the Italian medias it generates total chaos. In many countries there are plenty of commercials that portray homosexual families, while in Italy an anti-homophobia PSA was pulled from TV because it was “too gay” –I’m not kidding, it actually happened-.
What saddens me the most, though, is that this whole thing seemed more important abroad than it was in our country. The TV news on the 26th talked about it with a 30 seconds report, dismissing it without even taking part in the debate –thing that, quite frankly, is abysmal-. I wonder what would have happened if, instead of talking about homosexual families, Guido Barilla would have made the exact same statement about black families. Instead of 30 seconds it would have taken up the whole news.
Besides all this, the most important thing remains: in a week everyone will have forgotten everything about this statement, everyone will keep eating Barilla and –at least in Italy- we’ll never see two men or two women kissing on TV without everyone making a big deal out of it. Because the message appears even too clear to me: dove c’è Barilla c’è casa. But not for everybody.