As the lights dim leisurely, as you reach for your second handful of perfectly salted popcorn, as you are beseeched, repeatedly, to please silence your phones – you hear his familiar intonations greet your ears hello.
And yet, why is the narrator always a he?
The trailer for Lake Bell’s In A World… is finally out (we’ve been excited about this for a while; refer back to 10 Must-See Lady-Friendly Summer Flicks)! The movie, which the multitalented Bell wrote and directed, explores why film preview voice-overs are perpetually male.
Bell also stars as the captivating protagonist, Carol Soloman, a struggling voice coach (whose clientele include the likes of Eva Longoria, appearing as herself). Her secret dream is to become a voice-over star, but it’s one she’s never articulated, as her father reigns as the voice-over king, the patriarch of a firmly heteronormative industry. But then – Carol lands her first voice-over gig, which leads her to become “entangled in a web of dysfunction, sexism, unmitigated ego, and pride.”
The supporting cast is nothing short of brilliant: Nick Offerman of Parks & Recreation, comedian Demetri Martin, and Thelma & Louise’s Geena Davis are only some of the impressive names.
In a Yahoo! Movies interview, Bell speaks of her inspiration for the film: “The male voice is just deemed, ‘the omniscient voice,’ whether it’s because we coin god as a He, and it could [be] that sort of culturally significant, or it’s just literally the resonance is easier and more authoritative to hear. Which both are interesting conversations, and ones that I wanted to explore in the movie. It’s naturally fodder for comedy, because obviously hearing a bunch of people taking on these omniscient, important, authoritative sounds while their personal lives are perhaps less perfectly tuned is an interesting place to start for comedy.”
Of course, In A World… looks falling-out-of-your-cushy-theatre-seat funny, but the film also addresses relevant and feminist issues, which makes it even more essential to watch.
Bell says of voice acting, “I love the idea that you aren’t judged by what you look like, but you can literally take on any social group or age or gender – so you have this beautiful tool that you can manipulate and play with and express yourself with.” As demonstrated by the end of the trailer, which shows Soloman mimicking back an exaggerated “girly” voice to an unsuspecting character, it’s clear that Bell’s flick analyzes the power of voice, and how this faculty is relentlessly gendered.
She’s referencing vocal fry: the speech pattern, most evidenced in young women, that involves letting the ends of phrases ride low in the vocal register. Bell laments the vocal “pandemic of sexy baby talk that girls take on…it’s rampant and it’s such a shame because the voice is such a profound tool for communication and how you are perceived.” However, as BUST wrote last winter, should women be catering to the way that men perceive their voices by trying to fit into established speech protocols, or should they instead embrace new vocal patterns, which are “hip among young, career-minded women,” because it means that females are setting the tone in public discourse?
If Bell’s trailer is raising such thought-provoking questions about vocal power and gender, we certainly can’t wait for the actual film – both for its provocative commentary and its hilarious hijinks.
Photos via Yahoo! Movies, LA Times, Zimbio, Sundance