TV tore our greenness as movie-goers who sought only enjoyment from what we watched,
writes Tom McParland.


What do most Irish people want from a movie? We can only use this piece of string answer: Enjoyment. In the old two gender days it was a reasonable assumption that Jane Wyman wouldn’t star in Flying Leathernecks. Or that Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t win an Oscar as the gloved-up sparing partner of Kid Galahad.


Or when streetwalker and habitual criminal, Susan Hayward was accused of murder in I Want To Live we just knew there was some mistake. Any broad nicknamed Bloody Babs who kept her hair intact whilst seedy night club bongo-ing till 5am was no murderer. Just misunderstood.

Nor was it too long ago that with stunned relief we welcomed the multi-lingual John Wayne calming the entire Apache nation with his two-word Native American. But when persuasion didn’t work he’d bugle in the cavalry to murder them in his caring American way.
Why, in those days did we re-emerge into an imperfect world feeling a lot more hopeful than we had just160 minutes before? Perhaps because we had at least 24 hours to reflect on what we’d just seen until the next movie. We’d nurture this precious innocence, preserving it from an insistent and contradictory reality. That kept us happy ending suckers without feeling suckers. Then, as the agony columnist might write – what went wrong?

TV – the tearing of our greenness. Before TV it seemed we knew nothing of alter egos, self repression, persecution, or Oedipus complexes. Neither did we marry our mothers-in-law (unlike Rod Cameron in 1960).

Inferiority didn’t bother us because we deemed it a privilege to be inferior to 40-foot screen heroes. But when 6ft-10ins James Arness or 6ft-6ins Clint Walker bestrode the TV west, it became harder to empathise with six-inch heroes who righted wrongs beneath a doily and a bunch of flowers.

But by then we were hooked– so far gone we couldn’t even forgo TV for Lent by spending six weeks in a Blind Pew soundproof helmet. Because we feared missing something, or being workplace mutes. Escape TV? Unthinkable! Now it stared cheekily from a confident corne r daring we Jack Horners to pull out plugs.

We’d become inured to coloured 50-inch screen death and disaster. Everything– politics, religion, self-belief and trivia– sieved into a 24-hour, neutralising uncertainty– assimilating our bitten-nail quandary.

International satellite subscription channels have since made inroads into what was once purely Hollywood territory. Spectacular multi-million dollar episodes of series such as Game Of Thrones (HBO), Big Bang Theory (CBS) and The Crown (Netflix) have unheard of budgets, and viewing figures. TV doesn’t reflect our reality but the impotent pallid green one we’ve allowed it to create for us.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own