Irish media hates our mythology. While production companies are willing to push out boatloads of poor quality ‘dramas’ and ‘comedies’ glorifying various forms of degeneracy, the idea of acknowledging, let alone celebrating, our ancient past is out of the question. In the minds of our liberal overlords, the legends of pre-Christian Ireland are to be left in the past, and not talked about for fear of engendering some sense of national pride.
Well, there is one exception.
Our resident propagandists will, on occasion, haul out what is to them a dead husk of out-of-date Irishness for one reason and one reason alone: to cast mythological figures as non-Irish.
RTE’s new production, Bernard Dunne’s Mythical Heroes, is no exception to this rule. Aimed at young teens, the show takes multiple opportunities to cast various old Irish deities as non-Irish. From Lugh to Lír, Ireland’s old pantheon is blessed with diversity, with their mixed race children often being the eponymous heroes depicted throughout the show.
This move is hardly surprising. While this recent show has garnered a small amount of controversy on Twitter in recent days, RTÉ has pulled this exact same stunt before, casting a black actor to play Cú Chulainn for the 1916 centenary celebrations.
Of course, this casting choice is a clear attempt at demoralization. These media outlets unwilling to ever so much as touch the subject usually, use diversified renditions of Gaelic stories as a rod to beat traditionally-minded Nationalists with. As mentioned before, in desecrating Ireland’s past, these groups humiliate those who care about it. The casting of black actors for these roles amounts to a method of racial and historical revisionism, with the aim of making the population believe that Ireland was always, at its core, African.
Like most propaganda though, Mythical Heroes, so singular in its cultural aim, is so rough around the edges it could be used to sand down a hurley. Blatantly ripping off BBC’s Horrible Histories, the show casts off any sense of seriousness Irish mythology has. Instead, the production tries to engage the modern teen with half-baked skits that at best, are bad, and at worst, utterly cringeworthy. This, combined with almost pantomime level acting, makes every episode a downright painful slog.
It’s these latter qualities that have left me rather ambivalent about the show’s choice of casting. While clearly designed with subversion in mind, for a show to be truly offensive, it has to be at least of passable quality as a piece of media. Mythical Heroes however is so bad that no child or teen will ever willingly sit through an entire episode when they could play Fortnite instead.
Gone and Forgotten
This, for me, is an even greater tragedy.
In its failed attempt at propaganda, RTÉ has revealed that it is incapable of doing justice to the oldest of Ireland’s literary masterpieces. As a result, the tales of Lugh, Cú Chulainn, Fionn Mac Cumhail and many, many others have largely left the national consciousness, to be replaced by Anglo-American products of little intellectual nutrition.
To really drive this point home, let’s look at another one of RTÉ’s taxpayer funded disasters.
Fantasy Ireland is quite possibly the worst television show I have ever watched, and I’ve watched my fair share of bad productions these last few years. From Netflix’s pathetic excuse for a Star Trek reboot to that pop-cult abomination Normal People, RTÉ’s new animated monstrosity takes the cake, and does so easily.
As the name suggests, Fantasy Ireland is another show trying to lay progressive claim to the heritage of Irish mythology. The story revolves around an evil priest, as well as Michael D. Higgins’ evil leprechaun brother, trying to force Ireland to become Catholic again through evil magic. Thanks to the aforementioned evil magic, as well as various deus ex machinas, only a group of three randomers called the Shamz (I wish I was joking) are able to stand in this duo’s way of reviving the Church. With this established, the show follows an episodic, monster-of-the-week formula, with the priest and the evil leprechaun hatching some dastardly scheme to restore faith in Jesus, only for the Shamz to stop them.
Fantasy Ireland is everything you’d expect from a cheap children’s cartoon — bad jokes, worse plot, and animation that looks like it was done by a five-year old. In this sense, it is in good company with Mythical Heroes, as well as the rest of RTÉ’s lineup for those under 18.
But here’s the thing — Fantasy Ireland wasn’t made for kids. It was made for adults.
This gives an entirely new framing to each 11-minute slice of episodic excrement. While the well below par pacing and voice acting were just barely excusable in the context of something made for kids, as a show made for adults, the show’s total lack of any redeeming qualities is, frankly, beyond belief.
What’s more, the show’s use of mythology is so surface level that it would be better off not being there at all. It’s framing of a priest being willing to use various dark arts to haul people back to mass is neither funny nor profound, but seems to be nothing more than a strawman borne out of what can only be called a hatred of Catholicism. Any jokes made at the Church’s expense feel vindictive, clearly being made in bad faith, the writers quite clearly having a chip on their shoulder. The fact that aspects of Ireland’s old religious traditions are employed for seemingly no other reason other than to bash the Church is nothing short of shameful.
Ultimately, Fantasy Ireland is another waste of taxpayer’s money. No doubt it won’t be long before it’s cancellation.
As Fantasy Ireland circles the drain though, one can’t help but mourn the fact that there will be nothing to take its place. The 21st century has seen almost no popular media made on this island celebrating our mythology, especially in the audio-visual sphere. While there are a few notable exceptions, such as the various films made by Cartoon Saloon, these are few and exist as mere novelties more than anything else. All in all, the stories that were once known all throughout Ireland have now been all but forgotten.
The Golden Age of Irish Mythology
Ireland in the 21st century has proven incapable of expanding on its oldest literary tradition. Whether this be due to our anglicisation, globalisation, modernisation or all of the above, the Irish literary mind has moved away from the Fianna and Fomorions and towards socjus morality plays and soap operas. Fascinated with foreign imports, we as a nation have abandoned our culture to fend for itself. We have done nothing less than disown it.
And what a foolish decision that was.
Despite our collective actions, Irish mythology has never, in its entire existence, been more popular or more well known than it is today. With the dawn of the 21st century has come the golden age for the stories of old, its audience being larger and more enthusiastic about its characters and history than ever before.
Truth is, you can never put a good myth down. Abandoned by its birthplace, the stories of Gaelic Ireland did not merely go quietly into the night, but cast off the apathy of its home for those who would appreciate it as one of the greatest literary traditions the world has ever seen.
And receive this appreciation it did. Irish mythology is now known the world over, with its stories and heroes appreciated by tens of millions of people. It has stormed the postmodern world of capitalism, generating billions of dollars in revenue, making the companies that put their faith in Ireland’s traditions of old absurdly rich. As we enter into the second decade of the new millennium, the stories of Ireland’s old gods and heroes are more prominent than ever before, their fame ever increasing as time marches on.
So what happened? In short: Eireboos. But that’s a story for another time.
What we can conclude now though is that Ireland has made a costly mistake in abandoning her legends. While the West Brits of our media will only use mythology for the sake of cultural subversion, both individuals and corporations beyond this isle have made their fortune from retelling these stories first written down as early as the 6th century.
Those who have put their faith in the tales of old have been rewarded. We who have abandoned them seem to be fairing much more poorly.