Gypsy Weddings

Is this genuine curiosity or is it prurient ‘peeping on the others so that we can make fun of them’?  I am not entirely sure why people want to watch and then make fun of or be outraged by ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’.

Exhuberant Wedding Dress

Roma or traveller culture is a very interesting culture in its own right and there are some excellent and very readable anthropological books about their life, customs and beliefs about the Gadji (that’s us, non-Roma people).  In many ways, the Romani are much stricter about personal hygiene, morality and drinking than mainstream society.  But of course that’s not going to improve TV ratings, while excessive titles and pictures of larger-than-life wedding dresses might.

I come from an East European country where (thanks to EU integration) the Roma are no longer officially repressed, but they are still feared, distrusted, abused verbally, avoided, ignored and blamed for everything that is wrong with society.  Of course, in return, they take revenge for this state of affairs through petty crime and living up to their fearsome reputation (some of them).  The traveller community in Britain leads an almost parallel life to the mainstream society, so barely registers in visibility, but I find much of the discourse about them very similar.  Fearful, negative or disparaging.

It is a typical example of resorting to stereotypes rather than really learning about and from each other.  I do hope that TV programmes like ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’  will- in spite of the title, the pictures and the laughter in the media – make us slightly more knowledgeable about traveller culture, more curious about other cultures in general and less quick to judge.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Gypsy Weddings

  1. Costin

    Hey Sanda,
    Don’t know this TV show but from what I could find on the web looks like a pretty common circus show. I think some TV producers would better take a break and come with something more creative. If you want to talk about multiculturalism in a positive way, the subjects must be involved a bit so they can get something out of this, or at least to become aware of how their reality is perceived in ours. If you just make a TV show to point the finger or laugh at some customs or “values” the subject will get nothing but reasons to keep doing it the same way rather being the “common” way. They will insist to behave according to their tradition because that’s what they feel to be “them”. They see no reasons to change anything or become “you”.
    I think people are able to adapt or reject things that don’t make sense if you let them decide naturally, rather than encourage them to do something out of place and time just for others to make fun of it.

    • sandaion6

      Thanks for your comment, Costin. As an anthropologist I always feel torn between pleasure (that we are addressing these subjects and presenting other cultures to viewers) and pain (the way it is done). And you raise an interesting point: are we reinforcing stereotypes within the very group we are studying, are we making them behave more ‘ethnically’? I remember a cartoon I saw once of an Amazonian tribe saying: ‘Quick! Hide the TVs and start drumming, the anthropologists are coming!’

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