By: Chris O'Shea
What is it with America's obsession with the Britain? We're not even talking about The Beatles. There are Mini Coopers with the Great Britain flag painted on the roof, there was a fascination with the completely unfunny sitcom "Absolutely Fabulous," and the obsession with the completely funny Monty Python. Hell, there are even some people that think Hugh Grant is talented. Perhaps the most curious aspect of our obsession with all things United Kingdom is our unconditional usage of their accents in TV shows and movies.
The latest example of this is "Game of Thrones," the runaway hit from HBO, which chronicles the drama and violence played out among a group of royal families. The film is set in a medieval fantasy world, and pretty much everyone speaks with a British or Irish accent. This, despite the author of the books the show is based on is American.\
The strategy is working, according to a director of a Game of Thrones fan site. "Since it [the show] is a mediaeval fantasy saga with more emphasis on the characters than on witches and wizards I do think the regional British accents work very well," the director told a reporter "The show does place a lot of emphasis on a north/south divide and seeing the northern House Stark going up against the distinctly southern House Lannister provides a great contrast and helps the viewers know which side everyone is on." Uh, right. As you can see, the usage of British accents is the norm, so much so that we don't even question it.
"It's such an ingrained part of fantasy and science fiction that I'm a little surprised when those kind of characters don't speak in British accents," Matt Zoller Seitz, the TV critic for New York magazine told BBC News. "In the fantasy realm they could have any kind of accent but British does seem to be the default."
It's not just fantasy and science fiction shows, either. Game shows — at least those trying to display a sort of "intellectual" skew — often have British hosts, for no real reason. The most obvious example of this is “The Weakest Link”, which, yes, started in the UK, but when it was aired here they brought over the British host to keep things "authentic."
Zoller Seitz thinks our obsession with British accents in entertainment is because they sound fancy, but not too fancy. In other words, it sounds like something new, but it's still easy for audiences to understand.
But maybe it's something much more complicated than that. Perhaps we're all so obsessed with British accents and all things Britain because we still see ourselves in them. After all, their culture was around before ours, and we emerged from them. Maybe we just miss our "home."
[Pic via screengrab of YouTube video]