Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dario Fo and the 'anti-gay pasta'

The Accidental Death of an Anarchist is no doubt one of my favorite plays and I often list Dario Fo as one of my favorite playwrights, but I haven't had occasion to think of Fo again until now. He is the author of an online petition that's going around at the moment. It's called 'Tell Barilla: where there is love, there is family'.

Barilla is the world's largest pasta-maker. Its main proprietor, Guido Barilla, stated in a radio interview last Wednesday that he would never use same-sex families in the company's advertisements. He said that although he fully supported gay marriage, he found the idea (fact?) of same-sex couples raising children "complicated". He said his company stood for the fundamental importance of family in Italian society - the traditional (or "sacred") family. He threw in, for good measure, an implied challenge to gay customers to take their business elsewhere.

Dario Fo writes in the petition that he starred in and wrote some of the first commercials produced by Barilla. He writes of the importance of the brand in the Italian public consciousness:

"It was in those commercials where [sic] we introduced the world to Barilla, and introduced products that have become a symbol of Italy and Italians everywhere. Barilla Pasta is synonymous with Italy, with home, and with family.

"Today our country is made up of many families, united by love. Love that is not able to discriminate, and which has no borders. That love is all over the world and it can come [sic] between a man and a woman, two women, or two men.

"A family is based on love, and your company’s statements want to represent families."

Fo encourages Barilla to apologize and make amends for his statements, and to commit to an upcoming advertisement in which "the family can finally be represented in all its infinite and wonderful shapes".

The petition has been signed by some 57k people so far. As it happens, Barilla has apologized and clarified that he has "the utmost respect" for gay people and "for all loving marriages and families". 

In the meantime, Barilla's competitor Bertolli, quick on the uptake, has launched a couple of advertisements soliciting the gay euro: "Love and pasta for all!"

I hadn't heard or read about Fo in a long time but it's clear that he's been as creative and politically active as ever. A few years ago, he wrote and performed a play in which the character of Berlusconi is strapped to a chair and electrocuted, and the character of Putin is shot dead by Chechen rebels - Putin's brain is subsequently transplanted into Berlusconi's head. Fo ran for mayor in Milan in 2006. His platform was the chasing out of the "money-grabbing bastards who have run this city for decades". He is Berlusconi's 'sworn enemy' and has, therefore, suffered at the hands of state and commercial television in Italy. As is wont, he remains undeterred. 

It is good to see that Fo remains to this day the Fo of the 1950s. 

As for pasta, I never really check which brand I buy.