People Change. Greeks don’t.
That’s one of the statements flashing across the screen in oh-so-appropriate blue letters across a white background during the My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 trailer which, at the time of this posting, I’ve watched upwards of a half-dozen times. As brief as the proclamation is during the two-minute preview, it contains–like much of the content in the first movie that was an unexpected smash hit back in 2002–a shimmer of truth amid the shiny gloss of Hollywood exaggeration. Of course Greeks as people, like anyone else, change and evolve, but our cultural values and traditions remain a constant; unaltered in time. A distinction is made in the film trailer between “people” and “Greeks” because the culture is larger than life: a living, breathing technicolor mosaic of language, customs, history, and ethnic consciousness that often, in the eyes of both non-Greeks and Greeks alike, puts us on par, for better or worse, with the mythical heroes of our ancient epics. That can be a grand burden to bare, so films like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which simultaneously celebrate and poke good-natured fun at our enduring identity, are a joy to watch. Sure, I know some Greek-Americans who didn’t like the first movie, complaining that we don’t go spraying Windex on everything. But those folks, in my opinion, take themselves too seriously. Despite the few flaws of the first film, it was a treat to see our culture depicted on the big screen.
My mother tells stories of Americans flocking to the theaters in the 196o’s to catch acclaimed movie adaptations of ancient Greek dramas like Antigone and Elektra, as well as modern stories such as Zorba the Greek. Having seen DVD versions of these films, I don’t know if they were actually smash hits in their time, but they apparently drew a significant audience interested in Greece and Greek culture. Growing up in the 1980’s and ’90’s, I can’t recall many Hollywood depictions of the Greek experience–whether ancient or modern–aside from Shirley Valentine, and John Stamos’ Jesse Katsopoulos character on the popular TV sitcom Full House. So, when My Big Fat Greek Wedding came out in 2002, I had to see it. It was a great movie–cartoonish at times, but consistently charming and fun.
Then I began to notice the phrase “It’s Chic to Be Greek!” commonly appear in the media. Greek culture in America–beyond the yearly food festivals that occur in most major cities–was all the rage once again. We Greeks have always been a proud people, but at that moment we, for the most part, stood up a little straighter as our time on the silver screen had arrived after long hiatus.
Now, the sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding is scheduled for a March, 2016 release. My novel Wings of Wax, in a stroke of fortuity (wink, wink), will also be released that same month. The book was originally supposed to come out in December, but the publisher is taking more time to plan marketing strategy and build momentum to ensure Wings of Wax receives the best possible launch. I’m excited to have my debut novel hit shelves in the same time frame of Nia Vardalos’ film release. We Greeks stick together. Thank you, faithful readers, for sticking around, too!