Home > Uncategorized > Putting Scottish accents in movies: A Brave step?

Putting Scottish accents in movies: A Brave step?

A few days ago, I was approached by The Sun to comment on the use of the word pish in the new Pixar movie Brave (I’ve no idea if the story made it to press or not…). Anyway, if you’ve missed this, Brave is a fairytale story set in medieval Scotland and most of the voice actors are, quite surprisingly, Scottish. Apparently, however, using Scottish accents in a movie is quite a bold move (going by the fact that Trainspotting was famously subtitled for non-Scots audiences), and there has been a bit of a buzz going around about this. The Guardian, for example, had a bit to say about the use of Scots in the movie, but my favourite quote had to be from the director Mark Andrews who said:

When people speak in a Scottish accent, it comes very specifically out of the mouth

Seriously, where else would you expect it to come out of?? Ok, so I know that sometimes Scots are accused of taking out of their backsides, but that’s besides the point…

I have to say, though, that while it’s great that a whole (American) movie is being done using Scottish accents, I can’t help the niggling feeling that it’s drawing on a romanticised notion of Scotland as the land of strong men and bonny lassies (something I’ve already written about here), and I worry about how far it’s simply going to entrench these views in a new generation of movie-goers. Even from the trailer, there were about half a dozen cultural cliches I saw that made me wince.

But I think that the movie demonstrates just how powerful the social meaning of accents can be. The BBC wrote about this a while ago in an article about fantasy movies using English accents and it’s obvious that Hollywood draws on particular cultural ideologies which are indexed by specific varieties. In a brilliant send up of this, Eddie Izzard did a famous sketch of Darth Vader with an English accent, which shows just how ridiculous Star Wars would have been without James Earl Jones.

-The Social Linguist

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