8/22/2011

The Help & Dialects

CH & I went to see "The Help" on Saturday afternoon.  CH didn't know anything about the book, but after watching the trailer, thought it would be worth seeing.  We walked into the theater (Thank you, Fandango:  No standing in line for tickets!) to find it almost filled....with women.  There was just a smattering of men here and there, and they were mostly elderly gentlemen sitting with their wives.  (BTW:  our local theater has a deal where you buy a bucket of popcorn-it's $12 right now- and you can bring it back and get it refilled for $2.50 until 2012.  The little girl with the cartoon voice at the concessions was quite the seller...she mentioned that we could bring it in if we were having a movie night at home and take the popcorn home!)  By the time the movie started, the theater was sold out.
What an awesome job they did with that movie!  They did an amazing job with bringing the characters to life, and stayed pretty true to the book.  There were a couple of things that were different, but not so much that it took away from the book.  The little girls that played Mae Mobley were adorable. But the best part:  the accents.   As a southern woman, I abhor watching movies or shows with fakey southern accents.  If you're from the south, I see you nodding your heads.  Y'all know what I'm talking about.
Some people think that all southern accents are the same.  They're not.  Even in Tennessee, East Tn. accents are different from Middle & West Tennessee.  Heck, even in the county where I live, you can tell what part of the county somebody is from by the way they talk.  You can tell if they're from the mountains as opposed to in town.
One show that absolutely kills me is "The Closer".  I like the show, but I had a hard time getting passed Kyra Sedgwick's fake southern accent.  I've never heard somebody talk like that in real life.  People think all Texans have a pronounced "drawl":  When my parents moved to Tn., people asked my mom if she was from NJ.   No lie.
You know who has a great southern accent?  Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama".  Perfect.  Of course, part of it may have to do with the fact that she was born in New Orleans and grew up in Nashville.  Some other women who did southern accents well were the women from "Designing Women", although Jean Smart's was a little forced.  Guess it helped that the other 3 were from the south.
You know what really gets to me?  When I watch a show and the character is an African-American with a southern accent.  In my whole life of living in the south, I've heard one African-American speaking with a southern accent:  Carolyn Peck, who grew up about an hour away from where I live.  And, she is bi-racial.  If you don't know who Carolyn Peck is, she was a basketball player at Vanderbilt who went on to be the head coach at Perdue and Florida; she now is a basketball analyst for women's college and professional basketball.    A-A's have their own accent.  Especially in the Low-country of SC with the heavy influence of Gullah.
So, that's my take on southern accents.  Just a brief note about northern accents:  When I watched the mini-series "The Kennedys" on netflix over the summer, Katie Holmes' rendition of Jackie Kennedy Onassis just about did me in.  She did a great job of looking the part of Jackie, but when she opened her mouth I about gagged.  You know those old mobsters movies that have the blond bimbo talking like they're just stupid?  That's what she sounded like.  I'm fairly certain Jackie didn't sound like that.  I'd even go so far to say that she was turning over in her grave.
If you're not from the South, I'd love to hear your take on southern accents:  Do you really believe that all southerners talk like Kyra in "The Closer"?  What about yankee accents on tv?  Are they pretty true, or do the actors over-emphasize those, too?

17 comments:

  1. Totally with you! Especially on The Closer. Have you noticed how she sometimes forgets she's from the South and the accent disappears altogether.

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  2. Accents are not all the same across Texas as well. There are native born Texans who have a crystal clear midwest ring and then there are those that have a small twang like Pres. Bush, or Gov. Perry. Then there are those that have a real deep accent.

    When I lived in Illinois, there was Chicago accent, northern Illinois accents which was that perfect, crystal clear tone, and then a southern accent somewhat like northern Kentucky.

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  3. I am with you on the southern accents, Mary. I cannot stand them if they are not legit. We watched The Long Hot Summer the other night with Paul Newman. Well, I should say that it was on; but, I had to tune it out because the accents on there DROVE ME CRAZY. Another thing that irritates me on TV and in movies is it that when a character is supposed to be an idiot...no matter where the movie is supposed to be taking place....the said "idiot" has either a fake or authentic southern accent. Grrrrr! Just because we are from the South and have southern accents does not automatically mean that we are idiots and every idiot is not from the South. There are plenty from other parts of the US. Thanks for letting me vent. haha! :)

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  4. I am from the South and I love an authentic Southern accent - no matter which part of the South it comes from. But you are so right on the bad imitations. I've never seen some of the shows/movies you reference so I can't weigh in on those. Reese Witherspoon was right on also in Ring of Fire. But it takes one to know one, right?

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  5. Well you only asked for comments from those not from the South but I'm gonna comment anyway. I have several friends with southern accents and they are African-American. Travel the 8 miles to the big city of K-Town and I'll prove it.

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  6. I loved the movie! I loved the book, so I was skeptical, but I thought it was great. My favorite line: No ma'am, but you 'bout too. You are 100% spot on with the southern accent thing. Cannot watch The Closer.

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  7. so glad to hear the movie was great... i read the book this week. ;)

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  8. Oh I meant Walk the Line, not Ring of Fire!

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  9. Oh my gosh! I am from the south and southern accents in movies can totally distract me to the point I can't focus on the movie!
    The one that really got me was Nicholas Cage in, CONAIR, oh the accent!!!
    When I first moved to the lowcountry of SC I had an older African-American lady that worked for me and she spoke with a BIG gullah accent... I could never understand a word she said! Mostly I just smiled and nodded my head!

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  10. I love, love, love southern accents. I have to admit that I don't have a good ear to differentiate between different southern accents.

    I just watched Steel Magnolias yesterday, which probably means fakey southern accents (except maybe Dolly Parton, since she's from the south ... as is Julia Roberts, if I'm not mistaken). ;-)

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  11. I do know exactly what you're talking about! And it drives me nuts too. BTW, Gullah is all but gone from these parts anymore. It's rare that you'll run across anyone who speaks it or even has the accent now. It's a shame but it does seem to be dying out.

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  12. You've got a better ear than I do for that sort of thing. Interesting.
    I'm anxious to see the movie - even knowing the accents are bad...I find Mississippi accents very different than that of most other southern accents....Now I'll bethinking about accents all day. LOL

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  13. My plan is to see the movie this week. Hope I do! I haven't read the book. I really don't know anything about Southern accents so when I watch the Closer, one of my favorite shows, it has never bothered me to hear her speak. Same with Katie Holmes when she played Jackie. I believe if I knew the difference it would really bother me. I do love the way Reese talks in Sweet Home Alabama.

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  14. I'm from the Midwest, and I really can't tell the difference when it comes to accents. I've never really thought about it. I have only watched one show where the accents are clearly horrific, and you're right, it completely distracts from the show.

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  15. @d: I've worked in the big city & travel to the big city quite often...you haven't convinced me! :)

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  16. On the accents. I grew up in south florida. I did live in GA for about 4 years during my teens. THen I was back to Florida. We moved to TX in our early 20's and only lived there for 3 years, then we moved to AZ.
    All my new neighbors in AZ said: Oh, we can tell you are for TX because of your accent!!!
    What???? I guess I really have a Southern (Florida) accent!
    Can't wait to see the movie!

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  17. Very interesting! I've heard a lot of criticizing of this movie regarding the way the african american women spoke. I'm not sure I ever would have thought about it. I want to read the book and see the movie now.

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