by Aisling O Connell
I've been in this game for years, it made me an animal
It's rules to this shit, I wrote me a manual
A step-by-step booklet for you to get
Your game on track, not your wig pushed back - The Notorious B.I.G
This piece of writing will use and abuse the lyrics of ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ by the Notorious B.I.G, in an adaptation geared towards selling the sweet, sweet, slip into a full-blown addiction to the creative process. This process, a deeply personal practice, should be something every creative individual pays very close attention to. The privilege and outrageous luxury of attending third level education, is that this observance is often a requirement, and you sometimes get rewarded for it.
This is my opinion only, and I hope it does not read as prescriptive. We all know how dangerous it is to mess around with other people’s prescriptions! (Still though... MR PHARMACIST!!)
I have chosen ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ as an example of what it is, I think we should be chasing when it comes to what influences, excites and informs the/our work. Chase the attitude that excites you. Don’t limit yourself to your own discipline. Let your influences and references be as varied and sprawling as they want to be. Find the ethos you believe in. Punk, hip-hop, 70’s protest images, Debenhams sit ins, Joe Strummer, Ben 10 on repeat on your kids iPad, rise of fascism, the constant drone of lockdown, Francis Bacon, a lone man protesting outside CUH, teenagers wailing in the night, Irish wakes, Brendan Behan, neighbours playing classic hits through the walls, drunk people playing hurling in your driveway, grime, Vivienne Westwood circa 70’s in her SEX shop, Vivienne Westwood TODAY, Emily Dickinson, originator of outsider ethos, speedcore Techno-outsider ethos, getting lost, Rebecca Solnit, Joseph Beuys gilted gold, True Crime magazines, shotgun weddings, 90’s Playboy covers, trashy is classy, Maya Derren, Jeff Keen, opiate queens, a long, slow scrape of a hand through the earth. If you are a filmmaker, don’t always look toward film to inform your work. Get the richness and the layers from everything else that surrounds you.
Embrace the chaos and approach it systematically.
Rule Number Uno, never let no one know
How much dough you hold cause you know
The cheddar breed jealousy 'specially
If that man fucked up, get yo' ass stuck up
In terms of budget, just don’t have one. Just have no money, no resources, and no equipment. Any limitations, circumstantial or personal, will perfectly be putting out the fire with gasoline. Necessity is the mother!! And your films will be the beautiful babies!
You will recognise ‘the one’ when you begin to acquire equipment. You will develop real, legitimate connections to these devices, especially if you’re working from a low budget. Think about and question these relationships often. These devices are an extension of you and your thought process.
Number 2, never let 'em know your next move
Don't you know Bad Boys move in silence and violence?
Your creative arena, I believe, is the only place you don’t have to let anybody know your next move. It is a place of total freedom. The decisions you make, in terms of composition, colours, subject matter are your choices and yours alone. In the ‘real’ world, we all have so many responsibilities and people to consider. In this creative space, you decide what gets in and out. You decide what lives there. You decide who you want to talk to. And nobody else really cares what you are up to in there, which is liberating. Moving in silence and violence lends itself well to the discipline of filmmaking. Don’t explain everything, and a violent approach to cutting, editing, and shooting has always been my personal favourite.
Number 3, never trust no-bo-dy
Your moms'll set that ass up, properly gassed up
Hoodied and masked up, shit, for that fast buck
She be laying in the bushes to light that ass up
To talk about trusting anyone or anything in these bizarre times would take too long. Trust your instinct and that is all.
Number 4, I know you heard this before
Never get high on your own supply
I strongly oppose to this, in this context. Get so high on your own supply. Use that addict spirit to create! Channel it into creating, chase the adrenalin rush that comes from it. In my mind, nurturing a creative practice, presents itself like addiction. There is insane highs and severe lows. You think you have it under control, then control is dead. You think it’s gone, then it’s back, devouring everything in sight. Pay attention to this process, let it happen. Don’t let any amount of sitting in beige and brown walled, plastic chaired, damp carpeted rooms kill this addiction. This is the addiction that will triumph over all others. The others will starve and erase you. This is the addiction that feeds you, nourishes you, reaffirms your identity, and you just get a huge buzz off it, let’s be honest.
Number 5, never sell no crack where you rest at
I don't care if they want a ounce, tell 'em bounce!
Let’s say crack in this instance is your work, where you rest at, is your story. Visit your own stories, things you know. It is up to you if you want to embellish these stories or keep them hidden away.
I believe an individual’s creative practice is a process in which you are getting closer to who you are and what you believe in. In times of great uncertainty, housing, unemployment and now pandemics, your creative practice can be the one place of certainty you can return to. It’s the only solid thing, and its not solid at all. It’s slippery and unpredictable and delicious compared to all these other unstable elements that make up daily life.
When we talk about these unstable times we are living in, there is often a pressure that we should be making art about it. Art as activism, a site for politics and protest. I do believe that art, film, and literature should reflect on and be critical of what’s going on around us. However, I would be very cautious about trying too hard to say something of great political importance. Go back to your own stories. Nobody really has an easy ride of it. In this way, the personal becomes political, and then you know what you want to say, and why.
Number 6, that goddamn credit? Dead it
You think a crackhead paying you back, shit forget it!
I will take from this, the idea that you will start to recognise other ‘crackheads’, or slaves to the creative process. Gravitate towards them. This will make it easier to begin to identify yourself as an artist, a filmmaker, a writer. This is a hard step to take coming out of your undergraduate course. It always felt embarrassing to me to think of myself as an artist and a filmmaker. Now I am clearly past caring. Lol.
7, this rule is so underrated
Keep your family and business completely separated
This is a luxury most of us can’t afford. I think I’ve always been trying to balance being a parent with trying to establish a creative practice. Both things started at the same time, and this has been my main experience of adult life so far. My studio must be my kitchen. Acknowledge your circumstances, never be defined by them. Or just ignore them totally! Listen to BbyMutha if you want some guidance about being creative while parenting. Punk ethos!!! Also, Patti Smith writes beautifully about it in the even more beautiful book, ‘Antonin Artaud, Works On Paper’ (MOMA, NY). Or just read Artaud all day for a few years.
As we’ve heard one million times, the pandemic has meant we are all working from home. This is important. You must know you can survive without the support of an institution, or the company of friends, or a shared studio space. You must know you will continue to create, without the deadlines of college, or the chance of a group exhibition. Taking time out of education to establish your own routine, your own process, strengthens your resolve to carry on even if there is a real possibility nobody might ever see your work. And then, you can go back to the warm safe space of the institution and focus on your studies!
Number 8, never keep no weight on you!
Them cats that squeeze your guns can hold jums too
So, to paraphrase Biggie, don’t get caught. A mistake I have made many times, is proclaiming I have a film nearly made, or an essay nearly finished, and then realising I don’t really have anything done at all. Say nothing!!
Number 9 shoulda been Number 1 to me,
If you ain't gettin' bagged stay the fuck from police
In terms of potential creative inspiration, engagement with any kind of state services is usually very beneficial. Generally, anger, frustration and desperation are hugely important components to making great art. Don’t totally rule out getting arrested.
Number 10, a strong word called consignment
Strictly for live men, not for freshmen
If you ain't got the clientele, say "hell no!"
'Cause they gon' want they money rain sleet hail snow
The consignment, the crack – your work, should always be coming in, even if you don’t have the clientele. Don’t worry about who will consume it. Just keep making, no matter what. Don’t be afraid of it. Imagine somebody’s dad shouting and spitting from the side-lines of an under 12’s GAA match, roaring, his face red and contorted from the pull of his hands in his thinning hair, and he is pointing at his child, DON’T BE AFRAID OF IT!! DON’T BE A AFRAID OF IT!! This is your guardian angel, you are his child, and if you are lucky, he will sit on your shoulder and scream this in your ear every time you stare at a blank screen, a white canvas, or stand behind, or in front of a camera.
 Mark E Smith, The Fall, Mr Pharmacist
 David Bowie, Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
by Emily Power
Sat in the Cork School of Music on a cold March morning, the faint whispers of a virus called Covid-19 suddenly became a harsh reality when my lecturer walked in and explained that this was the last time we’d be meeting face to face. My classmates and I all parted way that evening, naively saying, ‘See you in two weeks’ not understanding what was to come. As a soon to be graduate, my life was completely halted and through into chaos. The ‘plans’ I had so meticulously made were now non-existent and everything in the world just seemed to stop, including the film industry.
This ‘new normal’ saw the halting of several television and film productions with large amounts of production staff who typically work freelance being laid off. For other areas of the industry, the easing of restrictions did allow work to resume such as smaller productions and animation but as the restrictions eased and work slowly trickled back, the industry faced new issues such as social distancing and securing adequate funding. Considering this, Screen Ireland announced that it would be offering new support measures that would hopefully cushion the blow of Covid-19. Production isn’t the only area being affected, with production halted and less film being released, cinemas are now struggling with the next James Bond film and big budget productions like Dune (Denis Villeneuve) being pushed back and less than satisfactory ticket sales for Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020). Cinema chains like Cineworld are now considering closing all its cinemas in the UK and Ireland causing mass job loss.
Adapting is the new norm in today's society, with events such as the Academy Awards and Golden Globes pushing dates back and extending the period of eligibility. Other festivals such as the BFI and Slam Dance have created a type of hybrid festival with viewing available in cinemas and online. Many films that were slated for theatrical release such as Lost in Russia or Mulan have now moved to online streaming platforms. Television productions has also had to adapt and a prime example of this is EastEnders and how they’ve managed to create a ‘covid free zone’. The studio has turned into a one-way system and actors have Perspex glass between them to keep them safe during scenes. These new tricks will have to be the way forward for productions to continue running in this uncertain climate.
by Ailín Crowley
Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan) is, in my opinion, still one of Christopher Nolan’s most inventive and compelling films to date. A riveting and imaginative crime thriller, Nolan has created a piece which raises the bar for directors in terms of cinematography, performances and, most certainly, narrative. For a relatively low budget of 9 million USD, Memento certainly pulls off extremely appealing aesthetics. Nolan uses his usual muted tones throughout, as seen his other works such as The Dark Knight (2008) and Interstellar (2008).One notable scene that is visually pleasing is the opening scene, in which we see Leonard shaking a polaroid photograph, but instead of the photograph developing, it fades to blank. The scene that follows, of Leonard shooting Teddy, is also played in reverse, an ingenious way to set the tone and prepare the audience for the fractured narrative that will follow. Nolan displays his use of ingenious and innovative cinematography in scenes such as this throughout the film, confirming his status as an avant-garde director.
In terms of performance, Guy Pearce is most memorable as the protagonist, Leonard Shelby, and successfully conveys the bewildered nature one would associate with having short term memory loss. The audience empathises with Pearce’s portrayal of Leonard; who, despite the film not being over-emotional, evokes their interest in a moving display as he grapples with his condition.
Perhaps the most interesting factor of the film, however, is its narrative. The premise is simple; it is the story of a man with anterograde amnesia attempting to find his wife’s murderer, and avenge her death. Certainly appealing as a psychological thriller, however, what makes this story so intriguing, however, is not the plot itself, but rather the way in which the story is conveyed to the audience. The ever-innovative Nolan disregards the typical three-act structure in favour of telling the story ‘backwards’, using what Andrew Dix describes as an ‘unruly time scheme’. (Dix, p.109) A bold decision, and yet he pulls off this feat seamlessly. As Jean Luc Godard said; “a story should have a beginning, middle and end, ‘but not necessarily in that order’. (Godard in Dix, p.110). Coloured scenes are used within the film to progress the present-day narrative as Leonard attempts to discern and locate his wife’s murderer. This narrative is expressed in reverse-chronological order, whereby the film’s opening scenes occur at the end of the narrative and its concluding scenes exist at the start of Leonard’s quest.
The placement of reverse-chronological order coloured scenes against black-and-white chronological scenes propel the plot forwards, whilst encouraging the audience to actively watch and engage with the film the entire way through. This is a rare feat in this modern era of cinema; so few of us focus entirely on a film during its course nowadays, due to so many distractions around us.
However, Nolan does not allow the audience to sit idle, or to passively enjoy his content. The viewer must remain fully alert during the film, lest they miss out on vital details. Nolan searched for a way to structure his film, so that the audience could experience the same feelings of disorientation and confusion as the main character. As he states in an interview in the Blu-Ray edition DVD of Memento; “How do you give the audience the experience of not being able to remember?” He uses the temporal organisation of the film to temporarily withhold crucial narrative information from the audience, simulating the disorientating experience Leonard endures with his condition. This structure is poignant in a particular scene in Memento, where Leonard wakes up in a bathroom, holding an empty bottle of alcohol. His internalised confusion is made apparent to the audience through the conventional neo-noir genre use of voiceover, yet the narrative truth only becomes evident through the repetition and overlap of each scene throughout the narrative, revealing that Leonard was hiding in the apartment in attempts to assassinate its inhabitant.
We as an audience cannot attempt to predict how the narrative may advance as each scene concludes, but rather we are left to question the events that have taken place prior to each scene commencing. Each scene answers a question posed in the previous scene, and poses a question as to how our protagonist wound up there. We must piece the puzzle together with Leonard Shelby, and it is only at the end for all of us that the final question is answered – who is his wife’s murderer?
The novelty of a story told in an unusual manner is appealing enough to the average audience member, however, the plot structure would grow tiring on its own, if the audience was left to do all the work. Nolan realised this, and so he eases the audience into the complex framework of the film; the use of scene repetition and internal echoes are first used to guide the audience through the events of the narrative, allowing them to simulate their own interpretations of the series of events. Then, as the narrative progresses, the use of repetition reduces in frequency and elisions between scenes are incorporated. Therefore, the audience becomes ‘conditioned’ to accept and process the non-linear narrative just as Leonard conditions himself throughout the film, using notes and polaroid pictures as reminders in order to ‘replicate’ his old memories. As well as this, Nolan cleverly crafts a plot that leaves us shocked with one final twist at the ‘beginning’, chronologically, despite us knowing all of the events that occur after. Even though we have been given the majority of the puzzle, Nolan still manages to surprise us at the last revelation, when he hands us the final piece, and it all clicks into place.
To conclude, Christopher Nolan has created a stellar and masterful film, which both captivates an audience and subverts their expectations. It’s unsurprising, really, that this is a film which has gained such a large cult following. Nolan evidently values his audience’s intelligence, as he said in an interview with The Guardian; ‘I think people’s ability to absorb a fractured mise en scène is extraordinary compared to 40 years ago’. This is simply not just a film that one can watch and subsequently forget about – it is what John Truby describes as ‘the never ending story’, as he ‘creates an apparent’ equilibrium and then shatter[s] it with one more surprise’ (Truby, p.419). This is one of those rare films that garners multiple viewings in order to capture every clue – and I would personally recommend one to view it repeatedly anyways.
by David Parkinson
American director George Cukor was approached by producer David O. Selznick in 1937 to direct a motion picture, one which would lampoon the very idea of making motion pictures, but turned it down – due to the fact that he had directed such a film, What Price Hollywood?, in 1932. The film, A Star is Born, would go on to be directed by William A. Wellman. However, Cukor was not yet finished with the idea of a movie examining Hollywood and stardom, and in 1954, his new version of A Star is Born, was released to the masses, shining a searing spotlight on the Hollywood studio system that fades as its 176-minute run-time lumbers on.
Cukor’s updated A Star Is Born closely follows the path set by its predecessor: a washed-up, alcoholic actor (James Mason taking the role of Norman Maine from Frederic March) encounters a young unknown one night (Judy Garland inhabiting the role of Esther Blodgett made famous by Janet Gaynor), and proceeds to bring her into stardom, as well as his own personal life. As her star rises, his diminishes. Cukor uses every minute of the almost-three-hour-runtime to explore the rise and fall of the husband-and-wife pairing, giving each an arc that, for the most part, continues steadily in opposite directions. There are moments – in particular a musical interlude so unnecessary in its execution and context that in its attempt to add spectacle it wholly detracts – where it feels as though Cukor and his creative team indulge too much in their epic scale, giving valuable minutes which could have been given to furthering the then-growing relationship between Norman and Vicki.
Cukor’s first foray into Technicolor brings with it all the visual hallmarks of lavish classical colour cinema. Cukor and cinematographer Sam Leavitt embed their images with personality, with narrative service; shooting scenes at home with muted colours, as Norman’s domain, while Vicki’s musical numbers and Hollywood moments are drenched in glorious and rich colours and lavish tones, as well as the sweeping movements most associated with the Hollywood musical. Maine becomes more and more of an “ordinary” person as the plot progresses, his costume remaining a mix of dull earthy tones while Vicki becomes more and more extravagant; more of a star. Cukor’s direction mixes both the epic and the ordinary; romantic scenes often feel claustrophobic, intimate, with a particular musical number taking place entirely within a tight closeup of Vicki’s face, while the larger musical numbers feel as though they stretch on for eternity, Cukor making use of the Cinemascope stylings employed in the making of the film.
Garland and Mason pitch their performances perfectly, as up-and-coming Vicki Lester (once Esther Blodgett) and down-and-out Norman Maine respectively. Mason conveys a sense of a man who knows his time is up, barrelling through scenes with outward charm, while his eyes bring out some semblance of inner pain. Garland, whose personal life mirrored in some ways that of both Vicki Lester and Norman Maine (she herself was born Frances Ethel Gumm, and saw her life brought to an untimely end after a decades-long struggle with alcohol and drug addiction) , brings vulnerability and emotion to her performance, commanding the screen and our sympathy whenever she is present in-frame. Mason shines in particular when he’s asked to portray his character’s descent into emotional wreck, betraying his recovery as a means of coping with a moment of cruel rejection at a horse race, while Garland shines in a heart-wrenching moment in which she breaks down in tears while speaking about Norman’s troubles, blaming herself for not stepping in. Supporting players, such as Jack Carson, whose performance as studio publicist Matt Libby seems a certain frame-of-reference for the later work of Alec Baldwin, and Charles Bickford as sympathetic studio head Oliver Niles, work their hardest to fully inhabit their roles, both featuring in heart-breaking scenes with James Mason.
The audience is presented with a genre-mash-up that doesn’t quite land; it is at points a musical which hopes to be a drama, and at others it feels as though Cukor intends for the masses to ingest a drama with musical elements. Musical numbers play out for the most part as diegetic; we find Vicki – or as she is known then, Esther – singing to her bandmates while Norman watches on enthralled, we have Vicki sing to Norman in private on multiple occasions. However, as Dix notes, sound “may still migrate” from the diegetic model to non-diegetic within a motion picture (87). As previously mentioned, we are presented at almost the midway point of the film with a musical interlude, presented as Vicki’s silver-screen debut, which brings the film to a grinding halt, presenting us with fifteen minutes of repeated exposition, treating both audiences – those in the crowd within the movie itself, and those in cinemas or at home, as the same entity, using valuable minutes which may have been better served being used for non-musical relationship building earlier on in the film.
It is unquestionable that Cukor’s take on A Star is Bornis a classic of Hollywood cinema, though what that term even equates to in a modern world, where “classic” has now become a buzzword for any motion picture made before the year 1981, is wholly questionable. It could be said that Cukor presents an idea of what Hollywood is, of what studios do to a person once they’re making money, and what they do to someone who is no longer seen as bankable, but it becomes clear that he can only bring this concept so far. The at once-downbeat, now suddenly upbeat, maudlin – and perhaps even self-defeatist and dismissive–conclusion, as Vicki embraces the role of Norman’s wife above the role of stardom, represents a typical Hollywood ending referred to by Dix as “equilibrium-restored” (125). It is quite obvious to the spectator, as the credits role, that any deep, pointed message suggested by the director or writer Moss Hart about the state of Hollywood and its star-making factory system, has been blunted by particular narrative choices, and genre hang-ups, with a Technicolor coat of paint slapped on for good measure.
A Star is Born, (1954). Directed by George Cukor, America: Transcona Enterprises.
Dix, A. (2016). Beginning film studies. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp.8, 125.
A Star is Born, (1937). Directed by William A. Wellman, America: Selznick International Pictures.
by Toby Perini
In his 1955 film All That Heaven Allows, Douglas Sirk enacts what is probably one of the most unsubtle, yet quite well hidden critiques to the American capitalist society that was rising from the ashes of the Second World War. Thanks to the veil of sentimentalism and idealization typical of the melodrama, Sirk was able to discuss themes that he could not have touched in other genres. In this point in his career, Sirk wasn't as celebrated as a genre-defining director; in fact, quite the opposite, his films were often disregarded as 'women's pictures' and rarely analysed in a deeper sense by the contemporary critics, perhaps this is the reason why Sirk's work was allowed a certain amount of radicalism, considering the context of the mid-century Hollywood industry, with all its restrictions and censorship.
Cary Scott (Jane Wyman), a middle-class widow from the Stoningham, a small town in New England, falls in love with the lower-class, younger gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson) and subsequently a scandal within the community ensues. In a perfectly idyllic, carefully constructed and heavily saturated scenery we follow Cary as she struggles trying to balance her appearance within a close-knit, obnoxiously bourgeois community and her relationship with Ron, which threatens the stability of the former. Acting as a redeemer, Ron helps Cary to realise the truth of her condition, saving her from the misery that class-imposed conventions would have brought upon her otherwise.
The critique is quite unsubtle throughout the film; in some significantly comparative scenes, Sirk delineates perfectly Cary's friends' attitude towards the slightest deviation from the norm, but most importantly, their inherently misogynist hypocrisy is shown, for example, in the engagement party scene, where Cary's friends do not object at all to a younger woman marrying an older man for money, all while Cary is being ostracised for being in the exact same situation, only that the gender is this inverted.
Another apparently insurmountable obstacle to Cary's happiness are her children: from a completely different generation, yet just as attached to appearances as the rest of the community they grew up in, they selfishly and unreasonably refuse to accept Ron as their mother's companion because they fear the rumours might affect them as well.
Sirk challenges with smartly contextualised key scenes the conservative concept of the woman as the selfless housekeeper who, after the death of her husband, should uphold her husband's reputation and have as her only focus her children and the house. The director affirms quite clearly that this society-imposed restrictions can only bring misery on all parties involved, demonstrating how an unhappy maternal figure forced to live by the same mentality that keeps her imprisoned, can only have as an outcome an egotistical, insensitive and often obtuse offspring, bound to perpetrate the same patriarchal values.
In his review of All That Heaven Allows,Christopher Sharrett writes: “Douglas Sirk, as much as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a chronicler of America. The period of this chronicle- the neurotic fifties – was never pictured with more wit and understanding”. Personally, I think the comparison with F. Scott Fitzgerald is extremely fitting if we take into consideration Fitzgerald's masterpiece The Great Gatsby, which is too, a critique of post-war American capitalism, and it does so with a detailed description of the opulence in which the protagonist lives in, and that is where it is possible to draw the comparison: in All That Heaven Allowsone of the most striking aspects is certainly the mise en scène: vibrant, saturated and unnatural colours go along with placed frames within the frame and a general abundance of objects and décor, creating a visual clutter that in its artificiality denounces the materialism of the so-called American Dream that Sirk was probably well-acquainted with, being a German immigrant (or rather, political refugee).
If we were to follow Auteur Theory and affirm that the director's personality, style and past influences emerge in each of his works, then it is necessary to mention Douglas Sirk's theatrical background as a producer in works of playwrights ranging from Sophocles to Shakespeare, but perhaps the biggest influence is the contemporary Bertolt Brecht: almost following Brecht's theories on theatre to the letter, Sirk does not try to fool us in a completely immersive filmic experience, but instead constructs a perfect, bright, shiny, romantic world that has no pretences of realism. With Brecht he also shares the same disdain for bourgeois entertainment, stemming from a political background too uncomfortably close to Marxism for '50s Hollywood, and that is why some inconsistencies are noticeable in All That Heaven Allowswhen lines like “She doesn't want to make up her own mind; no girl does. She wants you to make it up for her” are spoken. One might conclude that Cary has exchanged her middle-class suburban cage for a simply more rural (and good looking) one, and to some extent, she has, but Sirk was working under the strict limitation of the industry at the time. While remaining in a safe status quo, the director got away with more radical themes than other popular contemporary genres such as noir and musical.
“The studios loved the title All That Heaven Allows. They thought it meant you could have everything you wanted. I meant it exactly the other way round. As far as I am concerned, heaven is stingy” Sirk said on about what is considered one of his most representative works, really exposing the duality of the relationship between the target audience of his pictures and the actual message behind them. Sirk has been given his due credit only after Jean-Luc Godard's piece on Cahiers du Cinema, before that, his films were disregarded as women's pictures, cheap melodrama for bored, frustrated housewives, and maybe this is the reason why they were allowed the amount of class analysis they presented the audience with. Like a snake that bites its own tail, Hollywood's own conservative views enabled Douglas Sirk to create films that spoke to the most radical part of the least radicalised viewer.
• Jon Halliday, Sirk on Sirk. Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1997
• Christopher Sharrett, “All That Heaven Allows” in Cinéaste Vol. 39, No. 4. Cineaste Publishers, Inc., 2014
• Barbara Klinger. Melodrama & Meaning, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1994
• Sonbert, Warren. "Douglas Sirk and the Melodrama."Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, vol. 56 no. 1, 2015, p. 214-219. Project MUSEmuse.jhu.edu/article/579227.
by Meabh Aine Broderick
A young child hunkers down in the velvet chairs of a dimly lit theatre, her miniature figure barely filling half the large space. She sits patiently, popcorn in hand, waiting to be plunged into darkness. No sooner do the lights go down than a spectacle of colour and sound erupts onto the screen. Before her eyes, she sees a world beyond imagination unfold. A powerful woman dominates the screen, fighting the bad guys alongside her team. In her ear she hears the voice of a woman in a lab coat sitting at a computer, frantically analysing the screens. Meanwhile, the action cuts to a hospital where a mother operates on her injured son. When the lights go up, she offers a sideways glance to her mother and feels a sense of familiarity between her and the characters she had seen on screen. As she skips out to the car holding her mother’s hand, she feels like she could take on the world and be whoever she wants to be.
That child is me, but her experience is something I could only dream of.
For me, the doctors, scientists and heroes were replaced by princesses and damsels in distress. As it faded to black and the credits rolled, I began to scan the room for a real-life incarnation of the figures on screen, to no avail. When I returned home, wanting nothing more than to be like the women I had just come to know, I stood in front of the mirror, desperately searching for ways in which I could transform myself to achieve this goal. While this may seem like a bleak outlook on the experiences of a young, naïve child, I know that everyone can identify with it in one way or another.
Ever since I was a young girl, I have dreamed of being a part of the wonderful world of film. However, this dream has always been shadowed by a series of unattainable goals that I felt must be achieved before I could do anything else. They are not random or irrational. They have been subconsciously forced upon me from the very first time I sat through a film and have stuck with me until this very day. Films have the ability to teach us and can leave a lasting impression. Unfortunately, they can also leave a nasty mark. For me, films have led me to believe that in order to succeed in life, I must look and act a certain way. That there are a limited number of roles I can fill in life and that the highest praise I can ever get will always end with the words, “for a girl.” While I have learned that the real world has a little more to offer, a part of me can never shake these feelings that have lingered in me since childhood.
Representation of women in film is severely lacking when compared to what we see of men. Positive representations are even fewer and farther between. The Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media has undertaken several studies to analyse the inequality that currently exists in the film industry. The results offer a clear explanation for the way women, including myself, feel about their position in the world. In an analysis of Family Films, it was revealed that only 13% of films featured a balanced or slightly female centric cast. This means that growing up, young women have very little opportunity to find and relate to characters on screen. To add to this, even within this lack of representation, it has been found that female characters are far more likely to be hypersexualised and valued for their beauty than male characters. While R-rated films emphasised thinness in its female characters, G-rated films heavily featured women with tiny waists and unrealistic body types. In the same study of family films, it was found that only 20.3% of female characters were employed while male characters occupied 79.7% of all jobs. This means that women of all ages are constantly being fed ideas about what they should look like and what professional roles they can fill in an ideal world. However, my ideal world looks a lot different.
In today’s world, films that feature a predominantly female cast or a female director garner a heavy amount of praise for their inclusivity and equality. Featuring a woman of size 12 is considered revolutionary and a diverse cast is deemed extraordinary. However, while this is well deserved, films that do not offer this are not chastised. When watching a film, the average audience member does not bat an eyelid when the credits roll and only one female name appears for every ten males. For this is the norm. We have grown to accept and even expect this so much that when a film strays from this and goes out of its way to embrace equality, we are taken aback.
But why should it be considered a feat in filmmaking to do something that should have been happening since the very beginning? I am not belittling the achievements of those who have embraced equality and diversity up until now, because in the current climate of the film industry it really is something to be proud of. However, in my dream world, every billboard and poster we see features one woman for every man. Every heroine is just as powerful as any hero on screen. Everybody tall or small, young or old, man or woman can see themselves represented on screen. I dream of a world where we do not commend films for achieving this because why should we expect anything less?
By Eoin Robert Shortiss
In the world we live in today, a surprising amount of information is conveyed through fictional television and film, whether it is a hospital drama trying to capture the symptoms of a certain disease or sci-fi film attempting to describe the insides of a supercomputer. Believe it or not, sometimes these portrayals fail to present the things they talk about accurately.
As viewers, you cannot fully blame directors or actors for this, as they clearly do not have the time to study up on a full science for every single production they are involved in. That being said, it can create widespread misconceptions, as I believe it has with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD as it is more commonly known, is something that I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing affect someone I care about. I have watched it take apart all things secure in someone’s life, and leave them haunted by their worst fears, forcing them to do physically and mentally strenuous rituals to keep those fears away.
Left untreated, it can be very damaging, and leave someone plagued with crippling fear and anxiety on an everyday basis. After witnessing it affect someone I know personally, I gathered my own horrific definition, and assumed that was how the rest of the world saw it.
I quickly learned, however, that to the outside world OCD was not the big scary disorder that I thought it was. Rather, it was used as an adjective to describe a disposition to be neat, as in, “I’m so OCD about open doors,” or, “I’m really OCD when it comes to cleaning my bedroom.” I am not at all bothered by the usage of it this way--I actually find it kind of fun. What I am curious about, however, is seeing how it originated, and seeing how film and television have reinforced these narratives in the past. To do this, I will analyse several examples of film and TV that portray characters confirmed to have the disorder, and see if they are in fact closely linked to the common perceptions the public have of the disorder.
These stereotypes are what I have gathered to be the public’s interpretation of someone with OCD: a good, righteous person who is content when they are impeccably neat and tidy, has a habit of doing several actions multiple times, and are terrified of disorganisation or messes, particularly germs. To clarify, I am not intending to offend anyone with the disorder in writing this, nor am I claiming any of the portrayals in my examples are entirely incorrect--OCD manifests itself differently in everyone. I simply wish to examine how films may have had a hand in creating the general misconception that all manifestations appear in mostly the same way.
The first portrayal I will tackle is arguably the most standout of all the examples I will list in terms of popularity. This is, of course, the TV show Monk. Monk is a TV show that I can vividly remember watching growing up. It revolves around a man named Adrian Monk (commonly referred to as Monk) with a strong form of OCD working for the San Francisco Police Department on murder cases.
As this is a long TV show, boasting many seasons, I just viewed the first two episodes as I figured this would be where the vast majority of setup for the character would take place. It seems I was right, as these episodes had more than enough detail to allow an analysis. Though I believe Monk leans far too heavily towards stereotypes, it still has some positives that need to be noted.
The most unique part of this portrayal is in how it makes reference to triggers for OCD that can worsen the disorder for those who have it. It is made clear in the first episode that the protagonist had his OCD become far more problematic after the sudden death of his wife. This is accurate, as the death of a loved one can indeed be a trigger that brings out more severe OCD, along with many other stressful or traumatic events. OCD is also shown as serious in Monk, in how the viewer learns that it has cost the protagonist his job working for the police. This is a very good aspect of the show, as it shows the potential for OCD to be disruptive to someone’s life, which is often not expected of it.
I also appreciate how Monk’s OCD causes him to stand out in public in some scenes, as happens to many people with the disorder who are forced to do their rituals in public. The most humorous example of this when Monk attends a reading for children at a library to question a woman who is connected to his murder case. Monk dramatically interrupts this reading due to his disgust of witnessing a child pick his nose, clearly triggering his fear of messes and/or germs.
A piece from the first scene of the first episode touches on another unique aspect of OCD, which has earned it the title of “The Doubting Disease.” Sufferers of OCD tend to be more prone to doubt, most often about aspects of themselves. Monk is investigating a crime scene, and finds himself doubting that the stove in his house was turned off properly. He is reassured by his carer that the stove is, in fact, off, but he is still fixated on the thought and this doubt distracts him from staying fully focused on the job at hand. I find it very innovative that the show added this, whether it was intentional or not.
Monk could be seen as the worst of all my examples for showing the stereotypical manifestations of OCD, however. Monk loves cleaning, organising, and is terrified of germs. He enjoys symmetry and things being neat as well. As far as the rituals he does to try and manage his OCD, these episodes show them as primarily being touching objects repeatedly. This is actually one of the rituals that I personally have seen, so obviously there is some accuracy to this manifestation. However, as the scope of possible rituals is infinite, and as I have seen this ritual several times before on screens, this show choosing to display this ritual is no way innovative or new.
From what I have seen of the show, there is absolutely nothing new in terms of OCD’s manifestation that hasn’t been seen before, which greatly impacts my opinion of its portrayal overall. Though not awful, the form of OCD shown in Monk certainly falls short in displaying any of the physical elements of the disorder, and therefore can be seen as feeding into the general stereotype.
As Good As It Gets (James L. Brooks, 1997) is a movie that revolves around several characters, each with their own story and struggles. One of these characters, Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) is a famous author diagnosed with OCD, who lives a mostly isolated life in his apartment. As far as the positives seen in this portrayal of the disorder, the best aspect of it by far is how Melvin’s OCD is made take a backseat to the narrative.
When compared to other works where OCD is displayed, a large portion of the story, if not the entire story itself, is focused on how that character deals and learns to cope with living with the disorder. By making OCD appear as just another feature of Melvin, I believe it captures what it’s like for those forced to live with the disorder. It is not at the forefront of their minds all the time, but rather it is something that they just deal with, as everyone else does their own burdens. On top of this, Melvin is made out time and time again to be an incredibly rude and inconsiderate man, disposing of the “virtuous do-gooder” stereotype I mentioned before.
However, though these representations go against the misconceptions of the public, Melvin’s rituals to keep the OCD in check most certainly do not. His perfectly organised medicine cabinet fulfils the organisation stereotype, all the while his excessive hand washing habits perfectly capture the paralysing fear of germs people with OCD are believed to have. We also see him repeating various actions multiple times, in him locking and unlocking the door and turning on and off the lights, which is again another stereotypical ritual.
As far as originality goes for showcasing rituals, they seem to have used every stereotype they could find. In reality however, the rituals that people do because of OCD stem from fears. A ritual could be any action at all, it all depends on what someone is afraid of. For example, Melvin locking the door multiple times could be a sign of him being afraid of someone breaking in because he did not lock the door properly. Melvin’s rituals, though very possible for people with OCD, fail to showcase the element of fear involved and seem more like uninspired stereotypes rather than attempting to show the potential for variety with these rituals.
Matchstick Men (Ridley Scott, 2003) tells the tale of a professional con-man, Roy Waller (Nicholas Cage), whose life is turned upside-down when he discovers he has a teenage daughter named Angela (Alison Lohman), who is eager to become a part of his life. Roy suffers from OCD, and watching him juggle his obsessive behaviour while keeping up his dishonest profession is a fascinating dynamic in this film.
The portrayal of OCD is this film is strong in multiple aspects. Firstly, Roy’s OCD is shown as actually being problematic to him. It gets in the way of his job, it is annoyingly time consuming, and the movie is very clear in showing the amount of distress it brings with it. Roy is a very good example of someone who actually suffers from the disorder, which is exactly what happens to those unfortunate enough to be diagnosed. OCD can easily be perceived as beneficial, what with all you see about being very hygienic and incredibly organised, but it is rare that the condition itself is viewed as such by someone who has it.
I also praise Matchstick Men for being creative in how the disorder manifests itself in Roy. Multiple times throughout the film, when someone swears in front of Roy, it visibly bothers him, and he requests that they stop using that kind of language. Though this is a vague detail, I believe it is intentionally made to look out of place, given that Roy himself is a con artist who should at the very least be used to this kind of talk. I believe his irrational dislike to these words stems from OCD. Though it is impossible tell for sure, all of the fears and thoughts that come from OCD are naturally irrational, and Roy’s hatred for bad language could very well be one of them.
I also have to give the movie credit for being the first example of OCD on a screen I have seen that managed to accurately show obsessive thinking, a huge part of the disorder for anyone who suffers from it. Someone with an obsessive compulsive mind can frequently get stuck on a thought, particularly one which cause pain or discomfort, and can dwell on it in a process often referred to as ruminating. When talking to a therapist about his OCD, Roy manages to verbally communicate one of these obsessional loops his mind went on when cleaning his carpet. His thought process ends exactly where it began, causing an eternal loop that perfectly demonstrates ruminating in a mind with OCD.
As good a job as this film did with capturing the disorder, the usual tropes sadly remain. Roy is impeccably organised, as seen when his daughter goes through his house, and finds every item stored away neatly. On top of this, he demonstrates the usual fear of germs in his excessive stockpile of disinfectants, and his extreme cleaning sprees. Matchstick Men is more adventurous in showing Roy’s OCD, and I feel it certainly pays off in terms of realism, capturing what most depictions don’t even come close to. That being said, it still relies on the ‘old reliables’ of cleaning and organisation to get its message across. All other aspects of the disorder that I pinpointed, such as the ruminating and his dislike of swearing, could easily go unnoticed to a regular viewer. All in all, though innovative, the unseen elements of OCD they showed took a backseat to the stereotypes in this film, which I only managed to notice after specifically looking for them, and this really leaves their portrayal not much better than your average stereotypical view.
Scrubs (NBC-ABC, 2001-2010), a hospital comedy which I hold in incredibly high regard, also made an attempt to portray OCD in its episode, “My Catalyst.” In this episode a visiting professor, Dr. Kevin Casey, arrives at the hospital: a man who has both specialties of a medical attending and surgeon, all while suffering from pretty severe OCD. All things considered, this was a very good portrayal of the disorder.
The first thing that really stood out was the attempt it made to show what all the previous examples I have discussed failed to grasp: rituals. Upon introducing the character, he is immediately attempting, and failing, to complete one of his rituals, chastising himself in saying, “How hard can it be for me to step in here left foot first and simultaneously exhale as my right foot plants?” This immediately shows the complications that are often associated with these rituals. He is not washing his hands, or closing a door, but rather walking into a building. By doing this ritual, though a fear may not necessarily be the driving force behind it, he may simply be doing it to make the action “feel right.” Why doing it a certain way makes it “right” is unexplainable even for those with the disorder, but regardless, it is certainly innovative that they showed this aspect of rituals in particular.
The frustration he shows towards himself is again creative for a portrayal, as this is often the case for someone who can’t complete their rituals correctly, getting them stuck, often on a simple errand. This is most evident at the end of the piece, where he finds himself washing his hands repeatedly post-surgery, with nothing but rage being shown at how he just cannot seem to stop doing it.
This example of OCD is also innovative in how Dr. Casey refers to obtaining his talents as a doctor, by doing all of his studies “over and over.” Though this is another reference to a repeated action, a stereotype I have faulted before. I have never seen it be applied to reading or work related activities in any manifestation yet, so this is certainly unique.
For negatives, the condition finds itself steering into a few stereotypes. One of these is in the usage of a few standard rituals, in him washing his hands or turning the light switch on and off, but as I have previously stated, these rituals are entirely possible; the only problem is that this depiction reinforces the idea that this is common among all people with the disorder.
The bigger problem with this portrayal however is in the way the disorder is treated as an advantage. Granted, what Dr. Casey refers to is entirely possible: being forced to do the same study repeatedly as you find it very difficult to stop, thereby forcing you to learn the material well. What this fails to capture, however, is how problematic this behaviour would have been in reality. If he found himself spending all of his spare time re-reading the same few pages of his textbooks, he would have had no time for any other work of his, not to mention any breaks, or even the slightest hint of a social life. Painting the disorder in this light adds to the idea that it can be beneficial to those who have it, which many people who suffer from it would disagree with vehemently.
Overall, this portrayal was very well executed and innovative, but in painting the disorder in a positive light, it reinforces one of the most inaccurate stereotypes, wounding its realism a considerable amount.
From what I have examined, it is clear that the public’s perception of OCD and how it is portrayed in film and TV are at the very least closely connected. I believe that if TV and film were not the original creator of the stereotype, it certainly is vital in keeping it alive. Painting the disorder the way it is portrayed today, as something that turns people into “neat freaks,” though harmless on the surface, could lead to it being passed off by the public as something minor and inconsequential. I do also believe however that it being repeatedly added to narratives is something that is raising awareness of its existence as a disorder, which should help educate those who think it is nothing more than what I described in my opening. I hope that these depictions grow more accurate as time passes, and are one day able to properly capture what it means to live with the disorder.
By Eoin Robert Shortiss
In my mind, the perfect film industry revolves around one thing: ideas. They can come from anyone, and I believe they have the ability to change people’s lives forever. Film is one of the best and most approachable mediums to convey these ideas to people. I believe the perfect film industry is one that is fueled by many different perspectives, and which allows the most powerful and meaningful ideas to be expressed freely.
My first ideal image of film industry is one where those behind the creation of films are appropriately protected by freedom of speech. In a world where there is seemingly an ever-growing “outrage culture” on the internet, any form of artistic expression that strays from the norm could be seen as controversial or offensive towards some group. This attitude is one that greatly stains the art of filmmaking. Creativity is infinite, and with it comes infinite concepts and ideas that can inspire or change the lives of thousands. Nobody should stifle this creativity for fear of certain films causing disturbance among the public. We have seen time and time again the effect film has on society, my favourite example being the major increase in navy recruitment sign-ups after the film Top Gun (1986) was released. The right film could change the minds of millions for the better. We cannot afford to let anything stand in the way of this. Freedom of speech is invaluable.
The second aspect of my ideal film industry would be one that has widespread equality. Of course, a non-discriminatory system which allows a large variety of people from different communities, with varying religious beliefs, etc. would be amazing. Firstly, this would promote equal opportunities for all, as well as inspiring and educating many on the similarities between people, no matter what their background. More important, however, is that it expands the scope of ideas being poured into the film industry. Any oppressed or impoverished group in this world are those who have not yet had the opportunity to express their ideas appropriately are perhaps the ones that need access to the film industry the most. They have messages that have not been heard yet. The more brains we have behind creating different forms of art through film, the more the film industry will be able to intrigue and inspire people all over the world for the better.
Finally, I believe the ideal film industry would be one that fully allows the arts to thrive without limits. As I have already said, I truly believe the right idea can change the world. A film industry that has more freedom in it would be the most efficient way of allowing ideas such as these to take hold. There are many ways to do this, such as having good quality of equipment be more affordable for new filmmakers, and making it simpler for films that simply cannot get equal publicity to be seen by the public. I would also like it to be easier and cheaper for filmmakers to get permission to film on the locations they decide on. A film industry with less limits on those working in it is one that would surely flourish more than it already is.
By John Finbarr McGarr
The film industry is, after all, an industry; meaning its top priority is to make money. Without money, Hollywood would not exist. So, the most sure-fire way of making a profit is to market films that have been proven to be popular with audiences. This comes in the form of sequels, casting popular actors and reboots of old franchises.
But none of these techniques are as shameless and transparent as the remake-- taking a pre-existing movie and just making it again. Reboots do not cross the same line as remakes, as they somewhat act as sequels, in the hope of restarting the franchise. Remakes, on the other hand, act as though the original is irrelevant, and that the world needs a newer, more updated version.
The biggest offender at the moment is Disney, since it is now going through an “anti-renaissance” of remaking all of its old properties. All of their new remakes are huge step downs in quality from the original animated films. The over-reliance on CGI has resulted in characters that were once cut and lovable, becoming creepy and unnerving. Just compare the Robin Williams Genie to the Will Smith Genie. The cartoony style allowed the old Disney characters to be expressive and energetic, but the new 3-D CGI characters look like the antagonists from a horror film. Obviously, Disney knows that a brand new 2019 retelling of Aladdin (1992) is going to rake in much more money than if they just re-released the classic version.
Another equally offensive trend at Hollywood is the English-language remake. Films like Oldboy (2003) have had the misfortune to have been remade for western audiences. Aside from being absolutely incompetent in terms of writing, directing and editing, the English 2013 remake of Oldboy acts as a barrier to foreign film. There is an entire world of film outside of Hollywood, and films like Oldboy act as gateways to introduce western audiences to foreign films, due to how accessible and appealing it is. The English language remake prevents this from happening by offering a more inferior alternative for western audiences to watch, just so that they do not have to read subtitles.
However, being a remake does not make the film inherently bad. In the film The Thing From Another World (1951), the characters unite together in order to fight off the titular villain. However, in the remake, The Thing (1982), John Carpenter took the film in a new direction; by having the characters grow divided and lose their trust in one another, due to the Thing’s shapeshifting abilities. By doing this, he made a new story entirely and allowing audiences to have different viewing experiences when watching both films.
Sometimes, being a remake enhances the film’s quality. It is rare for a director to remake their own film, but that didn’t stop Michael Haneke from remaking his German-language film Funny Games (1997), which acts a satire of modern horror films and the audiences that watch these movies. In Funny Games (2008), the same criticisms are made, but the fact that he remade it, shot-for-shot, adds to the critique of the lazy, workman-like process of the Hollywood horror industry.
This makes the concept of remakes are a little more complicated than the simple idea of them bastardizing the original. It has been proven that Hollywood remakes can be of quality, with films like True Grit (2010), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and The Departed (2006), with the latter even winning the best picture award at the Academy Awards.
But then the concept of a remake gets blurred with films like Heart of Darkness (1993) and The Revenant (2015). Heart of Darkness is based off of the 1899 novella of the same name, which was previously adapted into the more famous Apocalypse Now (1979). It could be argued that Heart of Darkness is a remake of Apocalypse Now, but another way to look at it is that Heart of Darkness is a re-adaptation of the source material.
A similar problem arises with the story of Hugh Glass, whose story was adapted into Man in the Wilderness (1971), which was then adapted into a 2002 novel by Michael Punke, later being adapted into The Revenant (2015). Again, it could be argued that The Revenant is a remake of Man in the Wilderness, but another argument could be made that The Revenant is more of an adaptation of the novel.
While Hollywood is trying its best to make as much profit as possible through remakes, there are many cases in which a remake proves to be of quality. Remakes can be seen as no different than the adaptation of books and television series into films. They should be thought less of a “copy and paste” job and more of a reinterpretation. While remakes can be offensive and shameless, with the right director and writer, a remake of a film can stand up to the original - the film industry needs to learn more from directors like; John Carpenter, Michael Haneke, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher and Martin Scorsese.
By Kane Simon Geary O'Keeffe
The explosion of Irish media representation in the last ten years is readily apparent. Just last year, Irish produced film The Favourite (2018) swept awards ceremonies. As well as that, Cartoon Saloon has become an internationally successful animation powerhouse. While this relatively recent rise in worldwide attention toward the Irish entertainment industry is more than welcome, it has also served to highlight some of the issues of representation that said industry faces in our country. With more eyes on our visual media than ever before, it has never been more important to focus on how we as a people are represented on screen to this international audience.
Unfortunately, throughout the last ten years or so, the depictions of the Irish people in our own mainstream media have had a damaging effect on our image, as we are often relegated to roles such as criminals and other forms of ‘crook.’ These negative depictions of the Irish people, coupled with our tendencies to accentuate the portrayal of our negative stereotypes on screen, means that while we as a nation might certainly be on the rise with our presence on screens around the world, we are still far off from an ideal industry.
Inclusivity is an extremely important part of portraying a nation’s people on screen. While it’s great to see many depictions of our working class on screen, since Love/Hate (2010-2014) became a huge hit at the beginning of the decade, the dominating image of Irish people on our screens has shifted to include a criminal element to that working class image. The depiction of the Irish as a criminal people has become more and more prominent in the years since Love/ Hate’s release. The success of Films and T.V shows such as The Young Offenders (2016), Cardboard Gangsters (2017), Michael Inside (2017), and Between The Canals (2010) have brought this damaging image of the Irish as a people who seem to take pride in a criminal identity into the spotlight. The fact that many of these are distributed internationally by Netflix only ensures that this starts to become the more prominent image of the Irish people in the minds of international viewers. Many if not all of these films and shows have predominantly Irish production crews, so it is even more unfortunate to see that this issue of representation is being perpetuated by ourselves. It may be an attempt from us as a country to break away from the ever popular image of the rural, devoutly religious villagers that still permeates our culture, but this extreme flip from one side of the coin to the other is having equally damaging effects on the depiction of ourselves as a people. Even characters in shows that have become international phenomena like Peaky Blinders and Mrs Brown’s Boys have included Irish characters that are defined by their willingness to commit crimes and live a less than desirable, and often illegal, lifestyle. If we are to grow as a people towards an ideal film industry in Ireland, it may be a good idea, as well as our own responsibility, to show modern international audiences that we are more than organised drug dealers and criminals, and instead strive to bring more facets of our proud and multi-layered culture to the screen.
The issue with our own representations on screen does not end with our gravitation towards this prominent criminal image. The Irish as a people have faced issues in recent years with distancing ourselves away from the negative stereotypes that we are commonly associated with. The ever present Irish mammy, the fighting alcoholic (although the image of alcohol pretty much stretches across all depictions of the Irish), and the ‘Holy Joe.’ These stereotypes often cast us as a conservative nation, stuck in the past. However, as our recent referenda have shown, this is far from the case, as Ireland is often seen to be at the forefront of international social progress.
This position is not adequately shown on our screens, as our media tends to cling instead to these dated and damaging stereotypes. Mrs Brown’s Boys once again comes to mind as one of the more famous examples of this in practice. The controlling image of the ‘mammy’ forms the fulcrum around which the show revolves. Mrs Brown herself is problematic in that she represents a time of conforming to traditional gender roles that is best left in the past. Her supporting cast is equally problematic. Not only do we have Buster, who once again becomes the embodiment of this new ‘urban criminal’ type. We have the holier-than-thou ‘Father Damian’ and Mrs Brown’s own son Trevor, another priest. The show also relegates its only queer characters, Ruairi and Deano, to stock stereotypes whose only function is to be the butt of jokes, often in poor taste.
Mrs Brown’s Boys is far from the only culprit here. Films produced in our own country, such as Grabbers (2012), in which Irish islanders can only keep hungry monsters at bay through consuming dangerous amounts of alcohol, and The Guard (2011), in which the central character, Brendan Gleason’s titular guard, declares that “racism is part of my culture,” continue to portray us in a less than desirable light. While at times, the utilisation of these damaging images is part of a comedic attempt at self parody, often it only serves to add to the depictions of problematic stereotypes that will continue to shape how international viewers perceive the Irish people.
As part of the oncoming journey towards our ideal film industry, it is essential that we as a people become more aware of these negative stereotypes and controlling images, and instead take this opportunity to show our country and our people for what they are and will continue to be: a center for inclusion and social progress. I hope to see our screens become a place where Ireland is shown as an island firmly rooted in the future, instead of the past.
UCC Film Writers
Editorials and reviews by students at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. Compiled and edited by Gabrielle Ulubay.