When there’s a fair here, or a sagra – every village has it’s wine or onion or cheese or chilipepper fest – they show up in droves: men – mostly Africans – selling wallets, fake Gucci and Armani stuff, necklaces or trinkets from a stall on the street. And posters, there are always two or three poster guys.
They give you an interesting look into parts of the Italian psyche which are not always obvious when you look at the country from the outside. What about posters of Pope John Paul II – Papa Wojtyla, the revered late Pope – and Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini hanging side by side? Strangely, the heroes of pop culture are usually absent or not as prominently displayed as the Pope, the Duce and of course the ubiquitous Padre Pio, who enjoys enormous posthumous popularity around these parts as well. Even le Veline, highly popular dancing bimbos from the Striscia la Notizia comedy show, are not on display.
Yesterday brought us news of the ongoing trials of the three suspects of the murder of British student Meredith Kärcher in Perugia – a case rife with sex, drugs and foreigners served up by the media with gusto. One of the suspects, Meredith’s American housemate Amanda Knox, is receiving love letters in her cell from all over Italy. She is a rather bland looking blonde, but hey, any blonde will have Italians scramble for attention. But a murder suspect?
And she’s not the only one. Another popular figure – people pay thousands of euros to have him appear in their club, without actually doing anything – is Fabrizio Corona. Ex-model and ex-con (extorsion, forged money) Corona has started his own line of underwear. Girls went by bus and train from here to Naples (a four hour trip) to see him come out of jail. The man has his own fan club, but he never sang, danced or acted. He is simply Corona, always angry with the system, usually appearing without shirt, with sunglasses and with slicked-back hair. He’s just short of writing FRAUD across his forehead, it’s that obvious.
Saints and sinners are vying for the attention of the average Italian. Maybe, as Catholics, they are preprogrammed for hero worshipping. What else is this whole system of blesseds and saints anyway? Maybe, as Catholics, they are drawn towards sin like a priest towards choir boys. But perhaps it’s just the media creating larger-than-life figures to fascinate us all.