PLEASE STOP: Saoirse Ronan’s Name and Accent Are NOT Narrative Devices
Despite how many chat show hosts seem to think so
All right. All fucking right. There’s a month left in major movie awards season, and that means the Oscar nominees will continue to be trotted out across the late night circuit to campaign for themselves and their studios — for our consideration. That also means that, if past is precedent, every single time we see Saoirse Ronan from now until the end of her exhaustive trophy quest in February she will get asked ALL ABOUT HER NAME and ALL ABOUT HER ACCENT.
That crazy name! With all those vowels! S-A-O-I-R-S-E. Is it even English? Is it even human?! Jesus fuck is Saoirse Ronan from Mars, you guuuyyyzzzz?????? And the accent! It’s so exotic, and so adorable! Teach us how to talk like you — please?! And tell us where to find your pot of gold!
How is this still happening? Saoirse Ronan was nominated for her first Oscar when she was 13. She made such a big impression in like 5 minutes worth of screen time she got an Academy Award nod for best supporting actress. You remember her (if you like period pieces). She played the precious and scheming Briony Tallis.
The point of this little recap being: Atonement came out nine years ago and Ronan came on the scene in a pretty big way. She’s not some anonymous actress from across the pond, and what’s more, she’s a God damn Oscar nominee! Her name and her accent, which we’ve heard a lot by now, are not the most interesting things about her. They’re nice. They’re distinctive. They’re part of her identity and we should respect that. But does every single interview she shows up for have to veer towards these same rote talking points?
And, yeah, it’s late night TV. It’s for the broadest common denominator and it’s gotta stay light and airy and fun. But continually putting someone from abroad on the spot for their silly accent and even sillier name is embarassing. The hosts are embarrassing for pandering with cheap material, and the viewing public seems like a bunch of jackasses for putting up with it over and over again.
And this is going to sound like a leap, but I’m taking it there: The constant otherizing of someone for the delight of a live studio audience and people watching on YouTube is very uncomfortable. Every time a talk show host starts fixating on Ronan’s apparently amusing Irishness they turn her into a novelty. It’s lazy interviewing. It’s boring. It’s become incredibly tedious, and at a certain point (that we reached a long time ago) it almost starts to feel offensive, like at any moment she will legit get asked what it’s like being a Leprechaun.
But even if it’s not offensive, even if that is a gross over-reaction, it damn sure is terrible entertainment journalism. If you think I’m exaggerating, here are way, WAY too many examples of late night hosts from the United States and the United Kingdom being complete tools about Saoirsie Ronan’s name and accent.
On The Late Late Show with James Corden last year.
The clip of Jimmy Fallon dwelling on Soairse’s accent last November isn’t available, but at the very start of this one you get the moment where he transitions away from The Accent Discourse. Her face in this still = my face.
Seth Meyers almost escaped the shame walk by staging a game in which normals try to spell the names of celebrities — in this case David Oyelowo and, naturally, Saoirse Ronan — but it’s still a case of going back to the same old joke well. This bit aired last spring, but as the evidence makes clear the material was already too tired to put a novel spin on the joke.
It’s done. It’s. Just. Done.
And embarassing common people who don’t spend as much of their time looking up actors’ names as I do did not makes this schtick interesting again.
Stephen. We know you’re too smart for this. And Ellen just had this conversation with her a week ago!
Not you, too, Ellen! PLEASE DON’T DO THIS! It’s 2016 and WE HAVE TO STOP.
Even my beloved Peter Travers — light of my movie life, voice of my cinematic conscience — fell into the “Wow! An Irish brogue!” trap when he talked with Ronan about her beautiful new movie, Brooklyn, this past November. It’s the role that will get her a second Oscar nomination, but apparently that’s not enough to put this gimmick to bed.
Believe it or not, George Lopez is the only host who gets a pass on this one. (Remember when he had a show??) He interviewed Soairse when she was out promoting The Lovely Bones in 2010, and this was her first time really getting on the PR train as a semi-grown actress. Sure, 16 is still so young, but she looks worlds more like a whole person than she did during the Atonement era just three years before.
George asked a good question and got a good answer. When Hanna came out in 2011 and I couldn’t stop talking about how Ronan was the future of Hollywood, this was the video I looked up to learn how to correctly pronounce her name. But since I have fingers and can Google, so too can EVERYONE ELSE, and by this point she has been asked so many fucking times to say “It’s sir-shuh, like inertia” that if you still don’t know you’re kind of a dick and should just leave it alone.
One point of relief in all this is that it’s not just American talk show hosts making a mockery of their positions. Even British stalwarts Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton played the tedious name game with Ronan. You could argue for a tiny reprieve on the grounds that this these were both three years ago — but I won’t grant it. NOPE. As has been well established, Ronan had already been around for six years by that time. There’s only so much time on the couch for these interviews, and I demand to hear more interesting ground covered than “pronounce your name for us” over and over and OVER AGAIN.
If you want to watch a conversation with Ronan where the host has enough self respect to just be cool about the name thing, check out this clip from 2010. Saoirse and her dad Paul went on The Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy to talk about the impressive career she had already put together by 16 years old. It’s an Irish talk show, which probably accounts for the lack of weird otherizing/lazy journalism apparently endemic to every other person who is paid to sit in a chair and ask celebrities questions for a living.
Thank you, Ryan Tubridy.
The bottom line is, everyone needs to be better. You’ve got a two-time Oscar nominee sitting in front of you who isn’t quite 22 yet, and who has made a career taking parts in interesting and weird and challenging genre movies. There are SO MANY QUESTIONS you could ask her — even superficial ones — that don’t have anything to do with all the vowels in her name.
Ronan has, of course, been continually gracious over the years, accommodating every person who just wants her to say “Yeah isn’t it crazy?” And so she acquiesces, because what else is there to do? “It makes no sense” or “It’s completely ridiculous,” she’ll tell them. But it’s not ridiculous. It’s her name. And according to the maybe-authoritative source (?) IrishBabyNames.com it means “freedom” or “liberty” and rose to popularity in the 1920s. According to that site it’s also become more common in recent years. So there you go. Her parents weren’t just making some shit up. She’s certainly not the first Saoirse, and she won’t be the last.
The Oscars aren’t until February 28, and I hope to God her recent Colbert appearance is the last word we need to hear on the subject of Saoirse Ronan’s CRAZY SCRABBLE BOARD NAME. But I’m sure it’s not. She hasn’t hit every late night show yet in 2016, and girlfriend has some more campaigning to do before that final award is dished out. But God damn, for her sake, our sake and the sake of dignity let’s hope everyone has finally got this compulsion out of their system.