When Pastas Fall In Love… and #BoycottBarilla


Guido Barilla, chairman of the Barilla Group pasta empire, is apologizing for his remarks last week about gay families. Last Thursday, The Independent reported that Barilla expressed his views on La Zanzara, an Italian radio show: “I would never do an advert with a homosexual family…if the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand. For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company.”

Today, Barilla has already issued multiple apologies.  When you visit barilla.com, you are re-directed to barilla.com/position.html, which includes a length statement starting with the following:

At Barilla, we care about everyone, regardless of race, religion, belief, gender or sexual orientation. Our mission is to help people – every single person – live better, by bringing wellbeing and the joy of eating into their everyday lives.

In a video apology posted to Barilla’s US channel, Mr. Barilla notes that, “Through my entire life, I have always respected every person I’ve met, including gays and their families, without any distinction.”

There’s already a parody video from comedian Josh Rimer, in which he states, “I have the utmost respect for any pasta, without distinction of any kind.”

Rimer’s riff emerges from a larger hashtag trend that formed around #BoycottBarilla and #BoicottBarilla.  The visual creativity was stunning, not quite on the scale as the marriage equality meme we wrote about earlier but still a great showcase of humor and sarcasm in light of Mr. Barilla’s original remarks. Here are some of our favorites.

Some of the earliest ones we noticed were pictures of Barilla pasta boxes in the trash and photos of alternative pasta brands. One couple even made their own pasta in protest. These images are important as they helped normalize a behavior and provided a simple, actionable response that could be easily shared on social media networks. Given Barilla’s popularity, most families have at least one Barilla box in their pantries.





And straightforward statements calling for the boycott:






Things got interesting when remixes of Barilla box logos and pasta started popping up. Some of them were quite clever, using pasta as a metaphor for love and partnership.





Vladimir Putin of course had to make an appearance. Remixing Putin into gay images has become something of a meme in response to the Russian government’s continuing intensive crackdown on the queer community in the nation.



Other pasta companies soon joined in on the meme to express their support of gay families… and other activities. We’re still researching if these are real messages from brands or are remixes, but the important part is here is pointing another way for activists who still want to eat their pasta. This makes sense–if an infographic from @BoycottBarilla is to be believed, there was a huge international response from Western nations:







And in a reflection of both Barilla’s international reach and growing international acceptance of gay marriage, #BoycottBarilla happened in multiple languages:






The incredible variety of memetic images and the overall response from the international community of gay rights supporters are a testament to just how strong the community has grown on social media. It took just a few days–three really, if you only count business days–and Mr. Barilla shifted from a blanket statement against gay families to a video apology.