In American media, especially cartoons, characters who are supposed to be intelligent often speak Received Pronunciation, even if they aren't explicitly supposed to be from England. This association of RP with smart people probably comes from the days where this was the accent associated with those who were wealthy enough to receive an education at all, and the more general idea that characters who speak RP are authority figures. Upper Class Twit
would be a subversion or inversion of this trope, especially if the twit is English.
This doesn't apply to brainy RP-speaking characters who are in a setting where everyone is English unless it's obvious that only the smart characters speak with this accent and the others all have regional British accents (eg. Cockney, Oop North
. The examples are in two groups, with one being characters who actually ARE stated to be from England within the story and the other being characters who are not, yet still have the Received Pronunciation accent.
Villainous examples are likely to be Wicked Cultured
. However, while this can overlap with Evil Brit
, it doesn't have to, as many examples include heroic smart characters. Compare and contrast Fake Brit
, (that's where the actor playing a British character isn't actually British) and I Am Very British
(where Received Pronunciation is the only English accent in American media, and the characters in that trope don't necessarily have to be smart).
If the character is neither American or British he/she can be made to sound intelligent without being given the above dialect, but many writers and dramatists simply don't bother
Examples where the character IS English:
- Mentioned by Dave Barry, where he says a person with a British accent could be presenting Hawaii Five-O and Americans would think them extremely enlightening.
- Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
- Curiously, when a spell makes him behave like a surly teen, he speaks in a working class accent. In an earlier episode, he relates how, as a youth, he rebelled against his upbringing and fell in with 'the worst crowd that would have me' - so which accent was the put-on is up for debate.
- Doctor Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Mostly notable in the episode where we meet his parents (at the same time as revealing his intelligence was augmented), who do not share his flavour of British accent at all.
Examples where the character's origin is not stated/is stated as not being from England
Anime and Manga
Film (Live Action)
- Arguably, the dub version of Sailor Mercury from Sailor Moon is given an accent that is at least slightly English. Luna also would fit in the dub since she's an intelligent Mentor Mascot who does a lot of strategy planning for the "Scouts" and is generally portrayed as more intelligent than Artemis.
- The Brain Gremlin in Gremlins 2 The New Batch.
- The X-Men franchise is a mixed example. Professor Charles Xavier either speaks with an RP (first three movies) or is an actual Brit (X-Men: First Class).
- Patrick Stewart is also an actual Brit.
- In the Warrior Cats series, the last three audiobooks in the The New Prophecy series are read by Nanette Savard, an American actress. The narration and most of the characters are read with an American accent - except, for whatever reason, the medicine cats, who are read with a British accent. They're regular Clan cats, born and lived with their Clanmates all their lives, and just chose a different job - so where did the accent come from? Are they born with it and for some reason all cats with this accent take the medicine cat's job? Or does healing cats suddenly give you a different accent somehow?
- Notable subversion/playing around of this trope is Charlize Theron's character from Arrested Development. Her English accent is (according to the narrator) the reason that people don't figure out that she's mentally retarded. Of course, Theron isn't even English (she's South African, but is a naturalized American), which is of course lampshaded in the show.
- Gaius Baltar speaks with an RP accent. Later in the series, it's revealed that he changed it from his family's native accent (which is portrayed as a rural, working-class English accent) to fit in on Caprica; what pushes it into this trope is that Caprican citizens are otherwise represented as varying kinds of North American.
- Roose Bolton in Game of Thrones is a clean-shaven Soft Spoken Sadist speaking RP in a sea of bearded Large Ham northmen with northern accents, which sets him apart from all the other Stark bannermen.