I had wonderful fun introducing everyone to Vittorio Sgarbi as my first Flamboyant Italian in this series of articles of fascinating personalities from Italy and now I have three more to share with you. This is a substantial achievement for me given the many distractions I’ve had this month (everything from a Sicilian wedding, to a feverish five-year old, solar flares interfering with my internet connection and convincing an emotive Sicilian husband it’s time for a visit to his in-laws in Australia, it’s been grueling but I’ve survived!)
If there is anyone else you think I should feature be sure to let me know.
I originally thought I’d title this post: A porno star, a transvestite and a drag queen: how mainstream Italy handles sex and transgender personalities. This sounded like it should be in an academic journal not a blog. So I’m going to simply break it down into three parts to do justice to each of these characters.
Italy has a history which encapsulates may elements of the Roman Catholic church, Rome is at the center of its origins and development and is the point where the religion began to establish and disperse itself through the world. So it is only natural to assume Italy is a staunchly Catholic country. Right?
But as with many other elements of life in Italy, Italians have their own unique way of interpreting religion and culture which means this country is always in a state of constant flux and change.
For example Italy has been seen as the last bastion of masochistic behavior, giving the vote to women as late as 1945 (1925 for local elections) and legalizing divorce in 1970.
In recent years the country has been running fast trying to catch up with the rest of Europe, quickly inserting women into a ‘pink’ quota in parliament and trying to liberate women while still maintaining dancing-girls on their t.v programs. While there is always an exception to the rampant P.C, female role models are still few and far between.
Modernizing an ancient culture is always going to be a problem and yet observing Italy’s metamorphosis I’m fascinated to see shining examples of public figures which seem to be at odds with the traditions dictated by a once stringently moralistic and closed society that Italy once was.
Now if women’s rights have been so backwards, you can imagine how gay and lesbian rights are in Italy. Yet I can think of three wonderfully popular figures who have managed to become popular despite any sexism or homophobia.
I imagine they had to combat against the haters but their names are as well-known as any other famous Italian politician or T.V personality and that is something positively amazing in a country like Italy.
So let me introduce you to Cicciolina, Vladimir Luxuria and Platinette.
Proud activists who have shined and continue to be popular.
Italians have a soft spot for porn (no really!) many popular movies from the 1970’s/80’s have some form of mild female nudity and there are many comic movies where gags include the accidental removal of clothing to reveal voluptuous boobs or a backside and many more near mute female roles were the women giggles and poses in front of a camera.
So perhaps it was inevitable to see Cicciolina a well-known porn star and playboy model take to the political stage in Italy?
The anomaly of a porno star in politics perhaps isn’t so strange in the context of the rampantly politically active landscape that was Italy in the 1980’s/90’s which gave birth to Senator Cicciolina. In this period there were hundreds of political parties who divvied up the Italian’s votes. A famous song from Italian poet and performer Georgio Gaber jokes, if one Italian agrees with another they form a political party, as you only need one vote to be in the majority.
Cicciolina was elected into Italian parliament in 1987 as a senator for the Radical Party with only 20,000 votes. Cicciolina M.P’s career highlights included being a dedicated environmentalist, offering to have sex with Saddam Hussein and later Bin Laden in return for peace, delivering speeches while exposing her breasts and promptly accepting an annual parliamentary pension of €39,000 a month at the age of 60 after a total of 4 years in parliament.
For a moment Italy’s Cicciolina was famous, but this episode caused great embarrassment and nothing similar has occurred since. Even to this day Cicciolina is a sensational moment on Italian politics, as if the parliament had become a living breathing porno movie.
Everyone loved Cicciolina, she was controversial, confronting and for that reason alone she was a revolutionary symbol even if she wasn’t a productive politician.