Despite the universal tendency to globalization in the modern world, people persistently unite on cultural principles and bases. The representatives of the same ethnos have a similar mentality and ways of reflecting reality. Cultures differ in the dimensions of aggression that exist between them. When contacting another culture, different people experience the necessity to perceive the unfamiliar environment and preserve their cultural identity. Some folks fuse and adapt to the new rules of behavior, and others try to promote and develop their culture in a novel way.
The Greeks are one of the most scattered ethnoses in the world, and they can compete with the Armenians, Jews, and other diasporas in this aspect. Being a Greek is a special pride to the representatives of this ancient culture. The ability to preserve and enlarge a cultural tradition is picturesquely depicted in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding released in 2002 and based on a story from life. The title implies ironic and, at the same time, the sympathetic attitude of the main character, Tuola, to her cultural traditions and restrictions. She is not quite a young Greek woman brought up in a conservative spirit who lives in accordance with the family’s traditions and rules. She is constantly discouraged about the pride of being a Greek by her father’s stereotypes. Her duty and destiny are to marry a Greek and bear Greek children to promote the Greek origin in America. Moreover, the traditional Greek conventions do not imply individuality in a woman. However, attending an American school and having close contact with American children have made Toula aware of the existence of another vision of the world. She feels both ashamed of and ironical about her father’s rigid views. At the same time, she does not have the courage to be rude or direct in judgments with him or oppose his will openly. It is subconsciously unacceptable in Greek culture. Later, Toula meets an American, Ian, and falls in love with him. He is a teacher by profession and vegetarian in food preferences. Ian is a representative of an individualistic mentality, but he manages to find a way to Toula’s heart despite many obstacles arising in cross-cultural communication. Thus, the film reveals many aspects of intercultural relations and presents an example of a reasonable compromise in establishing close relationships between the representatives of different mentalities and cultures.
The film reflects the eternal theme of love and romance, the turning of an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. However, it appears from a new perspective. Berardinelli notes that it is a film with a significant clashing of cultures. Wedding is traditionally a happy end of an on-screen love story, but in this film, it becomes a real challenge for the main characters, Tuola and Ian. Gus, a woman’s father, represents a typical effusive Greek mentality. He is confident of his superiority and rigid judgments. They live in a house which looks like a museum of contemporary and traditional Greek culture. Being the head of a big family and prosperous business, he wants his daughter to behave properly and meet “a good Greek boy, bear Greek children and cook Greek meals. In her childhood, the girl visits a Greek school while her classmates join Scouts Union. She is expected to preserve traditions, and it can be a great challenge to say father that she wants to get an education, a new job or marry “a representative of a reserved Protestant culture.
The first meeting of Gus and Ian reveals the difference in the attitude to free will. The father does not like the young man because he starts dating his daughter without asking him for permission. Ian objects stating that Toula and he are mature enough to decide themselves on their love preferences, but Gus makes it clear that his daughter will not violate his will.
The film was criticized as family members were depicted one-sided and in a superficial manner. For example, Toula’s brother shows signs of Greek dark humor when making Ian pronounce obscenities in the Greek language. The woman’s cousin, Nicky, constantly exposes her breasts and vulgar sexuality. Her attractive looks are contrasted by Toula’s ordinary appearance. However, such comparison reveals the real beauty of a woman which is hidden not in glamour things and stylish clothes but in inner sensitivity and individuality.
The critics also emphasized the rigidness in depicting culture-specific advantages and disadvantages of communication. The whole impression of the family is the busy and noisy mess which is constantly on the move. The Greeks were depicted with characteristics that were particular to them at least fifty years ago. Numerous relatives come and go from the café, and the first meeting of Ian and Toula takes place there. The girl looks dull in her simple clothes, without make-up and wearing glasses. In a while, she understands that the change is unavoidable and starts working and fulfilling her dream “to break out the routine of her life.
Toula’s aunt owns a travel agency, and the girl wants to become the employee there. As usual, she is afraid to tell the father of her decision and asks mom to assist her in the problem. Her mother says that the most important thing is to present the idea as if it comes from Gus. They arrange a dinner where Toula’s aunt shares her problems in the agency with the man, and at the end of the conversation, Gus offers his daughter’s assistance as the best alternative for the family business. This episode reveals the peculiarity of a patriarchal family where women get what they want by deception.
Education and desire for a change make Toula confident and attractive in an extraordinary way, which attracts Ian and makes him enchanted. The girl is not a beauty, and her unexpected reaction to jokes seems irrelevant and silly in some episodes, but the boy admits that she has brought happiness and joy into his life. He is serious in his intentions, and the repetitions of the scenes of partings in a car suggest that the young people are not quick with physical closeness. As juveniles, they have to keep a distance because Toula’s culture and upbringing do not allow intimate relations before marriage. It can be characterized as one more important cultural aspect and symbol contributing to the strength and longevity of the relationships. In 2002, the film was nominated for Oskar Award for the best original screenplay.