Before you start reading this masterpiece, check out this Yahoo story I came across the other day. It might at first seem like a critique on a seemingly sexist Hollywood practice, but it is actually just an article promoting an upcoming comedy. So, go ahead and read it… I’ll eat this doughnut here…
Okay, welcome back! So hopefully you read all that and watched the trailer. From the title of the article I was hoping to read some sort of analysis as to why it seems that only men are the narrators, or “voice-overs”, for all the movie trailers we see today. With action flicks it is usually a lower, baritone voice meant to instill power or a serious tone. With comedies it is more upbeat and spoken as if with a smile. But with nearly all, it is a male voice.
Why is that? Consider also the fact that most computerized voices are female and that scientific studies show that people find a female’s voice more pleasing than a man’s. So what gives? Why has the movie industry not followed suit with Apple’s “Siri” and many GPS navigational devices? They must be sexist, right?
As one CNN article argues, look no further than Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Oddysey for your answer! HAL in that film set the stage for masculine computerized voices to come off as menacing, authoritative and even bossy. Contrast that with a female computerized voice, which sounds more gentle, suggestive and subservient.
Whatever the reason in the technology world, the question remains, why are most movie voice-overs done by males? I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, when I hear a strong male voice I think of authoritative power and a sureness of confidence about what is being said. When I hear a woman’s voice I think more of a friendliness or a gentle and suggestive tone to the message. Maybe that’s my own environmental bias coming out. It could certainly be true that the opposite were the norm to other people. I also don’t mean to say that a woman’s voice carries zero authority, or that a man’s voice is not friendly.
Another way this plays itself out for me is in reading scripture. When I read passages where God is speaking, a male voice is booming in my head. Is that triggered in my mind for some socially constructed reason? Or do I, along with many or most other people, inherently assign a male voice to one with the authority and power that God has? Or is it because scripture repeatedly refers to God as “He”. Who knows. Maybe it’s a bit of both. It is however an interesting trend in entertainment and one I’m sure you’ll take note of next time you’re sitting through trailers before the movie you’re seeing. I’d be interested to hear from some of the ladies in our audience. What do you think, why are most voice-overs in Hollywood done by men?
Whatever you’re answer, I’m sure we can all agree that we love hearing this guy introduce a movie to us. RIP Don Lafontaine. In fact, maybe he’s to blame for this whole problem in the first place!