Media

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?

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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