Originally posted on Yanks Watching Telly:
With everything that reality television means to our culture, it is easy to watch Big Fat Gypsy Weddings as something of a Jersey Shore freak show. Much like Jersey Shore, the lifestyle is one that I can’t even being to imagine or respect. The women dress questionably, the men treat them as second class citizens, and some of the culture presented to us in the first episode–namely grabbing–was cringe-worthy.
But I haven’t watched other episodes, so it seems unfair to judge what Channel 4’s collective aim for this show is. There were moments when I wanted the show to go culturally deeper than it attempted. Girls get married so young, and what are the chances that these will go on to be lasting and happy? Mothers watch their daughters act out the same rituals they were a part of themselves, and what do they really think of it? Do they want more? What do they worry about as mothers? Occasionally the show will ask something like this of one of the travelers, but the responses were all shallow and uninformative as to the real workings of this community.
That said, I did find this clip from a later episode that seemed to be trying to dig into the real way of life of these people beyond just the parties:
I would like to see more of this kind of thought. When the little girl is laughed at at her own first communion, what does she or her family think? Have any of these girls ever been raped during a “grabbing” or, for that matter, when they were out on the streets in the kind of clothes they wear? The mother in that clip says that they don’t want the influences of the outside world infecting their children, yet the intro voiceover says that the traveller culture has collided with the 21st century, and that explains the dressing, the over-the-top weddings, etc.
The show is undeniably looking into a different culture, but just how hard is it looking? How hard do we want it to look? Are we content to sit back and watch the spray tans and the ridiculous dresses or do we really want to know who these people are?