By acting as a pervasive sixth sense, the media is responsible for ‘cultivating’ viewers’ conceptions of social reality and creating meanings. In the world of advertising, the visual media often constructs portrayals, which are filtered through viewers’ race, socioeconomic status, etc.. Indeed, through the (commercial) media lens, the notion of ‘national identities’ is generated frequently through a dynamic interplay of symbols, myths, clichés, and conventional anachronistic behavioural models, which are more easily communicated. A case in point are Americans of Italian heritage who are frequently represented through anachronistic behavioural models such as an ethnocentric sense of family, a fixation on food, and Mafia-themed scenarios, thus perpetuating a-priori etiquettes, which often convey meanings that can alter audience attitudes towards this minority group and their identities. Particularly in food advertising, a close relation between ethnic/national cultures and food is foregrounded. Indeed, what happens when national identities and culture-laden elements representing them are transferred and/or depicted outside the socio-cultural cradle from which they originated? The present investigation addressed this question, and attempted to show how and to what extent these actual societal groups can be far from the fixed image of ‘advertised’ communities – which are often portrayed in an ironic, funny, grotesque, or even derogatory way. By and large, in order to persuade consumers to buy goods, by engaging their needs and wishes, advertisers utilise different themes proven to appeal to the audience, i.e. ‘lines of appeal’, (Dyer 1988) such as: ideal families; luxurious, glamorous or elite lifestyles; success stories; romantic love stories; fantastic scenarios; beautiful natural settings; beautiful women and handsome men; sex appeal; arrogance; humour; nostalgia and childhood worlds (Fowles 1976, 1996), and, more recently, cyber-world scenarios. In our case, the stereotypical representations of Italian-Americans exploit the overarching cliché of having a food fixation, utilizing iconic images and signs in order to depict ‘role model’ characters. Thus, from a multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA) perspective, we investigated the diachronic evolution of the ‘typically Italian’ Food-Family-Females association over the decades. We showed how in US TVcomms of the 1980s to the 1990s of Italian (style) food, Italian American women were depicted either as caring (grand)mothers and ‘aproned’ good cooks, whereas in 2000-2010 US TVcomms, the foregrounding of more fashionable typecasts is recognisable. In the pragmatic TVcomm dimension, the preparation and consumption of (supposedly) fresh Mediterranean food, with its culture-laden elements, is transferred outside its socio-cultural cradle and re-shaped in a persuasive meta-fictional setting. The TVcomms of our corpus were retrieved from YouTube, since the contemporary diffusion of commercials, originally intended for television, through the dynamic YouTube digital model can be considered as an indicator of the commercials’ lasting relevance to the audience. By using MCDA tools, we accounted for how videos, images, language switching, accents, music, and costumes synergically work to create meanings. Through the pragmatically devised framing of products’ images, taglines, and auditory settings, and that of characters’ transitive gaze vectors, gestures, and proxemics, an ongoing multi-sensorial process of configuration takes place. The analysis of such visual-verbal communication modes highlighted how nation-based stereotypes are re-mediated through a process of metaphoric re-semiotisation, where an evolving, arguably ‘authentic’, Italianicity reaches beyond its Mediterranean boundary.

Advertising Italian Food Overseas through the Visual Media

CAVALIERE, Flavia
;
2016

Abstract

By acting as a pervasive sixth sense, the media is responsible for ‘cultivating’ viewers’ conceptions of social reality and creating meanings. In the world of advertising, the visual media often constructs portrayals, which are filtered through viewers’ race, socioeconomic status, etc.. Indeed, through the (commercial) media lens, the notion of ‘national identities’ is generated frequently through a dynamic interplay of symbols, myths, clichés, and conventional anachronistic behavioural models, which are more easily communicated. A case in point are Americans of Italian heritage who are frequently represented through anachronistic behavioural models such as an ethnocentric sense of family, a fixation on food, and Mafia-themed scenarios, thus perpetuating a-priori etiquettes, which often convey meanings that can alter audience attitudes towards this minority group and their identities. Particularly in food advertising, a close relation between ethnic/national cultures and food is foregrounded. Indeed, what happens when national identities and culture-laden elements representing them are transferred and/or depicted outside the socio-cultural cradle from which they originated? The present investigation addressed this question, and attempted to show how and to what extent these actual societal groups can be far from the fixed image of ‘advertised’ communities – which are often portrayed in an ironic, funny, grotesque, or even derogatory way. By and large, in order to persuade consumers to buy goods, by engaging their needs and wishes, advertisers utilise different themes proven to appeal to the audience, i.e. ‘lines of appeal’, (Dyer 1988) such as: ideal families; luxurious, glamorous or elite lifestyles; success stories; romantic love stories; fantastic scenarios; beautiful natural settings; beautiful women and handsome men; sex appeal; arrogance; humour; nostalgia and childhood worlds (Fowles 1976, 1996), and, more recently, cyber-world scenarios. In our case, the stereotypical representations of Italian-Americans exploit the overarching cliché of having a food fixation, utilizing iconic images and signs in order to depict ‘role model’ characters. Thus, from a multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA) perspective, we investigated the diachronic evolution of the ‘typically Italian’ Food-Family-Females association over the decades. We showed how in US TVcomms of the 1980s to the 1990s of Italian (style) food, Italian American women were depicted either as caring (grand)mothers and ‘aproned’ good cooks, whereas in 2000-2010 US TVcomms, the foregrounding of more fashionable typecasts is recognisable. In the pragmatic TVcomm dimension, the preparation and consumption of (supposedly) fresh Mediterranean food, with its culture-laden elements, is transferred outside its socio-cultural cradle and re-shaped in a persuasive meta-fictional setting. The TVcomms of our corpus were retrieved from YouTube, since the contemporary diffusion of commercials, originally intended for television, through the dynamic YouTube digital model can be considered as an indicator of the commercials’ lasting relevance to the audience. By using MCDA tools, we accounted for how videos, images, language switching, accents, music, and costumes synergically work to create meanings. Through the pragmatically devised framing of products’ images, taglines, and auditory settings, and that of characters’ transitive gaze vectors, gestures, and proxemics, an ongoing multi-sensorial process of configuration takes place. The analysis of such visual-verbal communication modes highlighted how nation-based stereotypes are re-mediated through a process of metaphoric re-semiotisation, where an evolving, arguably ‘authentic’, Italianicity reaches beyond its Mediterranean boundary.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11588/667512
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