Cirque Du SoLAME & Modern Portrayals of the Romani People

The Romani people (aka, 'Gypsies') seem to be endlessly fascinating to outsiders. It's unfortunate that this fascination does not extend to philanthropy, awareness, education and actual respect, something we seem to be denied as a people, time and time again. It's much more fun to perpetuate the stereotypes than to talk about the dreary truth. Even so, I would have expected more from Cirque Du Soleil, and especially, TLC ('The Learning Channel').

Apparently, according to Cirque Du Soleil, we Gypsies live in "a captivating forest inhabited by whimsical and enchanted creatures". At least, according to their website advertising their newest show, 'Varekai'. For those not familiar, the word 'varekai' means "wherever". They claim the show is "an acrobatic tribute to the nomadic soul".

Needless to say, as a Romani American, I am disgusted with Cirque Du Soleil's blatant misappropriation of my people and our culture. What they claim is a celebration of nomadic life is actually an insult to a race that has suffered years and years of persecution (hence the 'nomadic lifestyle'). Contrary to popular belief, the Romany people did not choose to move from place to place out of some invented, inherent 'free spiritedness' - they had no choice. They were forced out of every place and every country they went. Our "nomadic soul(s)" (as they call it) were not welcome anywhere, and still to this day have no proper homeland, and are considered Europe's largest (and most hated) minority group. It sickens me that this kind of nonsense can be called 'art'.

It has also come to my attention that TLC has decided to do a series on gypsies (which in this instance includes both Irish Travellers and Romani people). One might assume that since 'TLC' is an acronym for 'The Learning Channel' that such a show would be presented in an unbiased, fair and intellectually based manner. Sadly, they have chosen to go another way, and have titled this series 'My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'. It is, as The New Republic so appropriately called it, 'A Big Fat Disgrace'. While TLC bills the show as "a visually arresting portrait of the secretive, extravagant, and surprising world of gypsies", many actual Romani people are appalled by the show and the way it portrays our people. As reported in the article linked above, watching the show prompted many hateful comments on Twitter, with one person tweeting "I now understand why all of Europe hates gypsys [sic]." The fact that a network like Discovery (that many people have come to love and respect for their candid, intelligent programs) would air something like this is disappointing, to say the least.

Sadly, these are only a few examples of how everyone wants a piece of the fantastical, magical, mysterious 'gypsy', and they are willing to sacrifice their integrity to get it.

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