The Representation of British English in the American Media

Alice   Friday, February 13, 2004, 03:35 GMT
That can be true a lot of the time, but let's just take Star Wars as an example. In addition to Emperor Palpatine, Grand Moff Tarkin, Count Dooku and various other Brittish-spoken officers of the Empire, there were plenty of UK-ish goodies as well. C3P-O, though fluent in over six million forms of communication, spoke English with an English accent. Obi Wan Kenobi spoke with a mainly English accent, though always infused with a bit of the natural burr of the actors who've portrayed him, & Qui-Gon Jin's speech occasionally betrayed the Irishness of Liam Neeson. The stoic Mon Mothma was slightly British in her speech, and Madam Jocasta Nu was nearly Miss Marple-esque. And that's just naming a few. The point is, (and not to say that the earlier observations of Juan were incorrect), as far as Star Wars is concerned, accents are mixed and matched on both sides of the force.

Wow... that may be my dorkiest antimoon post yet.
mjd   Friday, February 13, 2004, 06:26 GMT
While Anthony Hopkins plays a 'villain' in "Silence of the Lambs," I would stil argue that his English accent has more to do with being formal rather than being a villain. Hannibal Lecter is the villain we all hate to love anyway.
Hythloday   Friday, February 13, 2004, 09:15 GMT

Re: "It doesn't help that most Americans don't know anything about British geography. I had to explain to my father recently that Liverpool is not a surburb of London."

Blimey. I think English people on the whole are more familiar with the geography of the U.S. than they are with the geography of their own country. English people generally tend to know roughly where U.S. states are, but are less clear about English counties. I wonder why that is.

I think the reason why English RP accents are used for baddies in films is because this accent epitomises colonial rule (i.e. it is/was the accent of the authorities rather than the poor bloody footsoldiers), so in each film the war of independence is re-enacted.
Jordi   Friday, February 13, 2004, 14:47 GMT
I agree in part with Hythloday but it could also be a native educated southern English accent, which isn't the accent of the country, would be a form of superior sophistication, which gives a "superior" kind of mean human being. I would imagine Dracula could also have a nive RP accent as far as Americans go. He's from the old world, isn't he? And he was, after all, part of the landed gentry, even if that was somewhere in Hungary. Somehow it's a kind of patriotism since the baddies wouldn't be the ones from our country. Don't forget there also are baddies with foreign accents. Do you think baddies with foreign accents would have different qualities than baddies with a British RP or Estuary accent? What does a baddy with a Spanish accent imply? And with a French accent? With a German one (there's a great tradition to that)? With an Italian accent? And what about all those baddies with Russian accents until yesterday? And last but not least, I would imagine baddies with Arab accents would now be all the way down in L.A.
Hythloday   Friday, February 13, 2004, 15:02 GMT
Yes, I wonder if the Yanks have thought of looking for Osama bin Laden in Hollywood. He would have a lucrative career doing voice-overs for baddies.
Adam   Friday, February 13, 2004, 18:15 GMT
Most Americans get confused between a Cockney accent and an Australian accent. They don't think that any English accent that isn't Cockney is an Australian accent. When they hear Cockneys speak, they think they are Australian.
Hythloday   Friday, February 13, 2004, 20:07 GMT
What do they think when they hear a Brummie accent like Ozzy Osbourne's?
Alice   Friday, February 13, 2004, 20:45 GMT
I think as far as Ozzy's speech is concerned, what's most often noticed is how slurred it is. His accent is secondary in importance to his mumbling. Still, I enjoy hearing Ozzy speak, almost as much as hearing him sing.
mjd   Friday, February 13, 2004, 20:49 GMT
Ozzy's speech is marked by his being (and I quote) "wiped out on pills." I think it would be better to judge a Brummie speaker who doesn't have as many pharmaceuticals surging through their blood.
Ryan   Friday, February 13, 2004, 23:29 GMT
Most Americans think that Ozzy's "strange" accent is just because he has done drugs. Hence, if an American met another Brummie speaker, that American might think that he or she was a drugged out heavy metal star as well.
Juan   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 02:38 GMT
>>Darth Vader was played by James Earl Jones, an American actor from Mississippi. He does not use an RP accent, rather a very formal American accent that is less rhotic.<<

Is this also true for Kelsey Grammer in Frasier? I can't really place his accent. It doesn't sound to me like your average GenAm accent, in fact I think it sounds slightly British. Does anyone know if he speaks with that peculiar accent all the time, that is, outside his work in Frasier? His brother in the series also doesn't sound that American either.
Elaine   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 06:13 GMT
Niles and Frasier are urbane sophisticates who speak with clipped, snooty upper-class American accents. It's definitely not GenAm, and any American who speaks this way would be considered a fop.

I've seen the show once or twice, and I wondered how a manly man like Marty Crane (the dad) could've raised such dandified sons.

BTW, Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce don't speak this way in real life. One thing that I didn't know until recently is that John Mahoney (Marty) was born and raised in Lancashire, England.
Hythloday   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 08:37 GMT
What I can't understand is why John Mahoney didn't teach the person who plays Daphne how to do a better northern English accent. Her accent is terrible and nothing like the Manchester (Mancunian) accent it is supposed to be. Furthermore, can anyone tell me why Daphne's brother speaks with the aforementioned comedy Cockney barrow boy accent, whereas her mother has an Irish accent? It's beyond me.
Alice   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 21:29 GMT
Both Jane Leeves and Millicent Martin, (the actresses who portray Daphne and her Mum), are from Essex. Anthony Lapaglia, the actor who plays the brother, is from Australia.

On another subject, I like that the name "Jane Leeves", when spoken, is a compleet sentence. I've always thought it would be neat if she married "George Wendt", (from Cheers).
Danni   Sunday, February 15, 2004, 14:00 GMT
<<Most Americans get confused between a Cockney accent and an Australian accent. They don't think that any English accent that isn't Cockney is an Australian accent. When they hear Cockneys speak, they think they are Australian.>>

It's not just Americans... I met a girl from the south of London the other week and for a good five minutes I thought she was Australian, until she told me where she came from. Then I started listening more closely - the cockney accent has a lot in common with australian accents.