the ideology of whatever
One of the themes I'm trying to incorporate into my current class ("Language in Society") is an attempt to have the students think critically about the portrayal of language, dialect, and accent in popular enterntainment media.
I have ranted about such things in the past, notably about the inability or unwillingness of those in the industry to get it right. After additional reflection, I have identified 4 different ways in which actors and scriptwriters misrepresent speech varieties:
1 - through blatant disregard. In other words, don't even bother trying.
2 - through poor execution. Make an honest attempt at an accent, but fail to get it.
3 - through purposeful stereotypical exaggeration. Highlight linguistic stereotypes for the sake of comedy.
4 - through more subtle manipulation. Use identifiable linguistic traits and associated stereotypes to develop or frame characters.
This might represent the full scope of the ideology behind dialect misrepresentation; I think any portrayal that is not spot-on will fit into one of the above 4 categories.
The subtle-manipulation group is the most interesting to me. It's easy to get sucked into message board threads about movies and accents, and many of them focus on this aspect of it, notably in the Star Wars trilogies and in WWII-era film.
Poor execution is another locus of grievance. The example I used in class was an episode of Alias in which a guest star is supposed to be from Belfast but speaks with a perfect urban Scottish accent. I was really impressed with her portrayal of Scottish English, until I realized she was not meant to be Scottish. I then went to look her up, and the actress is Scottish. (A complication is that the character does have an under-cover Scotland connection). The producers probably cast her as a Northern Irish character because her Scottish accent was close enough.
Anyway, I was glad to see how quickly the class got it - they all detected the character-accent mismatch. For the class, I called this "the ideology of whatever", a phrase they seemed to enjoy. According to the ideology of whatever, in dramatic portrayals of dialect, close enough is good enough. But I expect more.