Why we just love to hate Love/Hate

Love/HateGritty TV dramas are often used as spurious reasons to explain any rise in violent crime says John O’Keeff.


Joe Duffy has been busy over the last while. Then again, Joe Duffy is always busy. Joe is never busier than when RTÉ produces something that is good – amazingly good. When RTÉ churns out some US re-runs all is quiet. Yet the moment they manage to tap into the national psyche, the complaints come in thick and fast. It appears certain parts of Irish society like ‘good’ on its TV screens, occasionally they will tolerate ‘very good’, but never ‘excellent’ – to be excellent is after all getting above yourself. If this is the case then the latest series of Love/Hate must be in the stratosphere.

Honesty is best from the outset. Love/Hate is certainly the most brutal piece of programming that RTÉ has ever commissioned. Gratuitous violence, drug-use and supply, foul language and a total disregard for people and society are evident. None of the central characters appear to have any redeeming qualities and behave like Stone-Age savages rather than modern humans. Like all good psychopaths, they know the words but not the music. The leading character of Nidge knows, for instance, what to say to appear conciliatory from time to time – but we know this to be a ruse, a calm before a storm. Nothing is ever sincere; nothing is ever genuine. In the world of drug addiction and supply the shaven headed willowy psychopath is always king.

“We find ourselves sympathising with caricatures of some of the vilest people that a country like ours can produce…”

The complaint of most in the ‘no’ camp is that the series glamorises violence. The fear is that youth on the verge of criminal careers will look at the drug and sex fuelled world inhabited by the series protagonists and suddenly begin to believe that such a lifestyle choice is a genuine career option. There is little academic research to support this proposition.

What we do know is that children brought up in dysfunctional families where either one or both parents is absent and/or violent and loveless, are more likely to have criminal outcomes then those who come from stable loving families. We also know that certain children suffer from genetic defects or inherited traits that may ensure crime becomes an irresistible job option. Furthermore, we also know that there are multiplicities of social and environmental factors that persuade certain young people into criminal lifestyles.

What we can say with certainty also is that there is no youth in Ireland watching Love/Hate who will be tempted to get involved in criminal activity solely by reason of watching the programme. If he or she does, it will be because of a range of other factors entirely unconnected with the TV in the corner of the room. The reality is that dramatically violent TV programmes don’t make criminals – bad parents most certainly do.

Objectively, Love/Hate is quite possibly one of the finest dramas ever produced by RTÉ. It captures the essence of violent criminality at its core – a pathological disregard for others. It is the type of gripping drama that asks us to suspend all belief so that we are soon unwilling to believe that what we are seeing are in fact actors playing a part. Indeed the scriptwriters and actors have done such a good job that we find ourselves sympathising with caricatures of some of the vilest people that a country like ours can produce.

The route of criminality lies not in the X-Box game your son is currently obsessed with or because of the violence he witnesses in the media on dramas such as Love/Hate. It is foolhardy to blame Nidge and his motley crew for encouraging violent criminality. The uneasy truth is that the real problem often lies much closer to home.

For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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