Hands up who watched Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesday, for My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding?
Now hands up who laughed, tweeted "jokes" or watched purely because they saw the programme as comedy?
I thought so.
Sadly, I wasn't watching with the same mirth as many.
Elder is an ex-traveller. He lived in a caravan until he was 8 with his Mum. After this they would travel in the summer holidays, meeting up with friends and family, whilst living in a flat the rest of the time so Elder could go to school. These are times he remembers fondly.
In the time when Elder would have been considered a Traveller, he went to countless parties, either wedding, funeral, communion or otherwise- he went to the same Epsom Festival back in this childhood as was featured in the documentary.
Of all these events he went to, whilst Elder readily admits that everyone made an effort with their dress and wore their most expensive clothes and flashiest jewellery, he never saw any weddings as shown in the programme, or OTT communion dresses that Channel 4 has emphasised on the recent episode.
It is sold by Channel 4 as an insightful view of the mystery surrounding the traveller community. I failed to see that shown at all.
The programme was very one sided to the comical view of the Traveller, only presenting a view of the minority who opt for the "bigger is better" ideal. Not all Travellers deem it necessary to wear such huge and heavy dresses, rather they wear your average wedding dress or communion dress. These events are "big", just like anyone elses, and like any parent, the Traveller family spends as much as possible on making those one off events as enjoyable, and memorable as possible.
The section showing the young child who wore the oversized Communion dress was met with tweets of horror, and disgusting comments towards the child and the little boy with her. People questioned her parents ability as responsible adults, and I even saw people expressing the viewpoint that the child should be in care.
No one commented about how much that little girl smiled at having her dream dress- yes, her dress, not one forced upon her by order of her parents, one she had specifically chosen- and how that child will never forget that day in her life. By comparison,the other children who were there for the same day out looked bored.
Like any parent, this child's parents wanted to make her day special, and what parent can be written about with anything other than praise for doing everything to make their child happy?
With respect, this programme would never be made with the spotlight on any other ethnic minority community, or at least not in the same way.
My Landlord is currently planning (and paying for) his daughter's wedding. He has bought her a house which is being re-decorated to her standards, paid for by her Dad. She has 1100+ guests coming to the wedding, which will go on over a whole weekend. Paid for by her Dad.
Now imagine we had a programme about the excesses of the cost of this wedding- called along the same lines "My Big Fat Indian Wedding". It would never be allowed to poke fun at the Indian, or any other, community in the same way as it would mean journalists and amateur bystanders alike up and down the country shouting Racist before Channel 4 even shouted Cut.
The way the current Gypsy programme is being handled means it may as well be called "My Big Fat Pikey Wedding" instead.
And to refer to the teens (4 of them) as "running in a pack". Sorry, a what?
These teen girls had no make up on, they did not have a bottle of Cider (or worse) in their hands, they were out in daylight, and not one was seen with a cigarette.
To suggest it is unusual for teen girls to hang around together is obviously the view of an uninformed writer who hasn't walked through their local park of an evening, and met with the daunting sight of 30+ mixed gender, drinking, swearing and smoking teens, snogging and worse still. They obviously have never watched (grudgingly) an episode on any weekday of Jeremy Kyle and seen the consequences of non-Traveller teens needing DNA tests to determine which spotty oik a girl has produced an offspring with.
In the traveller community, behaviour is everything- they marry for life, are virgins beforehand and are chaperoned if going out with a member of the opposite sex. They are respectful of their elders, and would never disgrace their family with the kind of behaviour that is ever increasing amongst the non-Traveller teen community.
No matter how they are persecuted, called scum, laughed at and moved on, the Traveller community remains strong, unbreakable.
Now tell me how well you know the neighbours on your street, in your community?
Before we seek to poke fun of things we don't understand, maybe we should act more responsibly and take a look at our own young people and communities first.
And perhaps "edgy" channels like 4 could give a properly rounded, well researched and truly insightful programme, rather than this "mockumentary" they are currently responsible for.
Image: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net