A Defense of the Moon Knight Accent by a Real Cockney

A Defense of the Moon Knight Accent by a Real Cockney

The Moon Knight trailer is here! Oscar Isaac joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe! He Looks Like Dick Van Dyke's Victorian Chimney Sweep!

Hey? No. Let's back up a bit.

Since the release of the first trailer for Disney Plus' spectacular new superhero series Moon Knight, Disney's answer to Batman, the internet has had a lot of laughs at Oscar Isaac's British accent.

He plays Marc Spector, a supernaturally charged hero with advanced strength, expert combat skills, casual vision, and ties to the moon god Khonshu that cloud his mind and result in dissociative disorder. And, if you are to believe internet audiences, he has one of the worst British accents an American actor has tried on screen in recent times.

Although I don't think that's fair at all. As someone born in the mythically designated listening zone of Bow Bells (at least in terms of what they would have sounded like in quieter London in centuries past), I am the rarest of things: a Londoner forever and gen-u-vin Cockney.

And to my trained ear, Isaac does a good job of pulling off a good London accent. It's what our ears have become accustomed to, and what that accent has come to represent on TV and in the movies, that's the real thing.

Rising and falling accents

I think the biggest problem has to do with the representation of different British accents on our screens, in general. For decades the so-called "RP" has been given a mastered pronunciation, with perfect delivery seen as the best way to represent Britain's best in all their glory. This in itself quickly became a caricature, so a wider range of British accents began to appear, further emphasizing class differences and often using regional accents for comic effect. You have the Artful Dodger Lary Cockney in Oliver Twist, most famously played by Jack Wild. The "Irish scene". A generation of children raised with Scrooge McDuck as their first introduction to a Scottish accent. These stereotypes span decades; no wonder Dick Van Dyke's infamous Mary Poppins fits the mold so easily.

Times have changed, representation has improved, but now there is another issue at stake. The preferred export British accent is now Middle or Northern English: the down-to-earth, humble Stark family heroes of Game of Thrones (I don't know if Kit Harrington is a Londoner, by the way), Vicky McClure and Stephen Graham's transplant in The Line of Duty.

This is England with Stephen Graham and Vicky McClure

(Image credit: Movie 4)

At some point in recent times, perhaps thanks to the excellent work of director Shane Meadows, northern accents have become a staple of our television, representing the working man.

But London accents, outside of Westminster, remain something of a caricature on our screens: the ongoing sagas of Eastenders, the TV docu-drama The Only Way is Essex.

As such, as soon as we hear an accent that isn't RP, that isn't comfortingly Middle England, not Westminster, we're ready to dismiss it as a joke and write it off as Dick Van Dyke Mark II.

Kneeling Mother Moon Knight

But I know people who sound like Oscar Isaac's Moon Knight. The diaspora of East Londoners along the Thames Estuary has given rise to a more diverse collection of accents than we usually see on TV and, in my opinion, the character of Isaac could easily be found on a C2C train between Limehouse in London and the more suburban areas. from Essex. But because we've never had a cockney in a cape and hood before, the instinct is to reflexively jump on him as a joke.

moon knight

(Image credit: Marvel)

The complication here is that, as any Moon Knight fan knows - and be warned, there are minor spoilers ahead - the character turns out to be American, with a derangement that sees him take on other different personalities. It's a get out of jail card for Oscar Isaac - any fluctuations in accent accuracy can be seen as a character struggling with both sides of his identity and, as far as the trailer is concerned, the one that seems to be dealing with a significant amount. of hallucinatory anguish. But still, this London side seems pretty good to me.

So Oscar, if you're reading and fancy a pint with me in a real London bar, let me know, you'll fit right in.