There’s a good reason that Kevin Spacey’s Southern accent in the Netflix hit House of Cards sounds wrong to people who actually live in the South — because it is, according to Vox.
As the video notes, Spacey grew up in southern California, not South Carolina, where the show’s fictional “Frank Underwood” hails.
Spacey engages in what linguists call “r-dropping” or “non-rhotic speech,” in which “r”s that appear near or at the ends of words are dropped. It is associated both with the famous New York (“New Yawk”) and Boston accents, as well as the genteel accent affected by many white Southerns after the Civil War.
As the video explains, “r-dropping” is no longer a feature of upper-class white Southern dialect, as a clip of Lindsay Graham — whose “r”s are not dropped, but who is from a similar area of South Carolina as the fictional Underwood — demonstrates.
The real feature of white Southern dialect — the one that actors should be using going forward — is called “ay-ungliding,” in which the “i” sound in words like “ride” and “mile” sound more like “ah.”
The video concludes by demonstrating when, specifically, such vowel sounds occur in Southern speech.
Watch the entire video via Vox on YouTube below.