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‘Kicking Bishop Brennan Up the Arse’

Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies


Eugene O'Brien

This collection of essays reconsiders aspects of Irish studies through the medium of literary and cultural theory. The author looks at the negotiations between texts and their contexts and then analyses how the writer both reflects and transforms aspects of his or her cultural milieu. The essays examine literary texts by W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, James Joyce and Sean Ó’Faoláin; media texts such as Father Ted, American Beauty and a series of Guinness advertisements; as well as cultural and political contexts such as globalisation, religion, the Provisional IRA and media treatment of murders in Ireland. The author also looks at aspects of the postcolonial and feminist paradigms and makes use of a theoretical matrix based on the work of Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan.


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Chapter Seven ‘Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse’: Catholicism, Deconstruction and Postmodernity in Contemporary Irish Culture 115


Chapter Seven ‘Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse’: Catholicism, Deconstruction and Postmodernity in Contemporary Irish Culture The title of this chapter refers to the television programme Father Ted, and specifically to an episode where Ted, having lost a bet to his arch-enemy Father Dick Roche, is forced to kick his very critical boss, Bishop Len Bren- nan, a Limerick man, ‘up the arse’. In a series of hilarious misadventures, Ted finally accomplishes this feat, being photographed in the act by his friend, Father Dougal. The popularity of this anarchic programme has been huge but what is of particular interest to me is the deconstruction of attitudes about the church that it has exemplified. What is perhaps most interest- ing about the genesis of this programme is that it was offered to RTÉ who refused to take it up, before buying it to show on their station on which it became one of the most popular comedies in the TAM ratings. This comedy could be read as being profoundly anti-Catholic – por- traying the classic stereotypes of the wheeler-dealer priest (Ted himself – albeit not an especially successful wheeler-dealer); the alcoholic priest (Father Jack – whose four-word mantra ‘feck-arse-girls-drink’ became the show’s catchphrase); the idiot priest (Father Dougal); and of course, that metonym of the role of women in the church, the housekeeper Mrs Doyle (provider of another catch-phrase in terms of her urgings of cups of tea on unfortunate guests (‘ah you will, you will, you will ... !’). And yet the programme avoids...

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