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Assistant-type characters like:

  • Alfred in the Batman movies
  • Zazu in The Lion King series
  • C-3PO in the Star Wars series
  • Curator in Ready Player One
  • Jarvis in Iron Man
  • etc.

often have British accents. Why is that?

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    Because “the English butler” is a stock character, so much so that P.G.Wodehouse ended a novel by sending an Earl, who was unhappy as the lord of a decaying manor, to Hollywood for a happier career playing butlers. – Anton Sherwood Mar 23 at 2:45
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    Gabby Hayes in a thousand Westerns, or Walter Brennan, or any number of other counterexamples exist. – Marquis of Lorne Mar 23 at 9:44
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    There's also the fact that all of these characters were played/voiced by British actors (Michael Caine in the Nolanverse, Rowan Atkinson, Anthony Daniels, and Simon Pegg - although in this case his character was not British). – GeoffAtkins Mar 23 at 17:38
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    C3PO is an interesting case because he as far as I can recall is the only "good guy" character in SW who has a British accent, though plenty of the "bad guys" do. – Eric Lippert Mar 23 at 23:44
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    Most British people I know are also aware that villains in movies tend to have British accents – slebetman Mar 23 at 23:57
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There is no real official reason but it's mainly because of the (old) British culture.

Namely, butlers were/are servants in large households who tended to their employer’s wishes. Despite being in a servant position, they were often respected for their skill and loyalty (even today there are specialized butler schools, often located in England) which often made a good butler a status symbol.

After the colonization of the Americas, butlers were also part of the migration wave, taking care of the families in the US like they did in England. So the British accent comes from the fact that most of them were British (and also partially because many believe the British accent to be more cultured/snooty compared to other accents).

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    Note also the related but distinct role of valet - while in small households (e.g. Stately Wayne Manor) the roles may overlap, the Butler is assigned to the house, while a Valet is assigned to a person. Jeeves is a Valet, Jarvis is a Butler, and Alfred was a batman – Chronocidal Mar 23 at 14:18
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    @Chronocidal Alfred was a batman Well played, sir. – Graham Mar 23 at 17:06
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    @Chronocidal I don't think Alfred was a batman, at least for the Waynes, because the Waynes aren't military officers. It's possible that he used to be a batman when he was in the military, though. – nick012000 Mar 24 at 2:34
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    @nick012000 Several versions of Thomas Wayne have been members of the military before taking control of Wayne Enterprises (e.g. in Batman: Earth One, when that's how he met Alfred). As a medical doctor, he would have been an Officer, grade O-2 (first lieutenant) or above. – Chronocidal Mar 24 at 9:02
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    @Chronocidal Great batman pun aside, IIRC Alfred was a butler, as he ran the household and house staff, but due to Bruce's living conditions (both his lack of... nobility and his secret identity) the house staff left. IIRC in one of the movies (I think Batman Begins but unsure) we actually see them leave the manor and Alfred stays behind alone to take care of the manor (and estate). – Flater Mar 25 at 23:22
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It's more than just a British accent. It's a specific kind of British accent officially known as "Received Pronunciation." It conveys a level of refinement and social prestige. When an assistant talks this way in an American movie, the implication is that they are more than just an assistant. Unsaid is that they are educated and connected, and certainly know more about whatever is going on than the boss does.

I should add that Michael Caine is one exception. He speaks with a Cockney accent, which is pretty much the opposite of RP.

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    There's not a lot of people know that. – James K Mar 23 at 20:01
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    'old on a minute, lads - I've got an accent. – Will Crawford Mar 24 at 14:40
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    @QuoraFeans - True, but we largely ignore such people... ;-) – T.E.D. Mar 24 at 19:17
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    I wonder if Caine influenced the portrayals of Alfred in Gotham and Pennyworth? – Matt Holland Mar 24 at 20:32
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    Yet, Alfred is still well educated militarily - which is all the more useful to Bruce. It seems other than the specific type of Caine's British accent (which is unlikely to be picked up on by non-Brits) his back story fulfils the roles of "British Butler" stock character that you outlined. Great answer!! – josh Mar 25 at 14:15

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