My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a sleeper-hit romantic comedy from 2002. Most teenage girls love the movie and I think it’s because of the film’s valuable lessons about growing up, coping with your past, and being part of an adult relationship.
Find Happiness with Yourself before You Look for Happiness from Someone Else
At the beginning of the film, Toula is shockingly unattractive—not just because of her self-described “frump-girl” appearance, but also because she is so unhappy with her life. Toula is in her thirties. She lives at home with her overbearing parents. She works at their restaurant. She has never gone to college or pursued any of her own interests. Her unhappiness makes her physically repellant.
When her eventual love interest eats at her family’s restaurant, he barely notices her. But she notices him. Seeing someone attractive inspires Toula to take charge of her own life. She learns to take pride in her appearance. She enrolls in community college and vies for a job she enjoys. She even overcomes some of her childhood shyness around other people. By the time she runs into Ian again, he is so attracted to her he is speechless. Her new curls and make-up make her pretty. Her happiness and self-satisfaction make her captivating.
The important lesson here is not that Toula changes herself to attract a man. She doesn’t. Instead, Toula sees Ian and realizes that she can’t just let life happen to her and expect to be happy. The self-confidence that comes with doing something we love is one of the most attractive assets a woman can have. And enjoying who we are is not only important for healthy relationships—it’s also vital to living a happy life, with or without a guy.
Define an Adult Relationship with Your Parents
Part of the reason Tula is so unhappy at the beginning of the film is that she lets her parents dominate her life. Her father decides where she will work, whom she will date, and whether or not she can go to college. At the beginning of the movie, she isn’t sure who she is, separate from her family.
Women thrive on being able to manage the things that are important to them. When a woman’s parents still dominate her life, she has no control at all. Most of us need a community of friends or a family of our own where we have some ability to affect positive change. Letting our parents run our adult lives can leave us feeling that our own lives are out of our control.
Value Your Family Just the Way It Is
After she starts dating Ian, Toula spends most of the film apologizing for her family. It’s just “too Greek.” Most of the funny moments in the film come from cultural misunderstandings. But her Greek heritage is a part of who she is. It isn’t until the end of the film that Toula realizes that even though her family is big and loud, “wherever she goes and whatever she does they will always be there.”
Toula makes the same mistake I did when I tried to find an adult relationship with my parents—she runs away from her family and her cultural heritage. But my family and history are a part of who I am as an adult woman. We have to accept who we are and where we come from if we want to be happy.
Did you learn anything from My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Are there any films that helped you grow into a better woman?