27 Sep 2013

Pasta la vista – is Barilla wrong about Italian families?

Italian pasta maker Barilla is in hot water for saying it would never use a gay family in adverts. But a gay rights spokesman tells Channel 4 News it reflects an outdated view of the Italian family.

The video above shows a typical Barilla advert

Guido Barilla, chairman of the world’s leading pasta manufacturer, on Thursday prompted calls for a consumer boycott after telling Italian radio his company would never use a gay family in its advertising.

He said: “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.”

Role of women

Barilla, one of the world’s best-known pasta brands, is one of Italy’s biggest advertisers. For many years has used the image of a happy family living in an idealised version of the Italian countryside, with the slogan: “Where there’s Barilla, there’s home.”

In the interview, Barilla said he opposed adoption by gay parents but was in favour of gay marriage, which is not legal in Italy.

Asked if he would ever feature a gay family in his company’s commercials, he replied that if gay people “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.”

Read more: Equality street? Women, work - and the slow path to success

‘Out of date’

Aurelio Mancuso, head of gay rights group Equality Italia, told Channel 4 News that the image of the happy Italian family “is out of date”.

But he added: “It’s a sentiment, a fairy tale that most Italian men aspire to, but the reality of Italian families nowadays is very different.”

On Thursday Mr Mancuso called for a boycott of the company’s pasta, sauces and snacks, and many Italians used social media to voice support for a boycott.

Mr Mancuso said: “This is the first time in Italy’s history that the gay community has reacted to such a provocation.

“For the first time it has become a talking point in Italy and things will change, albeit slowly.”

Traditional family

However, Maria Rita Munizzi, head of the Italian parents movement MOIGE believes that Mr Barilla was sticking up for traditional families and women.

Ms Munizzi said: “[We have] solidarity with Guido Barilla (amid these) attacks on civil liberties.

“We appreciate Barilla’s choice to advertise its products with the natural family and the traditional role of women and mother.

“We are pleased that Barilla is highlighting the role of natural family, made out of mum, dad and children.”

Central role

Barilla issued a statement on Thursday apologising, explaining that he was trying to say “simply that the woman plays a central role in a family.”

“Barilla features families in its commercials because it embraces anyone, and they have always been identified with our brand,” he said.

Spanish film star Antonio Banderas features in the latest publicity campaign for Barilla’s Mulino Bianco cookies and breakfast cakes.

They feature him baking biscuits with children and talking to a chicken called Rosita.