horrifyingmiracles sent me the link to this article by Serialmente, an Italian website that writes about TV shows. It’s about Italians in American series. The piece is very interesting, because it starts off by stating that while American TV shows have been growing and presenting quality products to the USA and the rest of the world, once the episodes step out of American soil, the stereotypes become evident.
The author also points out how this is twice as painful for a country like Italy, where critics wildly seek representation to raise their self-esteem. “Oh, look, they mention Italy in that important foreign series/event/thing! We got our Cool Country Badge once again!”. And it’s true. It’s like the Italian fans who complain that you can’t vote for your own country at Eurovision.
Now, while it’s painfully clear that we have our own self-awareness issues, it’s also just as clear that we’re misrepresented abroad, maybe a bit too much at times. It’s the whole pasta, pizza and mandolino thing. It’s always being the butt of a negative joke. It’s having a dedicated page on TvTropes that redirects to multiple other pages about stereotypes regarding Italy, Italians and Italian-Americans. You should go read the Gratuitous Italian page and frame it on your fridge or something. Never forget. Then make room for this other page, too.
There’s a list of examples from series that aired this past year, and I assure you there’s no chance you’ll be bored. There’s Hannibal with the Stupid Accent and the criminal stereotype, there’s Phil Coulson travelling on a seemingly Italian train where nobody can utter a single word in Italian (with bonus fake geography), there’s Person of Interest portraying one of Italy’s major airports as a blank grey corridor with a random sign, there’s the usual bunch of “Italians are lazy and inferior” obligatory mentions, and the whole “Italian politicians are corrupt!” with Berlusconi Jokes as a side dish. Some people in the comments linked to other examples.
Which stereotype upsets you the most? Which one do you see more often?
GESTURES. That always bothered me. Yeah we gesticulate a lot, that’s part of our way of communicating, but every single gesture has its own meaning. This is something that is never portrayed in movies or tv series, or even video games. Take Assassin’s Creed II: aside from the horrible English dubbing (which I will avoid as if it were a contagious disease), the whole game was full of half-assed gestures, often used to empathise things, but that to an Italian just look silly or downright wrong. ACII is not the only instance though, as I’ve seen many people outside of media replicating invented gestures because they look Italian or are considered Italian by foreign standards. This is a good example of one of those gestures and the only one I have at hand; it has no meaning whatsoever in Italian, and yet it’s one of the most common (I would argue the most common). IIRC it was also used in the famous AoS episode and in Inglorious Basterds. And these are just two examples off the top of my head.
I don’t know why this particular gesture has become so widespread and I don’t know what kind of gestures, say, Italian-Americans use, or whether they use any at all, but it’d be really nice to see either the real thing or nothing at all, just to play it safe.
An ironic brief guide to Italian gestures can be found here! I don’t know why that gesture is so widespread, maybe because it’s “easier” to understand or replicate? And it’s not a synonym for a swear word, unlike many other gestures. Could be because of that.
Then again, as most gestures, it’s only used in very informal settings and not all Italians use gestures (we learn something new every day, don’t we). I don’t mind seeing them in media, as long as they’re not used to show how weird/different/peculiar/funny/dumb Italians are. That’s when it starts bothering me, because it basically becomes a cheap trope.
I agree with the gestures being one of the stereotypes I despise the most. I’ll even add that I had never thought we used a lot of gestures before learning from foreigners that we’re supposed to. I still think it’s not true, or at least not totally true: I gesticulate while speaking to emphasize what I’m saying, and I like to be physical when joking (which is not typycally Italian as you can see in the last .gif of the Jared Padalecki’s gifset above) but other than that, I don’t feel I use those “typical” Italian gestures. The explanation given about their meaning feels very strange to me (I understand them, but they’re not what I meet when speaking to people in my everyday life) and it’s obvious to every Italian that those are Roman expressions (for foreigners: what happens in Rome stays in Rome, try and say “annamo” in Milan and you’ll see). I was just curious: does anybody else agree with me?
You mean in the post I linked? It’s stated right at the beginning that those described are only Roman expressions, it’s not a comprehensive guide (that’s also why I said “ironic”). If anyone uses other phrases (from other dialects) to accompany those gestures, they’re free to add their own!
I agree with you that gestures are not only tipically Italian, which is why the stereotype feels twice as weird, in my opinion.