EDITORIALS

Do You Want Female Voiceovers for Trailers?

by
November 11, 2008
Source: Variety

Female Microphone

Variety has run an interesting industry piece that has got me thinking - should we have more women do voiceovers for trailers? The story is timely enough, considering that the voice talent in the industry, Don LaFontaine, passed away a few months ago. Before LaFontaine passed, he commented on this exact subject, saying "I think women are vastly underrepresented in this area. You'd think that for films directly aimed at women, chick flicks, the logical choice would be for a woman to narrate the trailer. But studios hold focus groups and the people in them, women included, seem to prefer the male voice." So with "change" being the name of the game this year, is it time women break down the movie trailer patriarchy?

Like it or not, the heavy, gravely male voice imparting us the premise to a movie is a cinematic tradition, not unlike popcorn or velvet seats. Whether it's LaFontaine or another baritone, the experience is one that we as movie fans certainly come to expect and probably actually enjoy (I certainly do). So is there any reason to change this part of the industry? Variety cites one example where most feel a female voiceover worked - in 2000's Gone in 60 Seconds. While I don't think that instance is completely a turn-off, it's definitely one that come across as jarring and ill-fitting. Again, a lot of this has to do with convention and expectation. As Michael Camp of 20th Century Fox says, "audiences, including females, are so used to hearing a male voice that when they hear a female voice they think something is wrong. The public is finicky, and it takes them a while to trust voices they aren't used to hearing."

But tradition aside, are female voices suited for most movies? Reflexively, the answer most might give is "it depends." I have a hard time imagining hearing a female voice on the trailer of, say, The Dark Knight; maybe a Pixar production or an out-and-out comedy, but not a badass action flick or anything in the fanboy category. Romantic comedies could prove viable - though you'd risk alienating male participants even more - and films targeted solely at women (e.g. Sex and the City, The Women). My perspective might be wrong, however. Oddly enough, talent manager Jason Marks told Variety that "the few movies that women have worked on tend to be the high-testosterone movies." I have hard time believing that.

I certainly don't have a problem with women participating in this arena for the sake of their gender. I simply feel it might change the cinematic experience unduly. And let's be honest, male and female voices (like it or not) are each particularly suited for certain situations. I can't remember the last time I heard a male's voice asking me to board the metro or thanking me for staying on hold. And as a huge fan of sci-fi, I can say that women seem to at least have a monopoly over the voices of computers - you know, those times when the ship is going to self-destruct. Joking aside, Variety's piece is thought-provoking, but I don't see any reason why this aspect of the industry should change. You know what they say about things that aren't broke. What do you think?

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  • The Whom
    Variety is wasting their pages discussing the gender gap in movie trailer narration? Wow, and I thought I was bored.
  • Dexter
    That's a really interesting point of view. I personally wouldn't mind at all to hear a female voice-over in some specific genre of movie like animation, romantic comedy or even in documentaries. As long as they keep them separated with movies with dark theme, horrors etc. However, hearing a female voice for movies like Saw would be awkward.
  • Vole
    Better to have no voice-overs on trailers. But if we have to have them then I'd rather have a range of female voices than the same male voice on every single trailer.
  • Diego
    All you're going to get with a female is the typical "computerized english-accent female" voiceover. It would be a nice change but everytime a female does a voiceover in any movie it ends up sounding like the computer voice in a Star Trek movie or something.
  • Calvin
    "women are stupid and i don't respect them, i just have sex with them." -jon lajoie
  • Kail
    I wouldn't want a Valley Girl voice doing something like Die Hard, but if it fits with the movie just like Gone in 60 Seconds did then I'm all for it, I mean c'mon, the Hitchiker's Guide to the Universe trailer had it right, it's too cliche to have a guy who sounds like he spent his whole life smoking cigarettes do a voice over, and especially when he says "In a world where x knows no bounds" or something rediculous like that
  • Q
    I think trailers are vastly superior with no voiceovers at all.
  • Darren
    the commercial for death race had a females voice
  • dacfan
    Who cares about this topic? Anyone?
  • Chris Taylor
    Holy Sh!t, we're in the 21st century and we're discussing wether a woman can do a man's job? OMG, what's next, a person of color in the White House? As if discussing Hollywood wasn't trivial enough...
  • Gilbert Gottfried should take over.
  • Slow news week. It is an intresting topic, but I don't care for voice-overs as much as words across the screen. #11's comment cracked me up :)
  • Schadenfreude
    Cate Blanchett's voiceovers in the Lord of the Rings movies never fail to give me goosebumps. I'd love to hear more female voiceovers.
  • I don't even remmeber The Dark Knight's trailers having any voiceovers. Maybe I was just blown away by the visuals.
  • Hi there, I happen to think that there is a place for female voices in theatrical trailers. Melissa Disney has proven that this niche in voice over isn't off limits for women. Don LaFontaine was a friend of mine and he did fondly wish for women to take on a more progressive role in the industry and be recognized for their talent. To many of your readers, this topic is of little interest, but to the voice acting community, it is a greatly debated topic and the time is now to reevaluate the past and make changes to impact the future and how this aspect of our industry operates. Just yesterday, I wrote an article which was partially inspired by the Variety.com article. You can read it here. There is some lively debate from male and female voice actors on the subject if you would like to see perspectives given by those who actually do this work. http://blogs.voices.com/voxdaily/2008/11/in_a_world_where_women_narrate_movie_trailers.html Looking forward to any follow up commentary on this article. Best wishes, Stephanie Ciccarelli Co-founder of Voices.com
  • Can't they just feed the trailerman voice into a computer and have that do the trailers forever?
  • werdnafaz
    lol @ this topic
  • I am chiming in way after this article ran. Here it goes. I think women can do anything the men can do in the field of voice-overs. I await the day when we can sit in the theatre and hear a female trailer voice along side a trailer with a male voice and we won't think anything of it. That is where women belong right alongside the male voices that tease us in Network promo as well as feature films. break a lip! Randy

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