Politics include all the activities that surround a social context that is concerned with leadership roles, the process of acquiring them, and governing bodies. In Northern Ireland, there has been some political unrest for a long time, and this is referred to as “The Troubles”. “The Troubles”, which started in the 1960s, did not involve Ireland alone, but also England and mainland Europe. It is believed that the political unrest ended with the famous “Good Friday” Agreement of 1998, but this did not stop the erratic violence in the areas involved. Northern Ireland was more involved in the violence, which made it commonly referred to as the Northern Ireland Conflict. Apart from the conflict being a political one as aforementioned, it was also based on ethnic dimensions, but religion was out of the game. The major issue was in the constitution of Northern Ireland, whereby some groups wanted the nation to be part of the United Kingdom, while others wanted it to form a united Ireland (Carlsten 30). Although the conflicts were not religiously motivated, there was also an issue whereby Catholics, who were the minority, were being treated unfairly by the government, especially the police force. Imprisonment without trial in the nation was another issue that was used against members of the Catholic community (Carlsten 34).
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Many people were killed during the conflict, whose main participants were politicians and the British state security forces, among others. Due to the conflict, many films produced around and after this time are motivated by the event. This paper sets to analyze the thematic and formal political presentations of Northern Ireland using some films viewed in class. It also, using the same criterion, discusses gender roles in the country utilizing two books read in class. It is not just a mere coincidence that all the films set in Northern Ireland after the trouble focus along this terrible historical happening. A critical analysis will give an accurate explanation as to why film directors thought it best to include this theme in their films.
The films viewed in class include Some Mother’s Son, The Crying Game, Odd Man Out, Bloody Sunday, The Boxer, and Omagh. All the films tend to have one major theme. As discussed in the introduction, they are set around “The troubles”. In this paper, only two films out of the six viewed in class analyzed. The first movie is Some Mother’s Son that was written and produced in 1996. It is about how The Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners are being mistreated. The prisoners are being treated like criminals, and they do not think that this is how they should be treated. Due to this mistreatment, inmates in one prison go on a hunger strike to fight for their rights. According to them, they deserve to be treated as inmates, but not as criminals, but the government does not want to listen to them. The hunger strike takes a long time, and some of them die in the process. The film is based on a true story that happened in 1981 in the nation, giving the audience an insight into the politics of Northern Ireland. The movie shows two women who have sons in that prison, the main strikers to be precise. The women, after seeing how the inmates are suffering, some of them dying, think it wise to get their sons out of trouble. The women have to make a decision on whether they should continue respecting their sons’ wishes or whether they should have them fed by force (Carlsten 29). The film is very touching since viewers are able to feel what the inmates are going through due to the excellent presentation of characters
The other movie analyzed in this paper is The Boxer, which, as the name suggests, is based on a prisoner who returns home after a 14-year period in jail. The man feels frustrated partially because of the torture experienced in prison. He resolves to keep to himself and lead a peaceful life. He starts boxing after the imprisonment, whereby he feels exhausted with the violence in Northern Ireland. He resolves to have nothing to do with what is going on around him, and that is how he resolves to boxing. His peaceful life does not go on well as he messes up with the IRA by getting involved with a woman married to a man from this group. The group storms his boxing club and burns some buildings to revenge what the boxer has done. The boxer’s sponsor is also assassinated, and this causes a riot in the boxing club and, as a result of the uprising, there is damage. In fact, the gymnasium is burned down. The fight does not end at this point. The IRA kidnaps him to be executed. In the process, the gunman accidentally shoots one of the group’s members in a last-minute twist and the film ends with Danny, the boxer, driving home together with the woman he loves. The director of the film made sure that the audience, just like in many films, would sympathize with the protagonist. As part of an audience, one will automatically sympathize with the boxer who seems to be controlled by fate rather than his actions. He, for example, resolves to have nothing to do with anyone but himself. However, things literary follow him regardless of how hard he tries to keep away from events that would cause him harm. Fate is not always a bad thing. For example, fate saves him from being executed.
All the films viewed in class tend to have a common thematic concern, which is politics. The two films discuss the thematic portrayal of the political situation on a negative note. People die in the films because of the rotten political situation in Northern Ireland. People have literary no rights to do anything. The IRA has almost taken over the leadership of the country. The films talk about prison and suffering. People are imprisoned for no good reasons. Some are taken to prison as mistaken identities and some for the reason of agitating for their rights. A person analyzing these films would have no choice, but to conclude that politicians are used to oppress the people of Northern Ireland. People elect leaders to go and use their powers to fight for the people’s rights, but in most cases, the unexpected happens and people are made to suffer. The most notorious film regarding this matter is Some Mother’s Son, whereby prisoners of war are being treated like criminals due to political reasons. One would expect the people to be treated like heroes because of what they have done for their country, but the contrary happens. They cry out for help, although nobody hears their cries, and when they go on hunger strike, they are left to die. A profound analysis of the film directs scholars to “The troubles” as being the main influence on the thematic concern. People, through this presentation, understand what happens, and this gives them a chance to appreciate the steps made by Northern Ireland to reach where it is today. The women presented in the film are used symbolically to represent the common people. They are helpless to the extent that they cannot make a decision on what to do. The limits of the thematic presentation in the films are that it can be misleading to the viewers, especially those that are less educated. People who have never been to school or read about “The Troubles” would find it difficult to comprehend the theme presented in this film. The storyline might be right, but the dramatization might be exaggerated, polluting people’s minds about the real happenings. People’s negative perceptions can be increased if film directors are not careful about how they present their themes in their productions.
The political situation has, to some extent, been described both formally and informally. In the formal presentation, there are actual cases in the film with real organizations, for example, the IRA members acting in their uniforms. There might be a limit to this presentation, whereby the films, being works of fiction, should not incorporate real situations happening in authentic locations. The reason behind this limit is that some real organizations used in such movies might feel offended, and this may call for criticism. The new IRA, for example, is different from the old IRA. Therefore, people watching the film at this time in history would not differentiate the two. People would tend to have a general negative attitude toward the IRA without considering changes that have happened. It is also important to note that in a formal presentation, directors and producers should acknowledge the sources of their works. The films discussed in this paper have all the requirements with regard to acknowledgment, and that is why they are termed as being historical by some critics (McIlroy 98).
In the two movies, both sexes are represented, though not equally. For example, in The Boxer, the male gender dominates, while the female gender takes only the minor roles. It is also worth to note that one person, who is transgender, acts more like a woman. Socially, women have been considered less important than men have, and this might be the reason for the weak representation of the female gender. The film that has some significant women characters is Some Mother’s Son, though not fully developed. In the movie, viewers can see two women nearly at the end of the film coming in to intervene for their sons who are almost dying of hunger. The women are helpless and are presented as being too stupid that they cannot even make a valid decision on what to do. They are thinking whether they should support their sons on the hunger strike or have them fed by force are. However, from a parenting perspective, it is important to assert that it is hard to choose one of the decisions. The presentation of the female gender from this film is not adequate, but rather a portrayal of how women are indecisive. Some critics might view this as a plus to the female gender, although some other critics would see this as a torrent of abuse to the women folk. Another woman character is in the film The Boxer, whereby viewers see her having an affair with a person considered her enemy.
Is this an empowerment that an old woman is controlling a young man? The answer could either be yes or no, depending on how what grounds one is standing. One group of people would view this as an empowerment, while another group would view this as a torrent of abuse to the womenfolk. Psychologically, women are considered to mature earlier than men do. An old woman dating a younger man is somewhat abusive to the woman, to some critics. A female, however, controls the main character in The Boxer. Perhaps, this could be viewed as a form of empowerment. The relationship results in the death of a man from her group (the IRA) and viewers can see her driving home together with the man considered the group’s enemy (McIlroy 37). Some people might view this as empowerment of the female gender. Presentation of gender is not different in the two films analyzed in class. Women take just the minor roles, and when they take up significant roles, it is an inclination toward the support of men. The presentation does not qualify the directors and authors as being anti-feminist. Perhaps, they are presenting society the way it is, which is the main goal of works of literature.
In conclusion, the films viewed in class were very interesting, though very touching. Some Mother’s Son made me shed tears. However, I liked it when I was able to associate the lessons from the film with what I had been taught in class, making me feel like I have been a good learner. The films also helped me understand the history of Northern Ireland better than in the past. I also had the opportunity of understanding gender presentation in film production, which, as I found out, should not be different from the reality. Nevertheless, I had a problem with some elements of the films with regard to casting. I did not like the presentation of women in the films, which was made in way that females were shown to be naïve and indecisive. I would recommend film directors to include more women in their works, not just to feature in, but also to take up significant roles. Women have been neglected for a long time, and it is high time they are given a chance to prove the society wrong. In the two films, Some Mother’s Son and The Boxer, women are only portrayed as being supportive to men, helping them to lead comfortable lives. The two movies were generally entertaining and, at the same time, touching. The directors of the films tried as much as possible to give the audience long-term experiences through their works. The movies can be used by people to bring changes in society, which could be both short-term and long-term. In fact, they can be applied to enable people to live better lives in the future.
Carlsten, Jennie. Mourning and Solidarity: The commemorative models of Some Mother’s Son. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2011. Print.
McIlroy, Brian, ed. Genre and Cinema: Ireland and transnationalism. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2011. Print.