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Film Analysis: “My big fat greek wedding”

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Introduction to Sociology

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, is a wonderful movie all about the Greek sub-culture in Chicago. This movie explores, and demonstrates many sociological points. This movie is exceptional because, this movie also shows the values of Greek immigrants living in America. Furthermore, the American Greeks in this movie promotes three traditional values – marry a Greek boy or girl, have Greek babies, and feed everyone. This is a value that the older generations of Greeks cherish and are trying to pass them down from one generation to another, if broken it is looked at as a taboo in the Greek family.

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This taboo sometimes is regarded as a very serious matter, but it is subject to the discretion of every family, including the extended family. In the film, actress Nia Vardalos becomes, ‘Toula Portokalos’; a woman who is shamefully single at the age of thirty; at least that is how she is viewed by her full bred Greek father, Gus Portokalos (played by Micheal Constantine) and also to lesser degree, her huge clan sees it that way.

The actual story actually begins, when Toula goes where no woman in her family has ever dared step before – enrolling to study computer technology. Through time, she changed her appearance and catches the eye of a handsome, non-Greek man, Ian Miller (played by John Corbett).

The film consist a lot of sociological aspects from the two opposite cultures, many as they are, I will be focusing on what the movie highlighted the most. The most highlighted sociological concepts are as followed; marriage and its rituals, gender roles of males and females, socialization processes of both cultures, cultures, and authoritarian behaviors displayed by the father of Toula. All the stated concepts are highly visible in the entire movie, especially on the Greek’s culture. The Portokalos family is highly collectivistic and contrast, the Miller family is highly individualistic as seen in the film and when these two cultures meet, mishaps are bound to happen.

Marriage in the Greek culture means that you have to be baptized by Cousin Nikki (played by Gia Carides) in the Orthodox Church and this is exactly
what Toula’s fiancé Ian Miller experienced. The whole ritual simply means that, when you are baptized by the holy water, you will be cleansed spiritually and also, you are officially part of the Greek culture allowing Ian Miller to marry Toula Portokalos later on in the film. It is also highly evident that the Greek’s also practice the procedures of arranged marriage, just like what Gus Portokalos displayed during one of the scenes in the film. Basically, in one of the events, Toula was seated before two full fledge Greek men that her father handpicked and favored because they are coming from the same culture, rather than the non-Greek Ian Miller. It is clear in the movie that Toula felt heavily towards the idea of arranged marriage set by her father. Also, during the end of the movie, Gus Portokalos gave dowry to Ian Miller, giving them a property for the newlywed to live in.

The gender roles of the Greek’s are simple; women are expected to be the housewives, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children are their main responsibility, in contrary to this, the men are expected to be the one in control and the bread winner of the family. Toula, growing up in a different country, exposed to all kinds of cultures in America, grew up to have a different perspective of how she wants to be as a woman. At the age of thirty, Toula was viewed by her father shamefully because, she has not chosen a fitting man to marry and have kids to add to their clan and to make matter worse, she has dared to cross the line where to other woman in her family has ever done. She wanted to study computer technology, thus, pushing her marriage ‘career’ aside momentarily. Toula’s father was devastated hearing the news, because he wanted Toula to be a perfect housewife to her future husband. This also highlights the concept of gender inequality for Greek women, because they are unable to move up the the social ladder due to the ideology that women are suppose to be housewives only.

Toulas father, Gus Portokalos displays a very authoritarian behavior. He’s very demanding when it comes to decision making and whatever he says that is the law in the house and who ever defies the his words, will be lectured. Because of his display of authoritarianism, we can safely say that the Greek’s culture follows the system of patriarchy; meaning the father has the
absolute decision in the family and everything goes through him by his permission only. Furthermore, this authoritarianism by the father results the rest of the family to conform and respect his words and decisions. His authoritarian behavior resulted in a counter argument from Toula with the help of her mother named Maria Portokalos (played by Lainie Kazan), in the film, Toula and her mother was convincing Gus Portokalos to let Toula to study computer technology. After countless arguments, Toula and her mother Maria finally made Gus allow Toula to study computer technology.

The clash between the collectivistic culture of the Portokalos family and the individualistic culture of the Miller family is highly seen in the movie. Firstly, Portokalos being collectivistic, all the decision making are to be discussed as one family and everyone is open to discuss. This decision making by everybody is shown clearly during the wedding planning scene, Toula and Ian wanted to plan their wedding on their own, but despite wanting to plan their own wedding, they were not able to because, the entire clan planned it instead, leaving them no choice but to trust the choices of the clan. Secondly, on the other hand the Miller family thrives on the other end of the line, which is the individualistic side of culture. As an individualistic culture, the Miller family only lives by themselves, meaning they do not have any extended family living with them and this is shown in the scene where Toula meets Ian’s family and notices that her family is such a contrast to Ian’s family. Furthermore, the collectivistic culture of the Greeks is greatly shown in the end of the movie, where it shows that the property that Gus gave the newlywed is just right beside his home. And lastly, Gus Portokalos displays high ethnocentrism by always connecting words from various languages to Greek.

The socialization process of the two cultures is highly noticeable towards the end of the movie. Ian Miller, Toula’s husband, is the perfect example of someone to display acculturation. He has gotten accustomed to the Greek way of life; their expressions, language, rituals, traditions, dance, and culture and so on. Ian has under gone major transformation from being Christian to Orthodox, since he isn’t that religiously inclined with his religion it was easy for him to convert, unlike for Toula. Also, Ian’s
parent has gotten used to the Greek way of life.

All the theoretical concepts that I have covered has been greatly discussed in class with high degree of depth in studying it. Honestly speaking, this movie is so realistic, because I myself have experienced these things from past experiences in different places. This movie covers a lot of the things that might happen or expect when two different cultures face one another. The ideas found in the movie are actually still happening around the globe. I personally think that, this film is teaching us cultural relativism because, we should understand the individual and his or her culture first before jumping to hasty assumptions. In addition to this, I also personally believe that this movie is an eye opener because; it has showed me how people may think of another culture and showed me how culture has greatly affected the common stereotypes and generalizations we have against each other.

Cite this Film Analysis: “My big fat greek wedding”

Film Analysis: “My big fat greek wedding”. (2016, Nov 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/film-analysis-my-big-fat-greek-wedding/

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