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Big Fat Gypsy Wedding ads "offensive", says UK watchdog

Two out of four Channel 4 poster ads were slammed by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority, which described them as “offensive and irresponsible”.

Image: Showbiz 411 via YouTube

TWO ADS FOR the Channel 4 series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding must never be shown again, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority has said, describing one as “offensive and irresponsible”.

Four poster ads for the second series of the show – all of which had the tagline ‘Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier’ – were the subject of complaints.

The ads were previously considered by the ASA Council in February 2012, when 372 complaints about the ads were received. The Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB) and eight other complainants challenged the ads.

Complaints

In their response to complaints, the Channel 4 said that the phrase “Big Fat …” was originally intended as a “light-hearted and affectionate reference to the wedding dress phenomena among some Gypsy and Traveller brides”, and that choice of the strap-line came from the series title itself and was intended to be an affectionate back-reference to the series title.

They said the word “Gypsier” was being used as a comparative adjective rather than a noun, and that the definition of the term Gypsy was not clear-cut, but that it was neither pejorative nor offensive in itself.

Channel 4 said the campaign used real and intimate photographic portraits of Gypsy and Traveller life “in a journalistic, reportage style that reflected the journalistic intent of the series”.

The ASA took advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on assessing the ads. Five issues were investigated, four were upheld and one not upheld.

Depictions

The watchdog said they considered that many readers were likely to infer from the word “Gypsier” that the depictions in the individual ads were highly typical of the Gypsy and Traveller community.

Regarding ad (a), they said:

we noted that the boy in the image was shown in close-up and had his lips pursed in a manner that we considered was likely to be seen as aggressive. We considered that negative image, when combined with the strap-line which suggested that such behaviour was “Gypsier”, would be interpreted by many members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities and some of the wider public to mean that aggressive behaviour was typical of the younger members of the Gypsy and Traveller community.

They considered that ad (a) was offensive and irresponsible. They also considered in relation to ad (a):

that the ad reaffirmed commonly held prejudices about Gypsy and Traveller children in a way that was likely to cause distress and mental harm to children from those communities, including to the boy featured in the ad

Regarding ad (c), which showed two teenage girls, they found that their make-up and low cut tops, when combined with the strap-line and in particular the word “Gypsier”, in the ad implied that appearance was highly representative of the Gypsy and Traveller community. They said this was “in a way that irresponsibly endorsed that prejudicial view and was likely to cause serious offence to the Gypsy and Traveller community”.

Although we understood that the girl was depicted in her own choice of dress we considered that, in choosing that image for use in a poster, Channel 4 had acted irresponsibly by depicting a child in a sexualised way. For that reason we also considered that, irrespective of any consent Channel 4 may have held, the ad was also likely to be harmful to the girl featured.

The ASA said that ads (a) and (c) “must not appear again”.

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