Like many unmotivated undergraduates with plenty to do, I have been procrastinating by watching the channel four ‘gypsy weddings‘. Now this show provides anyone with food for thought. But for sociologists in particular, each episode is crammed with deliciously engaging sociological issues. I personally have found the response to the programme particularly significant. Each episode has some small, rather rotund looking gypsy child in a bikini top, hotpants and heels (with the obligatory diamante) contorting their body into a pose which, frankly, I would feel uncomfortable doing on a dance floor, let alone on television. You can see the camera has aimed to illustrate the mature behaviour of these young children and shock the viewer into western, civilised horror at the mere idea of their own blessed children being so revoltingly adult. Yet I find the images interesting simply because we do find them so shocking. It was not so long ago that we shoved our darling children up chimneys or dragged them into factories to work and yet now we’re faced with a similar scenario, with far less brutality, we recoil at the awfulness of it all.
The concept of childhood was only created in the Victorian period and was used to keep the idle rich women occupied (because of course they would have struggled to entertain themselves with anything like a book). Now that there is a culture which has many similar foundations, its gender roles and its work ethic, we are mortified. We appear repulsed by the adult child shaking their behinds at the camera along to Shakira. Yet what is it we have moved towards? As many of the gypsy women in the programme have noted, we have pregnant teens with fatherless children and a state which struggles to cope looking after them. Now by no means am I suggesting that all of society is like this, furthermore I do not believe that the gypsy way of life is any better necessarily. Yet there are certain fundamental beliefs that they seem to have got right. The emphasis on family, friends and culture is one which we could use in an increasingly individualistic society. It seems interesting to me that so many of us feel we can look down in snobbery at these people, watching the programme with a sense of superiority when we are hardly perfect ourselves. Untill we begin to eliminate many of our own social problems, I do not think we are in a position to look on in distaste at a group of people whose culture celebrates the very same things we are losing.