How can you tell the villain in a children's movie? They're not from around here, that's how. Foreigners (or actors pretending a foreign accent) seem to make up virtually every villain in American kids (and most adult) movies. (See list below) What gives? Why are foreigners such a plump target for Hollywood kids movie filmmakers?
Whether it's England, France, Germany or a "euro-combo," or some other country, foreign accented villains and their inevitably American sounding hero-counterparts are a mainstay of movies for kids.
True most British people are indeed evil but that is no reason to stereotype them in movies, is it?
What overall effect does having foreign villains as a mainstay have on our children?
It's xenophobic and it's lazy. It is the simplest form of "us vs. them." In nearly every thriller, suspense or children's movie (Yes, I'm talking to you Disney), you can tell who the bad guy (or gal) is just by his/her accent.
It's a cheap crutch and it needs to stop. Especially in movies for kids. It teaches in a very subtle lesson not to trust people who are "different" than us.
It's easy to hate what is different and it reinforces stereotypes and fears of "them." So how about coming up with something better? Like an American villain and/or a foreign accent hero? Crazy talk?
Need proof? In no particular order then, here are some examples of movies with villains from countries other than the U.S.
LIST OF KIDS MOVIES AND THE INEVITABLY FOREIGNER BAD GUY:
Guardians of the Galaxy (Marvel Pictures but distributed by Disney). The main hero is the American Quill (even though he's from another planet). The main villain is Ronan (vaguely British/European imperialist sounding voiced by Oklahoma's Lee Pace) and the Benin (Africa) born Djimon Hounsou as Korath, Ronan's ally (see also How to Train Your Dragon 2).
In addition to a penchant for offing parents, Disney movies also seem addicted to foreign bad guys (and gals):
Frozen - The bad guys are from the foreign kingdom of Weselton (Weaseltown) with the slightly British sounding Duke of Weselton. True the real villain is Prince Hans of the
"Southern Isles," who is voiced with an American accent but this is mostly to set us for the huge fall later in the movie. As a production note says, the crew wanted the "the audience to fall in love with," the handsome, dashing character.
Buddies puppy dog movie series -
Air Buddies - Selkirk Tander (portrayed by American actor Holmes Osbourne) is a vaguely Germanic sounding villain who threatens to boil people in oil etc.
Snow Buddies - French dog sled champion and French speaking husky dogs.
Super Buddies - An actual alien from another planet.
Space Buddies - Something of a giant leap for mankind, the exception to the rule, Space Buddies features a Russian space dog as a hero and the main villain is an American. Ok, so the villain's name is the very Jewish Dr. Finkel, but this is a Disney movie after all.
Peter Pan - Captain Hook from England (and also Jake and the Neverland Pirates TV show). Strangely Peter Pan has an American accent (and so does Jake), but I guess that's how they speak in Neverland.
Aladdin - Jafar (something British-like, with a dash of middle eastern). Of course there are good people with foreign accents in the movie, but Princess Jasmine sounds like she's from Southern California.
The Great Mouse Detective Rattigan (British-like)
The Little Mermaid - Ursula (Vaguely British/European, maybe even slightly New England Brahmin snooty, but the actress Pat Carroll was born in Louisiana). Again heroes Eric and Ariel sound like they're from California, St. Louis or Westchester, N.Y.
The Lion King - Scar (the very British Jeremy Irons) who also is Simba's uncle. Simba's uncle from the British portion of the African veldt, no doubt.
Tangled - Mother Gothel (in very British voice but the actress herself, Donna Murphy (lovely actress), is from Queens, New York).
101 Dalmatians - the puppy-slaying high-born British accented Cruella De Vil (Devil) in the original and the American Glenn Close in the recent live-action re-make.
Am I beginning to make my point?
Not to be outdone by Disney, Dreamworks Animation (you know, Steven Spielberg's baby) apparently doesn't want to miss out on the fun either.
Kung Fu Panda - American sounding hero Po (we're in China, right?) versus the very evil and British Tai Lung, (voiced by actual English actor Ian McShane).
How to Train Your Dragon 2. Yet again, the boy hero is American voiced (even though they are Vikings) and the villain is the vaguely Middle Eastern/North African dark-skinned (but not too dark) dreadlocked Drago Bludvist, voiced by Benin (that's in Africa) born Djimon Hounsou. (Remember Djimon from the villain in Guardians of the Galaxy? Probably helped to get the part in that one because he was so good at being evil in this one). Sigh.
Madagascar 3 - Captain Chantel DuBois, the French/Monaco head of animal control (the very American Frances McDormand, remember her in Fargo?)
I could go on all day. So the next time you watch a movie with your kid, see if you can spot the villain, simply by his or her foreign accent.
BONUS! ADULT MOVIES with foreign accent bad guys.
Oy vey, where do I start with this one. Actually this is an entirely different post, but I'll just put a few movies here to whet your appetite:
Air Force One
Beverly Hills Cop