Thursday, May 28, 2009

We're Here to Offer You Protection

The people who bring you Miller Lite beer -- among other brands -- have not one, but two, new 30-second television commercials that have the IA organizations up in arms. The spots feature Sopranos alum Frank Vincent and character actor Mike Starr as "wiseguys" offering "protection" to a convenience store clerk and a bartender. The spots -- oddly enough -- are titled "Protection."

Here's the Convenience Store spot:

The MillerCoors spots for their Miller Lite beer are meant to be funny. I find them mildly humorous, particularly the convenience store spot. I'm not really offended by these spots. Sure, I'm not crazy about the fact that they use actors playing the IA mobster role and the pseudo-Godfather music, but the spots are more funny than offensive.

Here's the Bartender spot:

These spots are meant to advertise Miller Lite's new "Taste Protector" can lids. The convenience store clerk and the bartender decline the wiseguys' offer of protection because MillerCoors's new "Taste Protector" lids are all the protection they need.

All the advertising blogs think these spots are the best thing since sliced bread. And they are mildly clever. But the Order Sons of Italy in America is calling for a boycott and an email-writing campaign. I think that's a bit extreme. These spots are pretty clever and only mildly offensive.

If we ignore them they'll run their course and go away. If we make a federal case out of them, they'll become even more popular and get a lot more press than they deserve.

UPDATE JUNE 5: Apparently the Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago -- which complained that the spots are offensive to Italian-Americans -- got MillerCoors to pull the spots. The company says they'll be gone in a week.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The True Story of IAs in America

In one of the better pieces I've read about the Italian-American experience in the U.S. in a long time, writer Daria DiGiovanni hits the nail on the head in a post on the blog Smart Girl Nation. In her piece "Moving Beyond the Mafia" she asks the central question: Why aren't IAs depicted in the media the way they truly are, instead of stereotypically as gangsters? And even when IAs were portrayed in a positive light, why aren't they portrayed accurately?

She notes:

None of the aforementioned folks have mob ties, nor do they talk as if they have a mouthful of food they forgot to swallow. All are bright, intelligent, law-abiding citizens who continue to make meaningful contributions to their country, clients and family. Yet none are represented specifically as Italian-Americans on film or television. That is a grave disservice, not only to them, but to their hard-working immigrant forefathers who came to America in search of a better life, and left an indelible mark on the country in the process.
This article is well worth reading. It makes you wonder why many of the stories out there aren't told by the media -- they're just as compelling as any gangster saga. Maybe not as flashy and violent, but compelling nonetheless.