10 ways 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' is your Arab family in action
By Mariam Nabbout
My Big Fat Greek Wedding revolves around the struggles of Greek-American ‘Toula Portokalos’ as she tries to convince her family to accept her marriage to American ‘Ian Miller’.
But the 2002 hit film also sarcastically portrays the ridiculous situations that women often face when they are born into patriarchal societies.
The similarities between Greek and Arab cultures are evident in the film and when I first watched it a few years back, I remember feeling like I had just witnessed my own family in action.
Here’s how My big fat Greek wedding reflects your Arab family.
1. Separation Anxiety Level: Arab Parents
Early on in the film, we see Toula telling her father that she wants to go back to college to take a few courses.
Her father’s reaction in the scene seriously brought back memories because when it comes to Arab families, separation anxiety takes on a different meaning.
Instead of kids’ developing the anxiety, our parents do.
40 missed calls from your mother … just to ask you if you’ve had lunch. This is the level of separation anxiety we have to deal with.
So when it comes to moving “abroad” even if it’s to a nearby city … separation anxiety always gets in the way.
2. Your parents wait till your 24th birthday … to remind you that the clock is ticking
Toula’s father wants her to get married. ASAP.
Seen that before? Yep.
Because the moment you turn 18 in the Arab world, chances are you’ll begin to hear the words ‘far7tik’, ‘3a2belik’ and ‘nshoofek 3aroos’.
Stern reminders that you’re getting old.
Put all your plans on hold and start your hunt for the appropriate ‘3arees’.
3. And then when you turn 25 and still aren’t married …
When Toula refuses to visit Greece to find a husband, her father suffers a full blown panic attack.
A common occurrence in many Arab households if you’re not married by 25.
And as time passes, things get even more complex.
4. The endless when I was your age stories …
When Toula complains to her mother, Maria, about her very Mediterranean lunch, her ‘when I was your age’ response triggered a major flashback of Arab proportions in me.
If you dare object to anything your parents say, they will always play the age card, reminding you of the fact that when they were your age they were more accomplished than Nobel prize winners.
*You*: Dad, but I’m only 12.
*Dad*: When I was your age … I was 13.
5. Being a vegetarian is always an insult to the whole family
When aunt Voula aggressively asks Toula why Ian (her husband to be) doesn’t eat meat, she speaks for every Arab mother.
What? No machboos? Kabsa? Kebbe? or Riz w djej?
You can’t be serious.
6. Too much gossip
When Toula starts dating Ian in the film, she keeps it a secret, but eventually word gets out after her cousin spots the two together.
This part of the film strikes a chord, because if you come from an Arab family, you know that secrets simply don’t exist.
Arab families know everything about everyone, and always want to share what they know.
7. Marriage is a family decision
After Toula’s family hear the news that she’s dating Ian, a non Greek ‘Xeno’ as her father refers to him, the family goes into a complete meltdown.
This definitely rings a bell. Because the majority of Arab families still consider it ‘taboo’ to fall in love (let alone marry) someone who is of a different nationality or religion.
8. Arab wedding planning is unique
When Toula’s family finally accept Ian, the wedding plans begin and the process is strikingly similar to planning an Arab wedding.
Because, one, when planning an Arab wedding every member of your extended family is going to be involved.
And two, everyone is going to get an invite (literally hundreds of people will attend, some who you’ve never even met).
9. Meeting your family doesn’t just mean meeting your siblings…
When Toula officially introduces Ian to her family, the small dinner gathering they throw in his honor is completely Arab in style.
Because when we introduce anyone to our families, what we really mean by the word ‘family’ is:
Our grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, second cousins, distant cousins…
And of course all family friends and neighbors.
10. The Arab solution to everything
Food is a central theme throughout the film. It is in numerous scenes, especially the ones that involve Toula’s grandma.
Flashback to my Teta always comforting me with:
Teta 7abibte… eat something.