Irish Film Studies: Hush-a-Bye Baby

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This was my journal entry for Hush-a-Bye Baby (week 6).

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Week 6’s subject was a more “difficult” one, but it allowed us to understand a darker side of Ireland because no place is perfect. As we saw in class, growing as a woman in Ireland once didn’t seem to be a part of pleasure, for the reason that Church and State were closely working together. As a result, sexuality has long been a taboo subject and something that was only considered to be “a tool to have children”, but don’t you dare having a child out of wedlock! As a result, homosexuality was considered a crime until the late 20th century and contraceptives were illegal until the 80s-90s. Still today, abortion isn’t allowed. We’ve seen in class that, as a result of this strong connection between Church and State, sad stories of young teenage mothers having to give birth to illegitimate children in recluse places weren’t uncommon.

Hush-a-Bye Baby seeks to show us this difficult reality. The film was released in 1990 when such questions and problems concerning female sexuality were still at a culminating point. A woman, Margo Harkin, directed the film, and its main stars are feminine ones (including singer Sinéad O’Connor, whose song can be heard in the ending credits). As a result, we feel that this movie was really made to denounce something and tell us “enough is enough”. It’s a film made by a woman and for women, but, hopefully, men will get something out of it as well.

bes_hush_02.jpg

What I found mainly interesting about Hush-a-Bye Baby is the fact that it is narratively presented to us as a general downfall. At the beginning of the film, the teenage girls just “want to have fun”, like it says so in Cyndi Lauper’s song that is heard in the film. They dance, meet boys, have fun, etc. They live the typical normal life teenage girls must live. One of them, Sinéad, seems closer to religion. For example, in an interesting scene, she prays dressed as the Virgin Mary, until her friends arrive. The beginning of the film also contains a certain subtle humour that is appreciated, such as this scene where the girl students are sexually provoking their priest teacher. This creates a balance with the rest of the film that is much more dramatic and where real troubles surface.

The film touches the themes of out of wedlock wedding and abortion. One of the girls is pregnant, but her boyfriend is in jail and she can’t reach him because she writes in Irish and Irish letters aren’t allowed. We feel her distress because we know she can’t keep that for her and, as out of wedlock babies are not well seen, it’s a case of constant stress. The film that started in joy with “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” ends with a painful scream, reflecting what the film mainly tries to denounce: the difficulty of growing in Ireland as a teenage girl. On a side note, Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” can be credited as a feminist song, so its use in the film is quite relevant.

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Words: 514

Images sources:

“Hush-a-Bye Baby.” Besom Productions, n.d, http://www.besomproductions.co.uk/hush.html.

“Various Artists: Hush-a-Bye Baby.” Thank You for Hearing Me, n.d, http://www.thankyouforhearingme.com/releases/hush_a_bye_baby.html.

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