As my loyal blog readers know, once in a while I cannot resist the temptation to post an amusing advertisement that plays on stereotypes that foreigners have about Italians, and in this case some stereotypes about Americans. I was not aware of this one until an Italian journalist, Federico Rampini (see blog post Enlightened at the Economics Festival in Trento), wrote about it in an Italian weekly women’s magazine under the headline: “The Italians are Coming, This is How America Sees Us.”
I grew up in the Boston area not far from where the American revolution started. All my life I have heard the tales of revolutionary war hero Paul Revere made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”
“The British are Coming, The British are Coming” is what the young revolutionary yelled out to the towns and villages west of Boston (Somerville, Medford, Arlington and Lexington) as he galloped through the night to warn them that the British troops were marching out from Boston. Every year on the 18th of April we would watch reenactments of how the brave Minutemen (farmers who took part in a the local militia) took on the British Redcoats in Lexington and Concord. Even this past summer I took my daughter and her cousins to see the spot in Lexington where Paul Revere was captured.
As all Americans learn in school, the British Redcoats marched in a staid and orderly fashion and were badly beaten by the American militiamen who hid behind stonewalls and conducted a precursor to guerilla warfare. In this ad the Italians whizz around the corner kicking up a cloud of dust in their sexy red Fiat 500s. “Staid” and “orderly” are not adjectives one uses when referring to Italians. All one has to do is wait in a taxi line or a line at the post office in Rome and “unruly” and “argumentative” are more likely to come to mind. When the British are coming the Americans run for the guns, when the Italians are coming the women tear off their long, stiff, uncomfortable clothing, and give a quick, liberating chop to their lengthy hair. The staid pub becomes a club, and the prim and proper tea set is shoved off the table in favor of four cups of rich, creamy espresso and the music switches from dramatic classical to T-Rex’s “Children of the Revolution.” As one of the newly “liberated” puritan women head for the Fiat 500 she declares “This is going to be so much better than the Tea Party” — a reference to the original Boston Tea Party when American revolutionaries dressed up as Indians, boarded a British Ship carrying tea and dumped it into the Boston Harbor in protest against “taxation without representation” by the British King. But it is also a dig at the at “Tea Party” political movement a right-wing movement that started up in 2009 to protest against government over-reach.
In his article Rampini noted that “they see us as less inhibited, less politically correct, more pleasure-loving with respect to the anglo-puritan tradition.” Rampini also notes that the ad is making a veiled reference to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his bunga-bunga parties (see blog post The End of Italy’s Bunga Bunga Era) and legal troubles.
But Rampini goes on to note that it was an act of marketing genius to “transform our weakness into a strength.”
I agree, I bet a lot of Americans are going to be buying Fiat 500s.