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The Quiet Man and Domestic Abuse

The Quiet Man (1952, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Ward Bond) won the Academy Award for Best Director (John Ford) and Best Cinematography. The Library of Congress selected the movie in 2013 to be included in the United States National Film Registry.

The basic theme is boy moves back to Ireland, boy meets girl, boy meets girl’s brother, boy fights girl’s brother and, in the end, everyone is happy and friends for life. It is an enjoyable movie that presents Ireland in a quaint way, although the film is filled with stereotypes of the Irish.

The issue is that there are some uncomfortable moments throughout the film that raise the issue of domestic abuse and present it in ways that somehow they can be glossed over as simply entertaining and appropriate in their settings. At one point Wayne (Sean Thornton) pulls O’Hara (Mary Kate Danaher) off a train and drags her (as his wife) five miles to her brother’s farm, where Wayne throws her back at her brother and tells him to keep her. During the lead up to this scene, a woman in the crowd that has been following Wayne drag O’Hara from the train to the brother’s farm, anticipating the fight that will culminate in the film’s big scene, steps forward to give Thornton a tree branch and the woman says, “Here’s good stick.” The point is he can use it on his wife.
The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in domestic abuse, with one Irish mental health authority saying it has reached “epidemic levels.” Ireland may not necessarily have a more heightened level of abuse than other countries. In addition, the issue of domestic abuse predates the pandemic. But, in focusing on Ireland, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November 2019, a study placed the number of Irish women who suffered at the hands of domestic abuse at 23,000—so before the pandemic.

Someone agreeing to write on this topic can address films, such as The Quiet Man, and how they may have glossed over domestic abuse and what changes have taken place since this film’s release in 1952. In addition, the impact of films and domestic abuse should be addressed. Did, for example, The Quiet Man, provide a way to rationalize domestic abuse which allowed it to be “swept under the rug” and be treated on a lesser level than other crimes?

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