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British Badguys


Geralddddd
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There is a Jaguar commercial asking why all bad guys in movies are Brits ? The commercial says since they get to drive cool Jaguars, they don't mind.

 

My question is: Have any of you found this to be the case ? And if so why ? Is it the accent or the culture or something else that makes them the stereotypical archenemy who wants to rule the world ??

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OH yeah, this is such a common practice in Hollywood movies, that it has become clich?, Geraldddddd...and thus the reason it is mentioned in that new Jaguar F-type(and a VERY beautiful car, I might add) ad.

 

In my case, the Brit actor Alan Rickman comes immediately to mind, and who was masterful as the villain in the original "Die Hard".

 

(...I'm sure others will soon chime in with a list of their favorite actors who spell words usin' that superfluous letter 'u' in some that really don't need 'em, and who have made memorable villains in movies opposite good ol' American boys!!!) ;)

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I don't know why British actors are considered bad guys... Maybe it *is* the accent. Although, personally I love the accent. I first thought of James Mason. But then I thought of one of the greatest bad guys of all time: The great and wonderful, *Boris Karloff!*

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The "British" accent can take on many forms. A well clipped accent, such as Mason's or George Sanders lends an air of wit and intelligence, thus making for a "bad guy" with a certain sophistication, and likely the "boss" of a well organized crime company. The cruder sounding "cockney" accent leaves one feeling the speaker is less educated and erudite.

 

However, I wonder just how many British badguys there actually were. Probably no more than American badguys. I'm more familiar with either the Brit being the GOOD guy( Sherlock Holmes, Simon Templar, James Bond), Or there being an equal number of good vs bad Brits.

 

Sepiatone

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The Brits seem to be able to easily project that sly, devious, snooty , (etc,etc) personality to us Americans. I can only imagine what they may think of us sometimes. Aussies also seem to have that effect, but interestingly our Canadian neighbours don't ever have that effect. I guess all of the British hooligans got sent to Australia and the mild mannered ones to Canada.

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>The Brits seem to be able to easily project that sly, devious, snooty , (etc,etc) personality to us Americans.

 

AND which brings us to the REAL reason Hollywood often uses them to portray the "Bad Guy" in movies:

 

They personify the antithesis of what "America supposedly stands for"...Populists Ideals, and the thought that no one is any better than anyone else in the grand scheme of things! And if you somehow project that mentality of being "above" to others by use of "highfalutin" talk, you're going to be "suspect" in the minds of all "REAL" Americans.

 

 

>I can only imagine what they may think of us sometimes.

 

Oh, while I'm sure I'm overstating the following, I think most of 'em think of us as fairly "unsophisticated cowboy" types over here, but ALSO fairly nice people in general.

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David Warner takes the prize for me. If you've never seen him in "Time After Time" doing the most horrendous version of Jack the Ripper, you haven't seen evil. Perfect portrayal of a man out of his own time into ours and finding, chillingly, that he fitted perfectly in a world full of mayhem and violence. Terrific movie, wonderful performances by Malcolm McDowell as H. G. Wells and Mary Steenburgen as Amy the modern woman now (and back then).

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So, this morning on the "Today" show, Kiefer Sutherland is on it plugging his new movie "Pompeii" in which he plays an evil and conniving Roman Senator of the 1st Century. They then show a clip of him in the film, and I'll give you folks three guesses as to what kind of accent the Canadian actor affects in this thing.

 

(...yep, you guessed it...he plays the character using one of those snooty upper-crust British accents, alright!..."shocking", isn't it!)

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Dothery brought up MALCOM McDOWELL, who, while Brtitsh, was a serious "bad boy" in CLOCKWORK ORANGE, but one who DIDN'T speak that well-heeled, Oxford educated British accent that even evil Roman senators used.

 

Actually, I never much thought about British badguys in any cinematic sense. Never noticed a plethora of Brits being the bad guys a lot at all. Maybe in much older movies? Like Claude Rains in NOTORIOUS, or like that. Mostly I recall actors using a "mock-Euro" accent, that accent that doesn't sound "country specific", but was used by characters playing badguys from just about any European country of choice.

 

Sepiatone

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Good point about the "Continental Eurpean" accent being used a lot back in studio era films for delineating the "evil" characters in a lot of films back then, as with maybe Conrad Veidt being a prime example of such.

 

However, disregarding the thought that many a WWII Hollywood war movie had Nazi officers speaking in Brit accents, could that whole "Continental European/Evil Character" thing have been due to the Brits being our allies in WWII and to many an American's ear "all those Europeans accents sound the same", and thus the stereotypical "Euro accent" would have naturally been the fallback one to use in this genre of film during these years.

 

Gotta say though Sepia, I'm a bit surprised you haven't noticed the trend in recent times for Hollywood films to use Brit actors as the villain, and for(IMO, and I'm pretty sure I'm right about this) the very reason I stated earlier...that accent subconsciously signifies to American audiences the idea that the character "thinks too highly of himself" and that it goes against America's "populist ideals". and thus MUST be an "Elitist".

 

(...and I think we've recently seen many occasions in "real life" in which the "Elitist" term has been thrown at others, and often incorrectly, and in attempts to marginalize and subtly "vilify" others in the minds of the American public, haven't we?!)

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It seems to me in recent times, all the "bad guys" in Hollywood movies have darker skin tones, beards, wear Bedouin garb and speak in Middle Eastern accents. However, many of the villians in sci-fi movies( attempting to invade some planet) DO speak in British accents.

 

Sepiatone

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While we are remembering the many fine British badguys, let's not forget who was the original thespian badass - James Mason.  He created the antihero, a new type of sinister, sexy, complex "man you loved to hate."  From Stephen Deremid in THE NIGHT HAS EYES to Lord Rohan in THE MAN IN GREY followed by Lord Manderstoke in MAN OF EVIL next Geoffrey Lee in THEY WERE SISTERS, and, of course, Nicholas Cunningham in THE SEVENTH VEIL, Mason thrilled audiences with this new screen persona that exuded dangerous sexuality.  Of course, it didn't hurt that he was a beautiful man in his thirties and forties and possessed a voice as of yet unmatched.  Antiheroes are everywhere these days, but Mason was the first.

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