The Fairy Princess had an audition and she was required to use an Accent.
If you have been reading along, you might guess that The Fairy Princess has a problem with this, and the answer is – within parameters, The Fairy Princess does not have a problem using an accent of any kind.
Yes, some people just flat out refuse to do them, due to personal mores (which is fine), but The Fairy Princess comes from a family built by immigration and the accents she heard growing up – Irish, Australian, Chinese – and by marriage – Korean -, and through friendships – too numerous and international to be counted – means that she is well aware that accents exist on the planet, and it would be completely ridiculous not to acknowledge that when one is acting.
In her own opinion.
This post is not really for Actors, who kind of ‘get’ what the job is, but it is more for the “Activists’ out there, who I have noticed, seem to lose their mind when an Actor of Color has to use an accent.
So The Fairy Princess is going to share her very simple rules for when a Minority Actor or Actress should/can use an accent without getting flack for it from the general public, bloggers, and those who share their every thought on social media.
You know – people like me. 🙂
THE FAIRY PRINCESS’S EIGHT SIMPLE RULES FOR USING AN ACCENT
1. If the character is an immigrant.
Asian Americans will not like this first one, but the truth is, though the API population is growing rapidly, we still get most of our population numbers from immigration. It would be ludicrous to assume that someone arriving in America is going to get off the plane speaking “The Queen’s English”, one or two – likely, every single one? Not possible.
Immigrants have accents because they have not assimilated to the new country – and this is not just an Asian accent thing, immigrants from Australia, Britain, Ireland, Wales – they all have accents to American ears – accents are not ‘owned’ by any particular group. We all have them – look at New York vs. Chicago – Fuggitaboudit!
2. If the character comes from a region where a specific dialect is well known and expected
Examples would be, of course, the American Deep South, or Australia, or Norway. Or a particular city within the USA that has well known regional flavor…or Canada. There are lots of regional accents out there, and if a play is set in a particular city, one would expect to hear them.
3. If the character and the play are set in a historic time and the entire cast is using an accent –
Well, for example, Shakespeare – even Americans sound vaguely British-y when they do Shakespeare, perhaps it is psychological or perhaps it just sounds better that way, who knows – but it is hard to say “Out damn spot!” without trying to Dame Dench it.
Those are my top 3 reasons of why an Actor would choose to do them, but having said that, The Fairy Princess has rules, for herself (but she is sharing now), of what she expects of herself when doing an accent as part of her work, so here are 4-6….
4. It must be authentic.
If the character is Korean – then the accent must mimic someone from Korea who has just learned English – likewise for Hispanic, Cyrillic, Celtic, just ANY accent – it has to be authentic. If you are supposed to be from Japan, you cannot sound like you are from the Philippines.
By being authentic, you are being respectful. Which brings me to my next personal rule:
5. It must respectful.
The Actor should not allow the accent to wear them, they should ‘wear’ the accent. In practice, Actors often need to find something about a character to like, in order to do the character justice. If the accent is being used for comedy, that is fine- but have the joke be funny by performance, not by accent alone. It is a fine, fine line – yes, but the benefits are that one does not feel that one has taken a bath in sewage after every performance.
6. It must serve the play, television show, or film
Having an accent ‘just to have one’ does not really, to The Fairy Princess, have a point to it. Given that the world is getting more diverse, one expects to hear more accents on our screens and stages – or that is the dream, in my mind. The accent has to be given to the character for a reason other than to play into stereotype or to serve as a foil for debasing the character who has it.
Those are The Fairy Princess’s rules for personal use of an accent – but there are a few exceptions and we are going to go into them right now:
7. Caucasians do not get to use accents to mock the Immigrant character.
– it is not what is supposed to happen in this day and age.
Let’s all agree to be better than that.
Otherwise what good are theater conferences and diversity panels? None at all if you are going to turn around and give us a tv show or musical without employing Actors who can take the stage/screen without browning, yellowing, or blacking their faces.
8. Other Minorities, likewise, should be judicious with assuming that because we ‘share’ minority status, that it’s ‘allowed’ to put on accents of other races.
Not so much, Folks – not so much.
Just because you are not Caucasian does not mean you get a free pass. Because you are not Caucasian means you know what it feels like when you are mocked by a stereotype that you do not embody – so let’s be kind to one another.
If, for plot’s sake, your character has an accent because it fit the ‘regional’ requirements listed above, that is, of course, different kettle of fish. Plot points are plot points.
Are there exceptions to any and all of these rules?
There are to most rules, but these, not really.
Accents are part of the costume that we Actors wear, and they will always be a part of the profession – unless we decide to get dull and boring and lose all sense of reality and humor – some are already there.
However, it is not the accent that makes the performance, it is the execution by the actor and the intention behind the employment OF an accent within a role.
If you hate the accent, so be it – turn the channel. But let us not flay actors who are gainfully employed by taking away their tools to do their job – if they are playing an immigrant, they WILL have an accent – and uber sensitivity is NOT going to help the great strides being taken by both Networks and Actors in breaking down the doors that have been closed to diversity.
Yeah, I thought you did.