The highlight of a lot of mediocre movies ("Over Her Dead Body," "What Happens in Vegas," "It's Complicated," "No Strings Attached"), Lake Bell finally gets the starring role she deserves in "In A World ..."
Considering how few leading parts for women are out there, it's obviously notable that the 34-year-old actress (who appears on and occasionally directs episodes of Adult Swim's hilarious "Children's Hospital") also wrote and directed the film, opening Friday. "In A World ..." similarly covers a character trying to vault herself into uncharted territory as Carol (Bell) competes to defy the male-driven movie industry and become a well-known voiceover artist for trailers.
At Rebar in the Trump Hotel, Bell (who won a screenwriting award for the film at Sundance) talked about vocal trends, her reluctance to hate on the Kardashians and differentiating which commercials should be open to both genders for voiceovers.
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You've talked a lot about the unsettling vocal trend of women speaking in a "sexy baby" voice. Are there other vocal trends that we've had before?
Absolutely. For instance, I always think of Marilyn Monroe during her time, where [Marilyn Monroe voice], "Uhh, Mr. President ..." That kind of super-breathy, sexy jim-jam [Laughs] was the vocal trend of that time.
I think jim-jam is the scientific term for it.
That is clinical.
You are a doctor.
I am a professional doctor. Not just a doctor, but a professional one. [Laughs] So I always felt like Marilyn Monroe had a vocal trend on her hand, and all the aspiring ingenue of that time tried to at least take on that affectation but didn't do it as successfully, and it wasn't as rampant because obviously media and the way that things are viral now, if there's a handful of girls who are doing or expressing this vocal trend then it's rampant. Especially if it’s on reality television, which is so deeply popular.
Is that why you think more people don’t have a problem with it? Because they don’t realize it’s a problem?
You know, there are other vocal trends for sure. There was a moment where everyone was talking about mumbling. I talked to older generations about this because you gotta talk to everybody about [things], and you can talk to an older generation and hear them express concern that the youth of today don’t have to be as articulate A. but B. actually enunciate as well as another time. Even if you hear movies of a different time, (talks like clearly enunciating, old-time movie stars) “People talked a certain way and they had a certain cadence and a way of speaking.”
It is pretty fun to talk like that.
It is fun, but that’s a trend of that time ... and sometimes it manifests itself in just a word, like when “like” first came on the scene. Or another way of expressing ourselves in cadence or in musicality or in (talks in baby voice) up-talking (back to regular voice) or whatever it is. And also within subgroupings and communities, for instance in a homosexual community, the gentlemen in that community would take on a certain lisp or semblance to show maybe other members of that community, “Hey, I’m a part of this group.” Which I think is a more honborable way to use a vocal trend. It’s to say, “Hey, I’m a part of this thinking and this way of living my life. This is my sexual preference, and I’m using voice to show it.” I think that is the most honorable way to use it. [Laughs]
If the Kardashians were to do a voiceover for a commercial, what would the product be?
It's difficult because I am not a hater, I'm a lover. The concept of "It" girl is so interesting and sort of brilliant to me because it's making something out of utter nothing. So I don't want to hate on the Kardashians. [Laughs]
I know, but they're certainly guilty of that voice.
They definitely have a tinge of the vocal trend. That said, it is only a testament to their influence in our society that their voice is a reference for young women.
I wonder how much people think about the world of voiceover and pay attention to that kind of thing. I notice that John Corbett is the voice of both Applebee's and Walgreens. To me that is confusing.
Some people notice it, and I would say the majority of people don't notice it, and I think that's why it's such a powerful medium. As I say in the movie at one moment, it's really cool to think that there are these omniscient, disembodied voices telling us what to think and how to feel and what to buy and what bank to trust and what car to have and what's cool, what movie to see ...
Off of that, are there some products that it wouldn't make sense to make a change as far as who's doing the voiceover? What would the impact be if there were surprising inversions? For example, if a woman did voiceover for prostate medication, and the same thing for a female product.
That's what I'm talking about with a female voice being the omniscient voice of the "In a World ..." kind of scenario, where you're playing the voice of God. And so for a woman to play the voice of God is inherently the most controversial conversation. But you're right: To have a man do a tampon commercial would feel somewhat disjointed, but that's because usually voiceover, the voiceover actor or presence, is talking to the very person who they want to be listening. So if it's for tampons, it's likely going to be a woman. That said, there is middle ground. The Emmys and the Oscars for instance, they have actually a female voice who announces the names.
Everyone likes pizza; there's no reason Domino's can't use a woman.
Absolutely. I mean, pizza, let's be honest: it's one of the great things in the world.