Pasta Politics

So there’s trouble boiling over in the world of noodles.

The chairman of Barilla Group said there’s no plans for the company to have same-sex family pasta ads. His comments are attracting lots of negative attention, and his apology is viewed as hollow and insincere by some.

To which I ask, do we need same-sex family pasta ads? I understand debate on marriage rights, on legal benefits, on laws that discriminate. I understand frustration with how the LGBT community is treated in certain places and certain circles, and outcries against violence. I am outspoken among my Christian friends about the vitriolic and disproportional manner in which the church in general responds to homosexuality. I even argue with folks like the Southern Baptist Convention concerning their policies for chaplains in the military, delineating which service members defending our country can receive ministry and care from a chaplain and which cannot. So while I am probably considered no friend to the homosexual community due to my faith, I still fight for them in several ways.

But this one I just don’t get.

It’s pasta.

It's obviously the ravioli
Can YOU pick out the pasta of hate?

Is there gay pasta and straight pasta? Wait, don’t answer that. Yes, there is straight pasta.

But is pasta the battlefield on which issues concerning homosexuality should be fought?

Is there an activist watching TV somewhere, checking off companies that include a same-sex couple in at least one ad? Is one ad enough? Or do you need two?

In a minute, I’m going to drive my Ford minivan to band practice. I’m going to play a Korg piano. The whole time, I will be paralyzed with fear, because I just don’t know if Ford or Korg have ads that show non-traditional families and same-sex piano playing!

I mean, I look around the room and wonder what other bastions of advertising prejudice I might be supporting. I have a Logitech mouse and I’m typing this on an Alienware laptop. Do they have same-sex ads showing a couple using their Logitech products? Are there ads for homosexuals using Alienware computers?

Do there need to be?

Come on. This is Chik-fil-A all over again. And we know how that turned out: a tidy profit for the “purveyors of hate.”

I’ve eaten at Chik-fil-A. I’ve eaten Barilla pasta. I’ve tried other places and similar products. At no point did I find myself exposed to hatred, nor have I been motivated to look down upon the differences of others.

Sometimes a product is just a product.

Fight the battles worth fighting.

6 thoughts on “Pasta Politics”

  1. I have extremely mixed feelings over this pastaversy. On the one hand, I think pointing out every cultural slight against homosexuals is a necessity if we want to change a culture that, outside of certain liberal meccas, still largely uses the word ‘gay’ derisively. On the other hand, I don’t know how any answer other than “Yes,” to the question “Are you planning to have homosexual families in your advertising?” would have done the company any good in the media. It was a bit of a trap.

    Now this particular spokesperson did not to himself any favors with his particular response. But with that said, what if his answer had been, “Our focus groups and market research tell us that while the homosexual demographic will give us a loyal customer base, it will bring us a huge loss in overall market share. By focusing on the male-female family unit, we can assure that our customer base is as large as possible, and alienate as few customers as possible.”? Would that have had him faring any better in the media? Maybe he’d be seen as a corporate shill instead of a bigot. Maybe not.

    While I understand and can appreciate the complexities of situations like this one, I like the idea of erring on the side of homosexual rights in just about every case — they’ve remained an underclass in human culture for too long.

    1. I get where you’re coming from (I think), and largely agree with you. But the term “homosexual rights” is curious to me. We’re talking about pasta commercials here. I have a hard time picturing the rational balanced person who turns on the TV, sees a pasta commercial showing a traditional family, and then feels oppressed or slighted as a result. People being mad because the chairman said what he did? Sure. People being mad because “You know, I haven’t seen X company put out a commercial with a same-sex couple just yet…” that is silly to me.

      I try to step back and also consider that I have no idea what it might be like to look around at most of the images in mass media and see very few examples that look like me. I imagine I might walk away thinking they clearly don’t represent me, but I’d hope I’d walk away thinking “It’s flippin’ pasta. It’s a commercial to sell ‘sketti. I should go fight for a more tangible result in support of equality and freedom.”

  2. I typed out an entire diatribe, just to delete it and say this:

    I don’t think this is an issue about pasta commercials. I don’t think anyone in the country is watching TV, seeing a lack of homosexual representation in advertising, and then getting really angry about it. This is an issue about a spokesman’s statement on behalf of his company. In fact, I don’t know that a single one of the articles I’ve read on the much over-covered interview in question has stated that the lack of homosexual advertising in media is a slight to gays.

    And that’s basically what you already said. Also, the backhanded comment about women is really irksome, but perhaps that’s a different debate. 🙂

    1. Right. All I’m saying is, something motivated the question. I suppose it might be honest curiosity on the part of the interviewer.
      But I know how this stuff goes when it’s the Christian Right freaking out about some company… watchdogs are out there paying attention to commercials and other media, making a list of those who don’t match up with the desired values. Maybe they’re a tiny minority of their group, but they’re very vocal.
      The lists of “25 LGBT-Friendly Companies You Should Support” looks very much like the lists I’ve seen of “25 Companies Standing Up for Traditional Marriage” or whatever may be the cause du jour.
      That in mind, I suspect this was either something the interviewer wanted to ask based on others noticing Barilla hasn’t done a same-sex pasta ad, or something the interviewer wanted to ask based on knowledge of the chairman’s personal stance in order to get a splendid attention-grabbing response.
      So I stand by my curiosity of how much inclusion in advertising by a company is sufficient inclusion to avoid the assumption of bigotry.
      And I stand by my thoughts that I prefer – as much as possible – thinking of products as products and not political statements.

  3. MMMMM Pasta…

    I think I will just make my own from now on, and put my pasta maker to good use. Obviously I should never buy any product from any company because who knows how I will offend whoever is looking for a reason to be offended.

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