How in Aristotle's name did it get so big?
As FiveThirtyEight points out, My Big Fat Greek Wedding went "viral" before virality was even a thing. While most Hollywood movies' trajectories appear as a steep climb followed by a plateau when graphed, the success of MBFGW looks like "the front half of a boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant."
While most films last in theaters for about 12 weekends, MBFGW stuck around for a whopping 50, thanks to good old word-of-mouth momentum. Much like earlier sleeper hits Life Is Beautiful and The Blair Witch Project and successor Napoleon Dynamite, no big marketing budget was necessary: people simply liked the movie and told their friends about it.
Did it change anything?
Other than spiking Windex sales, not exactly. My Big Fat Greek Wedding's showcase of strong female characters and niche immigrant experiences are hardly typical for blockbusters, even 14 years later. Vardalos struggled to get the project green-lit, with Hollywood execs imploring her to cast a big-name actress or make the characters Italian. And despite her minority success story, the movie landscape remains overwhelmingly homogenous (read: white and male).
However, as Vanity Fair points out, at least the film heralded the end of the big studio rom-com (starring A-listers like Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts) and ushered in the age of the indie rom-com. Wrote Kate Erbland, "what might have looked like an outlier in 2002 was instead a harbinger of things to come, as the romantic comedy no longer belongs to the studio system -- it’s gone indie, and it’s threatening to stay that way."