Similar to yesterday’s accent rant…

Yesterday, I went on a bit about using regionally-appropriate language, especially if the character in question is of a different nationality from the actor playing said character.  For my next unnatural act, I am going to go on a bit about regional pronunciation.

I had thought this rant was already written, but if so, I can’t find it.  I know I have had the conversation plenty of times.

Ever watched something set in or near your hometown?  Did the characters sound like they were locals?  Why or why not (show your work).

My example is this: back in 2000, the USA channel aired a made-for-TV movie of Robert Parker’s “Thin Air.” The bulk of this movie is set in the Massachusetts town of Haverhill.  There are two things I remember about this movie:

  1. I don’t buy Joe Mantegna as Spenser, and
  2. Nobody in the entire movie pronounced the town name like a Massachusetts native would.

All my life, the name “Haverhill” has been pronounced “HAY-vrill” (well, the i is more of a schwa, but I can’t be bothered to find the encoding for schwa – I’d rather take the time and effort to type about how I can’t be bothered to do a simple Google search).  But all the characters in the movie (including alleged natives of that town) called it “HAVE-ur-hill.”  Even the people trying for a Massachusetts accent.

Now, I’ve done it.  All of my New England readers have run screaming from the room.

So, instead of just watching the movie (or turning it off, which would have been a better option), I kept waiting for someone – ANYONE to pronounce the town name like someone who had spent even a week in Massachusetts would*.  And when they didn’t (not a single person did), I kept flinching and putting my tongue between my teeth the way you do when someone skrees a chalkboard.

Please, oh people who spend vast amounts of money to make television entertainment, get’chiself some real local cullah if yer gonna make ye’self some wicked pissah entuhtainment.

*Well, anyone who was trying to impersonate a native.  My Indiana-born-and-bred grandmother still calls Worcester “WUR-ches-ter,” when EVERYONE knows it’s “WUS-tah.”**

**I think that’s the key to the Mass accent – fewer syllables.

You’re not fooling anyone, you know.

A small note to people who make movies and television with actors not using their native accents:

It really doesn’t help when the non-native character’s dialogue is decidedly… native.

An example?  Sure, I can give you an example.   For unknown reasons, BBC America has decided to air the television show “Demons ” for us Yanks.  Aside from making a sane person wonder why they produced a show which is essentially “A British Buffy in London” (you can see why I don’t write titles for television), they decided that the teen-with-a-destiny’s mentor had to be American.  And for that American, they cast the toweringly magnificent blusterer, Philip Glenister.

So, okay.  Glenister is apparently working on his American accent.  Why?  Maybe he looked at Hugh Laurie’s career and said, “Well that bloke seems to be doing pretty well for himself,” and signed on.  Maybe he wants to get into Hollywood movies.  Maybe… who cares.  At any rate, he wanted to stretch his skills.  All fine so far.

Except, he seems to be having trouble with it.  And again, I don’t really care all that much.  Accents can be tough, and I would imagine doing an American accent in England is probably doubly tough.  It is probably easier to do an accent when you are filming in that country: after all, you can just turn to upwards of 90% of the crew or walk down the street on your lunch break and hear the accent you’re going for in that case.

But here is where my patience breaks down.  If you are a British* writer, please consult an American about the American character’s dialogue.  If you don’t have an American friend, find one.  Because the final nail in the coffin of an actor’s attempt at an accent is to hear them say something that 99.9% of the people in that country just wouldn’t say.  When Philip Glenister, struggling manfully with a midwestern-neutral American accent** says something about the main character’s dad dying in a “car smash,” that’s where I just stop giving the benefit of the doubt.  Because we say “car crash” or “car wreck.”

Unless you’re a pretentious git*** like me who has spent a fair bit of time in the UK, read a lot of British literature,  and watches more British media than is probably good for her, then the following sentences wouldn’t come out of an American’s mouth unless it was put there by a writer:

  • So Jess, I says, get your skates on or we’re going to miss the queue for the motor-coach.
  • Her problem is she would always take the lift in an emergency, when the notices all say use the stairs.
  • The Skoda wasn’t half ruined in that lorry smash, but you don’t hear me whingeing about it.
  • That bloke’s bird is a silly cow.
  • Eat your tea.

I could go on.  But I won’t.

*Or an American writer writing a British character, I am sure – but I am not British, so I don’t get to do that rant.

**Hint: pick a geography.  Make the character a New Yorker or a Bostonian or Texan… ANYTHING but the neutral news-anchor “nothing” accent, because those accents will give you something to anchor the accent to.  Dipthongs are your FRIEND, Phil.

***We don’t say this either.

Is it just me?

Or is there an entire Ph.D. thesis to be wrested from the use of possessives in Season 2 of True Blood?

Oh, sweet bandwidth, how I have missed you

We finally have our home internet service back.  It only took a week, a bunch of phone calls, another useless visit to our home (which told the tech that the problem was, in fact, outside — again), a bunch more calls, and a guy named Erroll with a shovel.

Of course, our cable TV box is now apparently busted, so we’re chained to the house this morning in the hopes that Comcast will fulfill its promise to deliver a new one.  We have 46 minutes left in our appointment window – who cares to wager that they’re actually going to show up?  Anyone?

ETA: Well ho-lee cow.  Not two minutes after I posted this, the guy showed up with the new box.  1 point to Comcast.

“Close the door.”

Mom and I were joking about this the other day.  The old jokes are sometimes the best…

My hero…

What an absolutely terrific clip – Neil Gaiman on Colbert:

Jonatha Brooke + Joss Whedon? Fangirl explosion.

Okay, like, so….

We went to see Jonatha Brooke at the Birchmere this past weekend.  For once, the show wasn’t plagued by a crappy mix.  JB was her usual spunky, funny, soulful, irreverent self.  We enjoyed the hell out of her, as usual.  But she gave us Such.  Big.  News.

She’s doing the theme song for Joss Whedon’s new show, "Dollhouse."

I admit.  I yipped.

(Yes, we’re having an election today.  I voted, as I’m sure you did too, if you live in America.  Because you’re a good citizen.  The best.)

On behalf of my country, I would like to apologize…

John and I watched the sublime Life on Mars with John Simm and Philip Glenister on BBC America.  We loved every trippy, twisty, hilarious, edgy minute of it.

So, of course, us Yanks had to copy it.  Badly.  It’s a shame, because it has Jason O’Mara in the Simm role, and he was fantastic in The Closer .  But the writing is clunky, Harvey Keitel seems to be phoning in the Glenister part on a sketchy transatlantic connection, and the visuals are so frighteningly similar to the original (down to the costumes and some of the actors) that aside from the accents, it’s hard to know why they even bothered re-making it, aside from US networks’ obvious penchant for ripping off good ideas from the UK.

I’m so sorry, England.

“I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

Yesterday, Constantina Tomescu won the Olympic Marathon.  As with any gold medal win, it was a remarkable achievement, but it was made even more remarkable by several factors: her age (she’s 38 – the oldest Olympic marathon winner), the early lead that she carved out and maintained to the finish (almost a minute), and her overall speed (halfway through she was running just over five minute miles).

Sports commentators are not always the most articulate people in the world, but one repeated idea really struck me the wrong way.  As she ran, the commentators reviewed her performance in the 2004 Athens Olympics.  Suffering from heatstroke, she had pulled up and walked for a bit, eventually finishing 20th.

Because of this, the commentator said several times that her run yesterday represented a quest for "redemption" on Tomescu’s part.  Redemption?  She was ill (and speaking as someone who has had the precursor to heatstroke, heat exhaustion, it’s no joke).  She still finished.  What is there to seek redemption for?  His word choice (not an isolated one – he repeated himself several times) made it seem that she had to atone for some criminal act.

The bombast of Olympic commentary is bad enough without this sort of nonsense.  And winning Olympic gold is remarkable enough that it doesn’t need to be tarnished by commentating like this.

Ad Bored

I’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics, and even with the TiVo, there are a few ads I haven’t been able to avoid. The first defines the type of ad I would like to ban, because it is a crime against nostalgia:

Yes, that’s a collection of recreations of iconic scenes from "The Breakfast Club." I have a hard time describing the visceral loathing I feel for this ad. Marie and I used to have this movie memorized, but the target market for this ad probably hasn’t heard the words, "So it’s sorta social: demented and sad, but social. Right?"  So the target market probably just thinks this is a bunch of kids doing dopey things to the accompaniment of a moldy oldie.  Good one.

Contrast that with the United Airlines ads called "Sea Orchestra" and ‘Heart" (memo to United – let people embed your video).  I’ve actually stopped ba-booping through blocks of Olympic ads and rewound to watch these.  They’re original and actually relate to the thing being advertised, and I hate to say it, but these advertisements are entertaining.

Which is more than I can say for the continued harping on the Chinese gymnastics age scandal.  Al Trautwig made a particularly ugly comment the other evening, snidely inviting the viewers to judge for themselves as to whether some of the Chinese gymnasts looked old enough.  Excuse me?  This isn’t "America’s Top Sports Scandal."  If the Chinese cheated, it’s not going to be voted on via telephone by the US viewing public.  The only thing this does is make Al Trautwig look like a first-class wart.