herald

Wednesday 23 July 2014

No, Love/Hate doesn't glamourise violence. It just tells an ugly truth

It came back with a bang. The opening episode of Love/Hate had rape, murder, drug abuse, prostitution and knee-capping.

It was a statement: the award-winning RTE series was back and this series was going to be dark, disturbing and gripping.

No sooner had the episode aired that the tired complaints started doing the rounds again: the series was glamourising violence, making gangland crime and substance abuse sexy, it was unrealistic -- we just don't do things like this in Ireland. In the States maybe, but not here in the Old Country, not in Dublin, not at home.



DRUNKEN

It's a recurring complaint levelled at the writers and producers. But could anyone who watched the series seriously believe that Love/Hate, a series that's so realistic it's difficult to watch at times, really glamorises gangland violence?

What's glamorous about a drunken republican boss raping an unconscious girl -- knocked out after he punched her in the face -- on top of a keg?

What's glamorous about a knee-capping in the stairwell of a block of flats? What's glamorous about a coked-up middle-aged man taking 'those blue pills' while sitting in a brothel on Paddy's Day discussing business with gang boss Nidge?

Nothing.

The truth is that nowadays we're more used to a sanitised sort of violence, designer-dressed murderers who make witty quips before shooting the bad guy in the head and sauntering away.

But Love/Hate does not do that. It shows the scuffle and dark underbelly of gangland, the raw hurt and devastation it causes and the depressing reality for inner-city gang members their girlfriends, wives and victims.

As Tom Vaughan Lawlor, who plays gang leader Nidge, says: "It's tough, but it's the truth."

These characters aren't glamorous. At best, they're compulsive. At worst, they're repulsive.

Republican Git moralises about drug abuse. He preaches that he wouldn't touch the stuff and that people who do pills and coke are 'scumbags', before sinking his teeth into a man's cheek, taking Viagra, doing cocaine and committing rape.

Irish audiences don't seem to mind when this level of brutality occurs in another country. But when it occurs on the streets of Dublin and is transmitted on TV on a Sunday night, it's a little too much to take.

We liked The Sopranos because it was based in New York and New Jersey.

Stuff like murder and rape and mafia bosses happen in the Big Bad Apple but not here, not in Ireland.

But, actually, these things do happen, every day.

And for once an Irish-produced drama is showing the brutality of them. Anyone who believes that these things don't happen is completely detached from Ireland today.

Writer Stuart Carolan said he was inspired by real-life stories he heard from a relative when she returned from work at the casualty department in a Dublin hospital.

"People would come in knifed and stabbed so that was the initial point.



banality

"I've done a phenomenal amount of research. Before I even thought of it I did research. I talked to an endless list of people. You talk to cops, you talk to victims.

"We wanted to mix everyday with the gangland."

"We wanted to show the banality mixed with the violence. That's why we show them putting the bins out."

The complaints that Love/ Hate glamorises violence are made by people who don't watch it.

They might flick past it but they don't take it in. Anyone who watches it, properly watches it, would never claim that it glamorises violence.

Those comments are made by the casual viewer and, as The Wire creator David Simon said: "F*** the casual viewer."

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