Is English The Language of Villainy?

What do Jeremy Irons, Daniel Craig and Gary Oldman all have in common? They all provide English voice talent for animated villains! Daniel Craig and Gary Oldman are well-known for their acting credentials- but less well-known for their villainous voiceovers.

Daniel Craig’s English voice over transformed the character of Red Rackham in The Adventures of Tintin. Whereas, Gary Oldman injected character and personality into the wicked peacock, Lord Shen, from the Kung Fu Panda 2. But surprisingly, Jeremy Irons- the less well-known voice-over artist- is perhaps one of the most memorable in his role as Scar in The Lion King.

It’s foolish, however, to believe that the range of an English speaking villain is confined simply to that of animated films. Hollywood, too, seems to prefer to use English villains.  Alan Rickman, for example, was perfect for the role of Die Hard villain’ Hans Gruber. Rickman also perfectly portrayed the repugnant role of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter Series. Similarly, Hugo Weaving impressed in his role as Agent Smith in The Matrix, proving that the English voice can help to develop suitably unlikeable and unsavory characters.

Naturally- the large array of English-speaking villains leads us to question as to why the Queen’s English has become associated with infamous villainy and misconduct. New York Linguist Chu Luii seems to have the answer. It would seem that the combination of a posh English accent and a villainous miscreant provides audiences with much-needed dichotomy. Although the Queen’s English was once regarded as the epitome of upper-class, intelligence, refinement and the subject for jealousy- this seems to be changing.

Speaking in Received Pronunciation, or what is better known as the Queen’s English, now seems to be associated with mistrust and a lack of sincerity. Conversely, it would seem that regional non- received pronunciation seems to gain the trust and amity of audiences.  For example, Mary Poppins highlights how a common cockney sweep can win the hearts and trust of audiences. Finally- some redemption for the English Accent!

Despite the falling popularity of The Queen’s English, the English language is still popular across the globe. English TV shows such as Downton Abbey were a hit with audiences. At the peak of its success, Downton amassed global audience viewings of 120 million people! Downton was particularly a hit in the United States with audiences often enraptured with the hijinks of the Crawley family.

But the love affair with the English Language is not a new one. The popularity of the James Bond film series (or movie series if you’re from across the pond) further showcases that the English language may be shaken, but its credentials will not be stirred. Instead it seems that a new era is dawning for the English Language. Gone are the days of elitism and Received Pronunciation. Instead social mobility and the integration of many multicultural communities has allowed for a truly diverse English language to be integrated across the globe. Demand for Accented English voiceovers has increased, with the 22% increase in demand for an Australian English accent, outstripping that of the British accent.

So maybe… just maybe we’ll soon see a new era for Hollywood villains. One which uses a diverse and broad range of English accents and English voice talent? Besides… there’s nothing wrong with being bad. Jaguar seems to have realized that being bad can be good- when it’s 2014 advert ‘The Art of Villainy’ was a huge success when aired at the Superbowl.

Now that you know that the English accent is capable of playing sinner and saint, and generating a concoction of emotions in audiences- it’s time to find out how you too can utilize your accent for your benefit!

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Agents of Geek

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