Wednesday, May 23, 2012

English people are nasty

Or so Hollywood wants us to think. Whenever a deranged demigod goes on a rampage or an alien attacks the planet, he or she seems to have an English accent. Current cases in point: Loki in "The Avengers" and Boris the Animal in "Men in Black 3."

Loki should theoretically have a Scandinavian accent, right? He's a character from Norse mythology. (Thor, his half-brother, has an unaccented voice.) Boris is a Boglodyte, whatever that is; he doesn't even come from Earth. But there they both are, sounding like a "Macbeth" audition is in the offing.

This tradition goes back half a century, when Hollywood typically hired Brits to play Nazi generals. It dates in superhero movies back at least to "Superman II" in 1980, when Kryptonian criminals sounded like refugees from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

So why should this be? Are American filmmakers still upset about the War of 1812? Do we resent the fact that James Bond, coolest secret agent of all time, has a British accent? (Tinged with a Scottish burr, of course, in Sean Connery's case.)

No, something else is at work. In Hollywood, a villain's British accent represents class consciousness and superciliousness. When he gets his comeuppance, usually at the hands of an American, the story reminds us that guts and heart matter more than breeding or brains. You think you're so smart, Mr. Demigod? Wait until Iron Man kicks your Norse butt all the way to another dimension!

There's a subtle message here, too: People with lots of intelligence can become megalomaniacs. We start to associate the phrase "smarter than you and I" with "better than you and I," which Americans can't tolerate. Maybe that explains why we so seldom vote for the smartest person in a political race and so often choose to support folks of average intelligence, who remind us of ourselves.


Anonymous said...

Also look at how may judges on these "reality" shows have British accents.

Just about everyone of them.

American Idol, Dancing with the Start, America's Got Talent, etc., etc.

Whenever we need a snobby sounding"expert", we always turn to the British.

Anonymous said...

Another racist rant against the the White Anglo Saxon.

Proud of yourself?