My daughter is two. We watch far more (educational) children's television than I care to admit. I've learned to appreciate the finer points of Sesame Street but when Mickey Mouse Clubhouse comes on, I'm reaching for my phone or a magazine or the phone book - anything to keep the boredom at bay. But yesterday while busily folding laundry I looked up to discover the Mouse and his buds chasing a rainbow in search of that most appallingly dreadful of Irish stereotypes... the leprechaun.
My inner Irish Art Historian absolutely CRINGES every time I see this knickered insult to Irish folklore, especially in the context of children's television. Pot of gold? Please. Crack a history book for heaven's sake. Now I know what you're thinking - it's just for fun! Don't get your Irish up, Churchill! But stay with me on this one. I think children's entertainment could and should be more sophisticated. This is prime time people! Kids are sponges. Why fill their wee noggins with subtle racism and nonsense just because it entertains? Ask yourself this, would you be comfortable if Disney trotted out Aunt Jemima to whip up some pancakes for Mickey and his crew? Bake your biscuits over that one for awhile...
Just last week Imagination Movers (I told you we watch too much television) rolled out a guest character, the Irish golfing sensation, "Ace Mulligan!" What proceeded was approximately 22 minutes of the worst Irish accent I've heard since Gangs of New York. And the episode's special song, "Luck of the Irish" featured a wagon full of potatoes, plenty of plaid and some pretty sorry "Irish dancing" (to say nothing of the lousy musicianship.) Apparently there are no historians on the bankroll at Disney Jr.
OK! OK! I'll get off the soap box now. I'm just saying, the whole business smacks of Punch circa 1880. No culture deserves to be deduced to a mascot or an offensive punch line. (AHEM Washington Red Skins.) Irish art and culture deserve better, so let's demand it. Now raise your glass of green beer and pour it directly down the drain, where it belongs.