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Patrick White

gypsierPublished: 9 March 2012

Region: UK

By Patrick White

The new series of the hit UK television show Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is well under way on Channel 4 with the producers still adamant that the programme is doing its bit to challenge bias against the gypsy community.


It is certainly popular, with each weekly episode attracting up to 6 million viewers. But if this popularity is changing how travellers are perceived, the majority view of travellers is that the change is not for the better.

As Gypsy-born journalist Roxy Freeman tells producer Jes Wilkins, turning an entire social group into a joke certainly does not constitute a breakthrough in cultural awareness and understanding, despite what the series’ creators might claim.

Freeman argues that the travelling communities she knows bear no similarity to those on the programme, and she describes with feeling the mockery and stereotyping that travellers have to endure as a result of the show’s success.

Jill Brown of the London Gypsy Traveller Unit claims the last series led many children to drop out of school due to bullying, emphasising how minorities portrayed in a negative media light invariably suffer as a result.

Wilkins argues that the programme has nurtured greater interest in gypsy communities outside the sensationalist culture of tabloid journalism and he suggests this will bring an end to prejudice against gypsies.

Unfortunately, this may be wishful thinking. Most television viewers usually appear perfectly satisfied to accept what they see on the box as the honest truth and many gypsies who have to live with the consequences may regard his views as little more than self-serving if not tongue-in-cheek social commentary.

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