Big Fat Gypsy Weddings: Channel 4 accused of racism over ad campaign
IT WAS supposed to shine a sympathetic light on a community that often claims it is the victim of prejudice and unwarranted abuse.
But Channel 4’s Big Fat Gypsy Weddings has been accused of causing racism.
The hit documentary series, which follows gipsy couples as they prepare to get married, has led to a row after an advertising campaign for the second series used the words “Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier.” emblazoned across the image of gipsy girls.
The London Travellers Unit and two members of the London Assembly wrote to Channel 4 and lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority over the use of the word “gypsier”, likening it to other terms more widely accepted as racist and abusive.
“We wonder if Channel 4 would have been so ready to use adverts with similarly compromising phrases for other ethnic groups: 'Jewisher’ or 'more Asian’ or 'Blacker’,” the unit said in a letter to Channel 4 executives.
It also complained about the tone of the series, which has become synonymous with extraordinary frothy dresses and sexually innocent teenagers dressing in provocative outfits.
It accused Channel 4 of stereotyping gipsies as “menacing” young men and “alluring young girls” — very much like the “damaging, derogatory” tabloid portrayals which the broadcaster claims to be fighting.
Gipsies told the unit that they found the programme “insulting and degrading” and that it was turning them “into something we are not”.
The organisation asked Channel 4 to remove the advertisements and make a public apology to the gipsy community.
John Biggs, a member of the London Assembly, took a similar stand. “The simple transposition is to a race issue. It you were to say this is my Great, N----- Wedding, it would be considered simply unacceptable,” he said.
“Gipsies and travellers are [already] pretty close to being bottom of the heap in terms of the abuse they receive. Channel 4 should show greater respect and restraint.”
Mr Biggs and Jenette Arnold, a fellow assembly member, said in a letter to the broadcaster that the advertisements were “totally inappropriate, offensive and disrespectful” and called for them to be removed.
“The content of these advertisements will encourage further ill feeling and discrimination against travellers from parts of the settled community,” they wrote.
Channel 4 said the word “gypsier” reflected the unparalleled “insight” of the series.
“The word refers to the fact that this series offers even greater access and insight to the communities featured and the terms 'gipsy’ or 'gypsier’ are not being used in a negative context,” a spokesman said. “The advertising campaign builds on the celebratory nature of the first series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.”
Julie North, the assistant editor of The Travellers’ Times, the only specialist publication for gipsies, said the word should be treated like any other term for ethnicity. She said it caused “a lot of grief within the community”.