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Roguish Romani

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"Gypsys, tramps and thieves
We'd hear it from the people of the town
They'd call us gypsys, tramps and thieves"
Cher, "Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves"

The stereotype of the Romani as crooks has been so prevalent that exonyms like "gypsy" and "Zigeuner" connote these qualities. Examples mainly include but are not limited to theft, fraud, and kidnapping of children.

Older Than Steam, the stereotype goes back centuries and is especially common in older works. To a lesser extent, it is also associated with other "gypsy" groups such as Irish Travellers even if they're unrelated to the Romani.

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Often a Sub-Trope to Acceptable Ethnic Targets. Compare other vilifying racial stereotypes, such as Greedy Jew for Jews and Yellow Peril for Asians.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop: Faye Valentine uses her beauty to aid in her con artistry. Her claim of Romani descent invokes the stereotypes of them as seductive and dishonest, though it's implied that she actually comes from Singapore.

    Comic Books 
  • Castle Waiting: "Gypsies" are introduced as horse thieves, murderers, and scoundrels with ties to people who buy babies.
  • DC Comics:
    • Batman: Subverted. A plotline in the comic strip of the 1940s had a Gypsy lad framed for murder. The Gypsy is dressed in colorful clothing, hot-tempered, especially when it comes to the honor of his sister, and distrustful of the police and legal system.
    • Justice League: Generation Lost: In an issue, Ice suddenly has been retconned to be a member of a Scandinavian Romani offshoot that is all con men and thieves except for her immediate family, who fled the lifestyle to prevent her grandfather from using her ice powers for robbery. This flatly contradicts everything we know about Ice's past, including previous appearances of the immediate family.
    • Justice League of America: Gypsy is sometimes Romani, sometimes not, Depending on the Writer. She did start as basically a street thief.
  • "Kiekeboe": In one issue, most Gypsies are actually honest people whose worst crime is begging, though there is one who gives the rest a bad name by stealing.
  • Le Scorpion: One of the main villains is Mejai, a Hot Gypsy Woman and an assassin who specializes in the use of poison. She is eventually forced into an Enemy Mine partnership with the hero Armando when her employers betray her.
  • Tintin: In The Castafiore Emerald, Captain Haddock sees a band of gypsies camping out on a landfill because they were refused passage everywhere else and offers to let them stay on Marlinspike's grounds. While he does it out of generosity, it gets him strange looks from just about everybody, including Nestor and the local police, who warn him that he'll be responsible for any crimes they commit. Naturally, the Castafiore's emerald goes missing, with Thompson and Thomson immediately suspecting the gypsies (made worse when they find a pair of scissors belonging to the Castafiore's chambermaid in the gypsies' carts). In the end, the culprit of both thefts is revealed to be a Thieving Magpie.
  • Viz: A comic strip titled "The Thieving Gypsy Bastards" features a family of gypsies, who look like stereotypical Romani but have an Irish name, suggesting they were intended to be Irish Travellers. They move into a middle-class area and steal and vandalize everything in sight. The next issue contains a cut-out apology to all Romani and travelers, subtitled "what every gypsy's been waiting for!"
  • Wonder Woman (1942): In # 29, some "Irish Gypsies" (presumably Irish Travelers) visit and the Holliday Girls go to watch them put on performances and get their palms read. One of the men stabs another and leaves him for dead and then his lackeys kidnap the Holliday Girls. The woman who read their palms helps Wonder Woman rescue the girls, and the man who was left for dead helps take down the murderous traveler and his lackeys after Diana and Paula heal him.

    Fan Works 
Batman
  • Angel Of The Bat: As in canon, Dick Grayson/Nightwing is of Roma descent. He considers himself a Christian, but mentions traveling with the circus never permitted him much time to study his faith. His first scene also shows him to be a trickster, playing off the stereotypes of Roma being superstitious to grill an enemy which ironically is a Double Subversion, considering Roma are also stereotypically connected to deceit.
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    Films — Animation 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa: Many characters consider all Romani no-good thieves. Hughes warns Edward, who befriends several Romani, not to live with Noah because she'll probably steal from him and run off. In reality, she's not villainous but she's not entirely truthful with Edward either due to the racism she's received.
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Frollo wants to exterminate the Romani population in the secret Court of Miracles, where the scoundrels of Paris live and are implied in-song to feign disability. Other examples of the racism in the film include accusations against Esmeralda of stealing her earnings and later witchcraft, as well as Phoebus labeling the Romani as "criminals and dangerous".
    • Robin Hood: At the beginning of the film, Robin and Little John disguise themselves as gypsy women in order to rob Prince John.
    • Pinocchio: Stromboli, despite his Italian name, covers a lot of Romani stereotypes, being the scheming owner of a traveling puppet show who kidnaps the child protagonist. He is even explicitly referred to as a "gypsy" at least once.
  • Treasure of Swamp Castle: Gypsies are portrayed as swindlers and thieves, but also kind-hearted people who raise both the protagonist and his love interest.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Elusive Avengers: Yashka is a fairly stereotypical roguish, conniving Roma boy, but this is played positively, as he's a Guile Hero who uses trickery against enemies of Soviet Russia. Other Roma also appear in New Adventures of the Elusives, and are portrayed similarly to Yashka after he convinces them to help the Avengers free Danka from the White Guard Secret Police prison.
  • Ever After: A quite stereotypical "Gypsy" band appears initially attempting to steal Danielle's dress and hold the prince hostage, but after she impresses them with her quick thinking, they give everything back and invite the couple to their revelries.
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: Nadya Ketch is a Romani thief.
  • Lady Of Csejte: Aletta and Mischa, two gypsy orphans, are put on trial for pickpocketing.
  • Snatch.: A pair of boxing promoters need to quickly find a replacement fighter and end up recruiting Irish Traveller bare-knuckle boxing champ Mickey O'Neil. The "pikeys" are supposedly all thieves and liars, but this is coming from a cast made up entirely of London Gangsters, jewel thieves, armed robbers, and unlicensed boxing promoters, and Mickey and the other Travellers end up putting one over Brick Top and getting away scot-free, which is treated as a happy ending and well-deserved.
  • The Vagabond: The Tramp liberates a beautiful woman from a vicious Romani couple that kidnapped her years ago.
  • The Way (2010): A Romani boy steals Tom's backpack, which happens to contain his son's ashes. Tom's friends tell him there's no point in reporting the theft to the police, as they would never be able to track the boy down. However, later that night, the boy's father comes to the bar where the main group is commiserating over the loss of the backpack to return it, incredibly ashamed at what his son had done; he lectures the boy on not reaffirming everyone's stereotypes. To make up for it, he invites them to a party that night where the expected music and dancing occurs.
  • Your Highness: Courtney is skilled at pickpocketing because he grew up as a sex slave for gypsies.

    Literature 
  • Cal Leandros: Sophia Leandros was the Greek Romani mother of the protagonists Niko and Cal. She was also a scam artist, a thief, and a jailbird.
  • Conan the Barbarian: The world of the Hyborian Age is supposed to be a distant era of our own past. With this as the base, many of the nations and peoples of this world are explained to be distant ancestors of ethnic groups from our current age. The gypsies would find their ancient lineage during this era on the nations of Zingara and Zamora. The Zingarans are mostly painted on a positive light or at least no more negatively than their neighboring kingdoms, except for one detail. The trait they are most famous for are their fleets of corsairs, which get paid generously by the crown for disrupting trade and stealing ships. In resume, they are mostly portrayed as pirates with a fancier name. The Zamorans, on the other hand, are constantly described as decadent and evil, whose capital city of Shadizar is usually described as "the Wicked", and one of their main gods is set to be Bel, the God of Thieves. Their city of Arenjun is also nicknamed as "the City of Thieves", and has the district of the Maul, where the only occupation seems to be to commit all manner of crimes.
  • Dracula: Gypsies form the majority of Count Dracula's villainous retinue, which was par for the course in most of Victorian media, but particularly appropriate in a work predicated upon the fear of evil Eastern Europeans invading Good Ol' England.
  • Emma: Frank rescues Harriet from a band of gypsies.
  • Equal Rites:
    • A town-based witch is worried gypsies might kidnap Esk. Granny Weatherwax, who knows a bit about them, finds this unlikely.
    • Zoons are barge-traveling merchants who find the concept of lying strange; the ones who are good at dealing with outsiders call themselves Liars because that's what they have to do. Zoons are, of course, distrusted, because there's nothing more suspicious than someone who's being honest.
  • The Family Under the Bridge, set in mid-twentieth-century Paris, depicts the "gypsy" population in a stereotypical but sympathetic manner, as part of a larger urban underworld — for instance, they're shown to steal at times, but stealing, in general, is treated as an inevitable result of poverty, and they're generous to their friends outside the immediate community.
  • "The Gypsies in the Wood": Several times, Beauregard ruminates on xenophobic urban legends about shifty, baby-snatching foreigners — gypsies, red Indians, even sinister Welshmen. He considers the possibility that this paranoia might have evolved from tales of something much more "foreign".
  • Hannibal: Romula is a Gypsy pickpocket.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: The Romani are portrayed as thieves and rumored to be cannibals. The Token Good Teammate is Esmeralda, who is actually a French girl Switched at Birth for Quasimodo.
  • Kushiel's Legacy has a semi-historical fantasy setting featuring the Roma analogs, the Tsingani (which is the Russian word for "Gypsies") or "Travellers". They're pretty stereotypical (bright clothes, dancing, champion horse-breeders, stealing from the non-Travellers, and some Tsingani women can see the future) but the way they're treated is at least mentioned. Hyacinthe, the most important Tsingani character met in the first book (who's actually only half-Tsingani), actively plays on the stereotypical depictions of his people to promote his mother's fortune-telling business (as well as his own) and to become a fixer and owner of a horse stable.
  • Liaden Universe: The kompani, introduced in Necessity's Child and the short story "Eleutherios", are a band of secretive travelers who keep to themselves, have mystical powers, tell fortunes with decks of cards, have extremely good technological artificing skills, and disdain/steal from most outsiders.
  • In Polish children's book Porwanie w Tiutiurlistanie (Kidnapping in Tiutiurlistan), set in a fictional world, a "gypsy" kidnaps a princess and keeps her imprisoned in his circus, even though the girl's disappearance may cause a war between two neighboring kingdoms. He also cunningly darkens her skin so that nobody would recognize her. His daughter, meanwhile, is a fortune-teller. They are clearly the villains of the book.
  • Redwall: Foxes are the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Romani. Mixing both fox and Roma stereotypes, they're sly and manipulative thieves associated with fortune-telling.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Relaunch novel The Missing introduces the People of the Open Sky, a friendly group of nomadic travelers with little use for formality or regulations, who briefly settle on the station. The culture they left claims they kidnap children, which Dr. Crusher points out is exactly the sort of label that used to be spread about the Romani.
  • The Wheel of Time: Tinkers are a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Roma, right down to being unfairly distrusted as thieves by other cultures. The key difference is the addition of pacifism.
  • Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein: "The Gypsies Are Coming" is all about how the titular people are coming to "buy little children and take them away". Later editions censor it to replace "gypsies" with the nonsense word "googies". The poem's illustration, which depicts a stereotypical "gypsy" carrying off children in a sack, was kept, however.
  • Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff, the moody and sometimes violent Byronic Hero, is described in a few instances as "gipsy" or "dark boy" in an insulting manner.
  • "The Young Gypsy Girl on the Gallows" ("Het Zigeunermeisje aan de Galg" in Dutch): A Romani girl of no more than ten years of age is caught while stealing a valuable ring from a farm. The girl is arrested and made to stand trial. Because the judge doesn't want to see a child hanged, he presents her with an apple and a gold coin, hoping she'll pick the food and thereby demonstrate she has no concept of value. But, as the story explains, all Romani children are taught the value of gold from a young age. The girl knows she won't get beaten if she brings home gold and that with the gold she can buy many apples. When she picks the coin, the judge sentences her like an adult and she is hanged that same day.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Boys From The Blackstuff: A pair of Irish Travellers are sociopathic con men.
  • Criminal Minds: The Romani family, from "Bloodline", are murderous thieves, pickpockets, and abductors of children. Rossi calls this a "perversion" of Romani culture, but then Garcia starts searching for similar crimes coinciding with "waves" of Romany moving through an area, and Rossi says "A lot of Romany make their living as petty thieves."
  • Crossing Lines: Tommy and his whole family are Irish Travellers. He's been disowned for becoming a police officer as they're also gangsters.
  • Derry Girls: Zigzagged in one episode. The girls come up to some Irish Travelers in a caravan on the side of the road. Erin gives everyone a big lecture about how they shouldn't be prejudiced against the Travelers or call them "gypsies", but when one of the men comes up and starts following them Erin gets scared and the whole group starts running away because they think the man is trying to mug them. However, he was actually trying to return a wallet one of them dropped. Later on, the girls accidentally leave James with the Travelers and they become fast friends.
  • The Interns: The main focus of Sophia and Alexei's plot in Season 11 Episode 2 is that Alexei stubbornly believes what all Romani are thieves, while Sophia thinks he is a bigot. In the end, Sophia turns out to be right:
    • When Romani guy asks Sophia whether he and his relatives may visit Sophia's patient, Alexei warns her to be careful around this guy, or he may try to rob her, because, you know, they all are thugs! She dismisses it as his prejudice.
    • When Sophia's patient's relatives finally appear, Alexei has an Imagine Spot about gypsy tabor stealing everything they could find, ranging from money from pockets to fish from an aquarium, hospital's drug supply and even patient from a gurney. He asks Sophia to check her pockets to see whether they robbed her, and it turns out they silently put some money in; when Alexei tried to claim what money must be fake, Sophia accuses him of being paranoid.
    • Alexei's patient (who is just as prejudiced) starts suspecting that the Romani hides something under mattress. When the guy leaves with Sophia, Alexei decides to check himself — and notices several golden neck-chains, two expensive smartphones, and two wristwatches. He immediately jumps into the conclusion of what it must be stolen and takes it away. Sophia calls him a moron. Then their actual owner appears and not only confirms what they belong to him but also justifies why he needs them. Alexei's attempts to find weak points in the patient's story, despite Sophia outright telling him to just shut up already, only makes Alexei look even more like a fool.
  • Jonathan Creek: In "The Seer of the Sands", a couple pose as a romantic gypsy couple in order to better con a gullible American woman.
  • Kojak consults with one of his streetwise snitches, a Romani fellow wearing a tattered jacket and a gold watch. Kojak asks him who he stole that from, then confiscates it. The snitch reminds Kojak that when the Romans led Christ to Golgotha, they brought five nails with them, one for each hand, one for each foot, and an extra-long one through the thorax. A Gypsy stole two of the nails, so the long one had to be used on both feet together. Since then, God has granted Gypsies the right to steal for their part in fulfilling the prophecy.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: The family of con artists in "Taken" have all the earmarks of Irish Travellers, but are never referred to as such in the episode.
  • MacGyver (1985): The third episode kicks into gear when a young Romani girl pickpockets MacGyver's MacGuffin. She's a thief with a heart of gold, however, and MacGyver ends up helping her family escape Soviet Hungary before giving her his Swiss Army Knife as a farewell present.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: An episode has a Romany camp implicated in a robbery and Inspector Brackenreid pressurised into arresting them by the backers of his mayoral campaign. It turns out to be the son of his main contributor, and Brackenreid quit the mayoral race in disgust when he threatened to withdraw his support if his son was arrested.
  • Peaky Blinders: A major plot point is that the Shelby family, who run the titular gang, are part Romani; their paternal grandfather was supposedly a king among the Romani in Birmingham; their mother is referred to as didicoy (half-blooded Romani); and some of the family (particularly Tommy and Aunt Polly, who are in touch with their roots, and John, whose wife Esme is much more traditionally Romani) speak Romani, although only when they have to. The Shelbys alternately exploit and shun their connection to the Romani, in contrast with the Lee family, who live in caravans and can all speak Romani and do so among themselves. On the other hand, all the other characters consistently refer to the Shelbys as "Gypsies," even though they are at least as Irish as they are Romani, and sometimes even by slurs more often associated with Irish Travellers. And of course, both the Shelbys and the Lees are crime families.
  • The Riches stars the Malloys, a family of Irish Travellers on the run from another clan in the American South. In the pilot, they accidentally run a rich couple off the road, killing the couple — at which point the family moves into their brand new house, posing as a wealthy family who just moved in.
  • Without a Trace: An episode has a clan of "gypsy" con artists involved in a kidnapping, with Tarot, and wandering, and insular secretiveness.

    Music 
  • Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" is about a woman who has born in a traveling family. The chorus is about how other people would call her family "gypsies, tramps, and thieves".
  • Although of partial Romani descent, Cher Lloyd plays up this image in Kayfabe by being the Lovable Alpha Bitch character when in public and in her music videos, although in reality, she isn't actually as bitchy as the media would like to make her out to be. However, she isn't seen as Romani by much of the British general public due to her porcelain-skin, English Rose looks.
  • Hilary Duff's song "Gypsy Woman" contains the lyrics "She can rob you blind with just one look, from those eyes. Out of all the thieves that trained her, none of them could tame her."
  • The English version of Shakira's song "Gypsy" features the lyrics "I might steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me."
  • Songs of Love and Hate's "Famous Blue Raincoat" mentions "one more thin gypsy thief".
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    Radio 

    Roleplay 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battlelords of the 23rd Century supplement No Man's Land: Planetary Atlas: The Moig Da are called "Space Gypsies". They wear extravagant, brightly colored clothing, have close-knit and clannish family relationships among themselves and have a public reputation for being dishonest. The reputation is justified, as they are consummate professional thieves. They tend to stand out in a crowd, as they adorn themselves with face painting, tattoos, unusual hairstyles and lots of jewelry.
  • Cyberpunk supplement NeoTribes: The Nomads are those who took to the open road after the Collapse (of U.S. society). Over time they took on a number of stereotypical Romani traits because of their situation. They are hated, feared, distrusted and misunderstood by "statics" (those who don't travel around), they're divided up into clans, and two ways they make money are criminal acts (including con games and theft) and entertaining the "statics" with carnivals. The Romani themselves are one of the major components of Nomad culture, and the other Nomads have adopted many of their ways.
  • Dangerous Journeys: The main rules have a sample entry for Gypsies in the world of Aerth (an Alternate Universe Earth). They are wanderers who tell fortunes, entertain the yokels and steal from unsuspecting audience members in the crowd. They travel using wagons and horses. Their members are often members of the Vocations (classes) of Fortune Teller, Mountebank (con men) and Thief.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Ravenloft: The Vistani, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Romani, have a reputation as thieves, kidnappers and willing agents of evil.
    • Spelljammer: The Aperusa are usually in roles of harmless entertainers, salvage scavengers, petty thieves or scammers, or at most not-too-brave Lovable Rogue. They even travel on unarmed (and patchwork) ships. On the exotic side, they're slightly magic-resistant and immune to mind-reading, but can't have Psychic Powers. They also have an extremely misogynistic culture; men are the brains and the brawns while women do all the work and make babies, men get first pick at the loot, a widower can remarry but a widow must stay chaste, etc., and the menfolk in particular love to take advantage of non-Aperusa women who are foolish enough to fall for stories of the romanticism of the Aperusa lifestyle.
    • Dragon magazine #93 adventure "The Gypsy Train" thoroughly describes a band of Gypsies, including complete character descriptions and stats. The Gypsies are stated to be "light-fingered", including stealing things from PCs.
    • The AD&D 2nd Edition supplement The Complete Bard's Handbook has the Gypsy-Bard kit, which can be used with bard characters. Gypsies are members of a clan, are considered to be thieves by non-Gypsies (because they will steal anything that's not on someone else's person), travel using horse-drawn carts and wagons, entertain non-Gypsies with song and dance, have a gift for dealing with animals, can be Fortune Tellers and sometimes call themselves a king or queen.
  • Old World of Darkness: The basic stock for members of the Ravnos Vampire Clan are the Romani. Their clan discipline is making illusions, and they are one of the few clans who prefer the open road to city strongholds (though unlike Gangrel, they seldom have friends amongst the Were). They are also mistrusted by the more citybound kindred, and often accused of any petty acts of larceny when the Sabbat or Giovanni aren't handy.
  • Pathfinder: The Varisians, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the Romani, are often unfairly stereotyped in-universe as thieving vagabonds — however, there is a very good reason for this: a decentralized international network of ethnic Varisian smuggler and thief gangs collectively known as the "Sczarni". So while not all Varisians are rogues, the vast majority of Sczarni rogues are Varisian.
  • The Star Wreck Role-Playing Game takes a stab at Space Gypsies:
    The Ferrets are a disgusting culture who look like chimpanzees made up as Prince Charles. They dress in scarves, gold jewelry, vests, and caftans, and often act as travelling thieves, peddlers, or money-lenders. The PR department of the Ferret Corporation is quick to point out that they have no connection with any possible stereotypes of any ancient Earth cultures. None whatsoever. The very idea is insulting. Then they will try to cheat you out of your money, the little bastards.
  • Traveller The New Era supplement Vampire Fleets: The "Gypsies" of the planet Promise are feared, hated and persecuted by the Virus controlled human population. Controlled humans consider them to be outcasts and abominations and tell their children that the Gypsies will steal them. The Gypsies are forbidden to enter the Subject Lands and mostly travel in small bands through the Outback. Many of them have psionic abilities, which would appear to be magic to those unfamiliar with psionics.
  • Vampire: The Eternal Struggle: The ally card "Gypsies," which receives +1 stealth on all its actions, is obviously based on the "thieving gypsy" stereotype of Roma people also used in early editions of the pen-and-paper game.

    Video Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Shadows of Mystara: Moriah is the party's Thief and has stereotypical Romani looks.
  • The Elder Scrolls: The Khajiit are a race of feline humanoids, known to travel around in caravans and stereotyped as thieves and Skooma dealers. In Skyrim, Khajiit caravans are forbidden from entering city walls because of this sort of prejudice.
  • Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles: The Selkies, despite their Celtic name, are clearly a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to the Gypsies. They're also portrayed by the other races as completely untrustworthy thieves, and when you visit a Selkie town at one point the locals will quietly pickpocket you if you're not a fellow Selkie. If you play as one, you can get a letter from your mother urging you to steal everything that's not nailed down.
  • The Gerudo in The Legend of Zelda are a Culture Chop Suey of Roma and Arabs (with some Latin and German spliced in). They're primarily Arabic inspired in design and culture, but they also have some Romani inspirations. Primarily, they're introduced in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as a tribe of thieves living nearby to the European-esque country of Hyrule. Centuries later in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild they're no longer thieves and have lost most of their Roma elements.
  • Mass Effect: The quarians are Romani In Space!. They may be closer to actual Romani than most other media portrayals of Romani. They are only trying to survive, but they piss off a lot of people by dumping their criminals on random planets and stealing their natural resources.
  • Soul Nomad & the World Eaters: Shauna is a gypsy bandit.
  • In Stellaris visits by Caravaneers often result in a few hundred missing energy credits, and many of the trade deals they offer can be awfully lopsided.
  • Wind Child Black: Alexia is from the Chergari clan. She was raised as a nomad, has psychic powers, and peppers her speech with old Romani words. She's even boasted about being a thief and a con artist, but that was when she was younger.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Fantastic Max has an episode where the characters run into a group of thieving, flamboyant, swarthy (but in the end, helpful) alien con artists that literally refer to themselves as "Space Gypsies".
  • The Simpsons: In one episode, Roma have taken over the playground of Springfield Elementary and are seen stealing a frisbee from a small child.

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