The film My Big Fat Greek Wedding aptly portrays the drama that piles along when you decide to marry outside your ethnicity. When I first watched the film many years ago, I could not help but compare the storyline to its closeness with a typical Pakistani wedding.
The main lead of the film, Toula Portokalos, a first-generation American, decides to get married to an American, Ian Miller. Now, usually, when we watch Hollywood films or consume any form of western media, a general perception is that they are free to take their own decisions and live life as per their rules.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with poor Toula, who is 30, single, living with her parents, and still dependent on them to approve her life partner that SHE has to spend her life with.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is quite similar to how the institution of marriage is handled in most Pakistani households. Considered normal, it a norm in most Desi households in the South Asian setup, where women (and even men) have to undergo the ridiculous scenario of getting ‘approval’ from the parents of their potential partner.
I have carefully dissected a few scenes from the film to make sure you can see the similarities, too.
Toula and her mother Maria have a typical relationship that many women in Pakistan have with their mothers.
For every, “Mom, I have a problem,” Toula’s mother had a similar response to what I get to hear every day. “When I was your age…” Sometimes, I want to go to Toula and assure her that she is not alone.
My family wants me to get married, be settled and have a family of my own, yet at the same time the level of separation anxiety only matches that of Toula’s parents.
All Toula wanted was to go back to school and resume studies, and her Dad’s reaction was as if she was going to the moon. If you have had 20 missed calls from your parents and have survived THAT moment of horror, you’re a real one.
God forbid anyone in a Desi household finds out you are seeing someone.
I have all of my family blocked from my socials for this very reason.
It becomes a national topic of discussion, you are judged and talked about as if caught supplying drugs. The exact happened with Toula when her nosy cousin sees her with Ian. Instead of taking a sigh of relief that the girl is finally taking a go at her love life which everyone was so worried about, they wanted her to break it off with him. Snake cousins are the WORST. I have all of my family blocked from my socials for this very reason.
Meeting the parents means meeting my parents, siblings, dogs, birds, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, house help and most importantly my doorman. The guy would need all these people’s approval and then if he manages to survive their unnecessary probing, he might also need to ask me. Just, maybe. Ian is introduced to Toula’s family under similar circumstances. Also, never forget the huge food feast because in reality, who really cares about the two of you or your future together. The family that eats (a lot of food) together, stays together! You can get married another day, MAYBE.
When Toula’s family finally approved Ian and the wedding arrangements started, I thought maybe now the two will have some say in their wedding affairs. Guess I was being too hopeful. The entire family is too involved in the planning of everything.
She would have been called an ‘out larki‘ (rebel) in most Pakistani households.
You cannot answer back and have to pretend to be ‘shy’ because that is what good girls do. Toula was not a ‘good girl’ according to her extended family’s standards. She would have been called an ‘out larki‘ (rebel) in most Pakistani households.
One thing that all Pakistani moms want is for you to get to your husband’s heart through food. If he does not eat the same kind of food that your mother makes or has taught you, you will obviously lose the way.
You cannot marry a good man outside your community, but are expected to survive with someone potentially toxic all your life as long as he’s from your community.
This is exactly what happened when aunt Voula got upset about Ian not eating meat. A vegetarian in the family? Are you crazy? No meat? No wedding. Repeat after me.
Despite all these similarities, the one thing that closely hit close to a Pakistani wedding set up was Toula and Ian hiding their relationship due to ethnic and religious differences. Sneak into most unaccomplished love stories in a Desi house and you would find that couples are told to break it off on the sole basis of religious, sectarian or ethnic differences. You cannot marry a good man outside your community, but are expected to survive with someone potentially toxic all your life as long as he’s from your community.
Though not planned, My Big Fat Greek Weeding sarcastically gets a jibe at the old school traditions of a Pakistani wedding that only makes the idea of getting married seem difficult and draining. Now, I’m going to watch the film again because it’s always nice to laugh it out while you are living it.
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