Voicing distorted perceptions

Accents!  I love them..no that’s a lie, I am fascinated by accents, it’s something I touch upon in my upcoming film review too.

My accent is odd and I am mocked regularly by my friends… its a combination of all the places I have lived.  Romford is my birth place (a town now swallowed into London as it lies within the M25 – but still retains its Essex postcode) and already has a different accent to the rest of Essex. Then I lived in Hong Kong for years and was frequently mistaken for an Australian. I then returned to Essex for a while and ended up in Surrey, a VERY different, accent to London (or more so South London).

Now in Gloucestershire I stick out like a sore thumb.  So did the guy on the supermarket checkout just now, a Liverpudlian with a strong Scouse accent.   I got to thinking what brought him here to the Cotswolds, work? family… what’s his story on why he left Liverpool.

Do accents shape people and how we perceive them?  Believe me I have heard every Essex girl joke under the sun and yes I get annoyed at the ridiculous assertion of what an ‘Essex girl’ is like or look like.  Then it started me thinking about movie characters and what our perceptions of them would be if their accents changed. Can you imagine Brad Pitt as a scouser say? No.. its impossible.

But then the voice of Darth Vader was something quite different.  Dave Prowse, Bristol born, he learnt and voiced all Vader’s lines during filming just to be overshadowed by James Earl Jone’s unforgettable, distinctive, soulful voice.  Forgive me Bristol folk, but “I am your Father” would just not have had the same impact in any other voice than Mr Jones. In fact its quite laughable.  Nobody can deny Prowse’s dedication to the role of Vader though to thoroughly immerse himself in all aspects of it.

Do we instantly form opinions when we hear an accent of what that person should be like.  When you think in terms of characters how different would your protagonist (or antagonist) be perceived if they were from Bristol, Edinburgh or Timbuktu.  Can certain accents play against each other well?  A very clipped, posh British accent against a South African one say.  Is certain dialogue more effective delivered in one voice or another.. something to worth think about when creating our characters.

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4 thoughts on “Voicing distorted perceptions

  1. I think a lot of peopledo, for example, my Dad’s from the east end of London and lived in Suffolk a lot longer than he lived there and everywhere he goes, people always say “you’re not from round here are you? Making a snap decision as they immediately feel threatened or untrustworthy because if you don’t speak the same then you can’t be trusted!

  2. I have lived abroad for 22 years teaching English in public schools throughout Asia and before that travelling through Europe and South America on private adventures. So, this could explain why people have told me I don’t have a “Canadian” accent, not that there is such a thing in this migrant country.

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