People like being offended these days, it gives them a purpose, a reason to live. If they can express this offence, this sense of outrage, on a public platform, then all the better. And if they can use their feelings of hurt and sadness to hurt others, well, that’s the ultimate. Mercifully those people represent a small minority of the Irish populace, a lunatic fringe whose ability to shout loudest makes them appear more powerful than they are.
Most of us remain admirably level-headed; open-minded and tolerant, but also cautious, a little watchful of others. Because taking offence is not really the Irish way. It’s a little pompous isn’t it? A bit big-headed, the kind of thing an English person would do, a Frenchman, someone from one of the proper countries. We’re only a makey-uppey country really, not a people to be taken seriously, a collection of rogues and rascals.
Anything anyone says about us is probably true even if it’s not.
And they do say things about us, things that aren’t true. They say we still go around on the ass and cart, say we pluck spuds straight from the earth and pop them in our filthy, toothless gobs, say we’re a backward race of gruff, mono-browed dogs, and, of course, that we do nothing but drink whiskey and stout from morning till night.
In some parts of the country all of these things may be true but, for the most part, we’re as modern and progressive as the most proper of countries, in some cases even more. Yet our collective psyches have still not caught up. In our minds we’re as thick and as slovenly as the tales predict.
When people take the piss we’re not really sure how to react. We chew over the information, ingest it, let it settle and leave it there until we get an ulcer. That’s just our way, far better to push it down, out of sight, than accidentally take offence and make a show of yourself. And this is probably why they keep getting away with it.
They, in this instance, are the cast of Saturday Night Live (SNL), a collection of comedians (I use the term lightly) who last came to our attention when, joined by Saoirse Ronan, they lampooned Aer Lingus and our old friend the potato. This time around the sketch in question features two of the ‘comedians’ mimicking Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and their supposedly indecipherable accents.
During the short segment Farrell and Gleeson are depicted speaking gibberish, a gobbledygook which appears to ape the dialogue from the Oscar-nominated picture The Banshees of Inisherin. Upon their departure, another SNL cast member declares “they haven’t even been drinking yet”. So, to summarise, people from proper countries can’t understand what we’re saying and they think we drink a lot.
How very dare they.
To be fair, the reaction was muted; we were more disappointed than angry. There was reference to Colin’s sobriety and someone mentioned that they might be offended, a couple of others that they were feeling outraged, but by and large we cringed on behalf of the comedians, on their inability to write even mildly amusing material for a show which is, on average, watched by nine million people per episode.
Personally I wasn’t offended, I wasn’t even disappointed. I just saw a pair of hapless oafs making a tit of themselves in front of the camera. But I do believe it’s high time we started standing up for ourselves, started behaving like one of those proper countries even if we don’t feel like one. Do you think SNL could get away with mocking Japanese people’s penchant for sushi and sake, Italian links to organised crime, the peculiar devotion English people have to the monarchy?
They wouldn’t even try, to do so would be to face immediate censure, outcry, outrage and offence from denizens of those nations. And yet it remains open season on the Irish, we remain a friendly, amenable target, a silly little joke to be rolled out whenever the writing room is running short on material.
I’m not suggesting we go full snowflake and campaign for those comedians to be cancelled – their own lamentable jokes will surely see to that – but we could let it be known that we’re no longer willing to stand for this. And if they have a problem with that we’ll finish off our pints, invite them outside, and bate the living shite out of them.