Family Paper NURS 3304 Professional Nursing Practice October 6, 2011 Introduction The movie we chose to review is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The film portrays a large family with strong cultural beliefs. Family relatives include Tula Portokalos, Gus Portokalos, Maria Portokalos, Athena Portokalos, Yiayia, Aunt Voula, Nick Portokalos, Uncle Taki, Athena, Foci, Cousin Nikki, Cousin Angelo, Yianni, Cousin Jennie, Aunt Frieda, Cousin Marianthi, Aunt Lexy, Aunt Nota, and Paris Miller. The cast also includes a priest. Opposite the Portokalos family is Ian Miller and his small traditional family made up of Harriett and Rodney Miller.
Also in the plot is Ian’s friend, Mike. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is about a traditional Greek family who wants their 30 year old daughter, Toula Portokalos, to be married. While working in the family restaurant, Dancing Zobra’s, Toula meets Ian Miller with whom she falls in love. Ian Miller is not Greek but in order to marry Toula, he agrees to embrace the Greek culture and Orthodox Greek religion.
In turn the Portokalos family must accept Ian and he struggles to embrace the traditions of the Greek family to which he now belongs. Family Cultural Assessment The family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding is large.
Each family function is attended by the entire immediate family. This includes thirteen cousins and assorted aunts and uncles. Despite its size, the family is very tight knit. Members of the Portokalos family are strong believers in the Greek tradition and do everything together. The Greek culture is traditionally centered on the Greek Orthodox Church.
These are very religious and cultural people. The tenants of their Greek Orthodox faith permeate all facets of their lives. They value strong family ties and follow the guidelines of a patriarchal family structure.
With the father at the top of this family, the mother is the home maker. The father works while the mother stays at home cooking and cleaning to provide for the large family. Mixed marriages are not encouraged in the Greek culture. Greek girls are encouraged to choose equally strong cultured Greek men for their husband. A primary goal of Greek parents is to facilitate the marriage of their daughters to Greek men. According to Nixon (1980), “The ethnic back ground of one’s friends is an indicator of prospective mates from which one will choose” (p 48). Greek families are very clannish.
The extended family is always included along with the immediate family when there are Greek family gatherings. Each family gathering is thought to be an important factor in maintaining strong ties within the larger Greek community. It is also very common for ageing grandparents to live with their children. This is portrayed in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Gus’ mother comes to live with the family. Ian comes from a small traditional American family. His extended family consists of only two cousins. His relatives are well to do and more sophisticated that those in Toula’s family.
It is difficult for Toula to explain her large family unit to Ian when they first meet. Ian understands the importance of Greek culture in Toula’s life and accepts the large task of meeting and trying to assimilate with the large Portokalos family. On the part of Ian’s family, it takes some significant adjustment to accept the fact that Ian is marrying into such a strong willed Greek family. Foutoula “Toula” Portokalos is 30 years old, her father is Kostas “Gus” Portokalos and her mother is Maria Portokalos. Her younger brother is Nick Portokalos and her older sister is Athena.
Voula is Toula’s aunt. Yiayia is Toula’s grandmother, Gus’ mother. Cousins include Athena Portokalos, Nick Portokalos, Foci, Cousin Nikki, Angelo, Yianni, Cousin Jennie, Cousin Marianthi. Also part of the Portokalos family are Uncle Taki, Aunt Frieda, Aunt Lexy, Aunt Nota. Ian Miller is now part of the Portokalos family along with his mother and father, Harriet and Rodney Miller. Six years after Toula and Ian marry, their daughter Paris is introduced into the movie. They tell her she can marry anyone but they do require her to attend Greek school. Erikson’s Developmental Stages
According to Jarvis, “Growth is continuous and change is perpetual throughout the life cycle (Jarvis, 2008). For Tula Portokalos, the battle between a strict Greek upbringing and the readiness to embark on one’s own path haunts her daily. Like many who are experiencing the developmental tasks of a young adult, Tula is faced with the psychological conflict of intimacy versus isolation (Jarvis, 2008). When growing up, Tula always knew that she was different, but when she reached the age of 30 and was still not yet married, her family began to worry.
As a young adult, her task was to find what everyone in her age group was looking for, and that was love. Ian, who is also facing the Early Adulthood stage of development, meets Tula at a restaurant where he sweeps her off her feet (Jarvis, 2008). The developmental task for choosing a mate is an even bigger task for Ian, who is faced with the loud and stubborn Greek family that believes Greeks are only meant to marry other Greeks. Ian, who is concerned with the psychological conflict of intimacy versus isolation, falls in love with Tula, where they begin to learn and cooperate with in-laws and a new martial relationship (Jarvis, 2008).
Gus, Tula’s father, who is not too fond of Greeks marrying outside the Greek culture, believes only in two things: that non-Greeks should be taught how to be Greek, and that Windex cures everything. The developmental task and psychological conflict that Mr. Gus faces is the resolution of generativity versus stagnation (Jarvis, 2008). Tula’s father is concerned with the tasks of Middle Adulthood. Gus must accept Tula’s decision of marriage and learn to cope with an empty nest at home or he may risk the negative outcomes of stagnation and sorrow (Jarvis, 2008).
Maria, Tula’s mother, is very understanding and explains to Tula that although man is the head of household, the woman is the neck and can turn the head in any direction she wants too. Maria is also in the development stage of Middle Adulthood (Jarvis, 2008). Her tasks include accepting and relating to her spouse and developing leisure activities such as cooking and gasping (Jarvis, 2008). Tula’s sister Athena represents the ideal Greek woman. She married a Greek man, had Greek babies, and fed everyone in the Greek family. Athena’s stage of development is Early Adulthood.
At this stage, she was focused to learn the roles of parenting. Athena’s focus as a young adult was primarily based on setting up one’s own household and raising a family (Jarvis 2008). Another young adult in this crazy Greek family is Tula’s brother Nick. Nick’s task as a young adult is focused on forming a meaningful philosophy about life (Jarvis, 2008). He tells Tula not to let the past dictate who she is, but to let it be a part of who she will become. This philosophy is developed in Early Adulthood and governs how people make decisions about life and curtain morals.
Coping Resources-Problem Solving and Stressors The Portokalos family seems to cope with stress quite well. When dealing with a new situation or stress in the family, the coping mechanisms that are involved include eating, cooking, and drinking. In an event where stress may play a role, the whole family comes together and works to fix the problem. This family consists of a strong support system that encourages individuals to express their emotions, resulting in loud and over exaggerated behavior. The Greeks hold nothing back, saying and expressing exactly what is on their minds.
For Ian, coping with stress is handled quite differently. To adapt to the Greek standards, Ian made the decision to be baptized in the Orthodox Church. His ability to cope to the stressful demands of the Portokalos family eventually pays off when he is finally accepted as one of their own. The scholarly journal, “Are Greek-Americans Likely to Seek Psychotherapy”, addresses the skepticism that Greek-Americans have in seeking care for stress (Bagourdl, 2010). Although the resources are available to these immigrants, the unwillingness to seek help for this particular issue is uniform though out this culture.
Eleni Bagourdl, the author of the journal, explains that although Greek-Americans do not completely reject the idea, the majority feel a uniform disinterest in seeking professional psychological help (Bagourdl, 2010). That when dealing with mental issues such as stress or conflicting problems, the Greek-American community look to family and friends for comfort and relief (Bagourdl, 2010). An individual’s willingness to seek professional help is greatly influenced by one’s culture (Bagourdl, 2010).
According to the journal, immigrants rarely seek psychotherapy, but as a result therapists are becoming more interested in minority issues and coping strategies that are culturally orientated (Bagourdl, 2010). Integrity Process The Portokalos are a Greek family who consist of a combination of Greeks who immigrated to America and their children, who were born in America. They practice familism which, according to Rodriguez Mira, Paez, and Mira (2007), has “three dimensions: importance of family, family support, and family conflict with acculturation” (p 61).
Familism places the family’s needs above the individuals. In this system, the patriarch of the family, Kostas “Gus” Portokalos, is in charge. He migrated to America when he was a young boy, yet he did not acculturate to the American way of life and has strict adherence to his heritage consistency and is very “Old Country”. He holds an ethnocentrism view about Greek culture that is recurrent throughout the film. An example used multiple times throughout the film is his belief that every word has its root in the Greek language. Toula is at a crossroads in her life because she is thirty years old and single.
She was born and raised in America, and has been acculturated to the American way of life, but is still expected to live by her father’s Greek way of life. She plays a subservient role in her family due to familism, but she also yearns to be able to do what she wants to do, and doesn’t want to live a prearranged life. The most glaring example of her heritage inconsistency is when she begins to date a man who is not Greek. This is heartbreaking to her father because he believes nice Greek girls are supposed to do three things in life.
According to Toula, they are “marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone until the day we die” (Zwick, 2002). This is a direct conflict of acculturation between the two. Toula’s mother, Maria, is more understanding of her situation than her father. She also wants Toula to marry a Greek man, but she understands that things are different in America and that love knows no bounds. She uses her wisdom to comfort both Toula, who is having a hard time dealing with breaking her father’s heart, and Gus, whose heart is broken because her daughter is breaking away from tradition by marrying a non-Greek.
She practices both heritage consistency and inconsistency throughout the story. The Portokalos are practicing Greek Orthodox. They are very religious, as this was evidenced a few times in the movie. The first time was when Toula introduced the family to Ian at the Greek Orthodox Easter celebration. The other major time this was evidenced when Ian had to convert to Greek Orthodox in order to marry Toula. This was very important to Gus because it showed that Ian was attempting to assimilate into their family, and the Greek culture. Health Processes
The Portokalos family interacts with each other on a daily basis. Because of this, they would be able to notice if one of them were to be in bad health, and could persuade them to go see their medical provider. According to Arends-Toth and Van de Vijver (2008), “the family can promote health-protective behaviors as family networks aid people in recognizing symptoms and seeking medical care in case of a suspected illness” (p 470). When the Portokalos extended family gets together, it centers around food. This is most evidenced when Toula is bringing Ian and his parents over to meet her parent.
When they show up, the entire family is out in the front yard, with Gus roasting a lamb. When they go inside the house, food is sitting on every table. They do not eat in moderation, and every meal that the Portokalos are shown eating appears to be a feast. Their eating habits are a risk factor that could lead to obesity and health problems associated with obesity. The Portokalos also like to drink Ouzo, a popular liquor from Greece. Whenever there is a celebration, they breakout bottles of it and drink it throughout the celebration.
They often drink this liquor in excess during the celebration. This abuse of alcohol could have very serious consequences to their health. Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)—and particularly cirrhosis—has long been one of the most prevalent and devastating conditions caused by alcohol consumption and is one of the leading causes of alcohol-related death (Mandrekar and Szabo 2010 p. 270). The Portokalos do not appear to be daily abusers of alcohol, however their reckless attitude towards drinking at celebrations, which appear to be often, could cause significant harm to their bodies.
Family System Strengths The Greek family at the center of My Big Fat Greek Wedding is very influenced by their traditional heritage and values. While assessing the characteristics of their family system that promote health and stability, it is apparent that the family is grounded in tradition. The effect that this has is that there is no question what the family members’ roles and expectations are. This lack of confusion about what is expected offers a stable foundation for growth and discovery.
Another quality that is displayed in this family’s system that is notable is the direct communication between family members. This quality comes across as a bit abrasive at first glance; however, upon considering the net effect of this quality, it is obviously better than lack of communication. The way that the Portakalos family is structured, each family member knows where they stand in relation to the other family members. Having such a firm grasp on your place in the world and where you come from can be quite an asset in forming one’s own identity.
The consistent set of values combined with knowing your place in the family fosters a well rounded outlook that allows Toula to be aware of the impact of breaking tradition while having the courage to stand by her decision to marry outside of her Greek culture. The healthy dynamic that this family practices comes full circle when in the end when Toula’s family changes their tone, and become more supportive of Toula’s marriage to Ian. Toula’s family, even her headstrong father, is flexible enough to reassess their values and become open to, and even supportive of changes in tradition.
Another aspect of this families practices that could be described as healthy is the way that the family listens to Gus rant and rave about all things Greek, even bending the truth a bit to convey his deep seeded pride in his native culture. They display tolerance by allowing Gus to explain how everything has Greek origin, while maintaining a more realistic sense of things that actually do have Greek origins, show that there is a balance that this family displays between things that warrant a confrontation and allowing a family member to be who they are.
This shows that the Portakalos’ style of communication is healthy and stable. Toula’s family has a healthy family system in place in order to promote a healthy family structure. As stated by Barnhill (2001), “The themes of a healthy family include positive management of identity processes, change, information processing and role structure”(p 33). Toula’s family has a system in place that guides the family to an overall healthy environment. In conclusion, the family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding illustrates many of the components that make up a healthy and stable family.
Their family structure is traditional to their culture. As with most families we see developmental stages matching their age perfectly as well as some late bloomers. Coping resources, as well as integrity fall into a wide range, from appropriate to less than appropriate. Health values seem to get trampled by tradition, and their family system seems to bring all of these components together to make up a typical happy family. References Arends-Toth, J. , & Van de Vijver, F. (2008). Family relationships among immigrants and majority members in the Netherlands: the role of acculturation.
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