My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Provokes Backlash

To believe the smash British series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, every single traveller and Romany girl is marrying at 16 in a 3-ton dress prior to a life of semi-illiterate subservience. It's not surprising, then, that the Irish Traveller Movement has asked Channel 4 for a right of reply — in their own words.

Says Hughie Smith, president of the Gypsy Council, "I think the show's a bad thing, and I'm not the only one saying it. There are some weddings like these, but there are also plenty of normal ones." What the show portrays is what you see above.

Channel 4 continues to defend the program, telling the Telegraph, "We have intentionally avoided many commonly held stereotypes and attempted to provide a balanced view." And even within the communities portrayed, there is some support for the show — which does attempt to show the prejudice to which they are exposed in the UK.

But is the program mainly stoking these stereotypes with generalizations and sensational editing? At the very least, one hopes that it will provoke conversation and further education. And that no one watching the show will base her opinion of a large, complex and varied group of populations on a few episodes of a show named after a rom-com.


Traveller Backlash Against Channel 4's Gypsy Weddings [Telegraph]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Rare Affinity

Any documentary about any group of people is going to be accused by some of not painting a fair picture. Having seen the series and the original documentary that inspired it, I think the documentary makers have endeavoured to be as sympathetic and as balanced as possible. The shocking racism they encounter is made plain to see.

Their wedding costumes are often OTT but they are hardly traditional given that many of them take their direct inspiration from Katie Price's own Cinderella style cartoon wedding a few years back.

On the other hand you have a girl of 12 saying on camera that the fact her elder sister is marrying means that she will be pulled out of school and forced to look after her younger siblings. The adults around her, far from denying this is the case, explain how they have managed to deceive the educational authorities in the past when similar situations have arisen past, suggesting that it is far from unusual.

Likewise when, out of a large group of teenagers going to a paintball site, only one of them is literate enough to be able to fill in a simple form and so has to fill them in for everyone else as well, should we not assume that this is indicative of a serious literacy problem? The community does have to interact with the "country people" as they call us, and being functionally illiterate puts them at a distinct disadvantage when forms have to be filled in to access a wide range of public services.

Perhaps some of the criticism of the programme stems from people who have an over-romanticised view of such cultures and believe that as a consequence we ought not to say anything disparaging about them.Each to their own. But when I see parents blatantly flouting the law of my country and depriving a 12 year daughter the right to a full-time education, then I am going to get just as indignant on her behalf, as I am when I hear about attempts in other countries to deny female children access to basic education. Being told: but it's their culture does not hold water with me.

So yes, I hope the show does provoke further education, beginning with all the children being allowed to stay on at school until the statutory leaving age of 16 and beyond into further and higher education if that is what they want to do, and not have their individual aspirations sacrificed on the altar of cultural traditions.