As we crest the midsummer halfway mark, 2020 is a year already enshrined as one of the strangest and most tumultuous in modern history. The pandemic and its associated ills have transformed our world like nothing before - and are now added to by the global protests around racial inequality. Even the Oscar-winning 'Gone With the Wind' felt the zephyr of change when it was abruptly pulled last week from its HBO streaming platform due to its depictions of ethnic prejudices.
Despite the 80-year popularity of this epic American Civil War tale, it was confronted by the growing chorus to amend a message no longer acceptable.
The news recalled that line from 'The Commitments' when band manager Jimmy Rabbitte declared: "The Irish are the blacks of Europe, and Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland."
In the eyes of Hollywood, inhabitants of this Emerald Isle have often suffered stereotypical miscasting, portrayed as uncouth, ignorant and belligerent.
We may not have endured the yoke of slavery to Scarlett O'Hara with happy smiles like Mammy and Prissy, but characters like the chaotic Will Danaher in 'The Quiet Man' ably conformed to a common image of drunkenness and violence Fáilte Ireland wouldn't be thrilled about.
Victor McLaglen won an Oscar for his portrayal of the classic plastered Paddy, adding to his previous one playing yet another alcohol-addled Irishman in 1935's 'The Informer.'
Better still in the same film was Barry Fitzgerald's matchmaker Michaeleen Og - chaperoning John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara while nipping copiously from a hip flask. "Is this a courting or a donnybrook? Have the good manners not to hit the man until he's your husband and entitled to hit you back."
Funny in its era, perhaps, but an image of Ireland that's far from palatable in the bright light of 2020.
Down the decades we've seen ourselves inhabiting a narrow range of screen characterisations from rural backstabbers to feckless drunks and monosyllabic terrorist hitmen.
Even 'The Simpsons' couldn't resist such stereotyping, with the town drunk, Barney Gumble affecting an Irish accent while delivering a hilariously scurrilous rendition of 'Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral'.
Bad enough, though, that we suffer our Hollywood portrayal as forever inebriated and bellicose. The crimes committed upon the Irish accent by stars such as Tom Cruise, Sean Connery, Gerard Butler and Julia Roberts are even harder to bear, and are clearly guilty of verbal high treason toward mellifluous Irish elocution. Now we're members of the UN Security Council, might our first order of business be a motion to reclassify 'The Quiet Man' and its cringeworthy imitators as dangerous evocations of moral turpitude. Bejabers and begorrah, shure we'll demand our day in court, so we will...
Learning from a master
We all need a mentor at times, someone whose wise counsel will help guide us through the jagged zig-zags of life.
One such national treasure who seems to grow more beguiling with every advancing year is Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh - a voice of humour and reason whose gentle reminders to stop and smell the roses of life that surround us are always so insightful.
The voice of sport and so much more, he shares the moments of his life and the road less travelled on RTÉ's 'Saoi Sa Chathaoir' tomorrow night. Required viewing to lift your soul.
Old and bold
The old man was in his socially distanced seat on the Luas when a young punk plonked himself beside him.
"You can't sit there," advised the elderly gent. "Go to hell," growled the hooligan. "If I do, I'll be waiting for you with a hot poker on your first day," replied the old soldier. Right on.