Contrary to public belief, Dr. Brenner’s weird accent isn’t bad acting — instead, it could be a major hint for the suspect scientist’s origins and motivations.
In the Netflix original series Stranger Things, Matthew Modine plays Dr. Martin Brenner, a scientist involved in the show’s seriously shady MK Ultra plot. Though Modine has no discernible accent outside of the show, his dialect was so convincing that it has people questioning whether or not they’re missing something. And they just might be.
Modine responded to a fan’s tweet expressing some doubt as to whether or not the accent was real or not chalked it up to a “secret past.”
And science says that there’s a better than good chance that he could be telling the truth.
Accents are internalized and developed long before we speak our first words. The sounds and speech patterns that we hear from our parents and anyone else we’re exposed to with relative frequency have an impact on the way that we shape words and sounds. It doesn’t just apply to words, either. A study published in Speech, Language and Hearing found that infants who were about a week old had different crying patterns and habits depending on the languages spoken around them.
Patricia Kuhl, the director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Learning at the University of Washington, told Smithsonian, “Our research shows that a kernel of that pattern of speaking begins to form in the brain well before actual production of speech. And by the time the baby’s first words do come, those distinctive characteristics are solidly in place.”
Theoretically, if Modine was exposed to someone with a similar dialect to his character on Stranger Things, it could’ve given him a leg up when it came to speech pattern and correct pronunciation. Science says that if you want to be an accent ace, the best thing you can do is start young — really, really young.