American Gypsies on National Geographic Channel certainly is an eye-opener about the Romani culture—but not necessarily in a good way.
When this new reality series was announced by the National Geographic Channel, it certainly sounded intriguing. Who hasn’t heard stories about gypsies—free spirits, travelers, mysterious. And, a chance to learn about the culture was exciting. The show, produced by Ralph Macchio (known to many as the original Karate Kid), follows the Johns family in New York City. And, while some of the old stereotypes have not been well-broached at this point—the Johns family, for instance, seems pretty well-based in NYC, not “travelers” or “wanderers” as some old stereotypes might hold—others are simply being reinforced. For example, the term “gypsy” is taken by many as a slur. However, as the title of the show itself uses the word, and the Johns refer to themselves as gypsies seemingly every other sentence, it is hard to imagine how the audience is supposed to understand the opposition to the word by much of the Rom community. And, of course, many non-Rom cultures may associate the term “gypsy” with “fortune-telling.” Well, that belief is firmly reinforced by this show, for good or bad, with the Johns family running “psychic shops” and performing “psychic healing.”
Since the show has been on, American Gypsies and the Johns family have been compared to The Godfather; if you’ve seen the show, you’ll understand why. Family life is depicted as being structured from a male patriarch down, in this case from the ailing Robert Sr., through his five sons—Erik, Bobby, Nicky, Joey and Jack. Erik is the oldest and, as such, “in charge” of his brothers, but he doesn’t seem to have a lot of control over anybody. Bobby is really the center of the show, and, thank goodness, likeable. Nicky is shady, a loudmouth, and impossible to like. And, as far as Joey and Jack, well, they are too far down the line to get a lot of airtime.
“Tradition” is the constant cry on this show, with everyone seeming to compete with one another on how well they are carrying on Rom tradition. But, the question is: Why would anyone want to carry on the traditions this family is glorifying on this show? Subjugation of women? Marrying off young girls in their early-to-mid-teens? Expected infidelity by men in marriage? Overt prejudice against “gadje,” i.e. non-Roma? What is to be glorified here?
Bobby Puts His Daughters First
Bobby seems to actually get these things. He respects his family, loves them; he is proud of his heritage. But, he also understands that there is a need for change. Having daughters, he wants them to be all that they can be, not forced into a marriage by age 16 with a husband who is expected to cheat on her; no education or career; and no options in life beyond being a psychic. When one of Bobby’s daughters revealed to him that she essentially could not read, it was heartbreaking. Her mother (from whom he is estranged and who seems to be out of the picture at this point) was doing the homeschooling, and apparently the daughter in question had fallen quite behind. This happens, of course, in public schools—we’ve all heard the stories. But, somehow, it seems even more heartbreaking that it would happen in such a personal setting as a mother homeschooling her daughter. But, it seemed to awaken something in Bobby—a reaffirmation that it would be up to him to fight for his daughters and their dreams instead of blindly following Rom so-called “tradition.”
And, as for long-held gypsy stereotypes?
Well, if viewers continue to hold beliefs that may not be accurate in the Romani culture after watchingAmerican Gypsies—and maybe even develop a few new ones—it would be hard to blame the viewers.
American Gypsies airs on National Geographic Channel on Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
UPDATE: Will “American gadje” audience keep watching this train wreck? (huliq)
National Geographic Fan Page
”Freaking fail. I thought you were better than this Nat Geo. You make Jesus cry.”
”they should embrace evolution of cultures, there would be less drama in thier lives!”
“you people are so racist! if you have such a problem go back where you came from!!”
”They are way too paranoid and racist”
”I’m watching it now!:) also Romanian rules!:) I know cuz I’m full blood Romanian.”
”Kon si kava.. gadjo kojr?! Ugh! Chaxo si thaj xoli mange..”
”should had called this show American Gypsy Gangsters”
”What i dont get is ,it says not all gypsies are fortune tellers but this show is all about a family who runs fortune telling places.”
”Where are Erik, Joey, & Bobby’s wives? If the wife lives with her husbands family & family is everything then where are they?”
”they are very prejudice and discriminating to Americans. Then why do they live here. if they don’t like us influencing them , then why live in this FREE country?”
”What disgusting people.”
”If you are law abiding citizens, how do you make your money????? You seem to have an easy way of life, with money and fancy cars, but it’s interesting to know how you earn that $$$”
”Spain,and too many countries to mention,have fair skin. YOU ARE SO WRONG ABOUT RACE ETC. You condem people what have less melationin? What makes “non-WHITES” superior in your eyes????What is wrong with you. If you can’t play the victim then what will happen?”
”There is an American Gypsies billboard in Times square, the cultural center of the world!:)”
”In front of gaje eating mahrimé food.”
”You are so proud of Romania? That is great! We are so PROUD of AMERICA Too!”
“This show is pretty shocking. Seemed to be a majority of male Neanderthals high on testosterone. Totally embarrassed for for this “culture” [..]”
”tHE DIS RSPECT FOR MY BELOVED aMERICA BY THESE ARROGANT CREEPS MAKES ME SICK”
”I’ve watched the TLC gypsy show and this gypsy show and I believe that American Gypsy is the true gypsies. […]”
”I hate the racism of the whole gadje term […]”
“Remember the ones abusing the kid? Beating in the back seat after a failed shoplifting event in the car, Indiana on YouTube? Texan clan. Funny how we never heard any more from major media for a follow up-no Nancy Grace follow up? Strange. Move along fast people… ”
Unofficial Fan Page:
“This is retarded.”
“Gypsies are all scam artists.”
“HAUL YOUR ROMA ASS OUT TO SOME OTHER COUNTRY! WE DON’T WANT PEOPLE LIKE YOU HERE!”
”[…] if u want to preserve your culture go back to romani india……i cant stand your show its garbage […]”
”[…] and if you gypsies all claim your women are all phsychic thats bullshit your just letting everyone know that its a fake…..your born with something like that not brainwashed into it”
“His father is a dipstick and no one really knows what a “Gypsy” really is……….they have no true roots […]”
”[…] their faith is pathetic and these are generations of crystal ball readers / Cultist down to the bone and I love watching this show simply because they are so damn stupid and pathetic that it is humorous.”
” (Just so the world knows, this one brought me to tears.)
”If you don’t like us.take your but back.I bet u take the money oh.good thing Roma not that way.”
”bunch of wannabe gangsters„r deez buttmunkeys italian??? in any case they act like a bunch of dipshits….”
”If you want to be hateful bigots only interested in your culture then please, leave America. After 9/11 we do not have a place in this country for such division. Gypsies are not better than us, nor we better than them. Welcome to America, melt with us or get the hell out. These people come across as some sort of lowbrow cross between the mafia and muslims.”
”Thieves and Cons show sucks!!!!”
”fucking gypsie turds”
These are the posts that were not deleted. National Geopgraphic can thank me for keeping a photographic log of all comments, so I can also share the best of all deleted posts at a later date.
Keep in mind this is after only two episodes of the nine episode series. I don’t know how many more “Get out of our country” comments we can take. It both angers me & amuses me what this show is doing to our culture. It also scares me.
People use any justification they can find for hate crimes, something which our people have been subject to for centuries and for which we often see no justice or apology. It frightens me, as well as many other American Romani, that people will take the out of context comments about “gadje” and “being American” and use these as a base for attacks on “gypsies”.
In a country where much of the south still has “gypsy” crime units & the racial epithet is used in media & fashion with no recourse or respect for ethnic people, it is not unfathomable that we will suffer greatly, while these networks make billions of dollars from our misery.
This is how America sees us now. This is a representative consensus of a opinions of not only the show, but our entire ethnicity.
I will not leave “your country”; it is for “your country” that most men in my family have served. My own father is a retired Marine. I had three cousins serve in Afghanistan & Iraq, one of whom also served in the first Gulf war. I have countless uncles who were drafted, or already in the military & served in Vietnam & Korea. The first American born male on my mother’s side enlisted during the Secona World War. The first Turcsik served this country before even becoming a citizen.
No, I will not leave. This is as much my country as it is yours. My children will have to grow up in this country. My brown skinned Romani children will suffer because of how the media choses to portray us. I pray you can sleep at night, Ralph Macchio, but I am a forgiving woman & would never wish the pain of my people on you, no matter what you’ve done to mine.
As my eyes turn glassy and I taste the salted anguish for the family and community I never had chance to love, I will pray for you, Ralph Macchio. I will pray for your soul every single day.
Ek lil andar Ralph Maccio; o gadjo kon kerdjan “American Gypsies”.
This is an open letter to Ralph Macchio, creator of the National Geographic series, ‘American Gypsies’. I not only recommend reading the letter, but also highly reccomend viewing the films linked at the bottom of the letter.
This show does great injustice to our culture. Like MBFAGW, this show has already directly caused instances of racism and discrimination. I will write more about the show and it’s inaccuracies at a later date. Thank you.
Open Letter to Ralp Macchio
Reblogging this letter again because it’s worth reading more than once.