It is amazing how many Americans claim Irish heritage—especially on Saint Patrick’s Day. Seemingly everyone has a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” lapel pin stashed away somewhere in their closet. Many Americans—Irish or not—relate to the Celtic culture easily; or, at least, they relate to what they perceive the culture to be.

When it comes to Irish written, directed, or produced films, I’m not so sure the American populace relates to Irish themes like they do on Saint Patrick’s Day. Writer/director Martin McDonagh’s films In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths—the latter came out this month—are good examples of movies that can confuse the average American moviegoer.

Aren’t Irish films supposed to be as straightforward or good-hearted as Waking Ned Devine or the 1990s hit The Commitments? Shouldn’t they all be as inspiring and cute as Once? McDonagh’s answer is a loud “No.”

In Bruges tells the story of two Irish hit men, Ray and Ken (Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson), who are stationed in Bruges as they wait for assignment details from their mob boss (Ralph Fiennes). Ken sees his downtime as a much-needed vacation and drags Ray along with him to see the sights and history of Bruges. Farrell’s Ray is brooding and bored with Bruges. He’s miserable. His most recent botched hit has him especially down.

As Bruges plays out we find out that both Ken and Ray’s pasts are more than bloody. They are bloody depressing. This makes it easy to define the film as gloomy. McDonagh’s “gallows humor” can be tough to buy into. It is not as straightforward or slapstick as the comedy we are used to in American film. McDonagh’s comedy comes from the absurdity of life. We realize, through his characters, that there are some things you cannot control. McDonagh hints that the more absurd and disturbing these uncontrollable circumstances, the better laughter and humor are as medicine.

Seven Psychopaths can be more baffling then Bruges at times because it takes place in Southern California. American soil.  It’s a film that sees the deaths of the main characters’ wives, girlfriends, friends, etc. Not peaceful deaths, either. Throughout the unfolding of bizarre circumstances, our main characters crack self-deprecating jokes. As an audience, we don’t ever have time to feel completely depressed about the most recent massacre we just witnessed.

Everyone in a McDonagh film gets what he deserves, or—on the other side of the spectrum—have to deal with things they certainly didn’t deserve. Tonally, a McDonagh movie is consistent, but his themes can be confusing. Not much unlike life.

McDonagh taps into a very specific, true, Irish outlook on life. Everyone messes up in life. Actually, we tend to mess up a lot. Thus, life is messy. Things do not always turn out exactly like we planned. But it’s okay to laugh about it once in a while. Sometimes that’s really all you can do. Laughing at an absurdly bad situation is equivalent to giving the bad parts of life your two middle fingers.

McDonagh’s humor is abrasive and controversial, but it makes sense. His films are not meant to be as sunny as Irish films like Ned Devine, or as heart wrenching as Once. Those kinds of films are something the American public is used to seeing form Irish filmmakers, but that does not mean the audience should base their views on Irish culture on them.

St. Patrick’s Day is more about wool Paddy hats and sweaters made in Ireland than it is about plastic Leprechaun hats and Lucky Charms. The American audience should appreciate McDonagh films for their ability to find humor in awful circumstances. When McDonagh’s characters are backed into a corner, they have huge smiles on their faces. All Sam Rockwell’s character, Billy, in Psychopaths wants is one huge final shootout. Billy knows his absurd lot in life. So, he decides to take his on fate into his hands.

Enjoy your next St. Paddy’s day, but remember Irish culture is about more than drinking and pots o’ gold at the end of rainbows—and it’s okay for Irish produced films to start to reflect that.