Monday, November 2, 2015

How to learn to love your own voice -- David Thorpe's doc, DO I SOUND GAY?, hits DVD

Trust me: It's not just us gays who don't like the sound of our own voice. Ask anyone what they thought when they first heard the sound of theirs on a recording: They hated it. So right there, that fact should make this new documentary, just out now on DVD, more appealing to mainstream audiences. Everyone can identify with it on one level or another, and in fact, even some straight men may worry that they themselves might (often do) sound gay.

So what does "sounding gay" actually sound like? David Thorpe (shown above, doing vocal exercises), the creator and main subject of the new doc, DO I SOUND GAY?, had recently broken up with his partner and was going through the usual depressed, post-parting period when he began to wonder, rather heavily, if he sounded too gay. So he determined to learn if this was true, and if true, how to sound, well... different. Now, this is tricky territory, for it brings up the very idea of there being something "wrong" with sounding and, by extension, being gay -- not a politically correct attitude for our modern times. Yet, come on: Any gay man who has lived long in our society understands the meaning and use of the "closet," as well as the not exactly uncommon idea that, if you're a guy, you ought to sound, uh... masculine, right?

All this complicates the movie in interesting ways, cutting back and forth between attitudes of gay pride and gay, well, something else. The movie will bring many of us up short about things like self-image and, in fact, the idea of exactly how important "image" is at all. (Just as beauty is so often in the eye of the beholder, how much is image, in this case, in the ear of the listener?) Yes, this doc treads very tricky territory -- so tricky, in fact, that I suspect it could not reach even the large gay audience it hoped to. Too bad, for it has a lot to say that's worth hearing and ruminating over.

To learn about the human voice and the sounds it makes, Thorpe visits everyone from speech pathologists/consultants and acting coaches (esteemed for tutoring actors how not to sound gay) to friends, family and various celebrities the likes of George Takei (two photos above), Margaret Cho, David Sedaris (above) and Dan Savage (below) -- all of whom contribute an interesting "take" on the matter at hand.

If the movie, even at only 77 minutes, at times seems diffuse and a bit repetitive, its subject and the very "unsettlingness" of it should keep you glued and thoughtful. From IFC Films, the documentary hits DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3, for sale and rental.

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