This posts references a few reality TV shows. If you have a real life and don’t spend as much time in front of the TV as I do, it won’t interest you.-S.
Although I am (was?) a big fan of the original Big Fat Gypsy wedding, it was much harder for me to warm up to the American version. I guess the idea was that the Brits were from a lower social order, the American version should showcase a similar group. So they went to the South and found a clan of them in Virginia and repeated the main themes:
- flashy trashy women who look like prostitutes but spend a lot of time vacuuming and wiping down every surface in their spartan homes.
- underdressed toughy-type men who fight a lot
- ridiculously enormous wedding dresses made a single gypsy-style sympathizer/specialist
The american version has men that work (asphalt) and also features a lot of random fatherless babies. But then there’s American Gypsies on the national Geographic channel. Now these are Gypsies.
They talk fast and high-pitched and throw in a lot of native-language phrases when speaking with each other. Maybe this is because they live in NYC. In the northeast, we’re still very ethnocentric, no matter what that ethnicity is. Just witness the various XXXX Day parades that plague the city in the summer. Puerto Rican Day Parade, St Patrick’s Day, West Indian, Columbus, etc. Those are not just parades, my friends – those are a call to come home for a day.
Anyway, American Gypsies. these are the gypsies I remember from my time in the city – None of this Irish Tinkers or Travelers baloney – this bunch is Roma. They have psychic shops, congregate in great numbers and bust things up in hospital waiting rooms. They do marry young but I haven’t seen an enormous dress yet and the women don’t have a slutty appearance but rather sport what I think is the traditional gypsy look – smoldering expressions, golden hoop earrings. For the one baptism that I did see, there was no giant ballgown to be seen – the grandmother hand-sewed the baby’s dress from red velvet.
Tina, the family matriarch, is the most interesting to me by far. She chain smokes, is a hard nosed traditionalist, fights with everybody and gets kicked out of every apartment she’s in. Her raspy voice, frequent use of Rom phrases and rapid-fire delivery make it impossible to understand without the subtitles always in use when she’s on the screen. Her sons call her “Tina”.
There’s so much to this series: the featured family are local leaders within the community, they have a counsel of powerful elders straight out of Damon Runyon, there are teenagers trying to rebel against non-gypsy things by bucking arranged marriages or trying to get into acting school. The adults need the kids to read to them – none of them can read or write.
On this week’s episode, 3 teen/early 20s cousins bought a food truck, got a cooking lesson from Grandma Tina (who smoked her way through it), parked in an empty spot in lower Manhattan and went into business selling “gypsy food”. As darkness fell, the truck was booted and lifted for towing. The gypsy guys couldn’t argue their way out of it so they turned over the 3″ roll of cash that they made that day to the tow operator and just like that the truck was lowered, they were free and ready for another day. That never happens on Parking Wars. (Although the people who get their cars booted on that show don’t appear to be the type to have a 3″ roll of cash on hand so who knows – maybe it would work there, too.)
Apparently the Roma community is up in arms that this is on TV so it might not last long. Watch it while you still can.