Do I Sound Gay?

July 10th, 2015


Do I Sound Gay?

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An upcoming documentary about the stereotype of the "gay voice".

Release Year: 2014

Rating: 3.7/10 (122 voted)

Critic's Score: /100

Director: David Thorpe

Stars: David Thorpe, George Takei, Tim Gunn

An upcoming documentary about the stereotype of the "gay voice".

Margaret Cho - Herself
Tim Gunn - Himself
Dan Savage - Himself
David Sedaris - Himself
George Takei - Himself
David Thorpe - Himself


Official Website: Official Site

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Date: 10 July 2015

Technical Specs


User Review


Rating: 7/10

In order to get it out of the way I should first begin with a declaration. David Thorpe is a distant relative which is how I got directed to Do I Sound Gay? The film, by the first-time director, premiered yesterday at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of its Mavericks program. It was scheduled for the coveted first weekend which is indicative of TIFF's high opinion of the feature. The film was funded via a Kickstarter campaign as recently as this spring.

Following a break-up with his boyfriend, David Thorpe loses some self-confidence, which translates into worrying more about sounding gay. Was this one of the causes of the breakup? We do not know. In the course of some ninety minutes he recruits voice coaches, linguists, class-mates, celebrities, family and even gay passers-by to both explore the topic and perhaps find assurance and solace in the experience of others. The film is half autobiography half documentary. It explores the gay vocal sound in the context of society in general and the entertainment industry in particular.

Incidentally, as far as documentaries go Do I Sound Gay? is more Roger & Me and less The Grace Lee Project. The director is on camera for most of the film as opposed to behind it.

The subject matter is clearly more upsetting to the writer-director than he cares to explicitly admit. This is inferred amidst the abundant comedy, jovial remarks and celebrity interviews. Nevertheless, there are quite a few moments of hilarity and laugh-out-loud scenes peppered throughout the film. One sees Thorpe's cats, Bruno (oh, come on!) and Rocket, Hello Kitty merchandise in his apartment and stereotyped gay humour displayed. Then there are classic Hollywood vignettes depicted as not so subtle gay scenes. Family members and old friends recall a young David and their impressions before we find out that Thorpe had a liberating coming out during his first year of college. There are many funny or heartwarming bits; alas by necessity serious instances are also present as with the teenager who was bullied and beaten up at school for sounding and being gay.

As mentioned the subject matter was prompted following a breakup with a boyfriend, but does the film provide for a seamless or convincing segue from this point unto the theme's exploration? Not really, as the subject takes a valid and independent life of its own. The breakup and the boyfriend may be personally relevant to the film maker, but not so content or audience-wise. How it translates to attention to the gay voice is personal to the man. Being single and alone in his 40s manifests as piling onto an existing feeling of inferiority. With the opening assumption being the notion that a "gay voice" is negative and contributes to the existing self-conscious nature of the man, Thorpe begins meeting with and practicing with coaches and recordings to become less gay sounding identified as accentuated s's, higher pitches, elongated enunciations, et cetra. At some point one coach offers that leaders go high with the first syllable of a word before dropping lower. Thorpe is seen exercising his voice throughout the film all the while discussing the same with the aforementioned. Speaking of which, celebrities such as comedienne Margaret Cho, CNN reporter and anchor Don Lemon, columnist Dan Savage and actor-cum-activist George Takei are several of the names on camera. In the subsequent Q&A at the premiere someone wondered if there were gay celebrities who were contacted and did not respond. CNN's Anderson Cooper was brought up as an enquiry before Dan Savage light-heartedly interjected with a "Tom Cruise never called you back," which had the audience laughing. For the record, Thorpe was polite/adamant that he does not remember anyone being non-responsive, but assumes anyone who might not have called him back was probably too busy or likely had not received his message.

So, per Do I Sound Gay?, is there a gay voice? Yes and no. It is not an absolute indicator and exceptions and extremes exist. The film does not deny its existence. However, as Thorpe and the film progress in their exploration they conclude that the voice, sound and enunciation should not be matters for anxiety. With the increased self-confidence comes the message that the sound comes from within. One is who he is and one's body is he as well. Why be uncomfortable with it? The point was emphasized at the panel as well. In fact, Thorpe plainly called the title a political slogan. The gay voice is not a negative! The hunt and the laughter in the film made for an entertaining and simultaneously informative viewing.

Several personal points may be of interest. First, it is good to live in a world where homophobia (this word or the words 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' are curiously shut out from the film) has been pushed back to some extent and film makers can move on to more nuanced topics and considerations. The world (here anyway) has somewhat moved forward from closeted difficulty. Secondly, and personally, it is hoped that gay voices rise to defend and support other oppressed or suppressed minorities. We are all devalued when we only care inwardly. Gay voices for Palestine, Aboriginals supporting Ukraine, Muslims for LGBT, ALS spouses for cancer patients, et cetra et cetra et cetra are mere examples of how we would build a beautiful world. These may require teaming up with members of the affected communities to give them voices and leverage their intimate knowledge of the subject, but it is even more precious when communities with no personal stake stand up for others.


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