White on White: The Misappropriate Commercialization of a Mina Mazzini Song
A new TV ad for a Las Vegas hotel seems like campy fun. But the subtext isn't so innocent.
If you watch TV, you've probably seen the ad: a series of quick shots of white folks of various types (chic young women; a straight couple in tennis duds with their dogs; a guy in a retro brown suit and bowtie) smiling and styling while a catchy, old school pop tune plays. The ad is for the Venetian Hotel's new "Come as You Are" campaign; the tune is "Tintorella di Luna", by the Italian singer, Mina.
The song, released in 1969, was the first number-one hit for Mina Mazzini, dubbed "the tiger from Cremona" (her northern Italian hometown) for her uninhibited performing style. Mina, one of Italy's enduring pop stars (she's now in her 70s) and leading gay icons, was banned from Italian TV in the early '60s when she became pregnant by a married man. The ban eventually was lifted, but she continued to offend bourgeois Catholic morality with her songs about sex and religion.
That provocative Mina wasn't the inspiration for the Venetian ad. According to AdWeek, the agency that created the spot for the Las Vegas hotel picked "Tintorella di Luna" to "channel an authentic Italian experience throughout the campaign." The song's message, says AdWeek, is "all about standing out and being yourself -- a perfect fit for a campaign hoping to embrace individuality and challenge the idea that luxury items and experiences are only meant for a certain group of people."
Mina's 57-year-old breakout hit is campy fun (dig those rock 'n' rollers during the instrumental break), and the chorus is a bit of an earworm. The lyrics are about a young girl who, unlike her sun-worshipping friends, prefers to go up on her roof at night and get a "moon tan", a "tintorella di luna". The moon-tanned girl, being so white, is a "beauty among beauties". Further, "if the moon is full -- you become even more white", that is, more beautiful.
The agency creative types probably were oblivious about the mix of all-white actors and the silly lyrics in the ad. But the alert semiotician might wonder, what kind of "authentic Italian experience" is the ad selling? That the Venetian Hotel will take you back to the '50s? And how do all those happy Caucasians challenge ideas about who deserves luxury?