3.1 Revoicing and the important role of voice
It is said that audiovisual translation is only useful for those who do not have an understanding of a foreign language. However, people who do have control over a second language also find obstacles when watching foreign audiovisual productions. While recreating real life situations, TV shows can present dialectal variations, cultural references, fast paced dialogues, overlapping speech, and interfering noises that can difficult the comprehension of the content. Thus, “these factors contribute to making the translation of the audiovisual programme a necessity for the vast majority of viewers” (Díaz Cintas 2009, 4). Therefore, audiovisual productions go through a revoicing process which consists on replacing the original soundtrack with a new one in the target language. For instance, if an American program is exported to Spain, its original soundtrack in English will be replaced by one in Spanish, which is the case of the examples that are going to be analysed later. Revoicing has two sub-categories: the substitution of the original soundtrack can be total or partial. When the substitution is total, the process is known as dubbing; “the target viewer can no longer hear the original soundtrack” (Nicolae 2018, 51). Then, voiceover consists on overlapping the translation; the original soundtrack “is still audible in the background” (51).
It is of high importance that revoicing, either dubbing or voiceover, is done correctly.
One of the aims of television programmes is for viewers to feel identified with characters, storylines, or situations they see represented on screen (Diaz Cintas, 2009). This willingness from the viewer to find resemblances with fictional characters increases the power held by the media; audiovisual translation “is the means through which not only information but also the assumptions and values of a society are filtered and transferred to other cultures” (8).
Audiovisual products are one of the primary means that convey views on society regarding gender (masculinity and femininity), race, religion, or sexuality. Unfortunately, many times these perspectives can be manipulated, perpetuating in that way many stereotypes and
6 convictions. Even though this can also be achieved with subtitles, revoicing plays a bigger role in this situation because through voice one can transmit many feelings and intentions. If someone is asked what use the voice of a person has, a person is most likely to answer that voice is used to communicate with others. Evidently, that is true; it could be said that that is its primary use. However, voice can also convey deeper meanings that are not implied in pronounced words but in its features. Although this aspect of a person is not always considered to be important, “voice is integral to an individual’s or character’s identity”
(Bosseaux 2015, 37). Voice goes beyond being a tool to communicate within a society; it is part of each human being, and it helps to develop a personality. Therefore, it is essential to take this statement into account when translating audiovisual productions. As it has been said before, revoicing consists on replacing the original voice of a character with a voice in the target language. Thus, in order to express the same emotions or attitudes, that new voice should be as similar to the original one as possible.
Voice and identity have been barely studied in multimedia, yet many studies show that voices provide rich information about an individual’s identity such as age, race, and their emotional state. What is more, these characteristics can be associated to gender and what is expected from masculinity and femininity. Voice is a fundamental part of someone’s identity (Bosseaux, 2015). Depending on manner, the sounds produced by someone’s voice can be classified as pitch, accent, and intonation. Different tones can indicate different meanings in words or sentences. According to Dolar:
the particular tone of a voice, its particular melody and modulation, its cadence and inflection, can decide the meaning. Intonation can turn meaning of a sentence upside down. It can transform it into its opposite. A slight note of irony, and a serious meaning comes tumbling down; a note of distress, and the joke will back-fire (2006, 21).
In particular, pitch and intonation can provide significant details about someone’s identity.
Pitch, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary is the “degree of highness or lowness of a tone”, is linked to gender. Stereotypes are deeply rooted to this feature; it is believed that women and children have a higher pitch while men, on average, have lower ones (Bosseaux, 2015). Because of social expectations, women usually find themselves in a difficult position. They do not know if it is best to use a low register which suggests assertiveness and intimacy (the latter is many times associated with the image of dangerous woman), or using a high pitch and risk being loud or belittled. It is said that female voices do
7 not “convey security or authority” (De Marco 2006, 24), and that those qualities can only be attributed to masculine voices. On the other hand, men face a slightly different situation; they have a naturally low pitch, which as stated before evokes power or confidence. However, in certain circumstances, when a man’s voice is not as low as it is expected, his masculinity is questioned. In men, high pitches are associated to their sexuality - specifically, to homosexuality (Swanson, 2015). Nevertheless, this will be discussed in the following section of this dissertation. Moving on to intonation, it is mainly used to communicate emotions.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is “the rise and fall of voice in speaking, especially as this affects the meaning of what is being said”. These emotions are expressed through rhythm and volume; depending on the variation of that, they will show happiness, joy, carelessness, mockery, sadness, or worry (Bosseaux, 2015). For instance, if the pattern of the rhythm is fast, and the volume is high, the sentiments will be considered positive.
Nevertheless, as this declaration of emotions is linked to pitch, it is likely that they will be considered of higher or lower importance depending on the pitch used. In the same way, the use of a wrong tone or rhythm could cause a change in the meaning of an utterance (72).
Having seen to what extent does voice define someone individually and socially; it is worth considering what happens to characters’ identities in translation. As the soundtracks are going to be replaced, what is said and how it is said will be also changed. Voices are an important parameter; they are a fundamental part of performance and characterisation. In AVT, when going through the revoicing process, new voices should be carefully chosen because in the target language they can have a negative impact on the viewers; they can
“engage differently based on changes in voice” (Bosseaux 2015, 69). Moreover, stereotypes can be reproduced and perpetuated (De Marco, 2006). Although image is very important, and carries a great variety of messages and experiences, through voice, viewers can also learn characters’ point of view, thoughts, and feelings; thus, they “[get] an impression of who they are” (54). The essence of a person or a character can change if their voices are altered. Hence, it is crucial that directors choose the right voice talents. Although controlling the final outcome is unlikely, it is important to remain as close to the original version as possible in order to portray the same ideals.
3.2 Queer representation and their portrayal in translation
Television has not always been interested in representing minorities. Many racial groups, religions or queer communities were not portrayed in television programmes. However,
8 thanks to social advances, these groups are now being represented; especially, queer people.
For those who are not familiar with this term, it has become “a compact alternative to lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender”, it “foregrounds the belief that sexual identity is flexible” (Marcus 2005, 196); it rebels against the heteronormativity. LGBTQ civil rights movements, and requests for political and cultural representation helped the emergence of LGBTQ-focused programmes around the early 2000s (Tongson, 2017). Currently, streaming platforms and cable networks offer a variety of shows which include queer characters. For instance, the TV show Modern Family (one of the families is formed by a homosexual couple), or Orange is The New Black (some of the main characters are lesbian).
Even though this minority has now gained more visibility in television programmes, in particular male homosexuals; they are still subjected to many stereotypes. In the past, they have been portrayed as villains, full of self-hate, ill, or sexual predators (Barnes-Brus, 2005).
Thankfully, that image is not what we see on TV anymore. Now, they are mostly portrayed in a positive way; yet that is not entirely beneficial. Gay characters “[are] presented as effeminate and with qualities that are usually associated with heterosexual women” (Fasoli, Mazzurega, and Sulpizzio 2017, 4). For instance, their professions are mainly related to fashion, beauty, and wellness. Additionally, their hobbies are not usually those expected of men, like sports, but those associated with women, for example, activities that require being creative. Moreover, they are depicted as middle or upper-middle class consumers (Barnes-Brus, 2005). Although this classist classification can encourage their social acceptance, it only represents a small part of the community. Not all of them are effeminate, and not all of them belong to the middle or upper class. Taking into account that “television is one of the main ways through which individuals acquire knowledge” (Fasoli, Mazzurega, and Sulpizzio 2017, 5), multimedia productions should pay closer attention to present real-life characters and not reinforce social beliefs.
Unfortunately, queer stereotypes are not only limited to their image or behaviour but also to their voice. Until recently, research in the AVT field regarding queer theory had been scarce, and concepts and theoretical instruments were slowly integrated (Baer and Kaindl, 2018). Notwithstanding this, there exist now several studies that show how voice is used as a parameter to identify and define a gay character. Male homosexuals, stereotypically, are characterised by a “higher pitch and melodious flow, as well as swooning intonation, clipped tones, vocal fry, upspeak, and stretched sibilant consonants” (Bernabo 2017, 73). Frequently, when dubbing or doing a voiceover, the voices of gay characters tend to be manipulated in the target language to reach this convention. Within their community, people usually speak with a
9 camp talk, a theatrical gay accent (Swanson, 2015) used to express special meanings in certain circumstances. This talk is a marker of identity, a stylistic device which they use to differentiate themselves from the mainstream. However, in television, it is used for
“caricatural purposes” which helps promoting stereotypes and prejudices regarding gay talk and manners (De Marco 2006, 26).
It is clear that queer visibility has increased in multimedia products, but they are used to perpetuate many stereotypes. It seems like homosexual men’s identities are only defined by how high their voices sound; in the same way, heterosexual men always talk in lower pitches to determine their sexuality and to prove their masculinity. Many male homosexuals do not have a high-pitched voice, yet when their original voices are replaced by the soundtrack in the target language, they change drastically. In numerous cases, this situation is linked to the image of the character; if they have a certain profession or their personalities are more extravagant than any other character, that will be reflected on their voices. This can often contribute to “the survival of negative stereotypes” (Valdéon 2010, 75) which many times provide humour in programmes. In the following section of this dissertation, three TV programmes will be analysed in order to present examples of the stereotypes reproduced by queer characters through voice, and how that, at the same time, is affected by their personalities.