My Big Fat (Suspiciously Political) Gypsy Wedding

Okay, so to start with I'm going to have to admit that I've seen at least one full episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and bits and pieces of a few more. Just so we all know what we're taking about here: it's a show produced by Firecracker Films (thanks Wikipedia) originally for Channel 4 in the UK and currently showing on TVNZ One in New Zealand.

Now when this show first launched the ads made it pretty clear that it was just another zero budget reality show that featured an interesting group in society doing things that normal people thought were funny. If that's all it was then there wouldn't be a problem. I wouldn't watch it of course, but I could tolerate its existence as long as it left me alone.

The problem arose a few episodes into the series. The one full episode that I've seen was about a bunch of Gypsies (I gather from the show that they prefer to be called Travellers but, without intending any offence, I'm going to go with the terminology from the title) who were being evicted from a piece of local authority land that they'd settled on. This episode still had all the usual content: massive wedding dresses, crude vocabulary, awful accents, inappropriate sexualisation of children, and so on. But it also had this undercurrent of social oppression.

Now the issue I have is that if you're going to make a show about silly dresses and weddings, then you've pretty much got free rein as far as I'm concerned. Nobody who watches shows like that cares about balance or completeness or even accuracy; it's pure entertainment and the reality aspect is of almost no significance. However once you start trying to cover some sort of social issue then you take on an obligation to at least try to do it properly. You have to at least take a stab at answering questions like why do these people choose to live like this? and is it society that is depriving them, or are they depriving themselves? and since they don't appear to have jobs, where are they getting all this money from?

As far as I've been able to tell (from the scraps of episodes and advertising shorts that I've seen) the producers don't make any attempt to ask any of these sorts of questions, let alone provide any answers. They slip in bits and pieces about how unfair things are for these people, perhaps hoping that these observations will get lost in the bright colours and flashing lights. But they don't get lost. They slip into the conscience of people who think they're watching a pure entertainment show. When you're watching something like this you just absorb it. You don't expect to have to engage any sort of critical thought process.

There's something a bit suspicious about that if you ask me.


Ben said...

Most sub-cultures couldn't get away with the level of oppression that the gypsies force upon their women. What they do, from what I have been able to deduce, is stay off the radar enough that the govt is unable to keep tabs on them. In one episode they said gypsies have an average life-span of 50 years. They don't use the NHS. I haven't seen anything about them recording births, marriages or deaths in the legal system so I can't comment on that. What I do say is that the level of brain-washing and educational keep-away that they use on their women is disgusting.

BRS said...

Ah, now you see this is exactly what I mean. If the people who made the show wanted to open the box by talking about anything more important than whether to buy a pink dress or a purple one, then these are the sorts of things that they needed to tell people.

Instead all they've done is hint at this idea of a marginalised social group and make people feel sorry for them in between laughing at how ridiculous they are. That's not good enough. If they're going to play the game, they have to play it properly.

I've learnt more about this from you in a single paragraph than I'll bet anyone could learn from watching every episode of the damn show.

Post a Comment