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Representation of Gypsies in Mainstream Media

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A Wainman

on 9 January 2012

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Transcript of Representation of Gypsies in Mainstream Media

Editing: note in the above clip how the bride-to-be Josie when commenting on how her dress 'has class' has been juxtaposed with a shot of her dancing to Tinie Tempah's grime/hip hop track 'Pass Out'. How do you think this is positioning the audience?
Shot types
Roughs & Respectables,
Representing the other,
Van Dijk
Antonio Gramsci - the concept of Hegemony
Textual Analysis - technical deconstruction
Institutional Context
who are the Programme makers?
What else have they done?
How has the story been constructed?
Wendy Helsby
Does the narrative focus on what is different/exotic?
Weddings, Holy Communions, funerals, bare knuckle fights
Do we have recognisable character Types?
Firecracker’s brand has become recognised for producing stylistic hard-hitting documentaries with huge international sales appeal. Described by Channel 4 as a company that is able to “turn tabloid stories into broadsheet articles”, the company has produced some of the highest rated films for the networks to date including:

The Human Spider
The World’s Strongest Boy
The Seven Year Old Surgeon
The Man Whose Arms Exploded!
The Black Widow
The second episode got 8.7 million viewers which was the 8 th highest rating ever achieved on Channel 4.
Partly because of the wide target audience, so it appeals to more people. Partly because it appeals to those with and without a prejudice against this group, for different reasons.
It is also showing a group that is not often shown and surprisingly little is known about, so is found interesting because of its exclusivity
Also because of the eccentricity of some of the subjects combined with a common underlying prejudice against that group, a lot of people find it funny.

“If you're selling the audience a sense of their own superiority you're never going to go out of business.”
narrator: Barbara Flynn
Ethnic Travellers are people who are born into traditionally nomadic cultures. Just like someone who is Black or Asian, their identity is defined by their race. The two groups recognized by British case law as ethnic groups are Romani Gypsies and Irish Travellers. Although both groups have lived and travelled in the British Isles for many hundreds of years, it has only been relatively recently that they have been recognized under the Race Relations Act.
To do so, they had to prove, in landmark legal cases, that they met the following conditions, known as the “Mandla Criteria”. 1
• Long shared history
• Cultural tradition of their own
• Common geographical origin
• Common language
• Common tradition
• Common religion
• Characteristic of being a minority or being oppressed by a dominant group within a large community
The soundtrack helps anchor the meaning. The programme makers have also used familiar tunes and applied the same musical treatment to evoke a sense of carnival. Interestingly the gypsies featured in this programme were Irish gypsies not traditional Eastern European gypsies that the music suggests.
"The weddings themselves were jaw-dropping visual spectacles but also served as the perfect access point to allow us to tackle more serious issues" Jes Wilkins - Exec Producer 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'
Is the representation fair?
In truth, how would we know, unless we are a member of this community. We see and make judgements upon what is presented to us. If the number of complaints to Ofcom are anything to go by then clearly these representations are not considered 'fair'.
Ofcom received 32 compaints the morning after the first show
The Travellers' Times summarises the strength of feeling online: "Thousands more Gypsies and Travellers have joined face book protest sites like "My Big Fat Gypsy Protest". One page called "My Big Fat Gyp Wedding ain't about proper travellers" currently has almost 1400 members."

Jackie Boyd, the National Leader of the Gypsy Mission, told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire he feels the programme is not representative: "It's a very small slice of a very small part of the gypsy traveller community. For example, I'm a gypsy and I'm 50 years old but I've never known anyone who has had a 5 stone dress for their wedding."
Are stereotypes evident?
Stuart Hall's 3 base images outlined in his publication 'The Whites of Their Eyes - Racist Ideologies and the Media' 1995 are described as the 'Mammy' 'Native' and 'Clown/Entertainer'
Despite this being an analysis of past media representations of race can you see any evidence of this 'native representation' in My Big FAt Gypsy Wedding? Watch the clip and discuss
'When the safari hunters from the BBC or TV companies drive into Brixton or Brent they've already decided what they want to say. Out come the cameras and the anxious directors, looking over their shoulders for trouble; out come the long zoom lenses to capture the people but not to get too close… There are the long telephoto shots of young blacks in the street… There are the pans across inner city decay, and the shots of rubbish in the lifts. I sometimes wonder why they go out at all - they could just as well use the out-takes from last time' (Freeth 1985:24).
Freeth 1985
Despite the apparent development in tackling racism in today's society Freeth uses the metaphor of TV producers being safari hunters...
a 'shifting set of ideas by means of which dominant groups strive to secure the consent of subordinate groups to their leadership, rather than as a consistent and functional ideology working in the interests of a ruling class by indoctrinating subordinate groups' (Strinati, 1995:170-171).
Hegemony is.....
Eloquent, well spoken, measured tone. Can sound patronising particularly when commenting on what is considered alternative behaviour
Composed by Ian Livingstone. This is intended to emulate traditional folk music - almost tarantellalike with an up tempo beat, and musical flourishes verging on the frenetic. Features the traditional use of strings.
White British and ethnic minority viewers differed greatly in their assessment of how well broadcasters reflect multicultural Britain. Most White viewers feel that broadcasters are doing a satisfactory job, while all other ethnic groups (barring Eastern Europeans) feel that broadcasters’ performance in this area is very poor.
Ethnic minorities accused mainstream broadcasters of:
•Tokenism and stereotyping
•Screening exaggerated and extreme representations of minority communities
•Failing to reflect modern ethnic minority culture
•A lack of black and Asian people in positions of power within the British media
In 2007 C4 produced a Report entitled Race, Representation & the media, following the Big Brother race row
the following is an extract from that report taken from the management summary
evidence of dualistic role?
The 'native' image in particular evokes connotations of barbarianism, untrustworthiness and unpredictability and we can quote countless examples of this in media texts
consent rather than control
shows how a variety of media forms have represented the gypsy from Disney, the Press and television. The representations tend to polarise between the exotic, mystical gypsy and the untrustworthy, troublesome barbaric gypsy. Either way the representation is clearly seen as one outside of mainstream ideology - representing 'the other'
series Producer: Victoria Hamburger
listen to the tone of the narrator's voice when she says:
mid and long shots tend to dominate. There is a strong sense of voyeurism throughout
" the church is a short drive from Swanley's hotel if you know where you're going!"
The choice of narrator is a direct contrast to the subject of the documentary. Again how does this position us the viewer?
It is interesting that the 'expert witness' for the travelling community turns out to be a Liverpudlian dressmaker
The series does feature in the later episodes elements of racism experienced by the community but cannot withdraw itself from the inherent stereotyping that is a feature of this production
"tonight we discover racism against gypsies is alive and kicking....but in true gypsy style they are fighting back!"
My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
C4, series 2 aired Jan-Feb 2011
There was particular offence taken to the episode that featured 'grabbing' and hailed it as a gypsy tradition. To the outsider this looked very much like sexual assault

spokesman for the Irish Traveller Movement explained the community had asked the broadcaster for a right to reply to the show.

He said: "A lot of the community felt that this was more of a mockumentary than a documentary.

"We feel that Channel 4 didn't listen to our community. The programme decided to focus on a very narrow part of the community rather than give a well-researched view."
After watching the show, most of Britain's 300,000 gipsies and travellers feel cheated, dirty and abused.

We've never heard of "grabbing", yet apparently it's a tradition of ours to allow young men to assault young gipsy women in car parks.

And apparently we often let toddlers go to church alone in a limo pretending to be drunk.

The series has given the old myths about gipsies being immoral, flashy thieves a glitzy TV makeover.

post by Jake Bowers on Travellers Times website
Stuart Hall
other documentaries include :
Hairy Women 2003
Chopped Off: The Man Who Lost His Penis 2006
How 'serious' do these titles seem and what effect will this have on audience expectations?
Play the adjacent clip and discuss Freeth's view of production companies acting as 'safari hunters'
What does the title of this programme suggest?
Discuss the signification of the language and the designof the title clip
taken from Company profile: www.firecrackerfilms.com
Barabara Flynn belongs to the London based voice-over agency called Yakety Yak Mouth Ltd. Below is an extract from their website:
Full transcript