SURE, TIS ONLY A STEREOTYPE!

The Irish have always been victims of negative stereotyping. People think we're all drinkers and brawlers. Man, that makes me so mad, sometimes all I wanna do is get drunk and punch somebody. Yet, I suppose we bring it on ourselves a bit. This St Patrick’s Day, like oft times before, Irish people worldwide will rise as one and do their level best to live up to this very stereotype, as they drink, sing and reminisce their way through the day.

Like it or loathe it, the the depiction of the Irish in the movies as hard-drinking, happy-go-lucky, self-destructive characters has become a staple component of cinema history, often perpetuated by the Irish themselves. Whether it’s a tale of an Irish gangster, musician, peasant or priest, you can guarantee that a drink, a fight and an impromptu dance at the crossroads will never be far away.

"Tis a fine list, to be sure.
Tis like a warm beer in the bog
after a soft summer rain.
So it is, so it is."
It’s not all bad, of course. Several filmmakers have fashioned some great Irish movies with barely an Aran jumper in sight. Sadly, however, for every My Left Foot, there’s a P.S. I Love You lurking round the corner to throw a potato in the works. It seems Hollywood much prefers to view our fair isle with green-tinted glasses and a fiddle-dee-dee soundtrack, than realism.

So here we commemorate 10 films that have contributed to the myth of the Irish down the years. With drunken fools, imaginary fairie folk and dodgy accents galore, you’ll be sure (to be sure) to find your favourite Irish stereotype amongst this lot.


"Howyeh pilgrim?"

The Quiet Man (1952)
John Ford’s nostalgic ode to the soft-hued Emerald Isle of his imagination is the granddaddy of all things Oirish, featuring more clichés than you could shake a shillelagh at. It's all good, clean fun though, as John Wayne’s courtship of comely, red-haired colleen Maureen O’Hara meets with the disapproval of her possessive Guinness-swilling brother, resulting in an epic village-wide fistfight which is naturally resolved over a few pints in the pub. Begorrah!



Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)
Disney’s magical tale of Irish whimsy, chock-full of leprechauns and paddywhackery. Features some surprisingly good special effects for the time, including a rather scary banshee. Not as scary as Sean Connery singing, though.

Sean Connery shings! Run away!

Circle of Friends (1995)
"Circle of Friends is great,
ye ignorant bollix!"
A twee, predictable rites-of-passage tale of homely maidens, forbidden love, small-town prejudices, religion and unplanned pregnancy set in 1950s rural Ireland? Must be a Maeve Binchy adaptation. If you like this, you’re probably an Irish granny.


Going My Way (1944)
Hip young priest Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) is assigned to a new parish and wins over the local neighbourhood ruffians by…er…singing to them. Before long, they're like putty in his hands. So to speak. Old-fashioned and sentimental, with some good songs, but he wouldn’t get away with it these days!
"So, boys. Do any of you like Gladiator movies?"
Leprechaun (1993)
One of those so-bad-it's-bad horror movies, starring a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston as the nubile young girl menaced by a psychotic leprechaun (everyone's favourite small person, Warwick Davis), who kills one character by bouncing on him with a pogo stick. Naturally, it went on to spawn 5 sequels, most recently Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. One night, most likely when you're drunk and channel-hopping, you know you're going to stumble across this and end up watching it. I know. God help me, I know. Be afraid.
"Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"

"Hi, you! Shut yer bake and
wind yer neck in"
The Devil’s Own (1997)
Brad Pitt called it "the most irresponsible bit of film-making I've ever seen", and he should know – he was the star. A staggeringly offensive movie to anyone aware of the political situation in Northern Ireland, and a desperately poor action thriller to boot. Contrary to popular belief, though, Pitt’s Belfast accent is actually quite good. For similar fare, see also The Jackal and Blown Away. Or rather, don't.

Far And Away (1992)
A movie which manages to belittle the plight of the Irish emigrant, mangle the Irish accent and trivialise Irish history in one fell swoop. A recent survey showed that it has now offended more Irish people than Oliver Cromwell, most particularly the moment when Tom Cruise fixed his slightly creepy gaze on Nicole Kidman and pronounced “Yer a corker, Shannon”. That noise you hear is the sound of a million Irish emigrants turning in their graves.

Tom Cruise speaking authentic shite Oirish


"It all started when I
watched Finian's Rainbow"
Finian’s Rainbow (1968)
A geriatric Fred Astaire steals a pot o’gold from a leprechaun and plants it, hoping it will grow. The same guy who made this made The Godfather. How is that even possible? Several epidemiological studies by researcher Pat Siske have now conclusively proven that this film, more than any other contributing factor, is the major cause of alcoholism in Ireland as everyone who sees this start drinking to blot this from their memories.


The Field (1991)
The Irish are a fun-loving lot, but we’re also quite partial to suffering and downright misery, particularly if it’s caused by feuding over land. In this bleak tale, a magnificent Richard Harris plays the emotionally stunted Irish male in all his glory, obsessing over the titular field, alienating his family in the process and taking out his anger on the cows. If you can’t abide the fun and frivolity of St Patrick’s Day, this is the perfect antidote.

"Tis my field. Nama and the IMF can feck off"

"Sing, yis bastards!"

Once (2007)
A romantic, musical masterpiece which embraces the multicultural spirit of modern Ireland? Or just another corny Irish fairy tale, which merely substitutes a contemporary urban setting for the traditional rural one? Whatever your opinion, it’s probably fair to say you’ll see more buskers this St Patrick’s Day on the streets of Ireland than leprechauns. In fact, if you do see a leprechaun you really should lay off the green beer. Especially if he’s on a pogo stick.





Hapshy St Partkc's Da#y, evrysbodshy!



A version of this article orignally appeared in the Belfast Telegraph 14-3-08

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