The two couples profiled on last night's episode of TLC's cultural curio spotlight My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding provided an ingenious bit of contrast. There were first cousins Annie and Josh, whose incestuous relationship is apparently permitted in their Romani culture. And then there was the lesbian couple Ana and Linda, whose love is taboo.
The juxtaposition between the kissing cousins whose status was vaguely threatened by their temporary living in sin, and the lesbians who were largely shunned by Ana's Gypsy family, provided a telling map of what read as contradictory cultural priorities within the Romani culture. This was even more apparent when a relative of Annie proclaimed during a party, "Our family believes in incest. If cats mate with their child or their whatever, you know the cats are crazy. Maybe that's why we're all a little off." At least we know for sure that Ana and Linda aren't going to be having any kittens that are a little off for those reasons. So what's the problem?
It's always dangerous to judge an entire culture by reality TV, and acceptable behavior often ranges from family to family, anyway. As American Gypsy Oksana Marafioti wrote on Slate, "People know so little about us and yet think they know so much." And if we survey American culture as a whole, first cousins are allowed to marry in 25 states: that's 19 more than those that allow gay marriage. This episode provided a working example of all kinds of cultures' hypocrisy.