Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Welcome to Shamrock

In honour of St. Patrick's Day, I offer a tribute to a few of my favourite Irish pop-cultural stereotypes. Evergreens, if you will...
The Shamrock Shake
The immortal mint-flavoured shake from McDonald's, traditionally available in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day, then gone like Brigadoon. No longer widely available - not sure if you can get them in Canada, but they are ostensibly for sale in some parts of suburban Chicago, probably in areas where stereotypical Irish cops straight out of The Untouchables live. Can you imagine telling Captain O'Malley's little daughter Kathleen she can't have a Shamrock shake?

Click here and here to see some McDonald's commercials from the 70's touting the Shamrock Shake - I think the corporation must have hired Irish historians to make sure the subtle nuances of Celtic culture were faithfully rendered in these ads.

Starbucks offers an upscale, modern equivalent to the Shamrock Shake, by the way:

Irish Spring

For that top-of-the-morning freshness, indeed. Irish Spring got out of the anti-perspirant business to concentrate on the soap business. Irish men used to slice into bars of Irish Spring soap with their jacknives in a bizarre Hibernian mating ritual intended to prove their manliness to comely Irish lasses, according to their TV commercials. There are at least five varieties of Irish Spring soap on the market now, including a Vitamin version (not to be taken orally).

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about Irish Spring. The second most frequently asked question: "What is soap?"

Lucky Charms

Lucky the Leprechaun is a crazy Irish cherub who's been the personification of a heroic dose of glucose for thirty years. His perpetual routine is to protect a bowl of multi-coloured marshmallows from kids who seem to succeed every thirty seconds or so. Did you know the marshmallow things that constitute Lucky Charms are called Marbits? General Mills have actually phased out and replaced most of the "magically delicious" Marbits I remember from my childhood; the blue diamonds and yellow moons are long gone - only the pink hearts have lasted the entire lifespan of the product line.

Lucky Charms were only available for a brief time in Ireland, and only relatively recently. Not sure why they didn't become popular there.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish mascot

Known at ND simply as The Leprechaun, this mascot means business, and business is mean. His dukes are up and his feet seem to be playing defense. This stereotype replaced the team's previous mascot, an Irish terrier, in 1965. There are actually live tryouts at Notre Dame every year as to who gets to be the mascot for the season, and the lucky charmer gets to dance a jig up and down the side of the field in full buckle-shoed leprechaunery; not sure if he gets a security escort to take him to and from the stadiums on a weekly basis in case he winds up serving as the Punch-Bag of Notre Dame.

The Leprechaun series

An implausibly popular series of horror movies starring Warwick Davis as the pint-sized green-skinned serial killer with the immortal catchphrase: "I want me gold!". They made 4 of these films (including one where he somehow got into space and killed astronauts) before the 2000 film Leprechaun In The Hood (co-starring Ice T and Coolio); this mix of hip-hop and horror became an out-of-left-field hit (relatively speaking) and spawned an anomaly - a sequel to a sequel (Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood)!

Seamus O'Shaunessy

a.k.a. SOS - two time Irish Whip Wrestling International Heavyweight Champion. Not to be confused with UFC champ Ken Shamrock (or that Queens of The Stone Age guy). Seamus' promising American wrestling career was stymied by visa issues a few years ago but he seems to have found his niche in the IWW. I think it's safe to assume that House of Pain's 'Jump Around' is what they play when SOS enters the (Claddagh) ring. He's amazing because of the names of his signature moves, including the SOS Drop, the Celtic Slam, the Clover Dive and yes, the Shamrock Shake (that's a kneedrop to you).
Catchphrase: "Who's your Paddy?"

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