British stereotypes can be found all over pop culture. But just because British tropes saturate movies and TV shows, that doesn't mean that there is much truth to them. So, where did these tropes come from, and how has pop culture shaped what people believe about Great Britain?
Most tropes - like stereotypes about villains with British accents or other British accent tropes - are just plain wrong. Some, however, may have grown from a kernel of historical truth but no longer reflect reality, like that common trope about British teeth.
But true or false, exaggerated or made up, these ridiculous tropes continue to shape and reflect what people imagine about British society and culture.
- Photo: Ted Lasso / Apple TV+1
If They Have A Pulse, They Are Drinking 'A Spot Of Tea'
The Trope: If characters have to solve a problem, someone always has to put the kettle on to make tea.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Tea has been popular in Great Britain ever since it started to gain traction as a fashionable beverage in the late 17th century, and it's a love story entangled with class and empire. As the BBC reported, Britons indulged in no less than "60 billion cups of tea" in 2016, though the popularity of black tea seems to be waning.
Notable Offenders: Ted Lasso; Call the Midwife; Dunkirk; Doctor Who; All Creatures Great and Small987Seen this a lot?
- Photo: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery / New Line Cinema2
Brits Undoubtedly Have Terrible Dental Hygiene
The Trope: If the character is British, then chances are good that their teeth will be in a terrible state.
Why Is It Inaccurate? British teeth have been the butt of jokes for decades. But these jokes are not reflective of what British mouths are like today.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, dental problems were relatively common simply because sugar had become so prevalent in the British diet.
When the National Health Service (NHS) began in 1948, it made healthcare more accessible - including dental care. Millions of Britons took advantage of the new program and flooded into dentist offices around the country. That hasn't really stopped. More Britons regularly see a dentist than their American counterparts.
But dental priorities are a little different in the UK. There's less emphasis on cosmetic dentistry in the UK than in the United States. Britons are content with clean, healthy teeth, rather than perfect ones.
Notable Offenders: Austin Powers; The Simpsons10817Seen this a lot?
- Photo: The Dark Knight / Warner Bros. Pictures3
No Matter Where A Wealthy Family May Live, Their Butler Will Always Be British
The Trope: If a family employs a butler, he almost always comes with a British accent.
Why Is It Inaccurate? Butlers have always hailed from a variety of backgrounds - not all butlers are British.
The trope of the British butler harkens back to the age of country-house culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, when elite families employed domestic staffs on their sprawling estates. The status of the British butler was further cemented in the character Jeeves, the iconic valet at the heart of P.G. Wodehouse's stories.
This trope has become so pervasive that it's become fashionable for Chinese and Russian elites to hire British butlers.
Notable Offenders: Mr. Belvedere; Batman comics and films; Big Hero 6; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air717Seen this a lot?
- Photo: Notting Hill / Universal Pictures4
The Country Is Filled With Overly Stuffy And Emotionally Conservative People
The Trope: British people have a stiff upper lip, and there is nothing worse than showing any hint of human emotion.
Why Is It Inaccurate? The British are people, too. If you prick them, they bleed. Some of them even have a good cry once every decade or so.
The trope of British reserve is a historical phenomenon, even as the country has self-mythologized its restraint and politeness in contrast to continental emotionality for centuries. This image reached its zenith during WWII, when it fed into the trope of the Blitz spirit, a can-do attitude where everyone kept calm and carried on even though many people who lived through the experience remembered it in considerably darker terms.
In contrast to the image of the stiff upper lip, emotion can be found everywhere in British culture: in the shrieks of teenagers afflicted with Beatlemania in the 1960s, in the bawdy jokes that have been a mainstay of British comedy for centuries, or in the public grief that consumed the nation in the wake of Princess Diana's passing in 1997.
Notable Offenders: Notting Hill; Dunkirk; The King's Speech; every James Bond installment7412Seen this a lot?