Thursday 20 October 2016

Television review... Bad language: it's not all bad

* Recruits (RTE1)
* Enda Kenny (RTE1)

Published 07/09/2015 | 02:30

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan

I was in an RTE TV studio when the great John Cooper Clarke chose to read his poem Evidently Chickentown during a rehearsal for TV Ga Ga - yes, I have seen many things.

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And I recall his eloquent explanation to a concerned RTE person that the "bad language" in Chickentown is used so frequently and is so intrinsic to the rhythm of the piece, its "offensive" properties are eventually neutralised and some higher creative purpose is achieved.

To the great relief of the concerned person this theory was not tested in the extreme conditions of a live broadcast, but I remembered it while I was watching Recruits, and while I was listening to the great outpouring of grief which followed on Liveline.

They were ringing Joe to say how upset they were at all the bad language used by the corporals in particular, as they roared incessantly at these recruits in the Curragh camp. The callers felt that if this is what it takes to make "a good soldier", there must be something deeply wrong with the culture of the military and with the men and women who perpetuate it.

I felt that the callers were wrong, and that the show was excellent due in no small way to the very thing which had saddened these viewers - the corporals were not just using bad language indiscriminately, they were using it a bit like Cooper Clarke in Chickentown, as a kind of an energy in itself.

They were using it like characters in a play by David Mamet, the master of demotic speech. Instead of roaring "Fall In!", the corporal roared: "Fall The Fuck In!".

I believe that Mamet himself, if he'd been watching this, would have been saddened not by the profanity, but because he hadn't thought of that line...Fall The Fuck In!

Meanwhile it was a "great shout" on the part of the programme-makers to think of going in there, one of the last places in our world outside of a celebrity chef's kitchen in which it is still considered acceptable or even legal to carry on like this.

In so doing, they confirmed to us that almost all of Reality TV is based on an original idea dreamed up by the armed forces, with the "contestants" being subjected to the most terrible savagery in order to break them and re-make them. And some of them will get through it, and some of them will not.

Except unlike most of the "recruits" on the X Factor, at the end of army training you have a career.



No, if you wanted to see language being mis-used last week, the Curragh camp was not your destination - you needed to be at the launch of RTE's Irish Language Action Plan. Which by a marvellous coincidence, was also the launch of special guest Enda Kenny's action plan to pick his "best bits" from the Fennelly Report, and to ignore all the other bits.

Many members of the political class were calling bullshit on Kenny in relation to Fennelly, apparently unaware that he had started that long day at the dead centre of Bullshit City, at its highest point. And that if anything he was working his way down from there.

At the launch the Taoiseach noted that the Action Plan was part of the implementation of the broader 20-year strategy. But of course one of the first fruits of all these plans and strategies is the creation of a new post.

There is now in RTE a Group Head Irish Language.

Money well spent, no doubt. And there will be much for the Group Head to do, overseeing the Action Plan which is part of the strategy which includes bi-lingual bulletins on 2FM; a new "youth-orientated" Irish language radio service; increased use of Irish in TV promos, continuity and weather bulletins (look forward to that one); and a Centre of Excellence in Irish-language media training. Whatever that is.

What I suspect it is, is something that will require the creation of another new post. Or even several posts, permanent and perhaps even pensionable.

And you know what? I'm starting to regret now, that I've kinda put myself out of that game, due to my bad attitude over the years.

Group Head Irish Language...Director of the Centre of Excellence in Irish-language Media Studies, whatever that is.....

I can change.

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