Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fantasy Tropes

While I'm waiting for the results of a small survey on the accents and vocabulary of middle age and elderly Iowans, I think we can take a moment's respite to talk about the accents used in the fantasy genre.

It's long been noticed that when directors want to demonstrate the "foreign-ness" of a character, they utilize British accents. TV Tropes calls this The Queen's Latin phenomenon. They are right on the money. British accents are an over-used technique. Is the guy from Rome circa 300 CE? Well he's speaking in Received Pronunciation now. Sometimes directors go so far as to have American and Australian actors adopt British accents, rather than cast a British actor.

But the stereotypes go deeper than just British accents in a period film. The fantasy genre is one of the worst purveyors of language stereotyping. Let's get frank, here:

Strong, brutish, and well-intentioned but not particularly intelligent
Result: Scottish accents

Cultured, sophisticated, pompous, usually good but sometimes evil or mischievous
Result: Highfalutin English accents

Human (heros)
Balanced, smart, lovable, closest to a perfect character
Result: Common English accents, General American

Human (lower class)
Unafraid to get their hands dirty in morally ambiguous situations but not necessarily evil
Result: Cockney, Irish

Human (antagonists)
Super powerful and super evil and super smart. They stand for chaos, destruction, deception, powerlust, and selfishness.
Result: General American, Common English accents

Hobbits and Simpleton Races
Generally good, down-home folk.
Result: Common English accents

Humans (assassins and mercenaries)
Strange and mysterious. Usually from a foreign land. They may speak slowly but their wits are sharp and skills unmatched by everyone but the heros and the main antagonist.
Result: Foreign accent, usually Mediterranean or Middle Eastern

Trolls and Ogres
Stupid, evil, easily tricked and hateful
Result: Cockney, Scottish

 So what we learn from today's venture is that American accents are generally ignored but Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian accents really get the boot.

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