I’ve been hanging out with Regis Philbin a lot recently and he has been chatting my ear off incessantly over his favorite college football team the “Notre Dame Fighting Irish.” I happen to be a pretty Irish fellow (50%), and if you need more proof than just genetics consider this: last St. Patrick’s Day I watched a parade in Cork, Ireland, got drunk off Guinness, saw old men with brogues play jigs with fiddles and woke the next morning to kiss the Blarney Stone. I’m sure I ate a potato and got in a enormous brawl somewhere in the middle of that too, so rest assured that I am familiar with Irish stereotypes. But you know who isn’t familiar with mass generalizations? Theodore W. Drake, designer of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish Leprechaun Mascot.
Who is this schmuck?
So, what should an Irish Mascot look like? Easy: the guy from the lucky charms commercials. Obviously, this is the most direct and concise answer. He’s got red hair, he’s constantly drunk, he has tons of gold, he believes in luck, his face is red, he scampers instead of running, he’s always smiling, he loves pannis, he reads James Joyce, he lives under a rainbow, he hates England. Who is a real Irish man? The Lucky Charms guy, case closed. Conan O’Brien, Liam Neeson, Bono and the guy from “Once” would have been other contenders, but the Notre Dame Mascot doesn’t even look like those micks.
What could Theodore W. Drake been thinking when he drafted up this version of a fighting Irish leprechaun. I just googled “leprechaun” and looked at the images that came up. Guess how many had black hair and a beard? One, and he was the Notre Dame Mascot. Guess how many had red hair, a jolly smile, and were throwing gold coins in the air while they clicked their heels? All the other ones.
The Notre Dame Mascot was able to capture one truthful thing about Irish people, they love the color green more than anything. That’s why Irish families eat so many green bagels, because they prefer the color over brown. Look at DJ, he’s 100% Irish and he wears green every single day. Proof:
I only had to go through 28 pages of facebook pictures to find one!
But, aside from being green, there is not much “Irish” about this bloke. I don’t even know how to pinpoint this mascot’s look. A black beard, bald head, short and thin, with a giant forehead? Again, I’ll turn to google’s image search for evidence. I tried to search for nationalities that match the Notre Dame’s mascot image. I tried “Eastern European Man” and all I got were lots of pictures of that guy with the fucked up hairy hands; I should have seen that coming. Then I tried “New Zealand Man”, just a bunch of soccer players and shirtless guys. “Italian Men”, nope a bunch of gays. “Hemingway Look Alikes”, getting closer, but it needs to be younger. Mr. T looks a lot like this mascot, he’s just taller.
I searched Google for a full two minutes and was not able to get a clear answer. What nationality is this Mascot?! A bitter, polish gypsy? The owner of a gun shop in New Jersey? A stubborn English coal worker whose a little tipsy? I can’t decide, but I’d like to hear your ideas.
Fortunately, I am not the kind of person who whines about a problem without presenting a solution. Here’s my solution, we simply swap out the fighting Irish leprechaun for Yosemite Sam. Suddenly all the criteria are filled. Yosemite Sam does not look like a frontiersman. He has a giant red moustache! Who does look like a grizzled, hermit? The fighting Irish leprechaun of course. Just swap them out. We get a more appropriate Irish man and a more appropriate cowboy. Two birds, one stone. For too long we’ve been working with stereotypes that are only surface level. Yes, both characters are dressed in the correct attire, but it’s about time that they physically coincide with my unfounded generalizations on culture and ethnicity.
If we want these stereotypes to truly become embedded in our society, we’re going to have to put in a lot more effort.