4.1 Queer Eye
Television offers a wide range of programmes and genres; currently, most of them include a variety of characters who belong to different spheres of society, and who are of different races and sexualities. Nevertheless, reality TV “[is] more conducive to introducing homosexuality into the mainstream” (Barnes-Brus 2005, 22), yet they also help the propagation of stereotypes. Queer Eye, released in 2018 in the streaming platform Netflix, is an American reality television series directed by David Collins. It is a reboot of a TV show with the same name and director; the first version was released in 2003. Both versions share the same characteristics; the only change is that the 2018 series feature five new hosts who, as the original ones, are also homosexuals. The objective of the program is to help people improve their lifestyles by changing negative habits and mindsets. The hosts, who are also known as the Fab Five, are in charge of the makeovers; they provide advice regarding different areas of the individual’s life, helping them see a more positive outcome.
10 Even though the program has a positive concept, it promotes gay stereotypes in its original version as well as in the translated one. Although our analysis is going to be centred on the voices of the hosts in the source and target language, it is worth mentioning some aspects of their professional life. The Fab Five are all experts of different professions: Antoni Porowski is a food and wine extraordinaire; Tan France is a fashion designer; Karamo Brown is a culture and lifestyle extraordinaire; Bobby Berk is an interior designer, and Jonathan Van Ness is a hairdresser and grooming expert. Clearly, they all work in professions that are stereotypical of gay men (Keller, 2004), especially, Jonathan Van Ness. As it was stated before, many professions are associated, with being effeminate; therefore, they are not expected to be the professions of masculine men (Fasoli, Mazzurega, and Sulpizzio, 2017).
When analysing their voices, this situation will play a big role in the voices that substitute their original ones. To a certain extent, some of the characteristics of their voiceover is linked to their profession and their performance as hosts.
Because of the length of this dissertation, we will only analyse some of the episodes of this reality television program. From a general view, there is an obvious differentiation between the hosts. As it can be expected, not all of them have the same personalities; Antoni, Karamo, Tan and Bobby have more of a relaxed and easy-going personality. Regarding their looks, they have short hair, and they all dress in a masculine way. They wear jeans, t-shirts, shirts, and jumpers. On the other hand, Jonathan outstands because of his personality, appearance, and clothing. He is a long-haired extrovert who likes dressing in challenging ways; he wears skirts, dresses, crop tops, and sometimes he wears heels. In addition to this, he is a hairdresser, which is a profession that is not associated with being masculine. In the original version, all these aspects are not of much relevance because they are in control of their own characterisation. However, the voices in the translated version vary considerably because of these features. In the source language (English), regardless of their looks, professions, and personalities, the pitch of their own voices can be defined as low.
Conversely, in the Spanish voiceover, whereas four of the hosts maintain a voice similar to the original, Jonathan’s pitch is altered; his voice is high pitched, and his intonation holds a cheerful and careless tone.
As the translation is made through voiceover, the viewer is able to listen to the original soundtrack. Therefore, the difference in voices is clear from the first episode of the first season. There, Jonathan presents himself without hiding his identity or personality. When he addresses the first person they are helping (also known as hero), he does it in a very energetic way, making gestures and facial expressions. In the original soundtrack, despite using an
11 extravagant vocabulary, his tone is rather low, not high. Moreover, his intonation varies depending on the situation. As it was explained, intonation expresses emotion. Therefore, when he meets the hero of that episode, his intonation shows eagerness; he is excited to know about his lifestyle. Then, when he advices the hero on his area of expertise (hairdressing), he sounds attentive; he wants to provide his best recommendations. Contrary to this, in the target language, Jonathan’s voice sounds different. His new voice matches with the stereotype.
Being outgoing, a male homosexual, and having a career on a profession associated with women, only leads to believe that his voice’s pitch must be high. Additionally, his intonation also changes to one that only denotes nonchalance. Nevertheless, his personality or profession should not be relevant factors for his voice to change.
Although this action is still not justified, in this specific episode, this variation may have not caused a negative impact on the viewer. However, in episode 6, season 3, the voiceover can provoke a negative reaction from those watching it. The man that they are helping has lost his wife to cancer. In the original version, one can see how Jonathan empathises with him; he explains that he has gone through the same situation twice. Thus, from his experience, he gives him advice on how to cope with the aftermath. In the English version, Jonathan restricts his camp talk; his vocabulary is more formal, and his tone remains on a low level since he is talking quietly (he is on the verge of tears). In addition, his intonation expresses seriousness and respect. Yet, in the translated version, he is perceived differently. As his keeps looking effeminate by wearing women’s clothes, and his extravagant behaviour is apparent for the majority of the episode, he sounds loud and careless. In this particular situation, his tone keeps being high and it is accompanied by a playful intonation that does not match with the grievous conversation they are having. This voiceover goes against the naturalness of the dialogue; choosing the wrong tonal pattern can change the whole meaning of an utterance. While originally, he is trying to convey his understanding of the situation, in the translation he sounds light-hearted. Hence, it should be vital to deeply investigate how the voice should sound (Bosseaux, 2015), and not to fulfil a stereotype to make a product more likeable.
With this example, it is more than clear that revoicing can affect characterisation.
Jonathan’s voice portrays two different persons: in the original soundtrack, he portrays a person that, despite his personality, knows how to act in serious situations. Meanwhile, in the translated one, he is made to represent an immature person; his camp talk is exaggerated. In the original version, his reception can be positive; people can identify themselves with his character and personality. Conversely, when listening to his voice in the target language, the
12 public’s response can be negative. Especially, in the second episode analysed because he seems uncompassionate. Undoubtedly, he, as an individual, can come across as a loud and flamboyant person; however, he knows how to behave in certain circumstances. As it can be perceived in the original version of the episode, he knows how to regulate his own voice to communicate different emotions. Sadly, by changing his pitch and intonation in the voiceover, he is being generalised because of his sexuality and personality. Those qualities can only be represented by an obnoxious and high-pitched voice. By following a stereotypical pattern, they are constructing a totally different character (Bosseaux, 2015).
4.2 Other examples
In order to see if this pattern continues in other programmes, two more TV shows are going to be analysed. In both cases, we are going to examine if the voices of the homosexual characters are also altered.
The first program being analysed in this section is Sex Education (2019), created by Laurie Nunn. This show tells the story of different teenagers who attend the same secondary school. One of the main characters of this TV series is Eric who identifies himself as gay. He has a very outgoing personality, and he likes dressing with colourful clothes. Additionally, his hobbies include experimenting with make-up, and playing an instrument, both related with creativity. Once again, there exists a difference between the original and the translated version. In the first one, the character’s voice ranges between the low tones. Even though he is a little bit extravagant and likes being expressive, his voice never sounds loud or strident.
Moreover, his intonation goes accordingly to his emotions. If he is feeling excited, his intonation tones are a bit higher than his normal voice, and he speaks faster. On the other hand, if he is feeling sad, his intonation ranges between the lower tones of his voice. These characteristics of his voice can be appreciated throughout all the episodes of the series.
Contrary to this, Eric’s dubbed version meets the stereotype once again. During the whole series, his voice sounds high-pitched and his intonation spans between the higher tones when he expresses different emotions. As it has been seen before, with Jonathan’s vocal analysis, Eric’s dubbed voice sounds as it is expected of someone with such characteristics. His appearance and hobbies are more feminine than masculine, thus, a voice with high tones is expected. This situation is very similar to that of the Queer Eye’s host; their identities in the translated product are affected by the perpetuation of stereotypes. While in the original version Eric acts accordingly to his age, in the translation he is also portrayed as childish.
13 Surprisingly, when analysing the TV series Glee (2009), created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan; we find a completely different situation. This program tells the story of a group of students who join the school’s choir but, once more, we will only focus on its homosexual character, Kurt. Even though he embodies most of the male homosexual stereotypes: having a great interest in fashion, feminine hobbies, and flamboyant attitude, his dubbed voice does not follow the pattern showed in the previous analyses. Here, the situation is reversed. It could be considered that Kurt’s original voice does fit the stereotype; he uses camp talk with a very expressive intonation, and his pitch is in between the higher tones.
Unexpectedly, in the translated version, his voice sounds deeper than the original, and the tones span between the low ones. There is not a trace of his flamboyance or of his original personality. Despite being opposite changes (the voice goes from high to low), it still affects the identity of the character because it is also being misrepresented; his identity is being diminished. In spite of this, this specific example can be considered a positive influence for the representation of the community because it does not help the propagation of the stereotype. It “diminishes the stigmatization of the character by downplaying his stereotypical feminized speech patterns” (Bernabo 2017, 74). Certainly, the modifications made in the character’s voice are unfair; by doing that they are changing the original identity of the character. Yet, at the same time, they are not helping with the perpetuation of a social belief that all gay characters must sound loud.