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Italian Americans not happy with “Wario” skit on SNL

As it wasn’t enought the whole discussion about the mega millionaire Elon Musk hosting Saturday Night Live with some of the performers basically boycotting their own show in complete dissent with the production and their guru Lorne Michaels, here is the last scratch on the show’s colorful canvas.

On Saturday the 12th of May the founder and owner of Tesla and many other companies (PayPal is one of his creature) was invited to host and perform on Saturday Night Live, the comedy show now at its 46th season.

One of the skit that saw the South African entrepreneur dipping his toe in the comedy world was about Wario, the evil brother of Super Mario, the world famous character of the Nintendo video games and as everybody knows, the plumber known as Super Mario is Italian.

Here is the full sketch starring Elon Musk along with comedians Mike Day, Heidi Gardner, Pete Davidson, Kyle Mooney, Keenan Thompson, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon.

After the episode aired last Saturday the National Italian American Foundation has released a statement to comment on the stereotypical portrayal of Italian Americans on the show.

“In an era of enhanced sensitivity to racial and ethnic stereotyping, Saturday Night Live’s sophomoric Wario skit demonstrates that a profound double standard continues to exist when it comes to “acceptable” caricaturing of Italians in popular culture. The National Italian American Foundation condemns such media depictions which run completely counter to the spirit of the times and the aspirations of the nation.

Italians as seen with American eyes

The statement of the NIAF about the “caricaturing of Italians in popular culture” underlines how in the light of what is happening in the United States in terms of respect for all cultures, such a stereotypical representation of Italian Americans is completely out of place. But above all highlights the existance of a double standard. So the question is: would it be acceptable a skit where the Chinese accent is the one to be mocked?

Italians, as Chinese and basically whoever is not a WASP, have gone through decades of misrepresentation of their cuture and values. Misrepresentation that often turned  (and turns) into discrimination and violence.  If you look at the history of Italians in America you cannot fail to notice how this specific ethnic group has been depicted in the media. A vivid example is the following cartoon which appeared on the magazine Judge in which Italians and other Southern Europeans are represented as rats infesting the immaculate American territory.

From the magazine Judge, 1903 circa

Of course in more than a hundred years the hardwork of Italian Americans, 16.000.000 people living in the US claim to have Italian blood running through their veins, has proved the cartoonist of the Judge magazine wrong but still on the 12th of May 2021 a national network like NBC doesn’t seem to understand the role that these stereotypes have.

*Cover picture from the SNL Official Instagram profile

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