LONDON — Just when the U.K. film scene seemed to be getting over its envy of Hollywood power and glamour, one of the U.K. industry’s favorite whinges — whinge being that uniquely British combination of whine and fretful assertion — has reared its head again.
In the Aug. 7 edition of London’s Guardian newspaper, in a piece titled “Vile Britannia,” John Patterson trots out the old complaint that in Hollywood pics, “Americans always get to play the heroes and Brits are invariably the villains.” For the latest evidence, says Patterson, you need look no further than two of Hollywood’s summer pics: “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Lara Croft 2.”
In “Pirates,” Patterson asserts, Johnny Depp dons a faux Brit accent as the hero while real Brit Jonathan Pryce and Aussie-as-Brit Geoffrey Rush play the heavies. In “Croft,” Patterson writes, Angelina Jolie adopts “an accent that sounds like Princess Margaret throwing up” in playing the hero while actual Brit Ciaran Hinds is reduced to playing a “psychopathic bioterrorist.”
Patterson gets rather lathered up — about 1,500 words worth — over Blighty lads playing Caligula and the preponderance of “gay boy accents” among the villains played by English actors in American films.
But this nonsense over onscreen Anglo inequity has been rampant since I landed in London three years ago.
In 2000, U.K pundits were atwitter over Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot.” But pointing out that the American Revolution-set film was told from the point of view of the rebels, and that therefore the English were, so sorry, not the heroes, fell on deaf ears.
Typical of the time was Andrew Roberts’ contention in the Daily Express that “the list of films depicting us as villains is now so long as to amount to a virtual declaration of war on this country … by Hollywood.”
Oh my, indeed.
Pieces like Patterson’s and Roberts’ continually pop up in the U.K. press, apparently tapping into some deep, irrational English fear of tanned people in convertibles thousands of miles away.
I’ve done my best to explain and counter these assertions, but this time, rather than attempt a rebuttal or try to explain to non-U.K types the English tradition of the well-placed whinge, I’m happy to report that the Blighty Bloggers — a vocal contingent of Web-based journalers — have done it themselves.
One site, called colorfully enough “Voices from the Anglosphere,” deems Patterson’s piece “the worst kind of pathetic pandering tripe, even for a lefty paper.”
The dozens of eager bloggers proceeded to note all of the exceptions and contradictions to the silly supposition. From “A Fish Called Wanda” to “Last of the Mohicans,” they ridicule the notion of some sort of Hollywood anti-Anglo conspiracy.
I hope their reaction to Patterson’s opus will retire this tired wheeze.
And I have a modest suggestion for U.K. showbizzers still determined to beat the Jack Tar out of the pampered, powerful Malibu-blessed movie producers Over There: Produce more international hits like “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “28 Days Later,” “Johnny English,” “Billy Elliot,” “The Full Monty” and “Bend It Like Beckham.” Then you won’t have to worry whether your homegrown thesps are shamefully pulling paychecks by playing villains in Yank productions.
And don’t worry about the accents. Everything will be mahv-e-lus.