Tits ‘n’ bums, kids ‘n’ mums

Peeling postersThe city council has put up extra billboards to host the thousands of posters for the forthcoming regional elections. The regular billboards are overloaded with dozens of posters stuck on top of each other by the busy glue boys working under cover of darkness. In their hyperactive haste they seem to drip as much glue on the ground as they do on the board, judging by our sticky tiptoeing to the car each morning. By election time there may be as many as fifty posters on a single board, the edges curling up and creating a confusing collage of political messages. Eventually the heavy mass falls to the ground, lies in the rain for a couple of days and dissolves in a glutinous mush.

But we’re not there yet.

Most of the election posters are head shots of the candidate. Occasionally the communists will put up one with text only, shunning idolatry for the purity of the true word – as if anyone can read a paragraph of text from a speeding car. From the driver’s seat of my own speeding car, I carried out an extensive survey of the image of women in the posters lining the route to school. It may not bear up to scientific scrutiny, but so what? – it was raining heavily and my son kept wanting me to turn round and admire his glow-in-the-dark shoes.

This is what I saw:

-No turning back-

Election poster #1
Big-haired brunette beauty, bare shoulders, beaming smile, her arms protectively around a little boy

Election poster #2
Small child with his head against a naked pregnant belly. Woman’s head and legs cut off. (Reminds me of the tits ‘n’ bums photos in porno mags, and of the Meat Manual that we produced recently.)

Election poster #3
Young mother standing side-by-side with man and two small children

Election poster #4
Girl, aged about 9, backpack on, heading for school

Election poster #5
Beautiful blond woman, head thrown back, laughing loudly on the phone

Election poster #6
Middle-aged woman in hospital scrubs, smiling softly

Message to the female voter:
Get a basic education
Gossip & flirt
Get pregnant
Look after your kids
Stand by your man
Take care of sick people.

. . .

Is that all there is?

How does the commercial world present women on my drive from school to work?

Ad #1
Intimissimi, with their new winter range of push-up lingerie for teenage girls

Ad #2
LookAtMiHonda’s new scooter, with a perfectly sculpted woman’s face in deep shadow, bee-stung lips and a wide-eyed side glance at the shiny SH125i. Look at mi is the caption, in English.

Ad #3
Casaidea, the interior design exhibition, showing a zany mussy-haired woman with an apple on her head

Ad #4
Where's the jack, Jack?Telecom Italia, promoting a double-speed ADSL connection by using the obvious image of a gawping raven-haired beauty lying naked with phone cable wrapped round her breasts and hips. Double-speed ADSL :: near-naked woman. Gosh, the copywriter really pushed the envelope on that one.

My caption: “Find the jack, Jack”. I should get paid for that, don’t you think?

What message do you get from these ads?

  • romanwanderer

    Benetton has toned it down, the original
    designer was fired or left for other ventures, I forget the story.
    Yeah, they had this huge in a Piazza in Milan with a newborn baby still attached to his mother, still covered in….well, it wasn’t a pretty sight.

  • http://riabacon.blogspot.com Ria

    I don’t think the cultural relativism argument is valid, romanwanderer. The Telecom Italia ad is an example of sloppy design and crude exploitation – period.

  • romanwanderer

    Kenju, ads have been that way in Italy for as long as I can remember.
    There’s also a difference between the way people dress in the summer in the US and in Italy.
    Which doesn’t make it right, but it’s not as sexually related as it would be in the US.

  • http://syvwlch.blogspot.com Mathieu

    Oh, I remember all those Intimissimi ads last year when I used to go to Torino regularly.

    France has a lot of lingerie ads, but these were ALL OVER the place.

  • http://blogfromitaly.blogspot.com/ Alex

    romanwanderer – I forgot about the add you mention. In the ad I was on about, the baby was not attached – just smiling at you from between this huge pair of naked breasts. The creativity might be admired, but as for the taste…well… However, I don’t think it raised many Italian eyebrows. Their view of these things is vastly different from that of UK dwellers and those from over the pond. In a way, I suppose it is good to not get all hot about the collar about these things.

  • http://riabacon.blogspot.com Ria

    The 1991 ad in question did in fact cause such a strong reaction in the UK, France and Italy that Benetton removed it in all three countries.

    Trivia fact: Ex-Benetton Creative Director, photographer Oliviero Toscani’s father took the famous shot of the dead Mussolini and his mistress strung up like chickens.

  • http://realefun.blogspot.com Zinnia Cyclamen

    The message I get is ‘don’t buy stuff from these morons’.

    Very interesting reading your post while Riverbend’s words about the current position of young women in Baghdad are still ricocheting around in my head. I’m sure there are links to be made and parallels to be drawn, but I don’t think I could do it without being trite.

  • kenju

    These ads tell me that, as always, sex sells. I guess it doesn’t matter what country the ads originate from either, does it? Apparently, all ad men/women are alike. I wonder what all those images say to our children, who are trying to make sense of the world every day. I shudder to think what the world will be like in another 50 years.

  • Jane

    This is really terrible. It sounds as if Italy is still viewing women as meat for sale, to exploit as men want to. What in the world has a naked women got to do with faster cable? Well.. I guess it does get you to these porno sites much faster!? But if the election posters are anything to go by I guess I can understand the commercial adds! Subservient women… . But I am confused because Italian women are too aggressive to play that part I suspect. Hence the high rates of divorce perhaps.

    Great piece of writing. I really enjoyed this.

  • http://blogfromitaly.blogspot.com/ Alex

    Yes, I’ve noticed the ads here too. Two have particularly stuck in my mind and both are from a few years back. First, there was a Benetton ad with either a black horse on top of a white horse or vice versa. Then there was this amazing ad for a children’s wear chain – Pre Natal, I think. Anyway, it was this smiling baby staring out from between two large naked breasts. It was on the side of buses and trams, just about everywhere. I tried to imagine just how long an ad campaign of this type would have lasted in the UK………..

  • http://sigcarlfred.blogspot.com/ Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

    Your wrap up, “Get a basic education” to “Take care of sick people” is an interesting observation.

    Less has changed than we thought.

  • http://riabacon.blogspot.com Ria

    Zinnia, I was struck too by the parallels with Riverbend’s posts. In that respect, Telecom Italia is the lesser of two evils.