BY IRENE KARRAS
Greeks in Greece universally hated this movie when it came out. Greeks in North America universally loved this movie when it came out (including me!). In the interest of full disclosure, you should also keep in mind the following:
- I saw this movie when it first came out 10 years ago. It was the only new release I saw in 2002 as I had a newish baby.
- My last name used to be 15 letters long–5 letters longer than main character Toula Portokalos’.
- My neighbour had a Greek flag on his garage door like Toula’s family. Our Greek flag was inside our garage.
- I was forced to go to Greek School and, like Toula at the end of the movie, I now force my kids to go to Greek School.
- I only have one cousin named Nick, but two other cousins named Irene.
- I only know one Greek vegetarian.
- My parents have a restaurant.
- Not all Greeks think Windex can cure anything, but we do like our holy water and olive oil.
A new Blu-ray/DVD has been released to mark the 10th anniversary of the sleeper hit. The new DVD doesn’t have all that much in terms of extras, but it does have a short interview with Nia wherein she talks about her struggles as an actress who was neither pretty enough to be the lead, nor unattractive enough to be a character actress. She and John Corbett, who joins her, still retain some of their easy chemistry. However, there’s not enough here to justify upgrading if you have the original.
I watched the film with my 11-year old daughter (that newish baby). As a third-generation Canadian, she couldn’t understand Toula’s fear that her parents would reject a really nice guy based on his ethnicity since most of her Greek School friends have a non-Greek parent. “I’m allowed to marry whomever I fall in love with, right,” she stated, rather than asked. She especially enjoyed Gus, Toula’s immigrant father: “His accent is like Papoo’s and he thinks Greeks made up everything, just like Papoo does. I get it–they’re proud.” Ian’s baptism in the kiddie pool was also a big hit due to its absurdity, and it was fun hearing some Greek words thrown in: “You never hear any Greek in movies except for Opa!” See, Greek school is paying off!
But the characters could really have been any ethnicity as far as she was concerned and the laughs would have been similar. She has some distance from the strictness and xenophobia of my parents’ generation and will likely not have to lie to us about much. I, however, vividly recall having to sneak out to see a boy and hiding make-up in my backpack. I know families just like the Portokalos’ even if mine was a little smaller and more subdued. It was also one of the first movies that presented Greeks in North America as I knew them–not as gamblers or crooks or party animals, but as committed to their families and warm and well-meaning, if a little behind the times. Although the movie capitalizes on stereotypes and a lot of hammy acting, it’s done with true affection and love. And as rom-coms go, it has aged pretty well.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v64DIuxX86A]
Irene Karras is a Calgary-based communications consultant and freelance writer with a fondness for 1950s Greek melodramas, 1980s coming of age movies, weird Canadian films, and, by necessity, PG movies. She blogs at misplacedmysassy.wordpress.com and tweets @irene_karras.