Barilla’s Family Values

Last night Antonella and I went on a bit of a YouTube tear through Barilla pasta commericals, of all things. Barilla commericals in 1980s Italy are a tremendous source of nostalgia for many an Italain of a particular generation. Their entire ad campaign is centered around the idea of family, and there’s a patina of wholesomeness to many of these ads. Take for example this 1988 gem featuring a father who travels for work but is connected to his family through a single fusili 🙂

Although a few spots were a little more racy, but just a little, for example take this Barilla commercial by the legendary filmmaker Federico Fellini.

More recently, the Barilla pasta company’s chairman made a comment on a radio talkshow suggesting that his company’s commercials will never feature a gay family. It was a pretty stupid comment, and his argument was they don’t represent a “classic” family, which is the idea Barilla is selling. And this is where Anto noted quite acutely that he started to personalize and defend the idea of the classic family as somehow sacred rather than recognizing it’s a social construct his company has decided to buy into, reinforce and sell. When that stops selling, Barilla won’t find it all that sacred in the end, let’s face it. He ultimately apologized, realizing he should probably not be going rogue on the marketing front because he is not smart enough to understand his assumptions are less and less sacred.

But more generally I tend to cringe at the blowback and politics around such topics because it quickly becomes equally annoying to hear news outlets become righteous about a topic they’ve negatively reinforced for more than a century themselves. What I want to see is art, and YouTube didn’t fail Antonella and I. This re-imagined Barilla commercial by Roberto Mancuso re-figuring a gay family into the wholesome vision of their 1980s commercials is brilliant. That’s what I’m talking about, create the vision of the future you want to see! My only criticism is the date of 2215 A.D. The future is now!

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