Americans Pretending To Be British Part 12: Mrs Doubtfire

Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire

Or Mrs Doubtful, as Scottish people have dubbed her. I mean who is this woman? Where is she from? She appears from out of nowhere, in the middle of a perfectly fine movie about a man who is having a divorce, and rampages around with her not-terribly-convincing Scottish accent, being bad at cooking, and then turning out to be a perfectly good housekeeper after all, despite the early trauma of exposing one of the children of the house to the unfortunate sight of her peeing standing up. A sackable offense which appears to have been conveniently ignored. AND she lobbed a lime at James Bond. That’s dastardly stuff.

What? I was paying attention. Honest!

OK, so Robin Williams is a terrifically energetic performer, willing to try any amount of accents or impressions in order to tell a story. He may not always capture every syllable perfectly, but there’s something heroic about the gusto with which he makes the attempt. He’s like a squat, hairy Hercules (or to be accurate, given the probable physical size of actual ancient Greeks, a Hercules), doing funny accents at speed, for money. Like this:

It’s always interesting to see how national stereotypes work in different nations. So according to Robin, Scottish matriarchs are short on shenanigans, flinty, big on discipline and order, but also loving and kind (as long as the children behave) and blessed with rootsy wisdom. Some elderly Scottish women are genuinely like that, and let’s not forget the very English Dame Maggie Smith has made a living playing a similar character in the Harry Potter films.

Hoever, she is also the wise matriarchal figure from a different culture who teaches the well-to-do white family what’s really important in life. Which is less a statement about American/Scottish relations and more an observation about the way these kind of movies tend to work. We should probably just be grateful that they left race out of the equation and leave it at that.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser is a British writer, broadcaster and the the author of the book Stuff Brits Like. He is Anglophenia's resident Brit blogger, having written BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog, the Top of the Pops website, and for NME, the Guardian and elsewhere. Favorite topics include slang, Doctor Who and cramming as much music into Anglophenia as he can manage. He invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic
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