Irish Wish: Illustration reflecting positive stereotypes of Ireland.

The Layover:
Livin’ la vida Lohan


Some ten years ago, I dedicated a novel to Lindsay Lohan. I’d always been a fan but became obsessed after a New York Times article titled Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie went viral. It’s still, for my money, one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written, up there with Gay Talese’s Frank Sinatra Has a Cold. Its writer Stephen Rodrick, (who I later fell into occasional Twitter acquaintance with, such was my admiration), spends several days with Lohan who is in the middle of both a low-budget film shoot and some kind of extended psychological breakdown.

It’s just a brilliant piece of writing – one of those right-writer, right-subject, right-time confluences that lead to a piece that’s equal parts hilarious and poignant.

Anyway, I love Lindsay. I’ve followed her through the ups and downs and have always rooted for her. Which is why I’m excited to see Netflix’s Irish Wish. You see, we’re living through the Lohanaissance. She’s embraced her essential campy, kitsch value and is back churning out light-hearted dreck to be half-watched while live-posting about it on Twitter (or ‘X’. Ten thousand eye rolls.)

Irish Wish is the follow-up to Lohan’s well-received Falling For Christmas, where she played a spoilt heiress who loses her memory and finds love at a ski resort. I think. I deliberately didn’t Google the plot to remind myself. If that wasn’t it, can someone please write it and put Lindsay in it?

The film will take a similarly hackneyed storyline and set it in Ireland. No; I haven’t watched it yet. Yes; it will reinvent cinema. But it will also (I can say with absolute certainty) contain several of the classic tropes that appear in any film set in my home country.

It will be a fish-out-of-water tale about a rich American (Lindsay) whose fancy, big-city ways will be tested by the rustic rural environs. How will her Jimmy Choos fair on cobbled streets and cow-shit-strewn fields? There will be drone shots of rolling fields to the sound of fiddles and Uilleann Pipes.

It will be set in a bucolic village. I’m willing to bet Irish Wish will give us every type of Irish person available. Ruddy-faced B&B landladies. Cabbage-headed barmen. A roguish pub singer who can’t keep his shirt on, and whose earthy charms are an antidote to the effete, needy, American chaps Lindsay is used to. There will be a priest, a tractor and cattle (there is a type of Irish movie not set in a bucolic village. This is the ‘serious social issue’ drama. These movies involve The Troubles, generational alcoholism, and horses running through council estates. None of which are very Lohan).

It has the word wish in the title, which might make you think Genie. But this is Ireland, so – as long as the screenwriters had access to Wikipedia – there’ll be fairies. Fairies are in fact semi-serious business in Ireland. The thousands of mysterious fairy forts that dot the countryside are occasionally the subject of heated senatorial debate, especially when government departments try to build roads over them. An elected representative blamed their disturbance for creating potholes as recently as 2017, and an activist group even said the 2008 recession was caused by a disturbed fairy fort unleashing a curse.

The absolute nadir of cinematic paddy-whackery was Wild Mountain Thyme, the ill-fated Emily Blunt vehicle whose trailer briefly crashed the Irish internet in 2020. I didn’t watch it, and from the trailer I can only remember Jamie Dornan being pointlessly handsome and Christopher Walken debuting an Irish accent he clearly went to Jamaica to learn. At which point I had a stroke.

Irish people joke about this stuff but we take it with grace overall. Even the more egregious examples – Tommy Lee Jones, who listens to U2 while building a bomb in Blown Away (Chandler voice: could he be any more Irish?!’) is the subject of ridicule more than outrage. We get it. It’s harmless. And it helps us punch above our weight globally. The Yanks eat it up. Here’s a challenge: go to an American bar with an Irish accent and try to not have sex.

But I wonder about other countries. Movies need shorthand, need efficiency. If the characters go to London we’re gonna see the Millennium Wheel, Trafalgar Square and people drinking pints by the Thames. You might roll your eyes at it but you don’t wince.

But there are plenty of examples where it’s a bit more sinister. Mexico City got it pretty bad in the early 2000s after a string of films, Traffic and Man On Fire in particular, portraying it as a hopelessly crime-ridden and for some reason intensely yellow hell on Earth. In fact, it’s a vibrant and exciting place with an incredible food scene. Obviously, I’m not suggesting crime doesn’t exist there; it does. But you have to feel sorry for a place and a people when their whole culture becomes intrinsically linked with crime because of a few dumb action movies.

The Indiana Jones movies are rightly beloved, but many people find it a tough watch to see Indie go to India to be fed monkey brains and snakes. Even Disney’s Aladdin has come under scrutiny in recent years, with the sword swallowing and the fire breathing. In fact, the lyrics from the opening song were changed for home video release from the original:

‘Where they cut off your nose if they don’t like your face,
It’s barbaric but hey it’s home’

So I suppose I’m grateful for the relatively harmless stereotypes associated with my home country. That said, every time I go to a bar in the US and see an Irish Car Bomb on the menu, I want to destroy the place in a violent rage. Which would, of course, feed into a negative stereotype. You can’t win, can you?

Illustration by Martin Perry

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