It cannot be said for certain that Guido Barilla enjoys the music of Frank Sinatra. What is apparent, however, is that his recent comments regarding his desire to use only straight families in his company’s commercials has become a major ingredient in the simmering worldwide dialogue concerning love and marriage.
In a recent interview with an Italian radio station, Barilla, the CEO of the fourth-generation family-owned pasta company, said he “would never make a [commercial] with a homosexual family,” the Italian news agency ANSA reports. “Not out of a lack of respect but because I do not see it like they do. (My idea of) family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role.”
Not surprisingly, a sizable pasta-eating demographic took exception to the news that Barilla prefers his noodling straight, as both members and allies of the LGBTQ community called for a boycott of the company’s blue-boxed pasta.
Several petitions were posted to Change.org, including one by Linda Ferraro, whose son, Rich Ferraro, is communications president for the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD. At press time, Ferraro’s petition asking Stop and Shop to “stop carrying anti-gay pasta” had received 9,000 signatures from supporters.
Additionally, an open letter asking for Barilla’s apology was posted at Change.org by Nobel Prize-winning Italian actor Daniel Fo, who had at one time appeared in a Barilla ad. That petition has garnered 52,000 signatures, reports USA Today.
Quick to jump into the open marketplace opportunity, competing pasta company Buitoni offered its support for gay and lesbians by posting the slogan “Pasta for all” on its Facebook page. And Bertolli, which in 2009 ran a television commercial featuring two men sharing a pasta dinner and bottle of wine while cuddling together on the couch, added the phrase “Love and pasta for all” to its progressive marketing efforts.
The Advocate (the magazine of “gay news, LGBT rights, politics, entertainment”) published a list of “Six Scrumptious Pro-Gay Pastas,” including not only Bertolli and Buitoni, but Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as well (which gets a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which tracks company benefits for LGBT employees, the Advocate reports).
Rather than doubling down on his comments amid the increasing backlash, Guido Barilla decided to issue an apology.
“Through my entire life I have always respected every person I’ve met, including gays and their families, without distinction,” Barilla says in a video posted at his company’s website (www.barillagroup.com). “I’ve heard the countless reactions around the world to my words, which have depressed and saddened me. It is clear that I have a lot to learn about the lively debate concerning the evolution of the family.”
It is not clear what specific lesson Barilla is speaking of, but maybe Barilla, Bertolli and Buitoni are all reacting to the sound of money, and are married, first and foremost, to their market share.
(Originally appeared in the Valley Advocate.)