Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Film: 'Do I Sound Gay?'

On the slow, laborious ascent of recovery from a miserable, largely bed-ridden week of having succumbed to the seasonal bug (the worst attack in several years this time), I wanted something none too serious and, maybe, a little uplifting for my mood. And this fitted the bill quite nicely, showing at a single-day screening, with the added attraction of being barely one and a quarter hours long. Were I to be subject to a fit of the coughs, sneezes and snifflings which I'm still getting (though decreasing in frequency), in a documentary-type film it I wouldn't matter too much if a temporary absence had been necessary, which it wasn't.

Director David Thorpe (above, with George Takei) having lately split with his boyfriend, finds himself living as a single man with two cats - and, moreover, is now in his forties (Oh, horror of horrors, David! Do tell me what that's like.) With time to muse on his life, which he does extensively to camera, though always interesting, he focuses on one particular aspect of his life, viz his 'gay-sounding voice'. These days one would like to think that it's not a big deal if ones manner of speaking gives an indication of ones sexuality, whether that impression is erroneous or not, though it is a thought-provoking subject. I don't recall myself being concerned about sounding gay in my teenage and later years before I came out of the closet. I didn't think I did anyway - though on hindsight I think I was mistaken. I was more concerned then about giving away my sexuality in how I dressed, walked and unintentionally revealing myself through stereotypically 'campy' body language - that was what I was most nervous of. Of course I'm talking about a time when being known to be gay was about as undesirable as being a known paedophile is now. Everyone will have their own stories of experiences on the subject.

Thorpe interviews relatives, friends and more celebrated personages on their own thoughts, and tries to find out whether his own manner of speaking as a youngster had given himself away before he himself had realised it. There are some very interesting responses from those who grew up close to him.
I was familiar with at least the names of nearly every one of his 'celebrities' (all American), prominent among whom is David Sedaris. He also conducts street interviews in New York and London.

However, lurking behind it all is a feeling of 'so what?' as regards the subject matter. I can see some taking issue with his attempt to eliminate any gay traces in his voice by undergoing sessions with a voice coach. It's not quite clear why he feels he needs to do it. Is he afraid of turning off any new potential partners? Does he fear for future employment prospects? It all seems to be left up in the air and unresolved, but yet his exploring the matter remains entertaining throughout. (A few laughs there were, though not that many - also a couple of brief video extracts showing kids being beaten up just for sounding 'faggoty'.)
He also touches on when films in the 1940s and for several decades onwards used gay-sounding voices as a shorthand for 'evil' (often along with effeminate physical mannerisms - looking more pantomimic than reality). There's also a reference to the way that in Disney animations the same technique is used - hardly conducive to giving children a healthy attitude towards what might be considered to be gay 'mannerisms'. However, this very interesting aspect is not treated with any real depth in this short, snappy film, but it just being addressed at all makes it worthwhile..

Now something very curious has happened on the IMDb site for this film. As I write this, 430 site users have given it an average rating of a mere 4/10, but this is because 47% of these have, apparently, given it a score of just '1', which is patently absurd. (A fairer average would, I think, be around 7 - 7.5). I surmise that someone has picked up on the word 'gay' in the title and tried to sabotage others from supporting the film by, in some little known way, submitting this ridiculous score repeatedly. Another scenario is that a gay person has taken exception with Thorpe for treating this as a worthy subject anyway, and has similarly found a way to blow his particular own opinion out of all statistical proportion. I think if either of these two possibilities has happened, the first is the more likely.
But, I did like it and the score I have submitted on IMDb is........................7.

16 comments:

  1. It sounds interesting, and I think I can get it OnDemand™ on my TV.
    As for those reviews, i'm sure the title alone had some folks just trying to rig the poll.

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    1. You should be able to get it on your TV now, Bob, as I see it was released in America nearly four months ago. I hope you do see it as it's definite food for thought on which everyone will have an opinion.

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  2. Ray, I'm glad that you're on the road to recovery. I was worried about you.

    If nothing else, this film seems to deal with a unique, seldom explored issue.
    First, I must interject a personal opinion: my Hungarian blood boils whenever anyone laments that they're OLD in their 40's. Holy crap, I would sell my soul to be in my 40's again......

    As for sounding and/or appearing to be gay:
    I had an issue with that when I was in my 20's. Although I lived a very active gay lifestyle (privately) I never "announced" that I was gay and always tried to appear as "butch" as possible. It was all an act, of course.

    When I lived in Hollywood I became very streetwise and tried to act (and dress) as crude and tough as possible. People were attracted to my facade. Deep down, however, I was intensely artistic and romantic.

    Hopefully some of this makes sense. I'm rambling as usual.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts re my recovery, Jon, though it's far slower than I'd like. Still, the destination is in sight.

      Yes, I can well understand you you feel when those many years, sometimes decades, younger than us bemoan their 'advanced' age. But I have to admit I was like them at that time too. I think all we can do is to value the present, though that's not easy when we witness our own bodies crumbling around us.

      Like you, I tried to look 'tough' - and only later realised how sad I looked when wearing a leather jacket - just as I can see men around my present age, going on 70, look now, though they also don't realise it. It was told to my face at the time but I refused to listen to them.

      Hope you get to see this film. I've no doubt you'll have strong, maybe explosive reactions, to some of the things said - but it won't be a time-waster.

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  3. There is a study of linguistics and some correlation to being gay. fascinating.

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    1. One of the most interesting things which I haven't mentioned above, Dr Spo, is when Thorpe tries to find out exactly what a 'gay voice' is, if indeed it exists at all, and what are its 'give-away' characteristics. The answers he gets truly are fascinating. I can see this film providing a lot of mileage for the likes of you in your particular area of expertise. You won't regret searching it out.

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  4. Glad you are feeling better. I think I'll find this one and give it a watch. I've never really tried to butch it up or gay it up. I just sound the way I sound.

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  5. Thanks, F.B. That's 'better' as in 'not as bad as before' rather than 'recovered'. Some way to go yet - and, by God, it's a slow process.

    Plenty of food for thought in this film. It's a thought-provoker more than one which provides any answers. But it's most definitely an entertaining watch.

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  6. I am now quite eager (thanks to you) to see this film. Too many gay films seem superficial and trite at best. But as an openly gay man, I want something of substance depicting what it's like to be gay in a straight world. Thanks for reminder...

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    1. At least this film is based in reality, Dylan. Interesting without being polemical, though I'm still just a wee bit confused why David Thorpe makes such an issue of the subject. When I was growing up, because of the associations that we gay men had to cope with. it really was a big deal, nowadays far less so - or that's what I'd like to think, though I do know there are pockets, some of them pretty large pockets, where prejudice remains rife.

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  7. Sorry about the typo: I meant *the* reminder in the last sentence. My fingers are quicker than my brain :)

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    1. No problem, Sir. We're all prone to it.

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  8. So sorry to learn you were under the weather. (We had our flu shots two weeks ago.) I'm very interested in seeing this film. I'm surprised by those IMDB reviews as I've heard and read really good things. Be well, Ray!

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    1. Thanks, Mitch. We're getting there - I'd say about 80% recovered now, but the road back to recovery always seems to be longer than the time laid flat out itself.

      The film will get you thinking, that's for sure - and I'm certain it's not a subject that's been addressed before, so do see.

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  9. Downloaded the documentary. Going to watch it as soon as I can.
    On the list. ;)

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    1. Good, F.S. You should like it - and it's a subject that is very rarely addressed so that alone makes it interesting enough to watch.

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