Gavin let us know about some interesting images over at the Irish Times. The newspaper asked several advertising agencies to create posters marketing Ireland as a tourist destination and posted them on the website because, according to the article,

[Ireland's] a fantastic product with a wonderful history and quality brand appeal, but recent sales have been sluggish and its reputation has taken something of a battering…

It’s interesting to look at the themes used to represent Ireland and Irish authenticity, and the marketing of them as “products” (which locations and the people and stereotypes associated with them clearly are when we’re talking about tourism). Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I found this one particularly amusing:

So here the ad is making fun of St. Patrick’s Day by saying it’s a fake version of Irishness. Irish-American ethnicity is, if not fake, derivative, and associated with sort of an “ugly American” image of the guy who thinks he’s really connecting to his Irish roots by drinking green beer.

Another poster capitalized on the imagery of what Gavin called “twee Ireland,” which includes the red-haired, pale-skinned, wild figure (in a nightgown?) running through the emerald-green landscape:

So here Irish authenticity means a connection to nature, a bit of wildness–but a gentle, elfin type of wildness, not a savage, scary type.

UPDATE: Reader Sarah points out that in Ireland, the reference to “ging-ers” would make it clear that was a joking reference to redheads, giving this a bit of a different spin that didn’t really come through to me; so the second image seems to be making fun of this idea of twee Ireland and the idea of redheads as forest creatures. Thanks, Sarah!

Just two interesting examples of different ways of representing “true” Irishness. To any readers who live or spent time in Ireland — are Irish-Americans, or U.S.-style celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, frequent topics of at least mild ridicule? Given the degree to which being Irish American has become a largely symbolic ethnicity for most people (that is, very little social distinction is associated with it, large numbers of people claim to be Irish American, and for many, it means little else other than wearing a “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirt), I’ve wondered how it’s perceived in Ireland.

So this St. Patrick’s Day, put down your green plastic cowboy hat, take off your Shamrock earrings, stop drinking green beer, and go run around in a marsh, dammit! I hear it’s what all the cool kids are doing.

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