British: The Accent of Evil

Ever wonder why ancient Romans in movies always have Oxbridge accents? Today, Slate.com has done a video slideshow on how Hollywood movies deal with the tricky situation of foreign speech: to subtitle or not to subtitle. As Slate notes, a British accent can often stand in for different foreign languages: “One of the more convenient, and oddly effective, ways of representing foreign speech is to simply have everyone talk like Mary Poppins. From classics like The Sound of Music and Doctor Zhivago to recent films like The Last Station, British accents double for just about any language.”

British accents also double as convenient shorthand for “arrogant,” “elitist,” and “not to be trusted.” A.k.a. “Daaaaaastardly Evil.” (In Die Hard, why did Alan Rickman‘s Hans Gruber have an English accent when he was German? Because he was the baddest dude ever. Of course he had a English accent.)

September is Accent of Evil month on BBC AMERICA, and, every weekend during the month, the network will be airing films featuring treacherous British villains. There’s Die Hard With a Vengeance, with Brit Jeremy Irons playing Deutsch as Hans Gruber’s brother, Simon; Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves with Alan Rickman sporting a sexy mullet as the Sheriff of Nottingham; Star Trek: Generations with Malcolm McDowell; and Superman II with Terence Stamp as General Zod and Sarah Douglas as Ursa. Throw Alfred Molina, Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Anthony Hopkins in there, and it’s like a roll-call of UK baddies-for-hire.

Keep an eye on Anglophenia in the coming weeks as we’ll be posting commentary from fans and film buffs around the web on their favorite Brit villains. Until then, let me know which British film villains are your favorities, and enjoy the enthusiastic cruelty of Alan Rickman as the Sheriff:

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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