Brouhaha over ‘Last Supper’ TV commercial triggers Italy’s Catholic DNA

ROME – Italy lives surrounded by echoes of its Catholic past, but traces of its present can be a little harder to find. Take a stroll down a major Italian street on a Sunday morning, for example, and you’ll find far more people sitting in cafes and shopping in open-air markets than flocking to church.

Yet every now and then one is reminded that for all the country’s vaunted secularism and anti-clericalism, the Catholic gene is still active in Italy’s DNA.

The latest evidence is a brouhaha that broke out over a new TV commercial from the Italian company Segugio (“Bloodhound”), a website offering comparison shopping for insurance rates. The commercial parodies The Last Supper, and what’s really remarkable about the backlash it generates is that it comes less from clergy and more from secular commentators.

Launched in mid-September, the commercial also taps into a long-standing Italian debate over what type of pork should be used in the classic pasta dish Spaghetti carbonaraGuancialecoming from the pig’s cheek, or bacon from the stomach.

The commercial begins with Jesus and his apostles seated on one side of a long table mimicking the scene from Da Vinci’s The Last Supper while eating pasta. One looks up, clearly satisfied, and says, “Great! It’s so creamy… this pasta is a miracle.”

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Judas offers a sour counternote: “Yes, it’s good,” he says, “but that’s it baconNot Guancialeso come on.”

Clearly annoyed, Jesus says, “Sure, Judas,” while a fellow apostle exclaims, “Judas, mamia!” Apparently Jesus wants to end the discussion and then says, “Listen, give me the wine quickly…”

At this point, a bloodhound, the advertiser’s mascot, comes into the picture and asks the viewer, “Do you have the wrong company? Go to”

(An online joke speculated that perhaps a debate about the correct carbonara Recipe was the real reason for Judas’ betrayal.)

While there’s nothing overtly heretical about it, the whole idea of ​​trivializing the Last Supper has rubbed many Italians the wrong way. On Thursday Corriere della SeraItaly’s record-breaking newspaper, columnist Aldo Cazzullo published reactions from readers and said he had seldom received “such an almost unanimous chorus” of objections.

“If this is a reflection of our times, I’m not with it,” one reader wrote, berating that the ad portrays Jesus and the apostles as “rough customers in a seedy tavern.”

“I’m surprised they didn’t sully the scene further by showing nuns and female saints in miniskirts serving the wine,” the reader wrote.

“It’s reckless and disrespectful to believers,” ranted another.

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“We talk a lot about the sacrosanct separation of church and state, but that doesn’t mean reducing religion to a caricature or a fairy tale, primarily out of respect for believers and the religiously inspired. ”

Cazzullo himself added that the commercial “insults not only religion, but good taste.”

Pier Franco Quaglieni, another famous Italian journalist, made a similar statement.

“The reference to the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, used as a pretext for profane jokes, cannot help but anger, if not offend, the sensibilities not only of believers but of all who respect people’s religious sentiments,” wrote Quaglieni.

“This is not secularism, it borders on blasphemy and must be denounced as such,” he added, comparing the Last Supper commercial to satirical vignettes about Mohammed published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015 and published by the triggered global controversy and a terrorist attack.

Serena Gana Cavallo, another secular Italian journalist, also disagreed.

“How gone are the days when blasphemy was a crime!” she wrote. “Now, in the era of the hypocritically correct, it’s become a punchline.”

She also argued that the commercial managed to insult two religions at once – not just Catholicism, but Judaism as well, since Jesus and the apostles were Jews who were forbidden by religious law to eat pork, no matter what cut was used .

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For the record, the Last Supper commercial is part of a series by Segugio in the same vein, one showing an unsuspecting Caesar gifting his good friend Brutus a set of steak knives, and another showing a young Italian man knocking on his the new neighbor’s door to borrow some flour only to discover the Italian equivalent of Pablo Escobar. Either way, the Hound asks the same question: “You got the wrong company?”

So far, there has been no protest against the Last Super spoof from official church sources, and there doesn’t seem to be an upsurge among ordinary clergymen…perhaps because they don’t actually have to say anything, as others seem to be doing it for you.

Once upon a time there was an Italian proverb: scherza con i fanti ma lascia staren i santi, which basically means it’s okay to joke about human things, but you shouldn’t joke about the sacred. (fanti literally means “infantry”, but more generally common people.)

Today’s controversy surrounding the Last Supper seems to be a reminder that while many things have compromised this once-homogeneous Catholic culture, it can still make itself felt in surprising ways. Just ask Segugio’s marketing directors, for example.

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