HUGE Misconceptions About British People in TV Shows and Movies

I don’t know if it’s from watching ‘Friends’ again and seeing Ross and Emily’s wedding, but I’ve started to remember why I find Hollywood’s representation of British people so annoying. Whilst I get that things are dramatised for comedic effect or that stereotypes exist, I can’t help but feeling like us Brits get a pretty bad deal when it comes to how we are portrayed to the rest of the world in popular culture.

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Here’s a list of the biggest misconceptions about British people thanks to Hollywood:

  1. The accent. Oh my, the accent. I do not know ANYONE who speaks like American film producers think we do. There are many different accents in England, from Northern to Scouse to Geordie to Brummie to Cockney. Thanks to the weird, stilted, overly posh British accent used in films, whenever I travel no one guesses that I am from England. Apparently I sound Scottish or Irish. Accent diversity is needed, PLEASE!
  2. We wear a lot of tweed. Shockingly, shops like H&M and Gap exist in England, too. We are more likely to wear a New York print t-shirt than a tweed blazer.
  3. That we are cold, frigid people who think patting someone’s hand is the pinnacle of affection. I know that there is the old fashioned ‘stiff upper lip’ stereotype, but it’s so outdated. It’s not the 1800s anymore – the Victorian era is over. We Brits are passionate people, dammit! Find any dance floor in any night club in England on a Saturday night and you will see that there is nothing frigid about British people anymore.
  4. Everyone is a snob. Through travelling, I’ve met people from all around the world and I can assure you that most British people do not judge or look down on people any more or any less than other people. We’re all too focused getting inside before it starts raining to care about how much your handbag costs.
  5. British men are weak. British men are often portrayed as people who are too afraid to either stand up for themselves or stand up to their partners (who are coincidentally portrayed as mean, bitter, nagging women). It’s just not true. Some men have nagging partners, some men are the nagging partner just like anywhere else in the world.
  6. Alternatively, all British men are eligible bachelors. In Hollywood films, British men are all insanely good looking, rich, well educated, suave, stylish gentlemen just looking for their perfect transatlantic counterpart. This is NOT the case. There are just as many lecherous, terrible, lying men in England as there are anywhere in the world, and they definitely don’t all look like Hugh Grant. Just go to any Wetherspoons in the country and you will see what I mean…
  7. We say weird things like ‘spiffing’ and ‘bloody hell’ an awful lot. We don’t. There’s not much more to say than that.
  8. That we live in cute, picture perfect postcard houses. Trust me, I wish I lived in a house like Iris lives in in The Holiday. The reality is that most of England just looks like any other city and that cute cottages are few and far between – and very, very overpriced!
  9. British women are bitches. From Emily in The Devil Wears Prada to Clarissa in What a Girl Wants, British women are always, always portrayed as snooty bitches. Often they are pitted as the boring, snobby enemy of the cool, wild, free and happy American girl. It’s tiring to see this narrative repeated again and again. Most British girls are really nice! They’re not out for your job or your boyfriend and they probably think that being American is cool, not something to sneer about. If anything, I’d bet that most British women would help you find the gentleman of your dreams, not stab you in the back to nab him for themselves.
  10. We are all white. Aside from a very small list of people, most Brits I’ve seen in Hollywood films or TV shows are white. This doesn’t represent England at all. It’s a brilliantly diverse country with so many talented people from a range of backgrounds and ethnicities. I’d like to see that represented more, not the outdated, weird Lord-of-the-Manor-who-has-never-felt-the-touch-of-a-woman-before stereotype that keeps being churned out.

So there you have it, my pet peeve list of inaccurate British stereotypes! I hope it made you smile and realise that we Brits have more to offer than being the two dimensional, snobby character alongside the Hollywood heroine. Despite my only acting experience being the school production of Grease, if you’d like to cast me in a film about being the warm, funny, lovable British sidekick, I’m open to offers!

What annoys you the most about how your country is represented in the media?

You can find me on Instagram at @jesskitchingwrites– feel free to follow me to find out more about my life and my writing!

2 Comments

  1. Ok, I legit thought the cute cottages were a thing – maybe more countryside than cities but yeah I did think that! 😛

    As for annoying stereotypes – where would you like me to start about Indian ethnicity portrayals? I remember as a teen watching Apu from the Simpsons and going ‘we don’t sound like that.’ Also, yes all Indians are corner shop owners or petrol station attendants or cab drivers in America. All brown had to have a menial job or never get the girl/guy.

    The one time I watched the Bachelor here, I noticed all the girls were white and I tweeted about my lessons from the bachelor being only white people look for love and that was my most retweeted tweet. FYI I don’t watch the show anymore.

    I think it’s the same representation of Australia though – the Americans think kangaroos run down our streets, everyone talks like Crocodile Dundee, and everyone is blonde and white…

    1. I wish there were as many cute cottages as they are made out to be ha! I’d love to live in one

      Oh I totally agree! When you count how many films or TV shows show those stereotypes as well it is mind boggling (and also kind of sad)

      I LOVE that tweet! Reality TV is 99.9% young, attractive, thin and white… how boring!

      You’re right that everywhere has it’s stereotypes and so many perceptions, often negative, that are really hard to shake. I am hoping as more people become directors or writers (however slow that progress is) that more voices get to be heard so more accurate portrayals of real life can be shown – we definitely need it!

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