Gleetalians, or Glee’s Italian Promotional Paratexts – Part 2

March 5, 2011
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While in the first part of this post I explored how some of Glee’s dubbed Italian promos help frame the show as a sometimes starkly different text, I now move on to consider locally produced promos, where an increased amount of creativity seems to be put forward and the intent is noticed of “domesticating” the show for the target culture.

The promo for Glee’s second season, aired by FOX Italia in the Fall of 2010, brings together scenes from the new episodes, while the voice over informs us that Glee is back with more auditions, nice songs, etc. Some of the key words heard in the voice over appear on screen with a slightly modified Italian spelling, i.e. with a ‘-ee’ instead of ‘-i’ ending, for example: audizionee (auditions), televisionee (lit. televisions), canzonee (songs), etc. While one could argue that using the dubbing actress who lends her voice to Sue Sylvester to promote Glee in such an upbeat, enthusiastic tone might not have been the most consistent choice, the promo clearly stands out for its verbal and visual creativity in superimposing alternative spelling on a grammatical feature of the Italian language, namely the plural noun and adjective ending ‘-i’. Thus the promo can be seen as successfully complying with the show’s verbal playfulness (both in other original promos and in the show itself) which is evident, for example, in the creation of ‘gleek’ and other Glee-inspired neologisms and in Sue’s elaborate and colourful insults. Perhaps building up on Glee’s hugely successful first season, this promo as a whole seems to be more daring than its first season counterparts. In fact, the inclusion of the clip in which Kurt makes explicit reference to himself being gay and Mercedes being black – and to these features making both of them “trendy” – calls attention specifically to some of the minority issues dealt with in the show.

The second case I consider here is the promotional campaign launched by the national network Italia1 when it started airing the first season of the show in January 2011. Italia1, traditionally famous for addressing a younger audience, used its well-known slogan “Italia Uno!” by adapting it to Glee and transforming it into “Gleeitalia Uno!”. In the promo we see a number of TV personalities putting their L-shaped fingers on their foreheads and saying “Gleeitalia Uno!”. The voice over at the end informs us that Glee, the “event TV series of the year”, is coming soon to Italia1.

This promotional campaign is obviously interesting from a number of different angles. First of all, on a linguistic level, it shows a certain amount of creativity in playing with sound and directly attaching the title of the show to the name of the network, thus superimposing new content on an existing – and highly recognizable – promotional campaign for the network. Secondly, a sort of cultural shift seems to be occurring as far as the ‘Loser’ gesture is concerned. While we can safely assume that the majority of Italian viewers will not be familiar with the L-Loser association (see previous post), the Italian VIPs who keep repeating the gesture seemingly unaware of its cultural significance in English also seem to invite Italian audiences to view the ‘L’ in the logo and on their foreheads simply as a visual extension of the /l/ phoneme in the word Glee, thus skipping the cultural significance of the gesture altogether. We could also comment on the use of local celebrities to endorse the show. Although it might make little sense for Italian VIPs to promote a foreign show, we could perhaps see this as mimicking and localizing the same strategy used – perhaps with equally awkward results – by  FOX in the US[1] or by FOX Italia at the beginning of the show’s first season. In this frankly surreal promo, for example, Italian actors, musicians and TV personalities talk about cast choices for a hypothetical Italian version of Glee.

While I can see how the hype surrounding the show even before its airing in Italy might have made Italian distributors confident with using celebrity images to promote the show from the start, I can’t help wondering whether this might have somewhat skewed the ways in which potential Italian viewers have walked onto the Glee phenomenon. Specifically, in addition to the “if you like these celebrities, you’ll like this show” effect normally invited by celebrity endorsement, I would also suggest that the use of mostly young, hip celebrities to promote Glee from its first season in Italy might have created glamorous associations that perhaps clash with the show’s message – or at least with the messages conveyed at the start of the first season in the US – of being confident with who you are even, and especially, if you are perceived as a nerd/loser.

I would like to suggest that many of the promotional strategies adopted for Glee in Italy seem to point in the direction of familiarizing the audience with the show by bringing it closer to the target culture and by closely engaging its fan base. In addition to the promos commented on above, this can be seen in FOX Italia’s idea to advertise Glee’s premiere with a flash mob in a busy shopping mall in Rome a few days before Christmas 2009 and in the recent launch of a web-based competition for the best fan rendition of songs featured in Glee, where winners of the competition will receive tickets to the London Glee concert. It seems safe to say that Glee is being brought (literally, in the case of the flash mob) to Italian viewers through shrewd use of locally produced – albeit sometimes slightly incoherent – paratexts which strategically appeal and reach out to both prospective and established gleeks.

[1] See for example actresses Emily Deschanel and Tamara Taylor, or, rather, their characters in Bones, promoting Glee’s second season.


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