I managed to luck out, yet again, with the in-flight entertainment on the way to Hong Kong – this time it was a 1001 movie and not the coincidentally next Disney movie that I saw on my way to Korea. I’m going to preface my thoughts about this with the qualifier that I had to stop this part way through for a plane nap. That isn’t necessarily a slight on the film, more that it was gone midnight, but I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have needed that based on the film’s length.
In a nutshell, The Quiet Man tells the story of a former boxer who, having killed a man in the ring, retires and moves to his ancestral home in Ireland. Here he buys back his childhood home, falls in love and integrates with the locals. This is the cliff notes and the fairly generous description. What this leaves out is the incredible sexism and liberal application of Irish stereotypes.
I cannot speak for the Irish on this, because they may watch this and think I’m being a bit over the top. However, the sexism is ridiculous. The final scenes depict John Wayne dragging his wife (sometimes whilst she is on the ground) for five miles so that he can prove that he isn’t a coward by beating up her meathead of a brother. After this climactic exchange (where the whole village, including a visiting bishop cheer and place bets on the winner) the man, his wife and her brother can all just sit together to dinner.
The more I think on it, the more The Quiet Man seems like a parable extolling the virtues of toxic masculinity and of not talking through issues, which is set in Ireland. It’s all brushed off as being ‘this is just how we do things in Ireland’ every time John Wayne’s character recoils against their ideas, which I guess is their way of setting it apart from America. Still though, this is promoting an old world ideal where it’s expected for spouses to beat each other up and that the simple solution of talking about emotions is off the table.
Beautifully shot though. You have to give John Ford that, even if the rest of the film isn’t too appetising when you compare the moral standards of this 1952 anthropological study of his idea of Ireland’s countryside villages to now.