Why are butlers in American movies usually British?

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Joe90
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30 Sep 2021, 2:57 am

And how come it is never racist?

I've seen lots of American movies and cartoons where rich characters have butlers who are snobs with a posh British accent. The actor playing them is usually American.

Why isn't this ever racist? Why doesn't this offend British people? Why would it be offensive and illegal if the butlers were black or Asian, or even other white nationalities such as German?

It's like the British are stereotyped to be snobs with a weird posh-sounding cockney accent that hardly exists these days in England.

I don't understand. Even Google won't answer my question.


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Kerch
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30 Sep 2021, 3:39 am

These might help.

https://movies.stackexchange.com/questi ... -in-movies

https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimf ... in_movies/

Also, english people are often stereotyped as fancy, well-mannered and polite, like a butler is supposed to be.

It's not usually considered offensive because the english generally held a position of power throughout history, and weren't exploited and enslaved and forced into lowly servitude as blacks and asians were.
But it is pretty cliche.



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30 Sep 2021, 3:42 am

Positive discrimination? :P
With apparently way less negative connotations? There's a trope called hyper-competent sidekick.

Or maybe it's more "acceptable" because of some historical mess of a context?


This is just a rapid guess. :lol:


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Mikah
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30 Sep 2021, 4:15 am

Better butlers than villains, which is more common in my memory.


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30 Sep 2021, 8:06 am

Mikah wrote:
Better butlers than villains...
Even when the butler did it?



funeralxempire
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30 Sep 2021, 9:32 am

Joe90 wrote:
And how come it is never racist?

I've seen lots of American movies and cartoons where rich characters have butlers who are snobs with a posh British accent. The actor playing them is usually American.

Why isn't this ever racist? Why doesn't this offend British people? Why would it be offensive and illegal if the butlers were black or Asian, or even other white nationalities such as German?

It's like the British are stereotyped to be snobs with a weird posh-sounding cockney accent that hardly exists these days in England.

I don't understand. Even Google won't answer my question.


Americans and Canadians often fetishize British accents as classy, including even some of them that wouldn't be seen as classy within the UK itself.

It might also be tied to tradition, since maintaining household servants would have been an older tradition in Europe, hiring one who trained in England might be viewed as more prestigious than training a local.

People don't often get offended by being portrayed as classy and sophisticated though, so it's not an offensive stereotype for a lot of people.


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30 Sep 2021, 10:06 am

Some years ago we went to our nephew's college graduation. It was at a college in the U.S. south.

One of the students who spoke at the graduation was an exchange student from Britain.

One of the first things he said was that he found it useful that Americans confused a British accent with intelligence.


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30 Sep 2021, 1:14 pm

I like all the above stereotypes of us. We are intelligent, sexy, sophisticated, classy, evil villains 8) .

The cockney accent and RP accents are separate though, I really don't understand why the yanks combine them into one in a person.

Maybe a yank can confirm, I *think* it's British men's accents that are considered attractive to American women. I haven't heard of a British female accent be considered attractive to American men.

Am I wrong?


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kraftiekortie
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30 Sep 2021, 3:45 pm

Yep :heart:



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30 Sep 2021, 3:52 pm

smudge wrote:
I like all the above stereotypes of us. We are intelligent, sexy, sophisticated, classy, evil villains 8) .

The cockney accent and RP accents are separate though, I really don't understand why the yanks combine them into one in a person.

Maybe a yank can confirm, I *think* it's British men's accents that are considered attractive to American women. I haven't heard of a British female accent be considered attractive to American men.

Am I wrong?


I'd say Yanks and Canucks go further than that when it comes to blending. We'll have elements of northern and southern accents, elements of Scots, Welsh, Irish and probably Australian and a smearing of different class elements, at least for the really bad attempts at imitating. I think the term British accent is a big giveaway of how we perceive them, the understanding often really is that obtuse.

I can't speak for other gynephiles but lots of women with different UK accents have attractive voices, like Lady Decade. :oops:


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30 Sep 2021, 4:45 pm

smudge wrote:
The cockney accent and RP accents are separate though, I really don't understand why the yanks combine them into one in a person.
I realized after making my post that Cockney was "different". But, as my bride and I are fans of the Last of the Summer Wine, I'd be curious to hear whether Brits also consider the Yorkshire dialect to be separate.

(I've heard why pirates...dramatic pirates, not real pirates...sound a bit like they're from Yorkshire.)


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30 Sep 2021, 4:53 pm

Double Retired wrote:
smudge wrote:
The cockney accent and RP accents are separate though, I really don't understand why the yanks combine them into one in a person.
I realized after making my post that Cockney was "different". But, as my bride and I are fans of the Last of the Summer Wine, I'd be curious to hear whether Brits also consider the Yorkshire dialect to be separate.


Definitely, yes.

Double Retired wrote:
(I've heard why pirates...dramatic pirates, not real pirates...sound a bit like they're from Yorkshire.)


You mean West Country accents. It sounds nothing like the Yorkshire accent, and they are completely different locations.


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Redd_Kross
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30 Sep 2021, 5:11 pm

We're particularly good at very polite obedience, with a generous side helping of malicious compliance.

Have you seen Yes, Minister?

Yes Minister - Foreign Policy



Joe90
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30 Sep 2021, 6:11 pm

It's just that even if you use positive or harmless stereotypes for black people it's still racist.

If movies used a black person to be a snobby rich butler, it would be controversial, even though being rich is a good thing and the butler is being paid, it would still be controversially viewed as slavery.

It's like there is no political correctness when it comes to the British, but we're under serious pressure to be politically correct to most other nationalities, except for Americans and Australians and a couple of other nationalities.


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30 Sep 2021, 6:41 pm

Joe90 wrote:
It's just that even if you use positive or harmless stereotypes for black people it's still racist.

If movies used a black person to be a snobby rich butler, it would be controversial, even though being rich is a good thing and the butler is being paid, it would still be controversially viewed as slavery.

It's like there is no political correctness when it comes to the British, but we're under serious pressure to be politically correct to most other nationalities, except for Americans and Australians and a couple of other nationalities.


You remember the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, right?

I'm not sure anyone really gives a monkeys any more. Unless you're amazingly rich, butlers of any form simply aren't a thing. It's mostly fantasy.

Nannies and personal assistants are more likely, for old-school money, or maybe having a paid posse if you're a new money star off the street.

Yes there are inequalities in real life and certain people are more likely to be in "helper" roles. Is that stereotyping, if it reflects reality?

Going back to the original point about "English" butlers, there might be several reasons for this.

Firstly, for reasons I still don't fully understand, the English accent is still seen as "classy". Even though the stereotypical, BBC radio announcer, stiff upper lip English accent is actually more of a lack of accent than anything else. Upper and middle class colonials still aspire to those heights of posh blandness, whether they want to admit it or not.

Secondly, there's the snob value. Anyone with money can afford Mexicans or Africans dahling, but we employ white people.

Thirdly, there could be an element of American Independence revenge, tinged with a desire for credibility. Money doesn't mean class. Yeah, we own you now, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson. Wash my dishes, and let your unspoken sophistication rub off.

And lastly, as the Yes Minister clip showed, we like playing subtle power games. I get the impression rich Americans enjoy this, they want to join the game and hone their skills. What better way than to emply a butler with a razor-sharp wit?

There's a massive difference between employment through choice, and slavery. There are definitely PAs, secretaries, butlers, bodyguards, nannies, style gurus etc. who do their jobs through choice because they like it, not because they have no other options. It only becomes morally dodgy when we get to the level of wage slavery i.e. doing a job to pay the bills because there's no other job. That's why ethnic minorities are more sensitive to these type of roles - if they're involved, it's normally because they can't afford to say no. Rather than a choice to be a playfully intelligent chap in a posh suit engaging in subtle word games with the boss.



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30 Sep 2021, 6:44 pm

smudge wrote:
You mean West Country accents. It sounds nothing like the Yorkshire accent, and they are completely different locations.
No. I meant Yorkshire...but only because I was wrong. :oops:

Maybe I heard "West Country" and thought "West Riding"?

And, oh yeah...we left out Liverpool.


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