I’ve a complicated relationship with Ireland in the geek culture. Ultimately, the ethnocentric multimedia centers of my youth have pumped out media that typically reduces many varieties of people into some broad stereotypical components to be worn like a special hat. Today, the hat we’re going to talk about – briefly – is the nature of Being Irish. Because everyone loves the Irish, right?
Well, no. Americans love the Irish. Americans love the Irish in that typical superpower-y way, where they think they love a thing because of some basic, broad trappings and maybe an association of an association that has no direct impact on them, and now, bam, they consider themselves experts. This isn’t an American thing, by the way, this is an imperial thing. Britain treated the Scottish as delightful coal-mining thieves for years, and Denmark used to hit Sweden with sticks just because it wasn’t Norway enough.
Anyway, America loves the Irish. They think of the Irish as hard-drinking oppressed sons of Oireland who like booze and music and punch-ups and arrr and who are all pretty rough but also okay and they both hate England because hey, why not. Boston residents will even arrogantly proclaim that there are more Irish people in Boston than there are in Ireland, which is to say, there are more Americans who like to pretend they’re both American and Irish in Boston than there are in Ireland, which seems reasonable because I’ll bet you there are fucking no Irish people in Ireland who want to pretend they’re American.
Recently talking with someone from Ireland I was reminded of an incident in which I had to cross this international punchline, in City of Heroes. In City, rather than guilds, characters joined supergroups, which were given a host of ways to fit and determine aesthetic choices for the group. Supergroups formed around silly puns, around classic comic motifs, around conspiracy theories, and eventually, a few terrible groups formed around the 1990s antihero craze coupled with the post-9/11 black-ops fetishism. I, at the request of a sweet friend, tried to join one such group with a character created from an international perspective, who was meant to fit into the world. No big deal, moving on.
Now, ignoring that I joined this group of McCain supporters on Election Day 2008, I didn’t fit in this group at all. This was thrown into sharp relief when the recruit that came after me wanted to talk to others about his character: Dublin Fox. Who was he?
Well, according to his player, he was an ex-IRA member.
Immediately, alarm bells rang.
But it’s okay! He was an IRA member who was part of an IRA cell that never targeted police or civilians.
“So, uh…” I asked, “So, what did he target?” I thought, assuming that maybe he had some story in mind about a shadowy anti-IRA paramilitary group, or some black-ops arrangement from the United Kingdom. SAS, maybe. I briefly entertained the idea that there was an idea here, because…
“You know, the people the IRA targeted, just no civilians or police.”
I decided to see what I could do with this, and asked the next question. “Well, do you know what the IRA did?”
A pause. Silence.
The next day, I woke up to a warning letter from one of the group’s administrators, that I was in trouble and being given an official warning for ‘being a racist.’