Changing accents: Place, voice and Top of the Lake

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This article examines the role that locality, cultural specificity and authentic voice play within current television industry shifts and transnational developments. Focussing on Top of the Lake, I explore its thematic and aesthetic preoccupation with place, voice and nation by spotlighting issues of accent and vocal in/authenticity, detailing the controversy sparked when US star Elisabeth Moss was cast as New Zealand native, detective Robin Griffin. The adopted Antipodean accent furnished by Moss creates a highly ambivalent foregrounding and re-negotiation of the national within the particularly transnational space of post-broadcast ‘quality’ television. Presenting a ‘sonic spectacle’ (Holliday, Christopher. 2015. “The Accented American: The New Voices of British Stardom on US Television.” Journal of British Cinema and Television 12 (1): 63–82), Moss’ wobbly accent makes audiences doubly aware of the effort being expended to cue regional specificity and locale. In the following discussion, Moss’ vocal crafting in Top of the Lake is linked to the increasing importance given to authentic place and on-location shooting within post-broadcast television, as a means of fostering emotional pull and deep levels of viewer engagement. In Top of the Lake, links between place and authenticity are further interrogated via its self-aware invocation of touristic imagery and desires – made all the more nuanced due to Campion's presence as auteur and New Zealand's role as media-tourism mecca.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-28
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Australasian Cinema
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2018


  • Jane Campion
  • Top of the Lake
  • Media convergence
  • Television
  • Post-Broadcast TV
  • Place
  • voice
  • Authenticity
  • transnational broadcasting

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