Current Magazine

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Returns, as Brash and Day-glo as Ever

Posted on the 15 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding returns, as brash and day-glo as ever

More cocktail than woman? Still from the new series of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

Lock up your sons, roll out the taffeta, lay in a couple of tons of sequins and dust off the glass carriage: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding is back! Yes, the show that promises to deliver insights into the gypsy community is heaving its enormous skirts onto the screens of Channel 4 once more. It’s already given us “grabbing” – the adolescent courtship ritual which, by any other standards, would be regarded as assault; its “star”, Paddy Docherty, went on to win Celebrity Big Brother. We’ve learned how gypsy girls (although actually they are Irish travellers) compete to wear the biggest dresses, and wear the scars caused by them as badges of honor. And that despite all this overt bling, they do not have sex before marriage. So what can we expect from this series? Well, it’s going to be “bigger, fatter and gypsier” than ever before. Critics are mainly divided between thinking it’s all a bit of fun and wishing that it provided a bit more genuine insight.

The show has caused some controversy: “The stereotype promoted is that of apparently alluring girls and young women and of menacing young men. It is hurtful and damaging to use the correct descriptive term for an ethnic group as a sly dig at that group,” wrote the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit in a letter of complaint to Channel 4 about adverts promoting the show. Channel 4 claims that the ads are “celebratory.”

Why so popular? Tom Cole in The Radio Times asked why such “ob-docs” were proliferating like maggots in Channel 4’s schedules. There’s “Bouncers, Coppers, The Hotel, Party Paramedics, MotherTruckers, One Born Every Minute and 15 Kids and Counting.” They’re all very popular, for one thing; MBGFW itself has gathered 8.7 million viewers. The fact is that after Big Brother, which went into decline after its third series, Channel 4 needed a new golden goose – which they found, not in the Notting Hill-set Seven Days, but amongst the glitter and weirdness of MBFGW. It gives a face to a minority group – and viewers have realised, “to paraphrase dear old Shakespeare, there are more things in everyday life than are dreamt of in megabucks TV formats.”

“It’s important to look good for God. God wants to see you looking good,” said 9 year old Nangirl, quoted on The Guardian.

More cocktail than woman. “Nangirl is late for church,” said Sam Wollaston in The Guardian, getting ready with her dress and her makeup and her nails. But Nangirl isn’t getting married – which would, even in the gypsy world, be a little weird – as she “is only nine.” She’s going to her first communion – “My Big Fat Holy Communion.”  It’s all preparation, of course, for the actual big thing, here exemplified by Dolores, whose dress makes her look more like a cocktail than a woman. White cars and cats abound – but this is more of an “Irish Traveller wedding” than a Romany one. Is the title misleading? Probably not. It doesn’t matter anyway – Nangirl, Dolores and the others aren’t being “misrepresented” – “They come out of it as they come out of their carriages, their limos and even their churches – fabulously.”

What about morality? Sure, said Digital Spy, there’s plenty of “bling, beauty pageants and girls dressed as palm trees.” But the “documentary’s probing of its subjects remains more frothy than a Starbucks frappé.” You won’t find any insight into “ethics, morals and finance.” We’re still none the wiser as to what “motivates, funds and really goes on within the gypsy community.” Still, there is “glow in the dark cake.”

We’ve had enough. Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph thought that it wasn’t popular because of the insight it provided: “otherwise documentaries about Benedictine monks or Muslim housewives would get huge ratings as well.” He suggested that we cast gypsies as “villains from Grimm come to life.” They also allow us to “privately … believe stereotypes about them” – that they are thieves and con artists. But the show isn’t “exploitative” – its subjects come out of it too well. Sure, they’re not “angels”, but they are “chatty, open, amusing.” There was 13-year-old Gussie who boasted of 100 girlfriends. Their world is “a mystifying synthesis of Wag-style tartiness and Victorian virtue.” For all that, though, it’s a “bit like staring at a tank of tropical fish: it’s not long before you wonder if there’s much more to see.”

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog