Demotic or demonic? Race, class and gender in ‘Gypsy’ reality TV

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An intriguing shift in the public interest of Roma, Gypsy and Traveller minorities has been the rise of the ‘Gypsy’ reality TV star in shows across Europe (‘Gypsy’ is the word most often used in popular media culture). The latest phenomenon to hit the UK has been the Channel 4 series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings (Firecracker Films, Channel 4, 2010–2013), a flamboyant production that has garnered both huge audience shares and fierce criticism, with commentators berating its narrow, sensationalist focus. Drawing on both specialized literature on Roma minorities and current sociological debates on reality TV formats, this article raises questions about how the politics of the ‘demotic turn’ of such formats (as noted by Turner in 2004) can lean towards the demonic through emphasizing such groups as spectacular, extraordinary and above all, negatively different. Furthermore, this article shows how the series not only reproduces old stereotypes of Gypsies and Travellers as different, ethnicized others but is also heavily embroiled in UK gender and class discourses. Whilst the series claims to be a unique insight into a marginalized community, this close analysis discusses the wider politics within which it is embedded and how such representations can both popularize and undermine marginalized or minority groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316–334
Number of pages19
JournalSociological Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


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