Following a “massive year for the visibility of the gypsy community” which inundated Europe’s largest ethnic minority with negative publicity, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding brought the Traveller community to the forefront of the media’s attention.
Jake Bower, one of 3 journalists representing the traveller community, tries to expose the deceit which spread “verbal hatred” against his community. But why would people continue to appear in the reality documentaries if they represented gypsies so badly? Simple, “co-operation is largely based on bribery” Jake says, producers pay the expenses of the wedding in exchange of filming the travellers.
As the most complained about programme of the time, Jake describes his community’s reactions to My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding as being “absolutely horrified at what was being said about them” and for representing their community as “Trailer-trash Flintstones.” Due to mythicizing in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding the Traveller community underwent a backlash, with some of those featured in the programme ostracised for their involvement.
Writes Leah Freeman – First Year Student
Flaunting a “sneering” spectacle of the Gypsy way of life, unforgettable events such as “grabbing” Jake said: “It was news to us that we have this tradition” yet the programme imparted to the audience that that type of behaviour is acceptable in the Traveller society. Another typecast is women treated as domestic slaves, yet as a traveller himself Jake says: “I know gypsy women who own their own businesses; this is very far from this idea of a domestic slave.”
True to the saying ‘Don’t get mad, get even,’ Jake Bower created his own documentary called “It’s a gypsy life for me” on the Bio channel. With the intentions of challenging the old stereotypes highlighted in My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Jake Bowers wanted to reveal the true gypsy way of life using factual entertainment “hopefully with a bit more integrity and depth.”
When asked whether he thought It’s a gypsy life for me was guilty of creating its own stereotypes Jake replied: “Hand on my heart, no I don’t think so,” the episodic series focuses on a Talent competition which mixes a combination of traditional and modern elements in Traveller’s lifestyle. At one point the characters have a horse-ride through the woods, potentially adding to the stereotypical view of modern Traveller’s lifestyles, but Jake explains: “We wanted to show how people still love horses even though they’re no longer a big part of our lives.” The inclusive aim of Jake’s programme is to combat the persona that the Traveller Community has, and replace it with a true and honest portrayal.
In the first week, the 8 part programme received the highest amount of views ever received on the Bio channel and has received an “enormous amount of positive feedback” from the Traveller community.
For more information, please see http://www.travellerstimes.org.uk or to watching It’s a Gypsy Life for me, please see http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/shows/a-gypsy-life-for-me/meet-the-gypsies.html