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Kino Korner October 2, 2002
A Big Fat Greek Lie
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
Page 2 of 4
Now I felt really, really bad. Because a) I couldn't be mean to her, and b) my experiment was ruined.

I rushed her into the Radisson, bought her the promised snacks (glass of red wine and popcorn), jewed a pair of free tickets out of the ticket counter (a five minute argument that made Paige a bit uncomfortable), and hussled her into the theater.

On our way in, Paige told me that she'd wanted to see the film because she'd heard that "Tom Hanks had something to do with it."

Now normally, I would be inclined to mace anyone who said the name "Tom Hanks" and didn't include the words "stalk," "duct tape," and "power drill" in the same breath. But for Paige, movies weren't that important. Very little was at stake. Her mind was elsewhere -- pop culture and spite didn't figure big in her world.

It was clear from the very beginning that Wedding was going to be an appalling movie -- the only question was the degree of eye-toxin. It was like a sitcom, the kind of sitcom that gets raves from the critics, like "The Wonder Years" or "Friends." In fact, it is a sitcom -- Nia Vardolas, the writer and star, has already signed a massive contract with CBS to turn it into a weekly sitcom.

The sitcom-mainstream-alternative movie unfolded according to formula. The jokes were awful and cliched. Describing her quasi-eccentric Greek family, the narrator, Toula (Nia Vardalos) says, "If nagging was an Olympic sport, my Aunt Vuola would win a gold medal." A gullible outsider asks how to say something in Greek, and winds up getting tricked into saying phrases like, "I like your boobs" or "I have three testicles."

Poor Aristophanes! He must be screaming from Hades, "Don't blame me!"

The plot, characters and tension were so formulaic that there was absolutely no mystery as to how this movie would end. I rarely guess movie plots right, but with a movie title like My blah blah Greek Wedding" it was a pretty safe bet that this wasn't going to be a brutal Mike Leigh study of an American woman's loneliness and despair.

Leaving aside the sitcom formula, the first problem with this film is that the Greeks come off as total scum. They're bigoted, whiny, obsessive, fat, ugly, stupid, riddled with complexes, and neither funny nor fun to be around. The Greek grandmother calls everyone a "bloodthirsty Turk." The father always tries to tell people that Greek language is the root of all English. He tells his daughter's WASP-y boyfriend, Ian, "When my people were writing philosophy, your people were still swinging from trees." Translation: "Someone please take my ethnicity seriously!"

I don't get why small, insignificant races cling to these legends about the superiority of their ancient culture. It hasn't done much for the Iraqis, why should it for the Greeks? It's like an old, decrepit, wheelchair-bound crank grumbling to Shaquile O'Neil, "When I was your age, I was studying books in college, while you weren't even a sperm in your father's testicles." Yeah, well. So what? Now you're just an expired appliance collecting cobwebs in the care home, and Shaq is the greatest athlete on the planet. Someone should explain to former-somebody's the concept of the word "today."

Besides, who even knows if modern Greeks are even racially related to their great ancestors? And even if they are, it's like rock pigeons tracing their ancestry to the mighty Allosaur.

Ethnic family about Jews and Italians have a much higher success rate. There's a reason for that. Jews and Italians are interesting. The Greeks in this movie are boring, predictable, cheap and bigoted. The only thing "warm" they seem to do is yell "Hoo-pah!" and dance like Turks. In fact, the vicious hunchbacked old grandma, who crawls around their American suburb in her black wimple and cloak, accusing all the WASPs in their neighborhood of being "bloodthirsty Turks," looks to me an awful lot like what I imagine a Turk looks like. Are Greeks really just debased Turks in denial?

I had one Greek friend in school. His mother smothered him, and his father was a bigot. I remember him lecturing me about why I should support the apartheid regime in South Africa. He told me, in his world-weary Greek way, that when I got older I would understand why it was right to support the apartheid regime. I didn't understand it then, and still don't understand it. When I took a shower at his house once, this same father handed me a wash cloth. I never used a wash cloth, still don't. But he insisted, it wasn't a choice -- I was, after all, a dirty outsider.

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