Here We Go Again…

27 Jul

I wasn’t particularly keen on posting this, but Ale saw it on TV the other night and has been bugging me for two days to put it on the ol’ blog. I guess he’s curious to hear the comments. This type of thing is a big discussion between us, whether Italy is racist or just “having fun.” He is fascinated by the whole “politically correct” culture of the States, and he better get used to it pretty quick seeing as how we are T minus 23 days and counting!!

For example, we were in the States when that whole Don Imus story broke. Does anyone remember that? He couldn’t get his head around why people were picketing and what the heck was going on. To this day he tells his Italian friends, “…and then there were all these people outside his radio station yelling IMUS GO HOME! IMUS GO HOME!” Trying to translate what Imus said just wasn’t working… I guess some things just culturally don’t translate.

If you’re just joining us in this whole “is Italy racist or just not politically correct or what?” discussion, I recommend you do some background reading here: Jessica’s take on Italian commercials (with videos) and a discussion about racism and soccer here, with another commercial. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait…

Ok? All set?

Now. These two ads are for a licorice-flavored after dinner digestive liqueur. I’m going to do my best to translate these, but since they use such a *clever* series of a play on words, we’ll see how well I do. I’m not even really going to comment on this. I just am curious to hear what you think. These are currently running on Italian TV.

Here’s the first one:

“Mine’s licorice flavored…”

“…the liqueur.”

And here’s the other one:

“After dinner, don’t strike out…” [however, in Italian, the term for hitting on someone and not getting any results is “andare in bianco” — “going white” so what he’s actually saying is, “After dinner, don’t go white…”]

“…end up with the black.”



16 Responses to “Here We Go Again…”

  1. romerican July 27, 2008 at 7:40 pm #

    I JUST saw these commercials today while taking a break from work! I was sitting there with my mouth open 5 minutes after they ended thinking “Did I just hear what I thought I heard?”

  2. Barbara July 27, 2008 at 8:29 pm #

    Uh…wow! I haven’t seen these commercials yet, but boy, they are just a little too…what’s the word? Crude? Vulgar? Degrading? And I thought the George Clooney commercial where the woman cuts the balls of the ice sculpture of a bull was bad! Nonono! And BTW, Imus should’ve STAYED at home!

  3. Reda July 28, 2008 at 1:29 am #

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what the problem is with these two ads… šŸ˜‰
    I might be biased because I’m Italian and I’m not trying to imply that there is no racism in Italy, but I personally find racist the excessive pc that I see in UK (I live in UK). It’s like the goal is to treat the individual as the stupidest animal on earth (seems strange, but I find it very offensive). So, for example black sheep is now the pink sheep (and if children didn’t notice the possible racist meaning, now they will). I don’t think a joke will ever change considerably the future of a group of people. If we stop making jokes about the “Carabinieri”, I don’t think their average I.Q. will suddenly go up or down…You might argue that it could be a step in the right direction if we stop making “these racist” jokes but I think is just an excuse to try to be forgiven for other racist acts or thoughts we have in our daily Italian or English life

  4. Carole D. July 28, 2008 at 5:07 am #

    To be honest, with my Italian mentality I don’t find anything offensive about these commercials, but since I live in the States I know it would not fly. This PC attitude is getting out of hand in the States and I don’t see it getting any better. Again, in my Italian thinking I find the ads and the man very sexy and the message I’m receiving is “Black is better”. So, what’s so racist about that? No malice intended, but how do we really know. Boh!

    As always, very interesting posts.

  5. nyc/caribbean ragazza July 28, 2008 at 7:27 am #

    I’m a black american. I thought Imus’s comments were sexist and racist and found the ads for Darkie toothpaste that use to sell in Japan racist.

    I assume this dude is black no? This first one is crude but to me it’s funny. I’m assuming it’s a play on the American phrase “once you go black you never go back.” ha!

    Of course this would never play in the States. Except when there is a slip up by someone famous we like to act like there isn’t racism in America. I mean Geraldine Ferraro said so. Racism is over! She’s lost her mind, it’s just more subtle now. Personally I rather have people not be PC so I know what I am dealing with.

    I agree the PC situation in America has gone too far. Some government official in Dallas was offended when his colleague described a bureaucratic problem as a black hole. Uhmm, that is a scientific term, race has nothing to do with. So the guy should have said, “that office is like a hole without color.”?

    Shelley you have to blog when you get back to the States. I’m dying to hear what Ale thinks about the move. As we expats know, it’s one thing to visit a foreign country versus living there.

  6. romerican July 28, 2008 at 8:12 am #

    What struck me most was the vulgarity of these ads, they remind me of the Amica Potato Chip ads with Rocco Siffredi saying “la patata attira”. Can’t they be clever without resorting to locker-room catchphrases?
    Also, the few ads I’ve seen in Italy with black actors tend to typecast the men in same way every time: as sex objects. Even ads for dark chocolate cookies have this sultry & virile undertone, very similar to tone in these ads. It’s a different stereotype than what we might see in US but I still see it as a stereotype.

  7. gino July 28, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    It’s not (only) that they’re racist, they’re plain outright vulgar. Italian TV has crossed the line a long time ago, too bad it’s only the mirror of most italian people.

  8. Shelley July 28, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    I had no doubt you guys would provide a very thought provoking discussion. I am really enjoying your comments and thoughts. I find this topic interesting. I am definitely going to keep blogging in the States, both in Italian and English. As long as you guys keep reading!!

  9. Miss Expatria July 28, 2008 at 9:48 am #

    It disturbs me that black people – and especially guys – are only portrayed in this manner on Italian TV – as stud master sex gods. If Italy weren’t as backwards and provincial as it is, I’d say it was a brilliant postmodern take on racist stereotypes. But, it’s Italy, so its the same as if this ad had run in 1970 in the States.

    That being said, the second one is a brilliant play on words. As a copywriter, I gotta give them props.

  10. Enrico July 28, 2008 at 12:33 pm #

    I believe PC is just another word for hypocrisy.
    Does it really matter if you say African American instead of black? Does it really mean you are not racist? Now that zingari (gipsies) are called Roma, are they less dicriminated against?
    Having said that, I think those commercials are awful, as we say, di pessimo gusto.

  11. Brendan July 28, 2008 at 5:48 pm #

    I agree that the commercials could be considered offensive by some. But I also agree with Reda that the whole PC thing is completely out of control here in the UK (and the US as well). But we should also remember that the race issue is different in Italy than it is in the UK or US.

  12. Francesca July 28, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    I think the PC thing can get out of hand in the states as well and it seems to be directly related to how sensitive that party is and reacts to the “racist” comment.

    I have always thought Italian ads were clever – they get us talking, don’t they?

    What ’till Ale sees how Italians in the US are only portrayed as Mafiosi – can’t wait to hear bout that!

    I am so sad for you that you will be leaving Rome – good luck with the move!

  13. anna l'americana July 28, 2008 at 10:39 pm #

    “Italians in the US are only portrayed as Mafiosi.” Really? Or was that an issue made by a particular group (Sons of Columbus or some such) that brought them alot of media spotlight and national attention for a while and made The Sopranos the mega-hit it is today (actually it was already a hit) a show about a particular small group of Italians, not all Italians. I don’t know but the beauty of how propaganda works is that we will never know. It is becoming impossible to tell actual issues from the made-up ones.

    That’s propaganda for you. I believe that most of the PC stuff that hits the media here in the states is about marketing, ratings and sales – using any gesture or statement as a way to get on your own soapbox and start screaming (limelight). It is a way to get butts into pews or on couches in front of the TV, stimulate donations to political or religious causes, to get the camera focused on your issue or your face, etc. Sadly, it is mostly lip service. To me most lose credibility because the loudest screamers are more usually attacking the alleged perpetrator than defending the attacked. All of the screaming has done nothing to eradicate actual racism (which is absolutely rampant all over), just the appearance of it. Which is apparently all “we” are concerned about. We just drove it underground, which may or may not be the first step….don’t know.

    Italy is unfortunately right now on the brink of something awful, I think, with Berlusconi whipping Italians into a jingoist society and using the current economic situation (which he helped create!) to get everyone on board the “its ‘their’ fault” train. In his case it is a way to avoid taking responsibility for his actions and keep support strong while he is robbing Italy blind (a classic case of misdirection – I always said that guy was a magician!). Mussolini wasn’t even this bad (I’m sure you still hear “at least he got the trains to run on time!”) Today immigrants and other non-italians, tomorrow, Jews.

    As to these commercials, I don’t even know what to say. The overt sexual overtones have ALWAYS been an accepted practice in advertising in Italy, I remember worse (sexual) commercials in the 60’s and 70’s. As far as the racial issue, I do agree with Brendan above in that racial history in Italy is very different so the nuances and perceptions are another language altogether. I don’t think we can measure these with our yardstick.

    This is me trying very hard to be tolerant of the ads (Universal tolerance, I say) and see it from the Italian point of view. I’ll shut up now and leave room for other commenters….

  14. Judith in Umbria July 29, 2008 at 10:58 am #

    I find Italians quite racist, but not especially so toward blacks. I hear offhand and accusatory statements made against Gypsies, Romanians, Albanians, Chinese, Africans, and most of all Moroccans– by which they mean everyone from N Africa.
    Sex in Italy not only sells, it does everything else, too, but I notice they have less sexual violence than many places that are more Puritan in character. Nudity is just not even noticeable after a while, or you see, you like or not, pass it off.
    Is it worse than other countries in these ways? Just different I think. And less violent than many too.

  15. Bridget July 30, 2008 at 5:35 am #

    These ads just say to me that the product can’t stand on its own either because of quality or price and therefore, the advertiser is relying on sex to sell – always a cop out. It just makes me think the product is cheap. About racism in the ads…whenever the “difference” is pointed out, regardless of race, there is an agenda and one party is judged somehow. America deals and has dealt with such terrible crimes against blacks and all races that our sensitivity is justified. Yes…these ads are racist.

  16. Francesca Maggi July 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm #

    Is it racism? Here, portraying the black man as virile, sexy…and of course, Italian men will take that as a compliment! These ads definitely stand in the Hall of Fame as ‘pushing the envelope’ and just disrespectful.
    Like the one when the woman tosses her wimpy Italian partner in the washing machine and he comes out a fabulous black man…
    What they’re doing is propagating a stereotype and this is the problem.
    Just like Italian-Americans are constantly portrayed as mafiosi on U.S. Television (thanks Sopranos!!!)

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