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'I just wanna chill with the boys': A Multi-modal Critical Discourse Analysis of Irish Masculinity in Versatile's 'Ketamine' music video

Shane Burke


The music video offers an important perspective on contemporary cultural values, delivering ‘a distillation of how contemporary culture views itself through cultural creation’ (Railton and Watson, 2005, p. 52). Music is an important part of adolescent identities; it conveys meanings about gender, gender relations, norms, and values (North, Hargreaves, and O’Neill, 2000; Campbell, Connell, and Beegle, 2007). Researchers have continuously related rap music to hegemonic masculinity, which refers to the dominant and influential traditional norms and values of masculinity in a given society (Aubrey and Frisby 2011; Avery et al., 2017). Hegemonic masculinity is not prevalent in all rap music, and the genre frequently subverts mainstream gender, racial, and political conventions; yet a number of studies have identified prevalent themes of sexism and hypermasculinity in popular rap music (Ó hÍr and Strange, 2021; McFarland, 2003; Bretthauer, Zimmerman and Banning, 2007; Weitzer and Kubrin, 2009; Belle, 2014). This article argues that the Irish rap duo, Versatile, are no exception; their music videos are representative of hegemonic masculinity in the Irish context. As Johnston and Morrison (2007) highlight, Irish males have only recently attracted critical attention as gendered subjects in academia (Ferguson, 2001; Cleary, 2005). Although Irish masculinity has gained significantly more attention in the new millenia, there are still wide gaps in this literature necessitating further inquiry into its manifestations in culture (Darcy, 2019b). Following Darcy’s (2019a) findings of the fluidity and contradictions of Irish masculinity and other studies findings on alcohol and illicit drug use in relation to masculinity, this article seeks to analyse how Versatile’s music video embodies the dominant themes of Irish masculinity. First, this article will outline the theoretical framework of Irish masculinity and the context of Versatile in Irish music. This article will use multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA) to discuss the contradictory and fluid nature of Irish masculinity in Versatile’s music video ‘Ketamine’.

Theoretical Framework

Hegemonic masculinity, as defined by Connell (1995), refers to the culturally accepted and upheld form of masculinity that serves as the standard for other masculinities. This form of masculinity is typically associated with traits such as strength, power, aggression, and control, and is often tied to traditional gender roles and expectations (Connell, 2002). Hegemonic masculinity is not only enforced by society, but also reinforced and perpetuated by men themselves, as they strive to conform to this ideal and maintain their status and power within the gender hierarchy (Connell, 2002). As will be discussed, research has demonstrated the complexity and development of Irish masculinity through this lens of masculinity. 

Irish masculinities have been shaped by a number of factors including legislation, cultural values, sporting institutions, religious influences, and media and film (Ferguson, 2000; Ní Laoire, 2005; Bairner, 1999; Lloyd, 2000; Ging, 2004; 2005). The Roman Catholic Church played a significant role in shaping Irish masculinities, with celibacy and traditional notions of family and marriage being central to traditional hegemonic masculinities. The majority of Irish schools were governed by the Roman Catholic Church, which contributed to the production of gender roles through segregation and moral instruction (Mac an Ghaill et al., 2004). The economic landscape of Ireland, which was historically agricultural and reliant on manual labour, also shaped gender patterns and contributed to the traditional construction of masculinity as being physical and practical (Goodwin, 2002; Hanlon, 2012). Work has long been recognized as being gendered, and the ‘breadwinner’ role was seen as an important aspect of Irish men's notions of masculinity (Ní Laoire, 2005). However, economic and social forces arising from Ireland’s economic development have challenged these elements of Irish masculinity (Ging, 2005; Johnston and Morrison, 2007; Darcy, 2019a). Increasing secularisation, and growing equality for women both in the workplace and at home, has disrupted gender roles, and the decline of manual labour, and migration to urban areas, has impugned physical and practical notions of Irish masculinity (Goodwin, 2002; Hanlon, 2012). These social transformations have created complexities in the formation of masculine identities, leading to a more ambiguous and fluid conception of Irish masculinity in contemporary Ireland (Ging, 2005; Johnston and Morrison, 2007; Darcy, 2017; 2018a; 2019a).


A uniqueness is also attached to notions of Irish masculinity due to emphasis on alcohol use and jovial storytelling (banter). In more local terms, Irish men are expected to be ‘cute hures’—a beer-drinking pub frequenter who is naturally quick-witted and exhibits humour and irreverence with other men (Share, 1997, p. 139). This playful notion of Irish masculinity is derived from the tradition and history of the Irish people as storytellers and poets. It is also partially contradictory to previously discussed notions of hard work and stoicism (Darcy, 2013; 2017). The relationship between alcohol and Irish masculinity has received significant attention (Blaney, 1974; Greenslade et al., 1995; Inglis, 1998; Barich, 2009; Share, 1997; Tilki, 2006). Alcohol consumption has significant symbolic value in Ireland, and the link between the Irish and alcohol is intricate (Buckley, 1983). Lloyd (2000) claims that Irish men in pre-independence Ireland drank to combat the hardship, isolation, and apathy they felt under British colonial control. However, alcohol still remains interwoven with masculinity for many Irish males (Lloyd, 2000). Drinking habits still feature in the gender performances of Irish males—for example, being able to tolerate a substantial amount of alcohol is viewed as a masculine trait (Lloyd, 2000; Darcy, 2013; Darcy, 2019a). According to Inglis (1998, p. 245), alcohol is a culturally accepted coping mechanism among many Irish males; it is used as an emotional analgesic to temporarily escape misfortune and obliterate ‘the self’. In this regard, Irish men are not alone; men in other countries drink alcohol for comparable reasons (Dolan, 2011). 

Illicit drug use is not traditionally associated with Irish masculinity. However, given its rise in popularity, conjunctive use with alcohol, and male dominated nature, it has become an area of interest in recent years in terms of potentially attaching to the dominant paradigm of Irish masculinity (Darcy, 2017; 2018a; 2018b; 2019b). Research has demonstrated that the recreational use of illicit drugs by Irish men is a gendered activity that is shaped by men's performances of masculinity in homosocial (exclusively male) contexts (Darcy, 2018a). Akin to alcohol use, men's initiations into drug use can be characterised as homosocial events where men are socialised into drug-taking practices that are understood as an approved way for men to demonstrate and reproduce masculinity (Darcy, 2018a). Drug use can symbolise friendship, solidarity, and affiliation among men, and can be interpreted as communicating information about the drug taker's gender identity (Darcy, 2018b). Also similar to drinking alcohol, drug use can become a vehicle for emotional bonding and intimacy that might not be socially acceptable in other contexts. 

However, there are significant differences between drinking alcohol and illicit drug use. Firstly, Illicit drugs, due to their illegal nature, are generally restricted to contexts where their use is accepted or tolerated and are more often used among groups that share specific meanings and understandings. Therefore, this more insular and exclusive context creates a greater shared identity and stronger bond between drug users (Darcy, 2018b). However, outside of these contexts, drug use can also be viewed as emasculating and socially iniquitous. This contrasts with alcohol, which is widely accepted and consumed openly in Western societies, because alcohol’s social meanings are broadly understood (Darcy, 2018b). Overall, illicit drug use plays a complex role in the formation of Irish masculinity that overlaps with alcohol use. 

In totality, traditional Irish masculinity derived from factors such as the Roman Catholic Church, the economic landscape, and cultural values. However, recent social transformations have disrupted traditional gender roles and created further complexities in the formation of masculine identities. The use of alcohol and jovial storytelling/banter are also associated with Irish masculinity. The relationship between alcohol and Irish masculinity has received significant attention, and is seen as a cultural coping mechanism among many Irish males. Although illicit drug use is not traditionally associated with Irish masculinity, it has become an area of interest in recent years. From the breaking down of traditional norms to the emergence of male bonding through illicit drug use, Irish masculinity is growing even more complex and can be characterised as fluid, ambiguous and contradictory (Ging, 2005; Johnston and Morrison, 2007; Darcy, 2019a; 2019b). Following this complex conception of Irish masculinity, this article aims to demonstrate how Versatile represents the contradictory and fluid nature of Irish masculinity in their music videos with their use of juxtaposing themes. 

Versatile within the context of Irish Music 

Irish culture has long held music and poetry in a position of prominence, as demonstrated by the cultural significance of the works of artists such as W.B. Yeats and U2 (Jeffares, 1996; Kirwan, 2015). The emergence of rap music can be seen as a fusion of these two art forms. The first Irish rap act to gain national recognition were Sultans of Ping FC, who formed in the late 1980s and had a hit single with ‘Where's Me Jumper’ in 1992 (Larkin, 2000).

It was not until the 2000s that Irish rap began to gain momentum, with the rise of acts like Scary Éire and Rusangano Family (Finn, 2017). In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the popularity of Irish rap music, as evidenced by the success of artists such as Kneecap and Kojaque who have sold out shows both domestically and internationally (Mullally, 2018; Ó hÍr and Strange, 2021). Among the most prominent of Irish rap artists is the Dublin-based duo, Versatile, who have achieved significant success in terms of ticket sales and are widely considered to be the most popular Irish rap act (Kinsella, 2019: O’Callaghan, 2019; Hanratty, 2019). While other acts such as A92 and Rejjie Snow may have a larger online presence, Versatile remains the only Irish rap act to have sold out the 3Arena, the largest indoor venue in Ireland (McGoran, 2019). 

Versatile, composed of Eskimo Supreme and Caspar Walsh, are based in Ringsend, Dublin, and started making music in 2014 (Clark, 2018). The duo rose to prominence rapidly, especially due to their self-produced YouTube music videos such as ‘Who Robbed the Hash From the Gaf’ and ‘Mad Scene’ (Clark, 2018). Versatile asserts that their music is influenced by the happenings of Dublin's working class (Versatile and White, 2022). Moreover, they frequently portray characters in their songs, which they claim is for comedic and theatrical effect. In ‘We Sell Brown’, the duo rap from the perspective of inner-city heroin dealers with lines such as ‘I'm a scumbag, yeah I know I'm in the wrong, wrecking people's lives to buy Louis Vuitton’ and ‘We dished out the most brown in the country, We're the reason your ma's a fat junkie’ (Versatile, 2017). 

Versatile arguably became part of mainstream Irish culture in 2018 when they headlined festivals such as Longitude and Electric Picnic, while also gaining coverage from news outlets such as Hot Press and the Irish Times (Clark, 2018). However, throughout 2019 and 2020 Versatile received considerable criticism on social media for racism, misogyny, and homophobia in their music (Falvey, 2019; O’Shea, 2020). In particular, their song ‘Dublin City G’s’ received significant amounts of criticism and commentary from the Black Irish community for perpetuating stereotypes of Black people with lyrics such as ‘Listen, It's hard to please a black woman, especially when they think your white dick's the size of nothin’, Compared to black flutes that they are usually suckin'’ (Versatile, 2017). The duo also faced criticism for a photo of Caspar Walsh wearing blackface (Falvey, 2019; O’Shea, 2020). Despite this controversy, Versatile sold out the 3Arena for a second time in their career in 2021 and toured Europe with Snoop Dogg in 2022 (Meagher, 2022).

Data selection and methods 

This article has chosen to analyse Versatile’s 2018 self-produced and self-released music video, ‘Ketamine’. The 7-minute music video portrays the duo’s experience with the street drug, Ketamine, which is known to induce psychedelic and disassociating effects (Green et al., 2011). This video was chosen as it directly addresses relevant themes in Irish masculinity literature such as illicit drug use and storytelling, in addition to effectively portraying masculinity in its often contradictory condition. 

This article analyses the music video using multimodal critical discourse analysis (MCDA). MCDA is a method of analysing texts that combines the study of language with the study of other modes of communication such as visual, audio, and spatial elements (Machin, 2016). This approach recognizes that media is constituted by not only words, but also by other forms of representation, such as images, layout, and gestures, which contribute to their meaning and impact (Machin et al., 2016). In multimodal critical discourse analysis, these different modes of communication are analysed in relation to each other, and in relation to the social, cultural, and historical contexts in which they are produced and received (Ledin and Machin, 2018). This approach can be used to analyse a wide range of texts including advertisements, news articles, film, television, and social media posts. By analysing the interplay between different modes of communication, MCDA allows better understanding of the social and cultural contexts in which texts are produced and received. MCDA allows for examination of the ways in which power and ideology are constructed and maintained through language and other forms of representation, and can uncover the hidden assumptions and values that underlie texts (Machin et al., 2016). 

This article analyses ‘Ketamine’ along three modes: lyrics, visual and audio. It examines the lyrical themes that recur in the texts, such as drug use and machismo, which are characterised by frequent code-switching and code-mixing (Muysken, 2000). The audio element is also analysed in relation to the song’s tone and beat selection (Van Leeuwen, 1998; Machin, 2016). In terms of visual analysis, the article examines the clothing worn by the actors, props such as house keys, and the locations used (Scollon and Scollon, 2003; Machin, 2016). Another visual aspect analysed is the use of the actors' bodies, including gesture and posture (Baldry and Thibault, 2010).


The analysis is divided into three sections, each analysing different juxtaposing themes of masculinity presented in the music video and representing the contradictory nature of Irish masculinity: ‘Gangster Rapper’ vs. ‘Letting Loose’, ‘Playboy’ vs. Homosociality, and Jovial Storytelling vs. Emotional Vulnerability. 

Gangster Rapper’ versus ‘Letting Loose’ 

This section analyses the contradiction or tension between the masculine notions of ‘Gangster Rapper’ and ‘Letting Loose’ in the music video. ‘Gangster Rapper’ is a typology of masculinity where one raps about their ‘Gangster’ exploits or illegal activities (Harkness, 2014). Many of the most famous rappers of all time embody this typology, such as Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Snoop Dogg (who Versatile toured with). It is often associated with traits of aggression, materialism, and a disregard for the law (Quinn, 2004; Belle, 2014). It also comprises previously mentioned notions of Irish masculinity such as the stoic, breadwinner, and physical and practical traits as ‘Gangster Rappers’ avoid being emotionally expressive, earn significant amounts of money, and pride themselves on their ability to fight (Ní Laoire, 2005; Ging, 2005; Johnston and Morrison, 2007; Belle, 2014). 

This theme of masculinity persists across the music video, especially with Eskimo Supreme’s performance. In several instances, Eskimo Supreme is presented as the hypermasculine ‘gangster’ typically found in popular rap music by wearing designer clothing and expensive jewellery. This portrayal is also aided by consistent bragging, particularly in relation to making money from selling drugs with lines such as ‘Made bank everywhere I pop up, Chyah, Pal I knock up, Move the weight then it gets chopped up’. The role of violence and aggression across the music video also contributes to this typology. For example, the second verse is almost solely dedicated to Caspar’s story of massacring an entire family. In brief, Versatile conveys several themes associated with the hegemonic masculine notion of ‘Gangster Rapper’. 

However, one element of the ‘Gangster Rapper’ typology which is not present in the music video is sobriety, particularly in relation to powdered drugs. Traditionally, rap music promotes alcohol and marijuana use but rappers consistently lambast other recreational illicit drug use (Herd, 2005; Hall, West, and Neeley 2012). Similar to how some Irish men believe a man should be able to ‘hold one’s drink’ or ‘not lose the run of himself’, control while consuming alcohol and marijuana is seen as ‘performing gender’. In other words, retaining control over yourself while consuming vasts of alcohol is seen as a masculine trait, while becoming too intoxicated to function, or not participating in such drinking, is seen as feminine (Darcy, 2019b). In contrast, consuming illicit drugs like cocaine, ketamine, or crack is seen as counter-intuitive to drug dealing and implies a vulnerability due to their intoxicating effects (Rice, 2018). For example, in his 1997 song ‘10 Crack Commandments’, Biggie Smalls emphasises ‘I know you heard this before, never get high on your own supply’ or for a more recent example, Central Cee states ‘Real trap boy, I don’t play my nose’ (The Notorious B.I.G., 1997; Central Cee, 2021). The following paragraph will demonstrate that although Versatile’s embracement of recreational illicit drug use is contradictory to this ‘Gangster Rapper’ typology of masculinity, it may fit other notions of Irish masculinity. 

The ‘Letting Loose’ theme in the music video derives from the links between Irish masculinity and alcohol. As previously mentioned, Inglis (1998) conceptualises alcohol use in Irish males as a coping mechanism to momentarily escape misfortune and destroy ‘the self’. Darcy (2017) demonstrates how recreational illicit drug use in Irish men has possibly exaggerated this element of substance use. Ketamine could be viewed as the most suitable drug for this use as it can create an analgesic effect due to its psychedelic and dissociative properties (Green et al., 2011). Users of Ketamine are known to enter a ‘K-Hole’, which is a trance-like state where the user can barely speak or move (Buchanan, 2020). This obliteration of the ‘self’ is not explicitly a coping mechanism, as Darcy (2019b, p. 426) highlights how many men engage in such behaviour to have the ‘craic’ or think it’s ‘crazy fun’ to become so intoxicated. Therefore, I have drafted the term ‘letting loose’ for this form of drug-taking as it encapsulates the obliteration of the ‘self’, and the drug buzz.

This form of ‘letting loose’ is contradictory to the ‘Gangster Rapper’ typology of masculinity, as these extreme levels of intoxication are not conducive to traits of competition, physicality, and practicality. Consistent with the title of the song, ‘Ketamine’, the music video is littered with the theme of ‘letting loose’. Firstly, the psychedelic and paranoid effects of Ketamine are demonstrated in the hook of the song with both rappers chanting ‘I’m para off me head’. They are also presented as heavily drug induced at several instances after visibly taking drugs by gurning and rolling their eyes upwards. The scenes are also accompanied with many lyrics discussing drug taking such as ‘Take a blow o' this take a blow o' that, have a sniff of this, have a whack of that’. Other characters in the video are also presented in a similar manner, especially at the ‘gaffer’ (house party) where several people are seen ‘K-Holing’ and a hallucinogenic clown reappears consistently. The ‘letting loose’ effects of Ketamine and other drugs is possibly the predominant message of the song, thus suggesting that new forms of masculinity are emerging that are not based solely on the traditional traits associated with the ‘Gangster Rapper' typology of masculinity. Instead, the focus is on subjective experiences of escapism and euphoria, which challenge the traditional notions of dominance, aggression, competition, and physicality. 

In totality, the music video presents a complex and nuanced portrayal of masculinity, highlighting the tension and contradictions between these different themes. While the lyrics and visuals of the video glorify the drug use, the contrast between the typical masculinity associated with 'Gangster Rapper' and the more hedonistic, escapist masculinity of 'Letting Loose' suggests that the song might be critiquing the idea of the hypermasculine, traditional view of masculinity. 

Playboy’ versus Homosociality 

This section analyses the contradiction or tension between the hegemonic masculine norm of a ‘playboy’ and the homosociality of illicit drug use. The term ‘playboy’ is often used to describe a man who engages in multiple sexual relationships with women (Jancovich, 2012). This behaviour is often seen as a manifestation of hegemonic masculinity, which refers to the societal expectations and ideals of what it means to be a ‘real man’. One of the key aspects of the ‘playboy’ is the expectation that men should be sexually active and promiscuous. This norm is often reinforced through cultural messages and stereotypes, such as the idea that men should be able to ‘score’ with as many women as possible (Amy-Chinn, 2006). This norm is also closely tied to ideas of masculinity and power, as men who are able to ‘conquer’ multiple women are often seen as more masculine and powerful than those who are not (Jancovich, 2012). 

The playboy is often depicted as someone who is successful and affluent as well as someone who can easily attract and seduce women (O’Hara, 2012; Patton, 2014). The trope of the playboy often portrays them as sophisticated, charismatic and confident figures who are able to get whatever they want in life, including women. It is partially a derivation of ‘Gangster Rapper’ typology (Lindsay and Lyons, 2018). However, while the playboy is often celebrated and admired, the negative consequences of his behaviour are rarely acknowledged. For example, the playboy's tendency to objectify and use women for his own pleasure is harmful and disrespectful (O’Hara, 2012). Moreover, the norm of playboy can also have detrimental effects on men, as it can lead to a sense of inadequacy and low self-esteem for those who do not conform to the norm (Jancovich, 2012). 

‘I'll never wrap up cause that's how I flex 

But only when I'm with a bird that plays hard to get 

Nonetheless, I hit the pussy with finesse 

Balls deep in Christianity so now my flute is blessed 

I gave her my all and I gave her my best’ (Versatile - Ketamine, 2018)

In the first verse, Eskimo Supreme is consistently portrayed as a playboy with several scenes of him fornicating with a nun to convey that he could ‘conquer’ any woman, even one that is as prudent as a nun. He also objectifies women and their bodies with lines such as ‘If she's no arse I will not look’. The playboy theme dominates Eskimo Supreme’s first verse. However, the following section will demonstrate how this is contrasted with the homosociality of drug use in the video.

Darcy (2018a; 2018b) highlights the homosociality of illicit drug use in Ireland. Research has shown that men often form close friendships and bonds with one another through shared experiences, such as drug use (Darcy, 2018a; 2018b). These friendships can be strengthened through the use of drugs and alcohol, as men feel more comfortable expressing their emotions and being vulnerable with one another while under the influence. However, this kind of bond can also perpetuate drug use and lead to addiction, as men feel a sense of pressure to continue using drugs in order to maintain their friendships and social connections (Darcy, 2018a). 

The homosociality of illicit drug use is contradictory to the norm of a ‘playboy’ because if a man is in a homosocial environment, he cannot be ‘womanising’. These environments are often perceived as homoerotic. Versatile vividly portray this environment in their music video, with no women present at the house party scenes, or taking drugs. Several characters at the house party are also shirtless, conveying a certain homoeroticism in the situation. This nature of the environment is also epitomised by Eskimo Supreme’s line, ‘I just wanna chill with the boys', which was emphasised by coinciding with the beat drop. In totality, the representation of these two norms in the music video are not easy to square. The following section will demonstrate how the emotional bonding that the homosocial environment fosters is another contradictory norm to the current hegemonic masculinity. 

‘The Jovial Storyteller’ versus Emotional Vulnerability 

This section analyses the music video’s portrayal of the ‘jovial storyteller’ norm of Irish masculinity, showing that while emphasis is placed on bravado and humour, the video also demonstrates the emotional catharsis that often lies beneath such wittiness and entertainment. As previously mentioned, the idea that Irish men are ‘cute hures’, a beer-drinking pub frequenter who is naturally quick-witted and exhibits humour and irreverence with other men, is an established expectation of Irish masculinity (Buckley, 1983; Share, 1997). Versatile often embody this norm, with several story-telling songs like ‘Who robbed the hash from the gaff?’, and also with their comedic elements. ‘Ketamine’ follows this trend, with Eskimo Supreme’s storyline following his night at a house party while Caspar’s storyline follows him massacring a family. The video is littered with hyperboles and over-the-top antics to add a comedic effect. For example, Eskimo Supreme tapes the mouth of one person for ‘burning the ear off him’ at the house party or lines like ‘I don’t give a rats about your ma or your fat da’. However, the following paragraph will highlight the other side of jovial storytelling within Irish masculinity. 

While the stereotype of the ‘jovial storyteller’ might depict Irish storytelling as purely entertaining and light-hearted, the tradition also has a deeper, more therapeutic, and cathartic aspect (Kearney, 2007). Research has demonstrated that personal anecdotes in storytelling often serve as a way for individuals to process and cope with difficult experiences and emotions (Lawless, 2001; East et al 2010; Roebotham et al., 2018). Anecdotes allow the teller to express and share their feelings in a safe and supportive environment, and can provide a sense of validation and understanding for the listener (Lawless, 2001, p. 123). In addition, humour and satire has also often been proven to play an important role in providing a way for people to process and cope with difficult or traumatic experiences (Plester 2009; Christopher, 2015; Pérez‐Aranda et al., 2019). Humour can serve as a coping mechanism and provide a way to distance oneself from difficult emotions and situations. Although this research has not been conducted in an Irish context, it can still be seen in Irish literature and film. This emotional catharsis in Irish storytelling is epitomised by several characters in James Joyce’s works, such as Joe in ‘Dubliners’ (Beckham, 2008). Other media such as ‘The Quiet Man’ and ‘The Butcher Boy’ also use dark humour to demonstrate this catharsis (Ging, 2013).

This aspect of Irish storytelling is present in media relating to Irish masculinity, but not in research on Irish masculinity. This discrepancy is perhaps due to its tension with stoic notions of Irish masculinity. There is a chance that when people are interviewed about their conceptions of Irish masculinity, as was done by studies such as Darcy (2017; 2019a), they choose elements of storytelling that are more conducive to hegemonic masculine norms such as wittiness.

However, in the ‘Ketamine’ music video Versatile embraces the contradiction of the dual presence of emotional vulnerability and stoicism in Irish masculinity. Although not immediately apparent, Versatile drops hints across the video to suggest their emotional vulnerability. This catharsis is perhaps aided by the extensive drug use, as Darcy (2018a; 2019b) highlights that men often use illicit drugs as a vehicle for male bonding and emotionality. The end of Eskimo Supreme’s first verse perfectly encapsulates this emotional catharsis but is also accompanied by humour, in line with the notion of a coping mechanism:

‘I just want someone to love me 

It's never gonna happen too much of a cunt too much of a sap 

Never open up and call people fat every time I'm rapping’ (Versatile - Ketamine, 2018)

Caspar also demonstrates this catharsis with lines like ‘why don’t you love me’. In addition, the fact that he is dressed as a mime in several scenes could be interpreted as a metaphor for his inability to truly express himself emotionally without the use of drugs. Mimes are often associated with silence and a lack of verbal expression. 

In totality, the norm of Irish men being jovial storytellers, as seen in the music video, highlights the tension between the stereotype of Irish men as light-hearted, and entertaining, and the emotional catharsis that often lies beneath such wit and humour. The use of personal anecdotes, humour, and satire in Irish storytelling serves as a way for individuals and communities to process and cope with difficult experiences and emotions. This cathartic aspect of Irish storytelling has not been adequately addressed in research on Irish masculinity, but Versatile’s music video ‘Ketamine’ embraces it, by showing the characters struggling with emotions while using storytelling and humour as a coping mechanism. The video also suggests that the use of drugs is a means to facilitate emotional vulnerability, intimating that this tradition also has a therapeutic aspect. 


In conclusion, this article used MCDA to analyse the contradictory nature of Irish masculinity in the music video ‘Ketamine’ by Versatile. The music video presents a complex portrayal of masculinity, highlighting the tension and contradictions between different themes. The video portrays the typical masculine notion of ‘Gangster Rapper’ through Eskimo Supreme’s character who is portrayed as a hypermasculine, wealthy, violent and successful drug dealer. However, the video also portrays the contrasting theme of ‘Letting Loose’ as a coping mechanism for Irish men seeking to escape their daily realities—excessive drug use in the video conveys a sense of hedonism and escapism. The video also presents a hegemonic masculine norm of a 'playboy', and a contrasting theme of homosociality of illicit drug use. The video seems to glorify drug use, the playboy trope, and the other themes of hegemonic masculinity. However, the presence of homosociality and the emotional catharsis of Irish storytelling seems to critique traditional notions of masculinity and heterosexual relationships, highlighting the different ways men can bond and connect with one another. The complexity of the themes in the video suggests a nuanced and critical commentary on the representations of masculinity in popular culture, but also a representation of the fluidity and ambiguity of Irish masculinity. 

Insights from this article complement many of the findings from research on Irish masculinity. However, by not focusing solely on one aspect of masculinity, such as illicit drug use, this article creates a special emphasis on the complex and multifaceted nature of Irish masculinity, suggesting masculinity is far from a monolithic concept (Ging, 2005; Johnston and Morrison, 2007; Darcy, 2019b). This article also highlights the emotional vulnerability and catharsis inherent in Irish storytelling, and draws attention to the paucity of qualitative data in this area. The emotional vulnerability inherent in Irish storytelling is a promising avenue for future research. Finally, the article underscores the potential of music videos as a lens into contemporary culture. By analysing self-produced music videos, researchers can gain access to authentic and uncensored content which can provide useful insights into cultural concepts like masculinity.


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