Do I Sound Gay? review: ‘A fascinating subject, but pointless personal quest’
13:03 01 November 2015
Is it possible to de-gay a voice? Obviously not, but the role voice plays in determining character is an interesting subject, says Michael Joyce.
What is the root of homophobia? Maybe it is not the sodomy that enrages straight society, but the longer, clearer vowel sounds and the sibilant Ss. Most people these days have at least a gritted teeth tolerance for acts done between consenting adults, but many still draw the line at effeminacy. (A reversal from the ‘70s when homosexuality wasn’t much tolerated but everybody loved John Inman and Larry Grayson.)
This documentary suggests that the prejudice against camp-sounding, effeminate voices is shared by many gay men. After the break up of a relationship, film-maker David Thorpe decides that his effeminate voice is the problem. Around that time he found himself on a bus full of gay men and describes the hoi-polloi as sounding like “braying ninnies.” So he sets himself the task of making his voice less gay.
The role your voice plays in determining your character is a fascinating one. Thorpe’s film explores various theories about why some gay men have effeminate voices and the place of camp-sounding performers in American culture. The stuff not about Thorpe is interesting. For example, the film examines how in the movies a camp voice was originally linked with being sophisticated and upper class before gradually becoming associated with the sinister and villainous, often through the examples of the sneering villains in Disney animations.
It is less interesting when it goes back to being My Elocution Course. Firstly because phonetics and breathing exercises rarely compel but mostly because there is nothing much resting on Thorpe’s quest and the outcome is inevitable: you know there’s no way the film can end with him successfully de-gaying his voice.
Rating: 2/5 stars