Having watched this film, if asked to sum it up in one word, that word would be, ‘contradictory’.
In case you missed it, the film followed Traveller communities and got an insight into how they go about arranging their exceptionally lavish weddings and their rather unique social order and set of priorities.
We heard that above all, young girls in the community are expected to be “unblemished” when they marry, and most often, that’s at a very young age. 16 years old is the average age of Traveller brides, and many of them have been engaged for two years by the time they become brides.
However, while we heard a good deal of commentary about the virtuosity and moral code of the community, we also saw that when allowed to social functions – usually that meant a wedding or the famous yearly Appleby Horse Fair – the girls were dressed in clothes that most hookers would balk at.
One might look to that phrase ‘you can look but you can’t touch’ for explanation of how people who profess to have a strict moral code and who insist upon ‘purity’ in their young women can be at ease with those same young girls wearing what seemed to be dental floss and a cursory bit of lycra.
We heard too how prejudices against Travellers caused one family to have their daughter’s wedding reception cancelled when the proprietors of the venue found out it was to be a “gypsy wedding”.
The narrator said this was because of the proclivity towards drink fuelled violence at Traveller weddings, but while a spokesman for the community railed against such prejudice and what effectively amounted to segregation, he also said that fraternising with “country” people was frowned upon.
The “country” people he referred to encompasses anyone who isn’t a Traveller. It’s a dire sin to marry outside of the Traveller community – but interfamilial marriages are not similarly frowned upon – and nobody who featured in the film would even tolerate the notion of marrying a country person.
We heard too that Travellers seldom discuss money; it’s apparently verboten to discuss the cost of the wedding dresses or anything else to do with the whole shebang. So one was left wondering how on earth they can afford such opulent – if tasteless – shows of affluence.
And the dresses and colour schemes for the weddings were, for the most part, something out of an hallucinogenic nightmare. One of the weddings we were privy to contained bridesmaids who would have looked at home sitting atop a tropical toilet roll, and the bride herself looked like Barbie on acid.
I understand of course that the Traveller culture calls for garish displays of colour and excess, and that’s fine, but yet again, I felt it was rather a redundant argument for the community to suggest that they’re just like everyone else and should be treated as such.
They go out of their way to avoid being just like everyone else, and though I have no problem whatsoever with that, what does irk me is then the shock-horror when these people are treated “differently.” That’s what they wanted; they wanted to be different and not mainstream, so that negates their right, as far I’m concerned, to moan about it.
It’s none of my business and I don’t care how Travellers live their lives and earn their living, but what does annoy me is when sectors of society – and it’s not just Travellers this applies to, it’s any group who choose to marginalise themselves – subsequently play the racism card and accuse the majority of us of treating them differently.
However, enough of my rant! In short, this Cutting Edge film, as ever didn’t offer bias, it merely offered insight, and a valuable if odd insight it was.