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Bigger, Fatter, Gypsier?

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  February 12, 2012 |

The channel four My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding programmes have been a seriously narrow and distorted representation of Gypsy and Irish Traveller people. They have created images of Travelling people as rich, crass, and careless. Add to this the Dispatches programme that was aired around the time of the Dale Farm eviction, and the recent ‘Gypsy Blood’ programme that featured two families with a tradition of bear knuckle boxing and we may as well add ‘thugs’ to the list as well.

I’ve been around Gypsy and Irish Traveller people for the last 25 years of my life in various capacities. I’ve seen bad manners, lack of consideration and down right abuse during that time. You know what I’m going to say next? Of course, bad behaviour stalks all walks of life. Why do I find it necessary to say that many, if not most, of the Gypsy and Irish Traveller people I have met are polite, considerate, thoughtful and kind people. I’m not an idiot and I don’t choose to hang out with thugs.

Bigger, Fatter, Gypsier.I heard via facebook on Sunday that the london underground was covered in posters advertising the upcoming channel four programme My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. The posters feature the faces of children with the words Bigger Fatter Gypsier written across them. I drove into work yesterday to be greeted by a huge poster, as described, about five hundred yards from the office. The same office that was subject to an arson attack last year, about the time that the last series was being shown.

We’re worried about the new series. Some of it was filmed in Leeds despite the fact that a lot of Travellers and Gypsies in Leeds objected to the earlier series of the programme. Car crash TV. Irresistible viewing and it seems also to be irrestible to participants. We know that the series producers and journalists spent a great deal of time and energy (not to mention possibly expense) ‘cosying up’ to the families who eventually participated. Already I have spoken to one young woman in our office who told me she had let them film her but was now ‘dreading it’ and wishing she hadn’t.

So should we be complaining to channel four? Or to the advertising standards board? Or our MPs?

Do you know, for a woman of strong opinions, I am currently stumped on this one. Because the truth is, bad as these programmes have been, they have got people talking. I’ve seen twitter, I know that most of what is said is the usual trumpetting of racists. But I have also heard people, who wouldn’t previously have expressed an opinion one way or the other, having to form an opinion about ‘Gypsies’. Quite often those opinions seem to be pragmatic and sensible, “they need somewhere to go”,” telly never shows the whole story”, “well they seem to value modest behaviour despite some of the clothes” etc.

So can ‘car crash tv’ ever be a good thing? Will complaining to channel four etc just make us seem a part of the whingeing political correctness crew? What if we don’t complain? Does that just leave us undefended for the next outrageous statement from an MP or local councillor? And perhaps most importantly what about the children featured in the posters? Did they realise their images were going to be used like that? Will it lead to them being bullied? Or will they appear as heros?

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I was very very heartened to see the good citizens of Leeds responding to this hateful nonsense with a well placed 2 fingers stuck up at Channel 4 http://bit.ly/ynbyB6 Of course, like the Shilpa Shetty/Big Brother debacle, this is as much about class as it about race, and the overwhelming desire of large swathes of the general public to make themselves feel better by looking down on people different to themselves (cf #TOWIE) The response on Twitter has also been phenomenal, with some real leadership emerging from people like Pip aka @pipogypopotamus at http://pipopotamus.blogspot.com - who's been giving serious grief to Channel 4, and busting stereotypes all over the place. The world needs more Pips and fewer middle class TV execs commodifying conflict.

Helen Jones's picture

A lot of people are deciding to complain.

Click here for details.

All channel for are interested in is:

Bigger Fatter viewing figures!

Bigger Fatter Profits!

To get it they are prepared to show:

Bigger fatter misrepresentation of a community.

They do not care who they hurt to get their money. Shame on them.

Bigger fatter misconceptions

Bigger fatter put downs

Bigger fatter stereo types

Helen Jones's picture

Big Fat complaining job to do then?

i doubt they new they would be used in the way they have been... how can a racist comment (which it is) be used like that to advertise a T.V program, and then try to make out it is tryin to promote understanding... Filming Weddings is not promoting anything, but drinking and messing about, what goes on at every wedding not just Gypsy weddings... they media are trying to condition the public putting the question into their head's 'do you wont site's built next to you really, look what goes on' Exploitation. funny how these sort of program's come out when local government have acknowledged the need for more site... yet the media or who ever gave permission for this to go out are still putting out shit like this... this is not a true representation of my people or our culture, yes it happens; but it is not the be all and end all… and these little tricks of the media should not be allowed to happen when important thing are still in negotiation… At least if Katie Price ever gets married again she’ll know where to get her dress from the horrible dress woman she’s getting some right old free promo. These people wont to put their hands in their pockets to put right the damage they’ve done…