Documentary Review: ‘Do I Sound Gay?’

In a new documentary, director David Thorpe asked the self-reflecting question “Do I Sound Gay?” Along with celebrity commentators, including Tim Gunn, Margaret Cho, and George Takei, this intriguing and insightful documentary explores the stereotypical “gay voice”, its cultural influences, its structure, and subsequent perceptions to which it may be related.

Thorpe spends part of the movie visiting with speech therapists to investigate why he “sounds” gay and seek advice for how to sound “normal”. These segments include a variety of visuals or anecdotes; like when they talk about the voice level increasing vs. decreasing at certain points of a sentence, the words will appear on screen and the word that changes octaves will move in the direction that they are speaking which typically distinguishes “gay” from “straight”.

Commentary is included about possible cultural influences of the “gay voice”. One hypothesis is that gay children would idolize and try to emulate certain “prim and proper” characters on old television programs (like a butler). Or they would try to hide the fact that they are gay by altering their voice at an early age.

There is humor, though Thorpe’s search was brought about by a recent breakup and it sometimes seems that he didn’t take the breakup well. Aside from that, it still isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are some clips that are disturbing to watch, one of which shows a gay grade-school kid getting beat up (this clip includes a warning). There is also some censored gay porn included with commentary on how the actors in those films talk (this could be disturbing or humorous to the audience).

Do I Sound Gay? is an interesting documentary with some insightful explorations into a stereotypical aspect of our culture. With equality becoming more and more accepted, this might be the perfect time for these types of explorations.

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