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‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding:’ A shallow depiction of the Roma community

Besides the obvious slur in the title, there are a lot of things wrong with “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding”
Romani Wedding – Photo Courtesy of Efigenia Galea.

Pablo Picasso, Papusza, Rita-Hayworth, Alba Flores. What do all of these famous people have in common? They share Romani ancestry. I also share the same ancestry with them


My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding follows the lives of Irish Traveller and Romani communities in the United Kingdom, focusing on weddings. It aired for six seasons, from April 29, 2012 to Feb. 21, 2018. The show was controversial, to say the least, with many people thinking that it sensationalized and misinterpreted the traditions of the minority.


“Welcome to the superstitions, customs and weddings of the gypsies.” This is how TLC describes the show on its website. They have also used words such as “outrageous” to describe the weddings. I find the show exploitative, promising people their 15 minutes of fame without even paying them a little compensation for their participation in the show. 


One of the most famous contestants on the show,  Priscilla Lee Kelly — also known as WWE’s Gigi Dolin — has claimed that their family did not get a paycheck for their involvement. 


The show failed to showcase the diversity in the Roma community and instead showed a one-dimensional view. Every Romani region has its own traditions.  Instead of celebrating it, they were ridiculing, setting it back at least 20 years. The lack of nuance and depth in showcasing the community led to misinterpretation and reinforcing negative stereotypes the Roma community is still struggling to fight. No, not all Romani people are interested in pocketing your wallet, are evil or deceiving or are practicing witchcraft.


The producers focused on the brawls instead. I know this is for television and is supposed to be entertaining, but at what price? Ridiculing a whole ethnic group just for good TV doesn’t sit right with a lot of Romani people. 


Romani weddings are beautiful. The traditions are complex, full of culture and somehow protected by the community. There is a whole process of two young people getting married, from the groom’s family sending a messenger to negotiate with the bride’s family to traditional Romani dancing. 


The Romani lifestyle is particularly hard on Gypsy women. The Romani traditions usually make the girls drop out of school at a young age so that they become good wives and mothers. In the community a long time ago that was a woman’s role. In a lot of Romani camps these traditions are still followed, with girls getting married from the ages of 13 to 17.  


Roma history is complex and it has been filled with discrimination, marginalization and persecution. Romani individuals have always been portrayed in negative lights by pop culture and media. Roma communities are quite diverse, a lot of them mastering diverse trades. Some of these trades can vary from silversmiths to blacksmiths to musicians and so on. 


Hemlock Grove is a Netflix show about wealthy families with dark secrets, such as werewolves and vampires, where one of the characters Peter Rumancek played by Landon Liboiron , is not ethnically Romani, but he is playing someone Romani. This is harmful to actual Romani actors trying to debut. This is just one of the examples. 


The show is a not-so-pleasant memory to the Roma community, taking into consideration how the guests were portrayed and exploited on the show. 


Fabian Marian can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]


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About the Contributor
Fabian Marian
Fabian Marian, Reporter
Fabian Marian is a first year journalism and public and relations student at Chico State. This is his first semester on The Orion and he is very thrilled to be a part of the team. In his free time he enjoys reading, listening to music and watching video essays.

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