With the public opinion turning up the heat under issues such as gender equality and representation in media, I feel compelled to voice my feelings about the representation of foreign nationals living in Ireland in TV, film & theatre.
First things things first: what gives me the right to address this subject? I have been living in Dublin for 8.5 years now (I would’ve applied for citizenship a long time ago if it wasn’t so expensive…) Since day one, I’ve been a productive member of the Irish society, paid my taxes, and not once abused (or even used!) social welfare or similar benefits. I’m aware of the stereotypes surrounding immigrants abusing the state-provided protection of their new country. I even heard my fellow countrymen state openly, when asked for the reason they chose Ireland as their country of immigration, answering: “Ireland has better benefits than Poland.” For the record, I not only don’t subscribe to this approach, but also deeply resent it.
I’ve spent the past 5 years pursuing an acting career. In the roles I’ve been offered, and in my auditions, if the role was that of a Polish person or a foreigner, majority of the characters were based on the stereotype of a foreigner with broken English. I assure you, I’m not alone in this.
Every time I get new audition material, and hold the script in my hand, my heart flutters with excitement. And then every time I start reading and find broken English, I want to punch my fist through the wall. It infuriates me and it breaks my heart at the same time. Once again, I assure you, I’m not alone in this.
I’m not even going to mention the roles of prostitutes and cleaning ladies.
OK, I need to take a breath here. Counting from 10…9…
Where was I… Oh, right, on behalf of all my Polish and other non-Irish actor friends, I urge Irish writers for film, TV and theatre to consider letting go of those stereotypes next time they write a foreigner into their stories. Where are the foreigners in your stories who speak flawless English? Where are the ones who have degress and successful careers in, God forbid, other sectors than the cleaning and sex industries? I know many of them in real life. Surely, they could make their way into our fiction?
I appeal to your creativity, fellow writers. Why not make things more interesting for all of us. Are there Irish prostitutes and cleaning ladies out there? I imagine there are. I would personally deliver a bottle of champagne to the Irish writer whose story – if it does have prostitutes and cleaning ladies – features Irish ones. Or perhaps – if their story does feature foreigners – that they’re not minimum wage workers with broken English. At least not Every.Single.Time.
Rant over, thank you for reading.
If you’d like to prove me wrong, I beg you, please do. Twitter: @kamiladydyna 🙂