A character is presented as an archetypal Funny Foreigner
with a ridiculous accent
, extreme clothes, and a tendency towards weird food. They may even be an evil foreign rival
to our local boy.
However, the audience gets to see them more privately, and they are shown as a normal local, or at least as seemingly normal. They'll explain that it's all an act that makes them seem exotic, or puts people off guard
, or it gets them laid
. They may resent the act, and the things they have to do for it.
Sometimes, this trick is done with someone who is from another country, but is actually pretty sane; they simply play it up. At other times, this trope is used to justify an actor's appalling accent
In case you couldn't figure it out
, the "faux" is pronounced "foe"
. So the trope is pronounced "foe-reigner"
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Anime unt Manga
- Kaere/Kaede Kimura of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei fits into the typical Foreign Fanservice image and has a type two Eagleland characterization, particularly her frequent threats to sue people. However, she falls into this because of her ridiculous claims about her (never named) home country, and a couple of episodes reference the fact she pretends to speak English, but actually barely knows a single word, and was only briefly outside of Japan. When he first meets her, Majiru Itoshiki actually calls her a "blond fake foreigner".
- Chada of Niea_7 is an alien that pretends to be an Indian. To be precise, he's a dark skinned alien that purchased a cheap turban and started acting like an Indian.
- In Ah! My Goddess most people that meet Belldandy and her sisters think them as European or more precisely Scandinavian. Though they are associated to Scandinavia by myth, the three are the Norns, the Goddesses of the Past, Present and Future.
- In one issue of She-Hulk, the Great Gambonnos of the Circus of Crime, Funny Foreigners of long standing in the Marvel Universe, drop their stereotypical Italian accents when they've been found out. "Drop the act, Ernie, she's onto us."
- An issue of Hawkeye once saw the Circus of Crime's Ringmaster and some students of Hawkeye's old mentor the Swordsman as fake Frenchmen in a Cirque du Soleil-style revue/criminal operation. Hawkeye knows that the Ringmaster is Austrian, and upon hearing the Swordsmen's accents immediately recognizes them as fakes.
- General Wolfram, a wolf-themed villain claiming to be "the genetic terror of the Third Reich". Apparently he faked the Nazi angle and the accent for distinctiveness' sake/to draw heat away from his real identity. Venom, impersonating Spider-Man, calls him "Castle Wolfenstein" and eats his arm for his trouble.
- Black Panther: Kasper Cole affects a Wakandan accent and speech patterns in his guise as the White Tiger, mainly to throw people off his identity (because how many white Wakandan Jews do you know?) This backfires when he tries the routine on Everret Ross, who not only has been to Wakanda, he was its acting regent and is a personal friend of T'Challa's. The accent isn't even close to accurate, according to Ross.
- Asia Minor, in Fallen Angel, does the Obfuscating Stupidity version.
- Judge Dredd: Dredd's landlady/maid (it varies sometimes) Maria has always talked with a heavy Italian accent, but years later when it was revealed that she had died and left a large inheritance to Dredd, it also turned out that she never really was Italian and was faking her accent "for some reason" the entire time.
- Fantomex (aka Weapon XIII from X-Men) uses a French accent — not because he's French, but because the accent "annoys people" according to him — making it easier to catch them off guard.
- The Pre-Crisis version of the Wonder Twins become this after a human heard the name of their home planet from their mouth.
- In X-Men Noir, Chief Magnus inverts this; a Transian native who emigrated to the US, he took diction lessons for sixteen months to achieve a perfect American accent.
- An issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions had the Joes looking for Nazi war criminals in Brazil, when they stumble across a band of stereotypical Latin American guerillas in the jungle. Recondo quickly sees through their cover: they're Sephardic Jews from Mossad hunting the same prey.
- Wealthy playboy Rodney Gaynor adopted a Mexican accent whenever he became the Whip, an obscure hero in The DCU from The Golden Age of Comic Books. A modern-day retelling of his origin retconned him to actually having Hispanic ancestry.
- When the Legion of Super-Heroes was rebooted in the 90s, Chameleon Boy was introduced as not speaking Interlac. Several story arcs went by with other characters attempting to teach him the language, only to get frustrated. Finally it was revealed that he had finally learned Interlac, but was continuing to pretend he didn't understand it in order to lure the villains of the moment into a false sense of security.
- X-Statix once battled a European super team called Euro-Trash. One of their members was Surrender Monkey; who was essentially a walking embodiment of every negative stereotype Americans have regarding the French. A later story revealed that Surrender Monkey was not French, but actually an expatriate American.
- The Frenchman in The Boys is heavily implied to be this by his origin issue. His Gratuitous French is often inaccurate, he's a former member of the French Foreign Legion (a group made up mostly of, well, foreigners, he claims to come from the town of Franglais, meaning "French-English," and he sometimes slips in phrases like "wanker" and "mum," that would be more typical for a Brit. Of course, he's also insane, so it's hard to call.
- The Shadow Hero has a Yellow Peril Chinese villain, who turns out to be a white American petty crook in Yellowface make-up who is acting as a front man for the actual, realistically-portrayed, Chinese villain. It's implied that this was both to keep the real villain's face less well known, and for a kind of Obfuscating Stupidity with respect to white people.
- In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Pirelli plays himself up as a stylish, eccentric Italian barber. He's British. And to top it off, he's played by someone known for intentionally annoying, exaggerated stereotypes of several different ethnicities.
- In Police Academy, there was a character who pretended to have a Spanish accent, because the ladies love it.
- In the dark comedy Human Nature, a female character adopts a fake French accent and persona to make herself more attractive to men.
- In Keeping The Faith, Ken Leung's character puts on a stereotypical Asian accent when selling karaoke machines. When it's revealed that he's dealing with a holy man, he drops the fake accent and reveals himself as a shrewd business man who puts on a show for customers.
- In Trading Places, the protagonists disguise themselves as exaggerated foreigners, with Dan Aykroyd pretending to be a Jamaican, Jamie Lee Curtis' Hooker with a Heart of Gold as a Norse by Norsewest Swede, and Eddie Murphy as an African.
- Several Peter Sellers characters (some already from other countries) affect this trope on occasion, particularly Inspector Clouseau. The effectiveness of the disguises, and thus the involved accents, varies depending on the plot.
- In Cannibal The Musical, Alfred Packer and co. encounter Indians who are actually Japanese guys in disguise. To add to the joke, Packer (IIRC) refers to the tribe as the "Nihonjin" - which means "Japanese people".
Bell: Could you tell me what tribe this is?
Chief: Hmmmmm... We are... Indians!
Bell: ...Yes, I see that, but... what Indians?
Chief: You don't think we are... Indians?
Bell: No, no, no, I just um...
Chief: We have... teepees.
Bell: Right. I see, but...
Chief: Look at all these teepees ...we have. Because... we are...Indians!
Packer: Yeah, they have teepees.
- My Fair Lady: "Although she may have studied with an expert dialectician and grammarian/I can tell that she was born... Hungarian!" Of course, Eliza was a funny foreigner to that particular social circle, but not in the way Zoltan Karpathy thought.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — Indy impersonates a disgruntled Scottish collector of tapestries to gain access to an Austrian castle. When the guise doesn't work as well as hoped, Indy quickly resorts to Plan B. Guess what that is?
- The Marx Brothers' movies occasionally imply that Chico's characters are not really Italian. In Animal Crackers, Chico recognizes a respected art dealer as "Abie the fish man":
Ravelli (Chico): How did you get to be Roscoe W. Chandler?
Chandler: How did you get to be Italian?
Ravelli: Never mind—whose confession is this?
- and in A Night at the Opera, which begins in Italy, he and Groucho have this exchange.
Driftwood (Groucho): Well, things certainly seem to be getting better around the country.
Fiorello (Chico): Well, I wouldn't know about that; I'm a stranger here myself.
- The young protagonist of Breaking Away is a bicyclist who charms a girl he likes by pretending to be an Italian bicyclist. It works... for a while.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail lampshades this with the French Knights. "Ah'm Franch! Why do you theenk ah 'ave zis OUT-ray-juice accent, you silly king?"
- From Ghostbusters 2 comes this exchange:
Peter Venkman: "Johnny, where are you from?"
Janosh Pohah: (in a thick accent) "The upper-west side."
- This was done in an attempt (opinion varies on its success) to remove the dubious Yellow Peril implications of The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. The Mandarin turns out to be a British actor pretending to be a sinister ambiguously-Asian terrorist, as a front man for the actual villain of the film, who is a white American.
- In Clue, French Maid Yvette speaks with a French accent for most of the movie, although it's sometimes heavier and sometimes lighter. When she's away from everyone else however, and believes herself to be speaking with her secret employer, she drops the French accent entirely and speaks with an American accent. Miss Scarlet, who runs a brothel in Washington D.C., also confirms that Yvette used to work for her there.
- Maskerade had Enrico Basilica, a trained opera singer, who realised that he'd never make it in Opera as boring old Henry Slugg, so he pretended not to speak a word of the language and demanded to be treated to exotic food. However, he came to regret being trapped in the Basilico persona; he also came to be sick of the pasta his hosts always cooked him, when what he really wanted was a good pork pie and a beer.
- This is a fairly common joke in the Discworld novels. A Hat Full of Sky mentions a pair of circus acrobat twins who used the same foreign-name ruse for the same reason.
- An example of a character playing up their identity is 71-hour Ahmed in Jingo, who finds it convenient to be a stereotypical Klatchian who stepped straight from Arabian Nights, but can actually speak Morpokian with barely a trace of an accent (which he could do because he was, like so many, schooled in Ankh-Morpork as a youth), and even takes on Ankh-Morpork mannerisms when in Klatch. As he explains, "Always be a little bit foreign wherever you are, because everyone knows foreigners are a little bit stupid." Incidentally, he tipped his hand about the Obfuscating Stupidity quite early on, seeing something of a kindred spirit in Sam Vimes, yet still managed to surprise him with his mastery of the language.
- Then there's Otto von Chriek, the mostly-harmless vampire photographer, who dresses silly and speaks with a thick accent and is generally a nice guy, even though if he wanted to he could rip your limbs out of their sockets and beat you to death with them. He explains that being so silly, no one takes a second glance...even when you're taking pictures of an anti-vampire demonstration.
- And virtually every (non-Uberwaldian) Igor — they don't have to speak with the accent, lithp and call everyone marthter. It'th tradithional.
- In the TV version, Twoflower admits he only pretends not to know Morporkean because it's all part of the image of being a tourist. (How he could know this when he's the Discworld's first tourist is a mystery best left unexplored, but it may be something to do with the fact that on the Disc, tropes are practically laws of physics.) It was averted in the original novel, incidentally; Twoflower really didn't speak Morpokian, though to give the man credit he'd made a phrasebook and at least tried. Rincewind ends up acting as his interpreter for most of the book after they find a third language that they both speak.
- In Pyramids, Ptraci speaks Ephebian with a ptrace of her Djelibeybi accent, because it sounds more exotic. Pteppic understands: "An assassin is supposed to be a little bit foreign wherever he goes. I'm good at that part".
- As a parody of the Poirot Speak used by similar characters in adventure movies, George Mac Donald Fraser's novel The Pyrates has one pirate with an atrocious French accent who is revealed to have been a working class Englishman who was one day knocked on the head in the middle of a beginning of a French language course, and ended up with a dashing, "Pepe le Pew" persona. Oddly enough, this is a case of Truth in Television, as some fifty cases of victims of head injuries acquiring foreign-sounding accents have been documented since 1941.
- The villain of Anthony Trollope's novel The Way We Live Now, Melmotte, sort of ended up as this because the author ultimately avoided making him an evil foreigner from a specific country. While he is most likely Jewish and/or French, there is also the possibility that he is Irish-American and arguably the fact he claims to be an English citizen leaves open a further possibility.
- "Madame Lulu" and "Gunther" in A Series of Unfortunate Events, whose "foreignness" derives mostly from their strange accents, mangled syntax, and overuse of the word "Please".
- Inverted with Zampan˛ from House of Leaves. He claimed to be American, yet seemed foreign. The Other Wiki's discussion page seems to think Zampan˛ was French.
- Religious example: In John Ringo and Travis S. Taylor's Into the Looking Glass novel Vorpal Blade, one of the Marines (nicknamed "Gunga Din") claimed, when recruited, to be Hindu, simply because he didn't want to be an atheist like the parents he hated. Doubly subverted in that a) he's actually of Indian descent, and b) once he'd made the decision, he decided to be serious about it, and has been slowly learning about the religion ever since.
- John Steinbeck's East of Eden uses this with the Chinese Lee. He speaks when he first appears in the book in stereotypical You No Take Candle fashion, but when a character comments he can't possibly talk like that all the time, he drops the act and speaks normally for the rest of the book.
- The end of The Dresden Files book White Night shows Thomas pretending to be a gay Frenchman ("Toe-moss") to play up to the expectations of his beauty salon's customers.
- Two examples of this from Murder on the Orient Express Countess Elena Andrenyi and her mother, Mrs. Hubbard. Judging by their names, they are Jewish-American and from a family of actors, but instead take on false personas of a Hungarian aristocrat and an extremely annoying Eaglelander. A lot of the novel has to do with the characters not necessarily fitting their National Stereotypes, and it isn't too surprising that the book would have this theme, since the detective, Poirot, is himself something of a fauxreigner as part of Obfuscating Stupidity. A particularly notable case of Hercule Poirot acting as the Fauxreigner comes when he visits the Abernathie house in After the Funeral. Although Poirot is playing his actual nationality there, he is pretending to be an elderly refugee from World War II who can barely speak or understand English as opposed to the savvy detective who has lived in England for more than 30 years.
- The Count of Monte Cristo, who variously presents himself as English and Italian and hints at even more exotic origins.
- In Past Mortem by Ben Elton, British-born Roger Jameson has been passing himself off as American for many years after joining the NYPD (although it appears he eventually took US citizenship.)
- Dare to Love by Jennifer Wilde features "Elena Lopez", a British dancer/courtesan pretending to be Spanish. She is based on the real-life Lola Montez: see Truth in Television below.
- One of the Trebizon books included a girl finding out that a famous "Russian" ballerina she idolized was really an English woman pretending to be Russian to advance her career.
- In Murder Most Unladylike (Murder Is Bad Manners in the US edition), two girls at a 1930s boarding school investigate the murder of one of their teachers. It emerges at one point during the story that "Mam'zelle", the French mistress, is not really French at all but has been posing as a French woman with an exaggerated accent in order to get teaching work.
Di Restling Proffessionario
El Boxo di Soundo
- A favorite example of some fans is the stage play The Foreigner by Larry Shue. Charlie is actually an Englishman in backwoods Georgia, but is so shy and depressed that he doesn't want to have to talk to anyone. His friend, Froggy then sets up the premise that Charlie is a foreigner who can't speak any English and therefore should just be left alone. Well, that doesn't quite work out as planned, but Hilarity Ensues and fortunately, it all works out in the end.
- In the operetta Die Fledermaus, several of the characters attend Prince Orlovsky's ball incognito as foreign noblemen and -women. Lindy Hume's English-language adaptation, first produced by Opera Australia in the 1990s, goes one better by revealing at the very end that Orlovsky himself is not really a foreign nobleman either.
- Adolfo Pirelli, the self-proclaimed 'King of the Barbers and the Barber of Kings' who claims to have shaved the King of Naples and the Pope and who is all the rage in London, in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It turns out he is really Daniel O'Higgens, an Irishman who was Todd's assistant as a boy.
- Don Juan and Miguel, primarily Renaissance Faire actors, have a particular mind-bending, fourth wall breaking bit where Miguel states, "I'm a Polock from Chicago pretending to be a Mexican pretending to be a Spaniard. Must mean I'm an American!"
- The "Greek diplomatist" whom Nepommuck works for in George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion. The man is in fact English, but he pretends to speak no English at all as he is of humble birth and has an atrocious manner of speech. Subverted in the same play as Nepommuck mistakes Eliza Doolittle for a fauxreigner-in-reverse because her speech is now so refined (through work of Henry Higgins) that she cannot possibly be real English, because "only foreigners who have been taught to speak it speak it as well." In fact, Nepommuck insists that she must be a Hungarian princess who is pretending to be English for some reason and no one believes the truth.
- Olga Orly in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. Possibly Klavier Gavin as well, depending on whether or not you go for the Alternative Character Interpretation.
- Also Lamiroir.
- Armstrong in Trials and Tribulations seems to be faking the whole "French chef" thing. The judge picks up on this when Armstrong mistakenly uses Spanish instead of French.
- BioShock did this with Atlas, actually New York mobster Frank Fontaine putting on an Irish accent. It slips from time to time with certain words. Later in the game after The Reveal of his actual identity, Fontaine briefly puts on the Atlas voice again with even more exaggeration and Irish stereotyping just to mock Jack.
- The Asian bookstore owner in Fahrenheit. When policeman, Tyler Miles, meets him, he pretends to be an clumsy Chinese Old Master. After Tyler manages to solve his puzzle, he drops the act and explains that he only does it because he does not want to sell books to stupid people. He also reveals that he was in fact born in and never left Brooklyn.
- Clay from PokÚmon Black and White is a Japanese man who got rich in America by finding oil, and apparently moved to Unova. Due to the art style and his persona, he comes off as an American born Southerner. He may, or may not, be playing the part of a Southerner; or possibly he became one when he moved.
- In Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, we meet a store owner with a long wispy beard, something resembling a traditional outfit, and a ridiculous accent (even in the Russian version!). The Let's Play names him Horrific Chinese Stereotype. Eventually he drops it.
- In Leisure Suit Larry 7, the character Wang, obviously Chinese, is foreign... but from Ireland, and speaks English fluently with an Irish accent. Since people kept staring at him, he adopted a stereotypical Chinese accent and You No Take Candle. His Irish accent slips through whenever he gets upset or annoyed, prompting Larry to ask him about it.
- In the original Pepe Le Pew short, Pepe reveals he's not really French, but liked playing the "French lover" role. This was removed from his later appearances. Averted with his student from Tiny Toon Adventures, Fifi LaFume, who is actually French.
- In Danny Phantom, Gregor/Elliot from Hungary/Michigan.
- "Mao" on Frisky Dingo, a white dry cleaner pretending to be Chinese in order to qualify for a minority business loan.
- "Those loans are for non-threatening women of color!"
- And Grace Ryan's incredibly racist "disguise" as a Chinese woman.
- A flashback at the beginning of The Venture Bros. episode "Now Museum, Now You Don't" shows Dr. Jonas Venture Sr. infiltrating Scaramantula's inner circle as the Japanese Dr. Fandragon. The disguise includes using his fingers to pull his eyelids back and a superfluous third nipple (on his chin). Scaramantula seems to notice that Fandragon isn't actually Japanese, but can't seem to put together that it's specifically Dr. Venture.
Dr. Venture: You've forgotten one thing, Scaramantula.
Scaramantula: And what is that, my uncharacteristically hirsute Asian comrade?
- One episode of The Simpsons had owners of a Chinese Restaurant slip into a heavy stereotype to please Homer.
- Kairi in Batman Beyond fakes a heavy Japanese accent because it sells more fish that way. She speaks normally when she isn't working or teaching her students.
- In the Home Movies episode "Four's Company", Octavio seduces Melissa this way.
- In one episode of Rugrats, Ilsa Umlaut, the dog groomer who was called to groom Spike, speaks in a Scandinavian accent for most of the episode and claims to be from either Helsinki or Stockholm. After she gets paid at the end, she slips into an American accent, implying that she was faking the Scandinavian accent the whole time.
- The Chameleon Brothers in Rocko's Modern Life have heavy, vaguely-Scandinavian accents. This is later revealed to be all just part of their ever-changing Hipster persona...incidentally, the only part that doesn't change.
Veritas in Televisione
- "Chinese" magician Chung Ling Soo was actually an American, William Ellsworth Robinson, who pretended to be Chinese not only on stage but all the time. Only his family and several other stage magicians knew the truth. He avoided speaking English for 19 years, until he was killed when a bullet catch went wrong. His reported last words were, "My god, I've been shot."
- "Princess Caraboo", actually Mary Wilcocks Baker, a former servant girl who became a sensation in early 19th-Century England by pretending to be a foreign princess who had washed up on British shores after escaping from the pirates who had kidnapped her. In 1994 the story was made into a movie, starring Phoebe Cates as Caraboo/Baker.
- "George Psalmanazar", who pretended to be a Formosan long before anyone in Europe knew where Formosa (aka Taiwan) actually was or who really lived there. He wrote an absolutely awesome book in English on Formosa that was translated into French and German and was even asked to lecture at Oxford University. He admitted his imposture some years later after numerous attacks by skeptics, but to this day his real name is unknown.
- Sacha Baron Cohen, whose characters Borat and BrŘno are based around this trope.
- Mata Hari (real name: Margaretha Geertruida "Margreet" Zelle), the Dutch wife of a diplomat, came back from Borneo claiming to be an adopted priestess inducted in the native (read: fictional) practices of Indonesia. She became an international sex symbol in Europe. Unfortunately for her, the Moral Guardians of the time (World War I) had her executed as a German spy.
- A significant part of the Republic of Ireland's national football side in the Eighties and Nineties, due to the qualification rules. They're still in place, and similar situations can and do happen with other national sides, extending to other sports as well...
- The embodiment of "Yellow Peril" in movies and TV was Khigh Dghieh ("Yen Lo" in The Manchurian Candidate; "Wo Fat" on Hawaii Five-O). He was really named Kenneth Dickerson and was not of Asian descent.
- Benjamin Franklin did this while asking for help with the American Revolution while in France. An upper crust British-born gentleman wearing a coon skin cap?
- 19th-century courtesan Lola Montez, born in Ireland as Eliza Gilbert but spent most of her career passing herself off as a Spanish noblewoman.
- The 19th century English explorer Richard Burton (yes, there were two of them) completely remade himself into an Arab man when exploring the Middle East, in order to get as intimate a look at the region as possible. He also benefited from being extremely good at foreign languages, mastering Arabic and fooling everyone in the process.
- Invoked by Ghanaian soccer player Anthony Yeboah, who played most of his career in Germany. During an interview with a German sports magazine which was surprised that he was living a "normal life" he asked whether he should start a campfire in the living room and go gazelle hunting in downtown Frankfurt.
- Invoked by Jose Barrientos an Iraq war veteran. He was taking a speech class and decided to spend the entire semester speaking with a Mexican accent. When he gave his final report he slipped back into his normal accent and blew his classmate's minds. Amazingly one student kept insisting that his 'American' accent was the fake one and that he should speak in his native language. Which he kept insisting he was.