Saturday, August 21, 2010

contemporary Anti-Roma/Traveler depictions

My wife started watching The Riches, with Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver as Irish Travelers in the American South, on Netflix. Twenty episodes aired from 2007-2008 on the FX Network and got quite good critical response. I have to say, in many ways it's a fun show. It paints buffers (a word Travelers use for non-Travelers) as mean, hypocritical, selfish, cheats, and we enjoy watching the protagonists cheat them. But still, it's just a plainly racist show. Even if we enjoy watching the heroes scam and steal, it's a show predicated on the stereotypical depiction of Travelers as scammers and theives. There's a nice scholarly article by Peter Kabachnik from the journal Romani Studies.
Most revealing about The Riches is the decision to base the show on how Irish Travelers take on another family’s identity and become settled buffers, parking their caravan in the woods behind the house and ceasing their traveling way of life. Apparently the only way for Irish Travelers to live the American Dream is to steal it.
He also deals with the film Traveller and mentions a few other films, including Snatch. Add these to the standard "gypsy curse" plot from Thinner (the only thing here besides The Riches I've seen) and Drag Me to Hell, and despite the general invisibility of Roma and Travelers there's really quite a lot of plain racist depictions in high profile projects and big star roles.

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