This note analyses how the Neapolitan language and its speakers are represented by media (cinema, fiction, advertising) in Italy. Despite Neapolitan is not a dialect of Italian, but a vulnerable language (UNESCO’s code “ISO 639-3, nap, Moseley, 2010) probably the second most spoken language in Italy it has not always been “correctly” re-produced in the cinema, fictions, and advertising.
In fact, Neapolitan speakers are represented with too many allusions to folklore or crime, according to clichés and stereotypes of the Lombrosian ideology, still very strong today in Italy about "southern people". Also, we mention the international work to denounce this situation by the Accademia Napoletana (Neapolitan Academy).
Actually, Neapolitan is represented as an “evil” language without redemption, a mirror of the land and the people who speak it. So as a language of death, without redemption. For example in the fiction Neapolitan is the language of the land of evil, of inhuman and degraded reality. Or the language of the patriarchy (even though southern society is instead deeply matriarchal) of a social and cultural delay from which to evolve or otherwise move away, or the language of the monstrous/ridiculous woman (according to the worse racist ideology by Lombroso). Or, more, an esoteric and dreamlike language (and a city) of murders and spirits, according to the worse Italian positivistic-spiritist tradition carried out by a certain Neapolitan bourgeoisie. This is evident also in comics, (so-called “Noire”), with a sort of cult to macabre passed off as popular "identity" and "tradition".
Nowadays Neapolitan language suffers a sort of degradation/deprivation: on the one hand, we observe
characters who speak an Italianized Neapolitan, who often speak a “nonsense” Neapolitan, on the other a language of crime or in any case, of social degradation or spoken by sympathetic or worse, ridiculous, and ignorant characters.
We have to evidence that public institutions do not deal with this situation at all, despite the numerous appeals, for example, that the Neapolitan Academy has launched both at the city and regional level.
In Italy, in fact, cinema and mass-media portrays a unilateral negative or very partial image of the Neapolitan speakers, their
language and culture. It should be emphasized that this situation has disastrous effects for Neapolitan mother-tongue children especially for those from the poorest areas.
In Italy, a concrete lack of legacy for Neapolitan, such as in the public education, the unceasing and negative cultural-linguistic representation about Neapolitans and Neapolitan Language so the city of Naples (and of southern Italy, Naples in the Italian collective imagination is the emblem of the backward and ignorant South) continues to spread among Neapolitan children and the youth, in general, a subculture that changes their Neapolitan accent and language in a violent way.
Neapolitan language is taken away by the national educational programs in Italy because it is associated with degradation, ignorance, illiteracy, criminality or simply folklore: never as a teaching language. Infact introducing Neapolitan school teaching is considered to be absurd due to the negative attitudes and associations that have been created around it.
Neapolitan children are likely to follow degraded or ridiculous social models, mythologized by the movies and associated with an alleged Neapolitan language (often associated with mafia) or false models of “social redemption” (again) that never really question the status quo and even less the root causes of social problems.
Neapolitan children suffer real discrimination and moral and cultural violence since they do not receive an education that respects and considers their linguistic and cultural identity which also ignores what is meaningful to them.
It should be stated that Neapolitan mothers are induced to avoid passing on the Neapolitan language to their children or abandon it in case children already have some knowledge of
Neapolitan. This contradicts the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, adopted by the General Assembly of Nations United on 18 December 1979 which entered into force on September 3rd, 1981; ratified by the law of March 14, 1985, n. 132 in Italy.
This Convention, in fact, commits States parties to protect the social function of motherhood, for the progress of a community
that also is compressed and violated for Neapolitan mother tongue women.
In fact, the Italian cultural, social, and scholarly system imposes them to educate their children to abandon the Neapolitan language because it is considered to be negative, vulgar and degraded.
This conflicts with the spirit of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and particularly of Article 7 considering the lack of immediate and effective measures in the fields of teaching, education, culture, and information, to combat prejudices that lead to racial discrimination, in this case for Neapolitan mother-language children.
In this sense, we consider particularly relevant the contrast with the right to equal participation in cultural activities; a right that is seriously questioned by the scarce or absent access of Neapolitan mother-tongue children to knowledge about their cultural and linguistic heritage.
The latter shows the need to provide quality education in and about these children’s mother language; an education that eliminates racial discrimination in all forms to guarantee the right to equality without distinction of ethnic origin, in full enjoyment, in particular, of social and cultural rights.
The Neapolitan language so represented in Italian movies, fiction and advertising is very far from this statement. More: we also note a certain contrast between the representation of the Neapolitan mother tongue women by the Italian media and
what is established by art.the 17 of Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention,2016) to prevent violence against women and to enhance respect for their dignity.
In addition to numerous social networks and web pages edited by the so-called influencers in which a totally incorrect Neapolitan language is used, both locally and internationally commercial products are advertised with a (alleged) Neapolitan language: on advertising signs, on restaurant signs, on the Internet, in romantic phrases, on canned food, etc.
Unfortunately, in fact, in the vast majority of cases what pretends to be Neapolitan, with the Neapolitan has nothing in common, being "spelling horrors" or so ... And very often those who benefit from it for commercial reasons are not even linked to the Campania or national territory.
The two idioms in fact, Neapolitan and Italian not only have different orthographies (and grammars) but above all they correspond to different forms (and articulations / expressions) of thought, from which different sentences and orthographies derive that are never confused or subjected to literal translations.
A most striking case is the launch video of a famous multinational company sponsorship of the local football club, wich reports a phrase in an incorrect Neapolitan.
Through the cinema, fiction, advertising and comics, and other Italian mass media, Neapolitan speakers suffer a strongly anti-southern, folkloric ideology (we can call it "indigenist") that comes from the past (Lombrosian, anti-southern racism).
This partial, offensive representation of Neapolitan speakers has devastating effects, especially on the new generations of Neapolitans. So Neapolitan is “necessarily and forcibly” represented as the language of a degraded or “indigenist” city , populated by criminals and "noble savages"
In Italy, Neapolitan speakers do not have the chance to correctly learn their mother language. They learn that Neapolitan is a language to be ashamed of or to boast of in superficial and folkloric forms, or worse, the language of the criminal power as a social model to follow.
That’s a huge problem for democracy in Italy. And the effects abroad are also terrible. As Accademia Napoletana (Neapolitan Academy) we are committed (in Italy we are the only one it must be said) with every study, analysis, and social effort to decisively combat this problem. In the cinema and outside, with
other people that suffer similar issues.
In 2017 the Accademia Napoletana created the first CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) Course of Neapolitan Language and Culture - recognized by the Municipality of Naples – as well as a successful series of local and international initiatives, training, and educational activities (podcasts, radio broadcasts, video-documentaries, publications, exhibitions, conferences, etc.).
Recently (in 2019-2020), two teaching modules of the Neapolitan language were produced by the Academy, within the European Social Fund with a public school in Naples.
Accademia Napoletana participated in many initiatives in the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages to represent the Neapolitan language. In this regard, it cooperates with academicians, lawyers, linguistic experts, and educators from all over the world.
In fact, this article is written to enforce this kind of cooperation and we wish it will be the beginning of strong cooperation that can motivate others to join.
The Accademia denounces the inadequate media representation of Neapolitan Language (overall about its speakers) in any democratic way. It’s planning a kind of documentary about this situation.