“Racism’s part of my culture”: Nation, Race and Humour in Irish Jam (2006) and The Guard (2011)
Abstract: This article applies theories of humour (incongruity, superiority, relief) to a reading of the films Irish Jam (John Eyres, 2006) and The Guard (John Michael McDonagh, 2011) in order to interrogate their depiction of racial, national and cultural stereotypes and differences. Both films combine elements of humour in their portrayal of the “fish out of water” experiences of the African-American male leads in Ireland. Through this we see three consequences: the incongruity of the protagonists’ experiences, both in terms of their expectations of Ireland and the expectations the Irish have of them; the superiority felt by certain locals, and, thus vicariously, by audience members for recognising moments of (what they consider) ignorance or racism; humour being used to relieve the tensions of interacting with the Other. I argue that the different uses of humour in these films function as a social corrective in their interrogation of racist ideologies. However, the films play it safe by taking their protagonists out of America, allowing the discussion of race to unfold in Ireland where whiteness holds a unique status (as simultaneously nonwhite because of the historical discrimination the Irish faced), and racial and national differentiation can be conflated. Equally, the films ultimately remain conservative in their interrogation of racism, confronting certain stereotypes while perpetuating others.