The Playgoer: Brits vs Yanks, cont.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Brits vs Yanks, cont.

Everyone's getting into the Brits vs Yanks act now, even Sunday Arts & Leisure...

Actually, three rather entertaining and interdisciplinary critic-takes from Brantley, A.O. Scott, and TV's Alessandra Stanley.

Stanley adds a fresh note to the debate by reminding us that, "Enhlish enunciation isn’t what makes Americans weak at the knees: it’s the cruelty behind the words." Not only in the case of those ubiquitous Brit-accented villain roles, but even when playing "heros" that are supposed to have redeeming social values.

A case in point is “House,” the hit television series that obliges one of Britain’s best and funniest actors, Hugh Laurie, to lose his clipped Oxbridge cadence and imitate an American accent, which he does flawlessly. Yet Mr. Laurie’s chief asset is not his voice but his bravado.

His character, Dr. Gregory House, is a flippant, sarcastic misanthrope who thrives on piercing his co-workers’ delusions of good will and affection. In a recent episode House, who does not bother to hide his addiction to painkillers, makes his friends and colleagues believe he has terminal cancer in order to enroll in an experimental treatment program and get drugs.

Many American actors play curmudgeons, but even the meanest tend to lose their nerve and go soft and cuddly once the audience embraces them: James Woods plays a shyster lawyer on “Shark,” but a cuddly one.

Stanley then gets off base accusing even Larry David of "tender moments." And while she's right that Steve Carrell's "Office" boss, while hilarious, is less hateful than Ricky Gervais', she misses that Gervais' gentler "Extras" character was a clear attempt at greater audience sympathy.
Still, the point stands: a commercial entertainment machine + a prevailing acting training that extolls "empathy" above all else = all American actors must be likeable all the time.

In other news, A.O. Scott says all this cross-Atlantic rivalry
risks distracting actors in both countries from the real threat: the Australians, who seem right at home in London or Los Angeles and whose diabolical plan for world domination in the field of English-language acting appears all but unstoppable.
Hmm, Kidman, Blanchett, Jackman, Crowe... By Jove, he's got it!

Next it'll be the Canadians...

1 comment:

Alison Croggon said...

LA is just like a big and rather uglier Melbourne, and all the chain stores are the same. Of course we feel at home. We're taking over Europe too, and we already run the arts in Britain. Our plan for world domination is well on its way...mwahahahahaha!!!