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Discuss the Representation of Irish Identity in any 2 films you have studied. Throughout my essay, I will be focusing on the representation of Irish Identity in film. In order to gain a clear perspective on the representation of the Irish, I will be closely examining two films based in Ireland. I will firstly discuss how the Irish of 1930's rural Ireland are presented in John Ford's 'The Quiet Man'. In contrast to 'The Quiet Man' I will then examine the representation of Dublin city whirlwind romancers in 'When Brendan Met Trudy'. I will be covering all aspects of representation including the depiction of gender roles, nationalism, religion and idealistic Hollywood representation.
The first film that I will be examining is John Ford's 'The Quiet Man' (1952) starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. 'The Quiet Man' is a traditional love story set in the rural west of Ireland. Filmed in a remote village in Co. Mayo, 'The Quiet Man' follows the story of how in the pre-depression years of the 1930s, a first-generation Irish-American boxer makes an escape from industrial Pittsburgh to his native Connemara. Sean Thornton arrives in the rural country town of his birthplace on the Irish west coast to find solidarity after dehumanizing chaos in the steel mills of industrial USA and after the emotional devastation of having murdered a man in a prize boxing fight. Upon arrival Sean has no trouble settling back into the west coast community and spirited maiden Mary Kate instantly catches Sean's attention. However Sean will have to fight Red Will Danaher, the local leader and richest landowner in town for his family cottage and his love's hand in marriage. Sean's attempt to accomplish the eye of his affection O'Hara from her overwhelming brother and farmer Squire Danaher proves a struggle as 'Red' must give consent to their marriage, in accordance with the Irish traditional customs of the 1930's.
The first representation that is clearly apparent is the Hollywood portrayal of the west of Ireland, idyllic and beautiful in appearance however suffering due to the fall in population after the 1840's potato famine. Ireland in 'The Quiet Man' is presented to the viewer as "a primitive Eden, a rural idyll free from the pressures and constraints of the modern world" (Gibbons 1987), which in actual fact is a far cry from the social reality of the inter-war era in Ireland it portrays. The overall identity of the Irish community is presented in a positive light, with colourful characters full of wit and charm in the intimate pub scenes. The representation of gender surfaces as Sean's masculinity is questioned as he initially refuses to fight Red Will. O'Hara ultimately represents the traditional Irish maiden of her time, with her flowing red locks; she instantly catches the attention and affection of Sean. 'The Quiet Man reveals more clearly Ford's beliefs in the intertwining of religion, sexuality and community in rural Ireland.' (McIlroy, 1988). The portrayal of religion in Ireland is apparent in the film as there is a predominant Catholic community who go against their religion by pretending to be of Protestant faith so that the local vicar is allowed to remain in the village. This portrayal of religion realistically denies the religious strife that remains in Irish society. The question of the gap in social class and racial strife is also brought to attention in the film as Red Will courts the pompous English widow Sarah Tillane. All in all, Ford creates a blurred fantasy of a peaceful, timeless, traditional and preindustrial Ireland, yet the realistic economic troubles and differences between class, race, politics and religion in Irish society are blurred to the viewer's eye. The returning Irish man finds the ideal accommodation to heal his scars from the emasculating battle of survival in the American capitalist underworld, and succeeds in negotiating the terms of re-joining into Irish rural society, the involvement in pub brawls and witty humour. Sean ultimately returns to his roots by transforming into a true Irishman, symbolically reintegrating the country by marrying his love, Mary Kate Danaher.
The final film I examined that represents Irish identity in a modern manner is 'When Brendan Met Trudy' released in 2000. 'When Brendan Met Trudy' is a romantic comedy written by Roddy Doyle and directed by Kieron J. Walsh. The film presents the foundations of a typical modern relationship revolving around the exciting whirlwind romance between reserved classical singer Brendan played by Peter McDonald and secretive thief Trudy starring Flora Montgomery. Brendan, a secondary school teacher leads an unimaginative life, following the same day to day routine where the highlight of his week is church choir practice. His middle class family are aware of his lack of a love life, and constantly question his masculinity as they are desperate for him to find a girlfriend as his biological clock is ticking. On an evening in the local pub after choir rehearsal, Brendan is met with Trudy, a fun loving blonde with an edgy attitude. At a party, displaying the alcoholic banter stereotypical of the Irish, Brendan, an unlikely match for Trudy, proves himself as a worthy boyfriend as he stands up and sings a classical song in front of Trudy's friends. The film is predominantly based around the height of the Celtic Tiger, which ultimately had an effect on Irish society. 'A large and growing body of work has come into existence analysing the rapid trans nationalisation of Irishness spurred by Celtic Tigerism' Diane Negra (2004). It is clear that modern Irish society have moved on from traditional ways. This is represented in 'When Brendan met Trudy' as a sexual relationship develops between the two lovers in the film out of wedlock. Religion presented in the film is also lightly disregarded and faith is not an apparent strong drive in modern Irish people's lives. Trudy brings a new lease of life to the once lonely singleton however Brendan lacks trust in Trudy's secret profession. This presents a far cry from 1930's Ireland where partners had full trust in one another. After a botched robbery at the school where Brendan works; Trudy is sent to Mountjoy prison. The representation of Trudy facing the prison sentence due to her crime in theft is ironic to Brendan's mother's idealistic traditional woman's role as a home maker. The film ends on a high as Trudy is released after she completes her sentence and the couple marry with kids. 'When Brendan met Trudy' shows various different elements of the representation of Irish Society today 'When Brendan met Trudy' is set in modern Ireland, yet traditionalist gender roles can still be identified. Brendan hails from a stereotypically proud upper middle class family who are stringent in whom they associate themselves with and have degrading views on those who are lesser than them. One particular example which proved this to me is when Brendan takes Trudy to meet his family. Trudy explains that she works as a Montessori teacher however Brendan's mother is confused as to what the profession contains so Brendan's sister informs her it's a 'Nanny'. Trudy is angered with his association and feels downgraded in Brendan's home. Although of course, this depiction of an upper middle class family is a stereotype, it is true to say that there is a large community of Dublin inhabitants with a similar outlook to those they cannot relate to.
To conclude, the representation of Irish identity in both examined films is clearly apparent. In John Ford's 'The Quiet Man', an idyllic Hollywood representation of Ireland is displayed despite the resulting depopulation of the potato blight. Gender roles are predominantly traditional as American Irish man Sean must fight for his love O'Hara. In 'When Brendan Met Trudy', we are presented with similar traditionalist stereotypical representations, particularly those of Brendan's overbearing family's expectations. Although the portrayal of Irish identity may have initial flaws by idealistic outside perspectives of Ireland, these representations however are positive in that they embrace the Irish charm and culture.