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Why on American shows is the bad guy/ villain usually portrayed as a person with a British...
accent, what have we done to deserve that one wonders?
Nothing. The truth is that dating back to the 50's through the today, villians reflect the current political or news agenda. During the Cold War, you got a lot of Russian/Soviets as villians. Now you get lots of people from desert countries. In the beginning the government used television and movies as a way to show that we would 'symbolically' triumph over the other 'bad' country. Propoganda.
Now, movie makers have found it worked as a way to bring movie watchers together and make the good guy more sympathetic. You rooted harder for him if he was fighting the guy from the country getting all the current bad press. Riding on the wave of pro or con idea rampaging through the media at the time.
I haven't seen many British villians lately. But if you are seeing it, it could be a reaction to the revamping of the James Bond and other 'spy' story lines. James always had a very British feel. Perhaps this is a backlash.
Because a British accent sounds more refined, and therefore intelligent. A common trope in American drama is that the intelligent man is too smart for his own good. He invariably becomes a villain because he's unhappy. Smart people are never happy, scorn those around them who are dumber, and eventually become misanthropes, or at least this is what I think through personal experience.
Based on this, I can only presume that the American government agrees and wants very much to avoid creating villains. After all, we've got one of the worst education systems in the freaking civilized world. No chance of an intelligent villain popping up here.
That's a question my husband has asked often, and he's not a Brit. :-)
I think the explanation is that the majority of villains in American television tend to be of a foreign persuasion, BUT since most American television is made in English, we have to have people who speak understandable English with a "foreign" accent. And heaven knows, our American English can sometimes sound quite foreign to those of you speaking British English. The reverse holds true as well.
That's always been my take on it.
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