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My Big Fat Greek Wedding

By:   •  September 20, 2013  •  Essay  •  2,743 Words (11 Pages)  •  2,656 Views

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Rules are the established way a family or a system operates. These are usually not written but implied. For example, every member of a family unit knows what one can say, how one is to act, who is in charge and what a particular person's place in the family hierarchy is (Becvar & Becvar, 2000).

Near the beginning of the movie, Toula is wishing for a different life. She wants to break out of the monotony of her ever repeating daily chores. She asks Gus (her father) is it is okay with him if she would go to college and learn more about computers. Gus starts to cry and wants to hear no part of it. The rules are that Greek women marry Greek men. Greek women should not strive for anything else.


Boundaries are limits beyond which the system is not able or allowed to operate. In family systems exceeding a boundary might be if a family member stays out too late, if the children hang out with what is perceived to be the wrong peer group and such (Becvar et al., 2000).

Ian, Toula's boyfriend is told by Gus, Toula's father, that he did not ask permission to date his daughter. Ian replies that Toula is 30 years old and should not need permission from her father to go out on a date, but Gus insists. Ian concedes and asks Gus if he can take Toula out on a date. Gus sternly replies that he can not. Obviously a boundary is in place, which Toula and Ian are crossing and violating. Gus makes it clear that he does not approve of his daughter going out with someone who is not Greek.


Feedback is what makes the systems approach work. Without it, it would lack the circular approach which defines marriage and family therapy. The consequences of the behavior of people in the system, or how one person's behavior affects another person, are fed back into the system by means of such ways as facial expressions, body language and verbal responses among others. Without feedback, systems usually do not operate well and often stop working (Becvar et al., 2000).

Toula and Ian are sitting on the floor in the travel agency. Both are a little embarrassed, because she fell down, and he was knocked to the ground by an old lady because he ran into her. They were not paying attention to their surroundings because of the obvious chemistry between them, which contributed to their accidents. They are quite infatuated with each other and know that they both feel the same way. Ian asks Toula out and she immediately accepts. This acceptance to his request was positive feedback for him to feel encouraged in pursuing a relationship with Toula.

Open and/or closed systems:

Most family systems are open and closed to some degree. Though new information may be filtered, it usually manages to get into the system. Some systems are totally closed and are extremely rigid. A husband from a different culture may not allow his wife to leave the house, have the children attend a school which only caters to their culture, refuses to watch television or allow any outside influence to get in. But hopefully those types of families are rare. The opposite would be an entirely open system, in which everything gets in without regard of the quality or quantity of information. This is nearly as bad as a totally closed system, as it may be difficult to disseminate poor, inaccurate, or inappropriate information from good, correct and appropriate learning (Becvar et al., 2000).

An example of a closed system is when after Toula's family had Ian's family over, the differences in their cultures are painfully apparent to Gus. He tells Maria that he does not think this will work. He states: "They look at us as if we were from the zoo. They are so dry, dry as toast: No honey, no jam, just a piece of toast." After which he walks upstairs shaking his head. At this point he feels he has tried his best to assist Toula in making this work, but he feels that the differences are just too great.

Another example might be when Toula and Ian are out on their first date, they stroll down a pier and talk about their families. Toula at first does not want to talk about her family, because she seems almost afraid that the magnitude of her family might overwhelm Ian. She compares her 27 first cousins with Ian's 2 and tells Ian that in her family everyone is expected to live like a Greek, go out with a Greek, marry a Greek and have Greek babies. She says that no one ever has gone out with a non Greek before and that this is not going to work. She is implying that she lives within a closed family system, which tries to minimize influences from anything non Greek, as far as the immediate family is concerned.

Morphogenesis/ morphostasis:

Morphogenesis refers to a system's ability to stay secure when change is imminent or in the process of occurring. If a system is to be functional it needs to be exposed to a certain amount of change in order to survive. Resourcefulness, desire for improvement and transformation are qualities necessary to assure the long term survival of a family system. Morphostasis refers to the inherent stability of a system, which can absorb change without causing problems. Both of these factors need to be present in a system in order for the system to function properly. The two concepts balance each other in a well working system. If either concept dominates to a great degree is may introduce dysfunction in the family (Becvar et al., 2000).

Ian is happy and willing to submit to the various Greek traditions which are part of the wedding ceremony, such as being baptized, getting married in a Greek Orthodox Church and having the reception in a Greek reception hall (Aphrodite's Palace). He is expanding his horizon by going through all the processes willingly. Toula's family at first is reluctant to accept Ian but then Gus realizes the inevitability of his daughter getting married to a xeno (Greek word for stranger). In order to maintain stability he accepts Ian as a Greek.

Communication processing

Communication happens in various ways. Verbal communication by itself usually does not convey the entire meaning of the intent. Intonation, body language, facial expressions among others all add to the true meaning. Another important part which comes into play is the physical location, the type of event, the general mood among others (Becvar et al., 2000).

When Ian is at the party where his parents meet Toula's parents, Nick (Toula's brother) comes up to him and tells him that he has never seen his sister happier. He also tells him that if Ian should hurt her, he will kill him, that he will cut out his kidney with a knife and that he has a gun. Moments later Angelo (Toula's cousin) also tells Ian that they will kill him. Ian does not know whether to process these verbal exchanges as threats or as jokes and is visibly uncomfortable.

Relationship and Wholeness

This concept takes the world of individuals and expands it by introducing the idea that they do not live in a vacuum. As they interact with one another, instead of there only being two individuals, a third dimension is created, which is their relationship. The more people are involved, the greater and the more complex the amount of interactions and their relationships (Becvar et al., 2000).

Complexity is something Ian is not used to. As he tells Toula on their first date, his life was nearly meaningless until he met her. Everything was so simple and structured, he is looking forward to the near chaotic relationship promised by his involvement with Toula's family. It assures him of the excitement he craves, but which had been missing in his life until he met her.

Goals and Purposes

The primary goal of a system is to assure its survival (Becvar et al., 2000).

The assumption which Gus has made is that everything must remain Greek. The family, the house, the food and all the interactions in their daily lives. Gus continues to think that there are only two kinds of people, Greeks and those who wish they were Greeks. He does not only think this, he actually lives it and because he is the head of the family, he expects everyone else to adopt his way of thinking. Despite his way of thinking, he already has made several major adjustments to accommodate his host culture, such as speaking English when in public. He still sends the children to Greek school and continues to try to impress on everyone willing to listen that the Greek way is the best way. He also wants his children to marry only Greeks in order to assure the survival of the integral part of the system, which is Greek.

Structural Determinism

Structural Determinism is the term used to describe that basically a system has a structure which it needs to maintain its distinctiveness. The system itself knows what kind and how much variation it is able to accept without losing its distinctiveness (Becvar et al., 2000).

Gus does not want his daughter to go out with anyone but a Greek man. The structure of the family system is that Greeks marry Greeks and have Greek babies. He sets Toula up with several dates with Greek men, to which she does not respond. Gus finally determines that there is nothing he can do to prevent Toula from marrying a non Greek and he accepts Ian's offer to embrace the Greek culture and customs. In order to stay within the structure of his family, Gus determines that Ian is actually turning Greek by assimilation.


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