From Hollywood to Holyrood – Scotland in film

So you’re coming to Scotland. January 25th is Burns Night, in which some will likely crack out the poetry, the tartan and a big pot of haggis to celebrate, while everyone else seizes yet another opportunity to get typically shit-faced. As the one day of the year devoted to embracing each and every stereotype possible, Burns Night is the one occasion in which Scotland might actually resemble Hollywood’s perception of it.

Everyone and their Loch Ness Monster knows that Highlander, Braveheart and Trainspotting are set in Scotland, however there is more to this wet country than immortal struggles, rubbish accents and devastating drug addiction – honest. Scotland and Scottish culture have in fact appeared with surprising regularity in Hollywood fare, though I’m not quite sure what their film choices say about us. Here to present some of Hollywood’s more outlandish portrayals, I shall act as your guide to all things stereotyped. So, this Burns Night, why not postpone the hangover, crack out the stovies, chill the Irn Bru, and embrace my cinematic guide to Scotland-town.

Mamma Mia! – Everyone – including James Bond – plays the bagpipes.

While Glasgow is only mentioned briefly in Abba’s hit ‘Super Trouper’, this clearly proved sufficient excuse for script-writer Catherine Johnson to shoehorn Scotland into Pierce Brosnan’s backstory. It was with befuddlement, and a face-devouring cringe, that Meryl Streep winds up hugging a set of Pierce Brosnan’s bagpipes. Relegated to weddings, cèilidhs and other formalities, bagpipes are trusted only to those who will not exploit their noise making potential – not acquired by American tourists and taken to Kalokairi for a holiday fling. S.O.S indeed.

G.I. Joe – Bring a translator, we all speak Scots.

As if Stephen Sommer’s G. I. Joe wasn’t preposterous enough, Christopher Eccleston’s resident evil heroically manages to kick you hardest in your tender suspension of disbelief. Spouting debatable Scots phrases like never – literally, never – before, his character even goes so far as programming his weapons systems in the otherwise extinct language of Scottish Gaelic. Despite the fact that NEDS is to be dubbed across the pond, English is good enough for us too. However, just in case you find yourself in a burning building one hundred years ago, it’s ‘takhin’ – apparently.

Made of Honour – Bring a kilt, or you’ll have to dress from the lost property box.

Travelling all the way to Scotland to win back the love of his life, Patrick Dempsey soon lands himself in the annual Highland Games. Required to play tug-of-war (?) dressed in the most ridiculous looking kilt possible, Dempsey’s character clearly underestimates the phone signal achievable outside Seattle Grace Hospital – we’re not all on 3G you know. Sporting an inexplicable mini-kilt and losing out to his prize’s current Scottish boyfriend (what, they had to be realistic), director Paul Weiland couldn’t go five minutes without decking the halls in tartan.

So I Married an Axe Murderer – Embrace the haggis or you might die alone.

Holed up in the Robert Burns Suite for their honeymoon, Charlie McKenzie and Harriet Michaels met over their mutual love of haggis. Although Scotland has armed Mike Myers with a series of one accent, it has given more to the world than a series of accented caricatures. Having provided Hollywood with an ogre (Shrek), a cross-dressing nanny (Mrs. Doubtfire), a historical misrepresentation (Braveheart), a cantankerous grounds-keeper (The Simpsons Movie), half a schizophrenic Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland), a fat bastard (Austin Powers), and a talking dragon (Dragonheart), Scotland has also given the world one hell of a national dish. Although it might sound about as appetising as a deep-fried Mars bad, haggis is almost as delicious.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Our muggle repelling charms are the bee’s knees.

Located not far from Dufftown, there is little reminder in the movies that Hogwarts is situated in Scotland – save resident Scots Minerva McGonagall and Cho Chang (she gets the Hogwarts Express from London why exactly?) at least. However, the traditional British boarding school undoubtedly holds little resemblance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, save perhaps the tiresome obsession with team sport.

Hellboy – When we’re not burning Nicholas Cage in a badly rebooted Wicker Man, we’re opening interdimensional portals for Hitler.

As Hellboy arrives through Rasputin’s interdimensional portal, a small platoon of Allies set about engaging the alien-worshipping Nazis. The Scottish Nationalist Party aside, Scotland is about as liberal as it gets. With national independence proving about as popular as England football team, you are no more likely to stumble across a demon-worshipping Nazi outpost than living-stereotype-come-deserter Sean Connery. That said, the surrounding islands have earned somewhat of a bad reputation – when we’re not setting Cage’s wig alight anyway.

The Day After Tomorrow – You’re going to freeze to death, bring a library.

Apparently without a landmark worthy of one of MICHAEL BAY’s precious explosions, it was left to Roland Emmerich to finally wipe Scotland off the map. As Jake Gyllenhaal vandalises New York Public Library, Professor Terry Rapson mourns the blizzard-induced death of the Queen – and the planet as a hole – in a small dingy office aptly subtitled ‘Scotland’. While we usually lose the battle of degrees to England, a coat will usually suffice – the difference of a few centigrade unlikely to down your helicopter. Should nature ever decide to throw in the towel and rain all over physics’ parade, however, where better to call it a life than the Hedland Climate Research Centre with Ian Holm’s resident Climate Control Specialist?

Dog Soldiers – Forget your silver letter opener at your own peril.

Before inflicting a deadly virus on Scotland for 2008’s Doomsday, Neil Marshall tested the water with a slight outbreak of lycanthropy. Most likely straying a little too close to the Forbidden Forest for comfort, a platoon of soldiers supposedly on a training exercise find themselves besieged by werewolves. Nature’s void, it is unlikely that Britain might ever contain an animal as interesting as the garden-variety werewolf. I’m afraid that you will have to make do with a squirrel, a fox and a disappointingly empty loch.

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