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American Gypsies: Will 'American gadje' audience keep watching this train wreck?

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

The Johns family on American Gypsies is consistently bringing offensive television to National Geographic Channel.

American Gypsies on National Georgraphic Channel is certainly opening up the Johns family to the American viewing audience.

“This is an embarrassment on us, on our family!”

This is what Bobby said to Nicky about his actions that took them to gypsy court. But, he easily could have been talking about American Gypsies in general.

Sometimes you just have to wonder what people see when they look around them, and this is one of those cases. What does this family see when they watch an episode of American Gypsies? Do they actually see some kind of respectful, hard-working, loving, impressive family situation? If they do, they are really looking through some powerful rose-colored glasses.

Nicky is a real piece of work. Last night’s episode really focused on what a hypocrite he is when it comes to the importance of Romani culture, rules and “respect.” He’s always talking the talk, but never walking the walk, as they say. Recently, Nicky went ballistic because a fellow gypsy opened a psychic shop 2.5 blocks from one of his family’s shops—in NYC, it is unacceptable to open a gypsy-owned business (presumably of the same type) within three blocks of another. But, when Nicky went to Florida to open up a new shop (Why Florida, who knows?), he was blatantly disrespectful of the Miami rules (no gypsy-owned businesses of the same type within one mile), knowingly setting up a shop within a mile of another gypsy-owned psychic shop.

Who is this guy to go on about “tradition” and “respect” when he shows none to anyone else, particularly to his own wife and family?

The way he treats his wife is particularly appalling. Sure, she’s not terribly friendly to him, but would you be, after putting up with that as a husband for years?

“All Nicky does is blame everyone else for his problems, and then the first chance he gets, he goes out and leaves everything on me,” Christine said as she sat alone at the empty psychic shop, while Nicky was out at a Miami club, partying with other women. “This is typical Nicky.”

Prejudice Against Non-Romani at Forefront of Show

And, apparently, Nicky would prefer to let his father die than have possible life-saving surgery because the doctor was “an American gajo.”



In only a few episodes, American Gypsies has managed to put off a lot of viewers--a lot of those "American gadje" that most of the Johns seem to despise so much, and probably a lot of Romani, as well. It’s one of those shows that should be really entertaining, interesting, at least funny, but it’s actually uncomfortable to watch. Learning about differences between cultures is typically intriguing for viewers, but watching the Johns family sets one on edge. It’s just a series of negativities, one after another, whether it is Nicky disrespecting his wife and family (again); Tina, the family matriarch, screeching at her family about how women should be cooking and cleaning and nothing else (except, of course, playing psychic); the family spewing its prejudices about non-Roma "gadje;" or just the constant, never-ending fighting. Constant. Never-ending. Nerve-wracking. It’s not one of those “guilty pleasure” shows; it’s one of those shows that makes you want to turn the channel as quickly as possible, so you don’t even have to hear them screaming at each other in the opening credits.

American Gypsies airs on National Geographic Channel on Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Submitted by FraudTech (not verified) on
What amazes me is that an organization like National Geographic would participate in this scripted joke of a program that is supposed to give us a look into the so-called Romani/Gypsy culture. Then, too, having been on the receiving end of many criticisms for my coverage on Gypsy criminal groups, I’ve noticed a complete lack of concern from the Romani activist groups over the nonsense that this particular program now attempts to pass off as factual information. Also missing from the program content, at least thus far, is any detailed look at what actually takes place between these upstanding Gypsy business folks and their customers (victims). One must ask himself or herself, how it is that these Gypsies, who apparently despise all gadje, can somehow be trusted to provide a valid service to the very people they so dislike. In truth---they don’t. Then, too, why do honest Romani tell us that the word Gypsy is an ethnic slur while at the same time allowing its use on programs such as this one without complaint? There is a lot of hypocrisy surrounding the Gypsy/Romani topic and National Geographic has done nothing to provide viewers with anything resembling a better understanding of Romani culture. Oh well, let’s not let the facts get in the way of good entertainment.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
i got news for you fraudtech whoever you are the Romani/Gypsy culture is protesting this show and any other show including TLC's Gypsy weddings as offensive as well as provide false information about the culture as a whole. as the woman two post down from you said this show is about one family not the entire culture.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Everything about this show is a lie. Everything is scripted. It is a shame that national geographic would allow this fake disturbing show on there channel. There is so much drama every week! How are they still standing if there were really that much drama every week in that one ugly stupid family.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
This show tries to portray these sociopaths as an ordinary American family, but the only ordinary thing about these sociopaths is that they eat, sleep , walk, and reproduce. And in order to do all that I just mentioned, in other words survive in NY, they need to cheat innocent victims by robbing them of their life savings because if the viewers of this silly show have noticed by now, their men don't hold a decent job and have their women faking "psychic" readings and running a scam. For this Gypsies it is all about " Us against Them". I really hope they update themselves into the 21st century!!!

Submitted by your sister (not verified) on
Everyone's life is a train wreck no matter what culture or religion you are. I do think that the shows are a bit dramatized. I am the daughter between a gypsy father and a non-gypsy woman. My father is married to a romani woman and impregnated my mother cheating. I have been an outcast my whole life neither of my parents accepting me and have wandered around with no meaning or family. I get really curious over that way of life. I really wish they would of let the matriarch of the family control the show and show her family for who they are instead of the wild drama that is being shown. We all have our crazy moment and it seems the camera people are wanting to catch craziness to improve ratings and not truth. I really would like to see some sort of documentary on this and not a reality show. I believe that a decent documentary would show the truth, and would help eliminate any sort of racisim towards romani.

Submitted by TYIEKA (not verified) on

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I'm going to say this and get it off my chest. Bobby Johns himself said he wants this show to remembered like the Osbornes with the dysfunctional of Americans living in new York trying to make a living for themselves by being fortune tellers as well as Gypsies. Now with this said i am 3rd generation American Romani, i have the gift of Sight which is greatly different from the bullshit Tina Johns is trying to shove down her granddaughter's throats and preached repeatedly on this show that a Roma woman is supposed to sit behind a table with a deck of Tarot cards for six hours a day then go home and make dinner for her cheating husband, and take care of the family. We come from many different regions of the world and are all very different we all carry similar though slightly diverse versions of the customs and traditions shown on this show, but don't get it twisted that all Romani men are crooks and all Romani women are Fortunetellers or all of us were born with the gift, i think maybe 5 in every 50 Romani woman are born with the gift and most of them never wanted it in the first place or every wanted to learn how to strengthen it. Among the diverse population we come in all shapes and sized, all different shades of light skinned and dark skinned (based on where in the world your family lives or immigrated from), We've worked every different forms of employment and many of us have college degrees in varying fields of study, We have lawyers, artists, doctors/nurses, scientists, writers, engineers, farmers, plumbers, electronics you name it we are everywhere but there are those of us who failed to adapt to the American dream and hold stringent to the ways of our ancestors and these are the ones who you see on shows like this one, MBFAGW, and other documented showings of the bad side of our people. Many of the hold outs feel changing our ways would make us lose our way by become too Americanized too much like the Gadje and thus they do the best they can to survive these are the thieves and con artists that are so widely portrayed as the stereotypical Romani person the downtrodden and uneducated outside of modern American society. But listen my American Brothers and Sisters, My Romani Brothers and Sisters, Remember we all came from somewhere and we are all here trying to provide for ourselves and the next generations so as entertaining as this show maybe remember that it is just a show and these people are no different from you or I even if they seem to be foolish or uneducated they are just the product of their diverse upbringing. Please stop calling my people scumbag, thieving con artists and look at yourselves and be proud of who you are and where you come from and leave My culture and family alone!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I totally respect everything you said in your comment. You really hit the nail on the head. And the stereotypes and prejudices are widespread and affect all different walks of life. My family came from Italy (my sisters and my cousins and I are first generation American) and even in the 1980's I grew up with a lot of kids who would always ask if my family was in the mob or if we had mafia connections. Granted, these comments and assumptions weren't meant to be hateful or insulting, but it's a stereotype/prejudice all the same. I appreciate everything you said in your comment. Peace to you and your family.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
Like its parent cash cow, "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding", "American Gypsy" is a horrific embarrasment to the Roma community, both in the U.S. and abroad. Taken in the context of the Roma's worldwide persecution, one can only shake one's head in horror at this continued exploitation and disinformation. In countries in Eastern Europe, you can find Roma unable to find housing (and literally living in garbage dumps - not because there's something exotic, carefree or hyper-sexualized about it, but because they are unable to live anywhere else. You can find them begging, not because they love a good scam ("see how we scar our little boy to get your pennies!") but because they are turned away from any other employment. You can find married Rom women being sterilized in hospitals, not because they want to avoid pregnancy, but rather, this is done involuntarily because they DON'T want to avoid pregnancy. And in far-off, mythical lands like Italy, you can find them burned out of their homes because of a false rape accusation, you can find their drowned daughters washed up on the beaches while Italian sunbathers blithely enjoy their afternoon and ignore the bodies. Go to Hungary, where the current fascist government is doing everything to ensure that the future holds neither Jews nor Roma for them. Thanks to cultural exploitation, Gypsy music is red hot right and highly lucrative now (as long as whites are playing it). It's always important to mention that the Roma were one of only two ethnic groups targeted by the Nazis for elimination (the other group being Jews). Any informed person (and hey, this is the internet, get informed) can only be completely horrified by the tastelessness, the blatant exploitation and the ongoing complete misrepresentation of this group of human beings now being perpetrated by the venerable NatGeo. Is NatGeo entirely at fault? No -- because you have folks like "FraudTech" (aka Dennis Marlock, who has dedicated his life to the destruction of American Rom communities and perpetuating the most racist canards against these people) leaving comments like the one above. I am active in an American Rom activist group, and their protests against both MBFGW and AG have been ceaseless, organized, passionate and thus far, powerless. Expect some lawsuits against both shows and I hope there will be some publicity about the real American Roma who have exhausted themselves to stop this BS.

Submitted by FraudTech (not verified) on
Why is it that some of you are so intent on attacking the views of others while remaining anonymous? If you have any facts to support your allegations, then why not take credit for them and use your name. Truth is that you have absolutely no facts to support your allegations. If so, please provide a link to them so others can form their own opinions.


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