Keep Calm and Probably Don’t Eat Barilla Pasta
Get ready for long lines winding through the grocery section at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Lynchburg, Tennessee and pictures of a smiling Sarah Palin cooking her family a big pot of spaghetti, because Barilla pasta is about to become the next cudgel in the never-ending culture war.
During an interview with Italian radio, Guido Barilla, stereotypically named CEO of Barilla, the world’s largest pasta manufacturer, was asked whether he’d ever consider doing a commercial in which a gay family enjoys his product. The response was swift and about what you’d expect if you watched Don Corleone slap Johnny Fontaine around for being a finocchio or remember Phil Leotardo having Vito beaten to death in a motel room:
“I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role. (If gays) like our pasta and our advertising, they’ll eat our pasta, if they don’t like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”
I’m of Italian descent and damn if my tribe can’t be a notoriously racist and homophobic bunch. What Barilla said was stupid and paleolithic but it’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it. Needless to say, the calls for a massive boycott of Barilla pasta have already begun, which is somewhat understandable, but anyone who’s followed along whenever the social media outrage machine ramps up in this country knows what happens next. You know the fallout because it’s going to follow a well-worn script: there will be calls for an apology that, even if they’re effective, will produce an act of contrition that’s totally phony and self-serving; there will be publicity that will divide those who stand in favor of gay rights and are disgusted by Barilla’s views against a bunch conservative assholes who suddenly decide that Barilla is their favorite pasta on earth. Sales of Barilla pasta will stop in one demographic and explode hugely in another, and that latter group will buy and buy and buy, just as a really juvenile way of supposedly sticking a thumb in the eye of its enemies.
Barilla becomes the new Chick-fil-A and we all suffer the orgiastic media frenzy accordingly.
The way to avoid that largely counterproductive chain of events: Don’t call for a boycott. Nobody lose their minds. Just calmly circulate the story, let individuals make their own decisions and, as Barilla said, if you have an issue with his backward-ass, hurtful thinking, eat something else. Simple as that. The more of a cause célèbre this thing is turned into — the more of a folk hero to the hillbilly demographic you make Guido Barilla — the more money he’s going to make in the end. The point will be made that he’s operating under a horribly outdated set of standards but he still winds up benefiting from the outrage.
Now’s probably a good time to mention that my great-grandmother, who was from Naples, died of a heart-attack making her own pasta in the garage. While this kind of thing might be the “fundamental role” for women that Guido was talking about, she would’ve beat the shit out of him for saying something so presumptuous and for treating any of God’s creatures unjustly.