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TV: Big Fat Gyspy Weddings

Simon Binns is in shock – at the state of Channel 4

Written by . Published on January 19th 2011.

TV: Big Fat Gyspy Weddings

‘Did you see that gypsy wedding thing last night!? Did you see the size of the dresses!?’

No doubt a common opening line in conversations around water coolers and kettles up and down the country this morning, following Channel 4’s ‘documentary’, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

The series, a follow on from a popular and fascinating one-off Cutting Edge last year, followed 17-year-old Josie and her frankly enormous man mountain of a fiancé Swanley in the run-up to their wedding – five-stone ‘highlighter pink’ bridesmaid's dress and all.

We were offended when Swanley used the word ‘paki’ to describe an Indian wedding, as he drove round looking for his own ceremony: (‘What’s a non-racist word for it then?’) but the whole thing was a pretty crass affair.

It was smug, sneering television, with nothing more intelligent at its root than poking fun at a pool of people who we actually know very little about. Isn’t the term ‘gypsy’ considered to be racist nowadays? Not by Channel 4, clearly.

Manchester has several large traveller communities, notably in Gorton to the east of the city. They are, to all intents and purposes, a mystery; a closed shop. Channel 4 started to lift the lid, but sort of gave up when there was a cheap laugh to be had.

It also featured a seven-year-old traveller girl who turned up to her first communion in a dress that was bigger than your average church organ. The rest of the girls in her age group sniggered, as the traveller tot struggled to hawk herself up the aisle in a garment that weighed almost the same as her.

Were we supposed to snigger along too? Is that what it’s come to? It’s okay though, I mean, look at the size of those dresses!

The travelling community seem to exist in a confusing moral maze – the girls tend to leave school at 11, can’t be seen alone with boys (‘you’re a slut; filth’) or take a drink before their wedding day, but the boys are allowed to claim a girl by ‘grabbing’ – which at one point in last night’s programme bordered on the assault of a clearly frightened teenage girl.

The young girls seemed to be extremely over-sexualised, dressed in next to nothing and gyrating around in such a way that would almost definitely see them labelled as ‘slags’ in a nightclub. It was uncomfortable viewing, but it was never really addressed, or questioned.

They posed for wedding photographs as if they were auditioning for the centre-spread in Playboy, a dangerously inept cocktail of cleavage and confused adolescence.

So why is this? Don’t ask Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and its quasi-smug voiceover. Will we get to know and understand the people in this series of documentaries? Perhaps even empathise with them? Unlikely. This was TV designed for the middle classes to laugh along to, safe in the knowledge they’ll never actually have to deal with these ‘travelling’ people and their funny wedding dresses.

No but really, I mean, did you see the size of those dresses!?

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DescatesJanuary 19th 2011.

Made the episode of Shameless that followed it seem like it was written by Emily Bronte. Shame to see channel 4 go down the route of Victorian style freak shows.

DescatesJanuary 19th 2011.

Not to mention, Are they even allowed to call themselves travellers when they buy a house? I mean c'mon; what kind of gysie lives in a house!?

M30January 19th 2011.

"A blight on our green and pleasant land"

A tile falling off the roofJanuary 19th 2011.

I f*ckin' hate them Pikeys, me...

BeowulfJanuary 19th 2011.

Isn't our lovely democracy the best place to be. Without irony I say that we've never been a tyranny for four hundred years, we've never really hated unless we channel it all into football, otherwise we'll tolerate. Celebrate the quiet people who do the right thing rather than than the four or five thick people who are IQless stupid people. As an Anglo-Saxon I was an immigrant 1300 years ago.

GordoJanuary 19th 2011.

Is that because you're 1/16th Pikey Simon?

AnonymousJanuary 19th 2011.

Channel 4 programme makers know there is more of an audience for a programme like this about gypsies than an informative and thoughtful documentary about them.

I'm surprised the author of this article seems to regard TV as a serious medium and not just a dumbed down and tacky form of entertainment designed to chase the largest audiences possible.

Sneering at trashy TV programmes is itself a middle class hobby, practiced by people who like to parade their intellectual natures but who strangely cannot resist the lure of the rubbish they criticise.

Just don't watch it.

NonewsJanuary 20th 2011.

Documentaries are getting more and more debased and simplistic as though we're all a bit thicker than we once were. Talking down to people is the thing on Channel 4 aside from its marvellous 7pm news.

AnonymousJanuary 20th 2011.

What the hell does "quasi smug" mean? First you accuse the programme of being "smug", then "quasi smug", make your mind up. Really when you start talking about dumbing down it may be a good idea to start with the qualty of journalism on these pages.

AnonymousJanuary 20th 2011.

The middle class could teach their children a thing or two out of the 'Gypsy' book. I bet the majority of their teenage kids are drinking alcohol, having underage sex and going out dressed in virtually nothing (the girls, not the boys). I don't like people being mocked, it's bordering on bullying and Channel 4 has done a very good job, again. Live and let live please, or at the very least let's follow it up with a programme about middle class teenagers?

Rachel WinterbottomJanuary 20th 2011.

After reading this, I caught myself having the water-cooler moment and had to force myself not to mention the words 'did you see the size of those dresses'. It was like trying not to mention the big highlighter-pink elephant in the room.

StevieDubyaJanuary 20th 2011.

They got this coverage becasue this is what they deserve. If the producers had decided to open the lid further I imagine the findings would be that none have National Insurance numbers and 'self employed' means stealing copper piping. Ive said it before and will again: At least they reproduce withing their own gene pool.

TickleJanuary 20th 2011.

Always good to see the small-minded, hateful c*nts coming out the woodwork. Please do us all a f*cking favour and kill yourselves.

Gypsies/travellers are the last people it's generally okay to be openly racist about in the UK.

NationalistJanuary 23rd 2011.

I love it when people confuse Race with Nation. Reminds me of a Nazi mindset...

Mock the mockersJanuary 23rd 2011.

The term 'Pikey' is every bit a derogatory racist term as 'nigger' and 'paki'. The Gypsy/Traveller community are (as Tickle points out) the last racial group that are openly discriminated against. I didn't watch the programme as I have seen similar programmes before, but, as in every community, there are dishonest people and so every Gypsy/Traveller gets tarred with the same brush. Other cultures have traditions etc that we might consider strange or different - why must we always mock what we don't understand? If you took the time to learn about G/T culture and history, you may look at them differently.

Mock the mockersJanuary 23rd 2011.

My reference to 'dishonest people' was in response to the crude nasty comments above

Eddy Albert CookJanuary 23rd 2011.

That young David Essex is a lovely looking lad isnt he?

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