Friday, 4 March 2011

See Emily Play

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is The Emily Effect.

You may not have heard of this phenomenon, probably because I just made it up. The Emily Effect refers to the introduction of an annoying English character to a US TV show. Surrounded by cool, fast-talking Americans, this English character goes on to spend their time on the show being relentlessly annoying, mainly because of their own stupid voice. When heard alongside American accents, the English accent sounds stupid enough as it is, but the English actors tend to take their Englishness to the extreme in US shows, because apparently the American audiences love all that. This idea is brilliantly spoofed by Charlize Theron's character in Arrested Development, by 30 Rock's hilarious Wesley Snipes character (Michael Sheen) who does things like insist that in England bikes are called 'foot-cycles' (that's him in the picture up there), and also by Mr. Wick (Craig Ferguson) in the underrated The Drew Carey Show. Anyway, here are 5 instances of The Emily Effect that come to mind.

1. Emily Waltham (Helen Baxendale) - Friends

As you may have guessed, The Emily Effect is named after this character, who appeared in episodes such as The One With The Fucking Annoying English Woman and The One Where Friends Got Shit. Not only does Helen Baxendale suddenly forget how to act, she also ramps up the poshness of her English accent to the point where she could be in the Cabinet, were it not for her being a woman, obviously. Emily is also a horrible character, and as she was England's representative in the US for most of the 1990s, she has done more to damage Anglo-American relations than Tony Hayward. She sums up the entire problem, hence lending her name to it; to the American audience she portrays English people as posh, stuck-up, ear-wrenchingly whiney and evil.

2. Lila Tournay (Jaime Murray) - Dexter

This character proves The Emily Effect, because in Hustle, surrounded by English people, Jaime Murray is perfectly agreeable. But as soon as she arrives in Dexter, her whiney English accent, again turned up to monarchy levels of poshness, leaves the audience wishing Dexter would just hurry up and kill her.

3. Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) - Frasier

Interestingly, Daphne shows that the English character needn't necessarily be posh for The Emily Effect to apply, they just have to have an unrealistically annoying accent of some sort; Jane Leeves takes it stupidly far in the other direction, using a comically broad Manchester accent. She'd sound out of place at an Oasis concert, never mind fucking Seattle.

4. Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) and John Hooker (Ryan Cartwright) - Mad Men

The English characters who enter Mad Men in season 3 show that The Emily Effect applies to male characters too, with their, yet again, unfeasibly posh voices. It is more relevant to Hooker who is utterly unlikeable, while Pryce turns out to be a great character. Hmm, maybe I haven't thought this one through...

5. Nora (Nazanin Boniadi) - How I Met Your Mother

How I Met Your Mother has gone from being one of the best sitcoms I've seen, to a big pile of sentimental mawkishness. The only good thing about it was Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris), precisely because he wasn't like that. But now even he is becoming a big pile of sentimental mawkishness, thanks to this character, Emily 2.0.

So that concludes my case for The Emily Effect, thank you for reading. This blog is named after a Pink Floyd song that I don't want to leave you with, so I'll leave you with a cover that I had to leave off my list the other day; Blue Man Group's version of Baba O'Riley by The Who. Enjoy!


  1. Daphne was a great and very popular character! Apart from that I agree with 'the Emily effect' haha!

  2. So true!
    Also Lord Marbury in the West Wing.

  3. Haha so weird she was great in cold feet? But her portrayal in Friends bordered on racist!