Misheard Lyrics, Allegories, and Things Left Unsaid

11 Jul

When I started writing my current project, I thought about a line from the song Skibbereen, which I heard in the movie Michael Collins. So… “To Serve a Foreign Queen” was born! But now, here’s the problem… that line doesn’t exist. Those words were never sung.

Is this proof of alternate dimensions? No, just a faulty memory. Turns out the song lyric that I named was simply misheard, since I last watched the film a long time ago. I discovered the movie Michael Collins, when I was working in Korea back in 1999. They had things called bideobongs–video rooms–which are mostly an excuse for the crowded Koreans to have a rented room, watch naughty films, and whack it in peace. However, the one closest to me actually had a pretty good selection of films (this is pre-Netflix), and they had that as an option. Absolutely loved it, went back, watched it three more times.

Michael Collins is a wonderfully told story about the IRA from 1916, when Ireland gained independence in 1922, and the Irish Civil War of 1923. (Pause.) Now what I just wrote is a lie… depending on who’s reading it. The problem with doing historical films too close to the actual event is that it comes with a lot of emotional baggage, so when Hollywood made that film, it walked into a historical minefield. Not necessarily because of the Irish Civil War (which created the two major political parties in Ireland), but because the film neglects to mention that Collins ordered the IRA to disrupt the North in order to keep them back in the country. That caused the Troubles, which is why when I mentioned to my Northern Irish coworkers that this was my favorite film, they gasped with horror.

So this was a big “rah-rah Ireland” film and plays with the history. The names were correct, but the characters (other than the title one) were given flaws that caused the civil war later. They added in a love triangle which kinda happened, but not in the way you think. According to the Irish themselves, they only gained independence in 1937, because they were still nominally part of the British Empire until then. “Free State” didn’t cut it. In fact, it didn’t cut it so much that the country started shooting each other over whether they would be a “republic,” free and independent versus a “free state,” with the King of England still as the head of state. Yes… this was a war about the name of their country, and countless folks died (including the title character) because of it.

Seriously?

Yep. In the same way, the lyrics were close… but not quite. Here’s what I think I actually heard:

It’s well I do remember on a bleak November’s day,

The landlord and the sheriff came to drive us all away;

they set my house on fire with their cursed English spleen

And that’s another reason why I left Old Skibbereen.

Yes, the movie is not perfectly historically accurate, but who cares?! It was a great flik, and got me interested in reading more about the Irish Civil War of 1922… when previously, I never even heard of it. I liked The Patriot, too, and I knew that was dead wrong historically. But the battle sequences are good, and that’s what counts. Disney’s The Three Musketeers with Charlie Sheen is a great romp… has nothing to do with the book by Alexandre Dumas.

Have you ever run into this problem? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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