Cultural Issues in My Big Fat Greek Wedding
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a romantic comedy; about a 30-year-old single woman living in Chicago named Toula Portokalos. As a Greek descendant girl, being raised by a very traditional family, she faces the deep questions of priorities in life. Ranging from the role of family in a contemporary society, to the pressures placed upon her by her cultural norms.
The movie begins at her family restaurant, Dancing Zorba’s, where she is constantly reminded that her biological clock is ticking. According to her family’s norms, women who are not married work in the family business and are considered a failure. Toula comes from a traditional collective upbringing in where all good daughters are expected to marry from their ethnic background. According to Toula “There are three things that every Greek woman must do in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone.” Toula’s family embraced their cultural background and constantly showed that they loved their culture and where they came from.
While attending school, she is presented with the opportunity to work at her aunt’s travel agency. Toula’s career not only changes, but her self-esteem and love life too. She falls in love with a non-Greek, All-American man named Ian Miller. Which is where her journey to the altar begins.
During the movie, she struggles to get her family’s acceptance while struggling with her own internalized Issues about her cultural identity, and her struggle with the rules and values. She finds herself in a High context culture, which holds a strong sense of tradition and history. She also faces the clash between the Individualistic vs. Collectivistic cultures.
She begins by dating him secretly, while lying to her family and telling her family she is taking a pottery class, in fear that they will find out she is dating a non-Greek man. Eventually her family ends up finding out and pressures her to leave him. She states that she loves him and continues her relationship with him. Ian then pops the question; Toula accepts, causing her father to go into a great shock and depression.
Her family tries to convince Toula to get him baptized at a Greek Orthodox Church. Slowly getting to know him, and accepting him. They decide to have a dinner in which both families formally meet. As Ian is arriving at Toula’s house with his parents, Toula’s many cousins and family members show up and a big party starts.
When Ian’s family peeks through the window, to what they expected to be a quiet dinner, instead find a loud, wild party. Toula’s father then complains about Ian’s family being too dry. Even making a reference to being looked at as if they were in a zoo. At the dinner when Ian’s parents brought a Bundt cake, Toula’s family assumed it had a hole in the middle and filled it. Another issue is they were shocked at the fact that Ian is a vegetarian. As the party continues things start to shake up, Toula’s aunt served Ian’s parents hard liquor causing them to get drunk and have good time. Ian’s father even getting on all fours while his wife rode on his back.
Toula’s father still was not happy, and was upset at his family for accepting them. He felt betrayed, rejected and did not want his daughter to marry this man. Toula goes to see Ian and says she just wants to go and get married and all she wants is for her family to like him. He replies by telling her he would do whatever it takes to be liked by them.
On Toula and Ian’s wedding day, Toula wakes up with a huge zit on her face, which she covers with make-up. When the church scene appears, it is noticeable that Toula’s side of the wedding has more guests than Ian’s. After the vows Toula tells Ian the story of how she had a zit and had to cover it with make-up; leaving him to reveal he had one too but he used Windex. (At the beginning of the movie Toula’s father makes a reference about using Windex for everything)
During the ‘father of the bride’ speech, her father finally gives his acceptance. He says his last name, “Portokalos, means orange (like the fruit) in Greek. And the root of the word Miller is Greek, and means apple in Greek.” He says “In the end, we’re all fruit.”
My Big Fat Greek wedding shows views of the world of traditional Greek culture, the food, the loudness, and the strong family values. The movie shows the key sociological concepts of accommodation because the film portrays the need to overcome ethnic differences while not diminishing the beauty of ethnic tradition. Ian’s shows acculturation since the priest baptized Ian to bring him into the church and allow for Ian and Toula to be married in the Church. Therefore it can be concluded that Ian’s decision to be baptized can lead to showing key sociological concepts of assimilation because he will be with his wife everyday and will see how to be in a Greek Orthodox family and may do traditions or actions of his wife’s family.
In general the movie was great, I really enjoyed the way they intertwined a comedy with real social and cultural issues. As a comedy many of the details are exaggerated for sensationalism, but the themes are real-life issues that many cultures face.