Saturday, 24 March 2012

My Big Fat Change of View

This week I encountered a totally different perspective to a subject I thought I had already made my mind up on: as a very stubborn person, I thought my set-in-stone opinions were unchangeable. Of course, I am talking about gypsies.

Love it or hate it, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings is simply a work of genius. We may laugh and cringe at it in equal measures, but without a doubt it is one of the most eye-opening documentaries Channel 4 has ever aired.

I've been an avid fan since the show first aired as a one-off in February 2010. But past the dresses, fake tan and shire horses, it's the people that really draw me in. Travellers, gypos, pikies; whatever you want to call them, there's no doubt about it they're an extraordinary bunch of people. But now I've seen them in a totally different light. I'd poked fun and made jokes about them, like many others will have, but in this week's episode I actually saw them as real people. People that are no different to you or me.

It was the events of the Dale Farm evictions that made me rethink my perspective. The show followed various families at different stages in the run up to the eviction. It was real, honest, and rather humbling. The most sincere view was through the eyes of a young Irish traveller girl, named Mary. She wasn't aggressive or violent. She wasn't even that bitter. She just couldn't understand why someone in a big JCB wanted to bulldoze her whole community - and everything she'd ever known - to the ground.

The episode revealed the secrets that the news didn't care to cover, in the fear of being seen as anything less than impartial. The news portrayed the inhabitants of Dale Farm as evil criminals, Channel 4 showed them for the real human beings they are; distraught at the possibility of losing their homes and their livlihoods. Surprisingly, they surrended graciously. An older traveller woman proclaiming they didn't want any trouble; they wanted the eviction to be peaceful. And it completely was - on their part.
As a trainee journalist, I'm very aware of the content and agendas of news programs, but it doesn't mean that I am any less surprised at the angles they sometimes take. The coverage of Dale Farm, for example, ring true as showcasing a particular opinion of travellers and gypsies. Arguably the wrong one, but certainly not an impartial one.

In another part of the episode, a very elloquent young traveller described the situation in a way that we should all take note of. He told Channel 4 how gypsies are a community, and so they like to travel in groups, and as with all large groups of people there are going to be a few bad ones. "It's the bad ones people remember." I couldn't have put it better myself.

This has taught me that in future I shoudln't be as quick to judge, as there may be more than meets the eye.

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