It was confirmed last year, after much internet confusion, that Scar and Mufasa of The Lion King are indeed brothers. I am glad that’s settled. Now the only remaining head-scratcher is: Why the heck does Scar have a British accent when no other lion around has one? Was he educated at some British lion boarding school? Watch a whole lot of Brit feline flicks? Most likely, the reason is this: Filmmakers often use foreign accents and non-standard dialects to voice “bad” characters.(daycare in rego park 11374)
Isabel Fattal explores this phenomenon in The Atlantic, writing the analysis piece “Why Do Cartoon Villains Speak in Foreign Accents?” Scar, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz in Phineas and Ferb, Jafar in Aladdin, the evil king in Disney’s Robin Hood are a handful of examples of the “bad guys” she’s talking about. It’s something or other that I’ve generally sort of saw, yet never paid a lot of thoughtfulness regarding. Fattal contends that guardians should. Regardless of whether we know it, with each motion picture settling on choice, social inclinations can slip in. Also, kids get on them.
Sociolinguist Calvin Gidney, who considered dialect designs in vivified children’s amusement with Tufts teacher Julie Dobrow, disclosed to The Atlantic that while the outside accents in films
contrast, the shared factor is “the twofold qualification of “like us” “dislike us.” Gidney revealed to Fattal that in The Lion King, “I thought it was extremely exasperating that it was important to ‘reclaim the wilderness’ from the British-sounding shrewdness lion, in addition to the African American-sounding and Latino-sounding hyenas.”(daycare in rego park 11374)
From Scar to Aladdin’s Jafar, the study found that British is the foreign accent most commonly used for villains. German and Slavic accents are also common for villain voices. Henchmen or assistants to villains often spoke in dialects associated with low socioeconomic status, including working-class Eastern European dialects or regional American dialects such as “Italian-American gangster” (like when Claude in Captain Planet says ‘tuh-raining’ instead of ‘training.’) None of the villains in the sample studied seemed to speak Standard American English; when they did speak with an American accent, it was always in regional dialects associated with low socioeconomic status.(daycare in rego park 11374)
Fattal explains that since “television is a prominent source of cultural messaging for children” (i.e. many watch an absurd amount of it), the correlation of foreign accents with villains “could have concerning implications for the way kids are being taught to engage with diversity in the United States.” Gidney and Dobrow are doing further studies to examine exactly how.
Until then, parents can be aware that these patterns exist and talk to their kids about them. Watch shows together, and ask questions. Here are some ways to make screen time educational for kids, and an opportunity for them to explore beyond what they see and hear.
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