They Had Voices Then

About 13 months ago I posted an observation about a tendency of younger women to project thin little pipsqueak voices and use mallspeak accents and phrasings in order to sound average and blend into the crowd. I flashed back to this a few nights ago as I listened to Cowboys & Aliens star Olivia Wilde talk to Jimmy Kimmel. She’s beautiful but her voice has no particular flavor and distinction.

Wilde is supposed to be a star in the making but she sounds like a checkout girl. Her voice is almost stunning in its flatness, and it makes her sound glib and unexceptional. She opens her mouth and…that’s it? A woman with a face as exquisite as Wilde’s ought to have some kind of soulful, cultured, knowing, inner-oomph voice to go with it…but no.

I had the same reaction to Blake Lively‘s voice when she visited Late Night with David Letterman to plug The Town. This? She sounds like a sixteen year-old from a suburb of Akron or Denver or Orlando, or…I don’t know, somebody who works for a downtown Manhattan accounting firm. She doesn’t sound like a tenacious lady who’s been around and taken legendary iPhone pics of herself in the bathroom and portrayed a frayed floozy in The Town and who will soon be swirling around Europe with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Who has a voice that matters? One with a little sass and intrigue and conviction, that cracks at times or has a breathy quality? Emma Stone, for sure. Elle Fanning has a voice with faint undercurrents of hurt and need. Amy Adams has a voice in The Fighter that suffers no fools. Katie Holmes‘ voice has a genuine something-or-other…a “been-around and known some disappointment” quality. Kristen Stewart sounds like she’s actually lived a life and has some convictions about this and that. Cameron Diaz sounds like a girly-girl, but her voice has a playful spirited quality and she knows how to sound hurt and nihilistic. Debra Winger has a real voice. Sassy Fran Drescher obviously had a voice in the ’90s. Michele Rodriguez has a voice right now.

Here’s that June 2010 piece I mentioned, called “Chirpy Minnie Mouse.”

“It hit me a day or two ago that an awful lot of women these days — actresses and broadcasters to some extent, but mainly average, non-famous women in the under-30 range (including movie publicists) — speak with thin little pipsqueak voices. Couple this with a general tendency to use mallspeak accents and phrasings (which 85% to 90% of under-30 women have done in order to sound like everyone else) and it almost seems as if inane peep-peep voices have become a kind of generational signature.

“Go to any bar and restaurant and walk around and listen to women’s voices…’peepity-peep-peep’ and ‘squeakity-squeak-squeak,’ over and over and over.

“For whatever reason these women have decided that sultry, smoky, husky voices — the kind that Lauren Bacall and Glenda Jackson and Anne Bancroft and Patricia Neal used to play like soulful wind instruments — aren’t as appealing or have perhaps been categorized as unattractive, and that they need to project more of an amiable ‘oop-poop-pee-doop’ Betty Boop thing.

“I’m obviously not reporting scientific data, but it does seem as if an awful lot of Minnie Mouse voices are being feigned or emphasized these days, and that the rich, intriguing tonalities found in the wonderfully adult voices of Meryl Streep or Ann Sheridan in the 1940s, or Jessica Lange or Katherine Hepburn or Greer Garson or Faye Dunaway or Jodie Foster aren’t heard as much.

“You can’t be one of those super-cool women who wear short skirts and long jackets and speak with a peep-peep voice. You have to sound like Anouk Aimee or Simone Signoret or Joan Crawford or Jane Russell….that line of country.

“I really do think it’s affected to some extent. Chosen. Performed. Almost anyone can go deeper or higher if they want.

“There’s that old story about director Howard Hawks telling a young Lauren Bacall (i.e., before he cast her in To Have and Have Not) that it’s sexier to speak in a lower register, and that she should give it a shot. Bacall took Hawks’ advice and trained herself to speak with a deeper voice. It was that simple.

“So if Bacall can do this, anyone can in either direction. And I think — suspect — that a lot of younger women have persuaded themselves, perhaps not consciously, that squeaky-peepy works best in today’s environment. Mistake.”

84 thoughts on “They Had Voices Then

  1. LexG on said:

    [Deleted for a deliberate and dishonest projection of an infantile, subliterate mentality with the writing skills of a three year old. That shit doesn't fly around here.]

  2. It’s hot when WOMEN have LITTLE GIRL VOICES

    Because it is BEST when women are YOUNG and DEMURE and are like LISTEN TO MY LITTLE VOICE! CUTE! CUTE!

    Also when they wear outfits like the LITTLE SAILOR SUIT from Sucker Punch.

    Who would want a “mature” woman? Just act GIRLY and INFANTILIZED.

  3. The only female voices I hear in LA sound like this

    1) “The TING IS, it’s ALL STOOOOOOPID AN’ SHIT, WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK BITCH?”

    2) “Ah, SOOOOOOO, you VEEEEEHY HONAHBLE, NUMBAH ONE, ME SOOOO HWORNY, LING LONG”

  4. How was it a “dishonest projection”?

    I like attractive Caucasian women. I was expressing my enthusiasm for the one thing I’ll never have, while every two-bit rap guy can have sex with them, and I’m stuck looking like a balding cheese-face in oversized Husky jeans driving a 1990 Ford Taurus punching the clown to them on television.

    Don’t you guys JUST DREAM of talking to WHITE WOMEN? Why do they NOT HAVE THEM in the greater Burbank/Glendale/North Hollywood area? WHERE THE WHITE WOMEN AT?

    WHITES ONLY.

  5. I like their voices too, and it fits them. I don’t think Lively would be anywhere as appealing if she were talking like Kathleen Turner.

  6. Yeah, they don’t make ‘em like Anne “Throw Mama From The Train” Ramsey anymore….

    Michelle Rodriguez is a pretty good screen presence UNTIL she speaks, and then it’s a horror show.

    Allison Janney’s got a great set of pipes, but I’m more than a little sorry they’re being used to turn Kaiser Permanente into the next Walgreens “why can’t everything be perfect like us” ad campaign.

    You can’t give Amy Adams credit for her voice in “The Fighter” when she’s basically putting on a Boston accent for the character. She wouldn’t be sounding like that on Kimmel for damn sure.

    Tea Leoni’s a great voice. I still think she needs that one movie to make her a star. Don’t we all? How many years have people been saying this about her really? Almost 20 years? FUCK.

    Bebe Neuwirth’s got it.

    Michelle Williams actually has a really cool voice that doesn’t get much attention. Annette Benning always had an awesome voice.

    Penelope Cruz’s voice is really good, but only when she’s speaking Spanish.

    Keira Knightley probably has the sexiest voice in her generation of actresses. Cute sexy, not scorching hot nasty sexy.

    Vera Farmiga has a fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine sexy voice…

    I feel like I’m concentrating too much on sexy instead of strong here….

  7. Hallick why are you into senior citizens?

    Who cares what any woman over 25 has to say, or what it sounds like.

    Note to all women: Try being more young.

    And white.

  8. First of all, Jeff, I sometimes have zero clue what the jell you’re talking about. Olivia’s voice is fine – not anything special – but fine. I just interviewed her and had no problems.

    And agreed that the great female voice of today belongs to Farmiga.

    And what about the voices of the Brits- like Blanchett and Winslet?

  9. Since I’m way too heavy on the sexy, let’s do commanding:

    Annette Benning

    Julia Stiles

    Angelina Jolie

    Viola Davis

    Vera Farmiga

    Catherine Keener

    Laura Linney

    Allison Janney

    Patricia Clarkson

    Kathy Bates

    Joan Allen

    Judy Davis

    I’m probably supposed to stick to actresses under 30 here, but this is fun!

  10. Blanchett and Winslet are fine, but they don’t stand out one way or the other for me, especially Blanchett. Wait, maybe here natural Australian accent would make the list though. I almost singled out Nicole Kidman with that caveat too.

    Lex, I like women in all the adult(ish) demographics. Why do you limit yourself to such a narrow segment of the population? It hurts you man. It hurts you.

  11. I narrow myself to the demo that I actually find attractive.

    When I had an ethnic girlfriend (ie, the only kind I’ve ever dated) I used to keep a Kirsten Dunst poster over the bed so I could stay aroused.

  12. Looking at Hallick’s list, I would take intelligent, mature and sexy actresses like Laura Linney, Vera Farmiga, Catherine Keener or Patricia Clarkson over some vacuous 25-year old blonde airhead actress with no talent any day of the week.

  13. “When I had an ethnic girlfriend (ie, the only kind I’ve ever dated) I used to keep a Kirsten Dunst poster over the bed so I could stay aroused.”

    You do realize that there’s a movie to be built around this moment of your life right?

  14. “I’m not into black chicks.”

    She’s not THAT black, man. Can’t you just pretend she’s a white girl with a really deep tan?

  15. What about Emmy Rossum, Lex? Good voice, nude a lot lately, WHITE, but not white enough not to play Portuguese in “Passionada”.

  16. “Tea Leoni’s a great voice. I still think she needs that one movie to make her a star. Don’t we all? How many years have people been saying this about her really? Almost 20 years? FUCK.”

    Bad Boys, Deep Impact, Jurassic Park III. It aint gonna happen.

    Madeleine Stowe

  17. Katy Mixon from “Mike & Molly” and “Eastbound and Down” has one of the most sensuous voices out there right now too.

  18. “Bad Boys, Deep Impact, Jurassic Park III. It aint gonna happen.”

    Yeah okay, but honestly, were any of those movies going to make ANY actress’ career? Leoni’s one of those people that just needed something just right to make her a star. She’d never get it again, and her career would fade back down afterwards, but at least she’d have THAT.

  19. Leoni was so damn sexy in Bad Boys.

    Fun With Dick and Jane waas her last chance I’m afraid. She definitely deserved the big time stardom. You don’t even see her in any quality indies either

  20. I think Leoni’s final exchange with Gervais in “Ghost Town” is one of the best soft endings I’ve ever seen in a movie. For that alone, I still hold out hope.

  21. Demi Moore had a great voice during her “A Few Good Men” days. Hell she had a good voice back in her “St. Elmo’s fire” days. So did Molly Ringwald during the John Hughes-ian heyday. I’d say Connie Britton and Maura Tierney have great voices too. The best voice belonging to any actress today belongs to Penelope Cruz. I love Michelle William’s voice as well. Anne Hathaway’s is too pirchy.

  22. Leoni’s real talent is for comedy, but she’s trapped by that Stella Stevens hot-babes-can’t-be-funny mindset that keeps her away from what she does best.

    Nobody’s mentioned Maria Bello yet!

  23. Wilde is NOT a star and will never be in her own right. She’s trouble and that’s already known in the biz. Even outside the biz, it’s getting known. Just read that profile of her in the NYT to read between the lines. More than just a few directors and producers have labeled her as trouble and I know it has cost her several high profile gigs already. She’ll fizzle in a year or two like most of these bitches do.

  24. So “The Criterion Guy” is our new “just showed up (even though it’s clearly a returning banished poster), fistful of bitterness” dude who’s gonna be ubiquitous for a week or two?

    Good know.

  25. Jesus. Just come down to Ventura in Studio City, you’ll see all the white chicks you can take. Of course, none of them will probably give you the time of day if you’re not in a late-model Porsche or Bimmer.

    Gimme a woman with stage training, first of all, if you want a supple and interesting voice. You know — a real actress, one who’s more serious about her craft than her head shot.

  26. “More than just a few directors and producers have labeled her as trouble and I know it has cost her several high profile gigs already.”

    This statement stands in interesting contrast with the fact that the most high-profile producer in Hollywood has no problem repeatedly casting her.

  27. Hollywood keeps trying to make Olivia and Blake happen, but they just aren’t…at least not without all the PR tricks. Although, at this point, Blake seems to have better game–hooking DiCaprio into her web. That buys her a lot of relevancy.

  28. Man, if Fran Drescher and Michelle Rodriguez are examples of ‘voices’ to aspire towards, then Olivia is doing just fine where she is.

    The same could be said for a handful of today’s boyish actors – no real gravitas in their off screen talk – Gordon Levitt, Eisenberg, Gosling, Gyllenhaal, Maguire, etc.

    But seems like you are really jumbling distinct qualities – elocution, articulation, diction, vocal tone and pitch, intelligence, sense of humor, and reducing them all to this idea of ‘voice’.

    PS – Aisha Tyler is hot. And funny and smart and has a white husband to boot if that helps any one complete the fantasy.

  29. I’m on the Connie Britton bandwagon with Jason, but Maura Tierney’s huskiness always verged on strep throat territory for me. Same goes for Scarlett Johansson.

    And after seeing Marion Cotillard in a couple of movies, she’s going to wind up like Jeanne Moreau someday and do a damn good E.T. impression without even trying.

  30. “Of course, none of them will probably give you the time of day if you’re not in a late-model Porsche or Bimmer.”

    LA in a nutshell.

    In fucking Arkansas, there’s probably six million blonde tweaker chicks in Daisy Dukes and bare feet and a midriff shirt who all look like a cross between Jamie Pressly and Kate Bosworth, and they’ll gladly date some Joe Dirt-meets-Sarsgaard in Salton Sea-ass meth cook who drives a primer-colored 1970 Barracuda.

    But in LA, blondes and white chicks are THE RAREST RESOURCE, so there’s like nineteen or twenty of them, so they’re never EVER going to date a guy who has serious money– which usually means a rapper or a rich old film biz guy or the stray power player executive.

    Leaving “white guys who make 30-50k” no shot at a white woman in LA.

    It’s the only type I’m attracted to.

  31. That settles it then, Lex. Move to Arkansas or pretty much any southern state. The women don’t expect as much and the cost-of-living is much cheaper than anything you’ll find in California.

    And as for the topic, Wilde is a nothing. She has no discernible talent, the body of a teenager (or at least the boobs, or lackthereof), and the personality of a hairstylist.

  32. Lex, what are you talking about? There are THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of gorgeous young (yes, caucasian, since you repeatedly emphasize the importance of this) women in LA. Go to any house party in Silver Lake or Echo Park… or West Hollywood or Hollywood… or Beachwood Canyon or Franklin Village… or go sit at the Oaks Gourmet for two hours… or go stand on the Sunset Strip for two hours! What are you talking about?? They may seem unattainable, but there are NOT “nineteen or twenty” of them in LA.

    And if you *really* want to see a bunch of young, gorgeous women? Just go to an acting class.

  33. I think Aisha Tyler is gorgeous. I just don’t get Olivia Wilde. She looks like an alien and she’s UGLY to me. She’s the biggest mediawhore in the biz right now.

  34. Agree with Filmsnob regarding Wilde. She’s definitely a mediawhore, doing anything and everything. What I’d like to know is who didn’t she blow to get these parts because they aren’t casting her for her acting talent (because she has none).

  35. Aisha Tyler is gorgeous, and funny. Her voice work on Archer KILLS, and that show may be the funniest thing on TV right now.

  36. “WHITES ONLY”? Has this turned into a KKK website now? LexG is a complete idiot. Surely Jeff should moderate/get rid of racist comments, though he makes some of his own, so he needs some enlightening himself.

  37. Lex, you were just featured in the Guardian so go out and turn your 15 seconds of fame into some fine white tale!

    Olivia Wilde, Tea Leoni will never be stars. Blake Lively maybe.

    Interesting that Wilde is a member of the Cockburn family of journalists. Learn something knew all the time.

    Tom Doniphon is an idiot. It isn’t racist to only date those members of the species you are attracted to.

    And, if you are looking for a fine voice listen to the traffic reporter on KFI at night, Angel Martinez.

  38. Super Soul, you must be relatively new to this blog.

    That is Lex’s shtick. He is making a joke. And, if you haven’t noticed women all around the world are indeed trying to look more young and white.

  39. Anyone here would drop all their earthly concerns for a night with Ms. Wilde. This shizz about her voice is frippery.

  40. Yeah, LexG’s racism is so gross and he should be banned for a while. It’s just disgusting. Say no to his kind!

  41. filmsofdusts: Oh, I get it. He was doing satire. He was actually criticizing the phenomenon of women trying to look more white and more young, not encouraging it as a positive thing. How could I peg him so wrong?

    And it ‘s all a joke! He doesn’t really value only white women, it’s just an act he puts on as a

    commentary about….um…something…not sure…

    Now excuse me while I go drive past some of my black neighbors and yell “Go back to your own neighborhood.” Hey, it’s just an act. I don’t really mean it.

  42. I’m not going to apologize for being racist, since I’m NOT RACIST in any way, shape or form, I’m doing an OBVIOUS satire… and there is NOTHING RACIST about saying that MY personal PREFERENCE which affects you or womankind in NO WAY WHATSOEVER is that I like Caucasian tail, and that it frustrates me AS A WHITE GUY that there are no available white women who will date a white man of limited means in the city of Los Angeles.

    MORE pressingly, I refuse REFUSE REFUSE to apologize for being offensive in a thread where others are speculating about how certainly actresses give BJs to get acting roles, which is a TRILLION times more offensive than anything I said. KNOW YOUR FACTS– Olivia Wilde has done a TON of STAGE WORK and acted in LaBute plays and is a real artist. If anything is disgusting in this thread, it’s the BLATANT SEXISM of dudes insulting her career, her features, attributing these nonexistent misogynistic fantasies of how she got where she is, that you guys COULDN’T POSSIBLY KNOW, and to boot making fun of her rack.

    Yeah, I’m the offensive one.

  43. Not to be the one that points out the obvious, but Olivia’s career was made since her original surname is Cockburn and producers and directors wanted to find out for themselves if it made it so.

    When they confirmed she changed her name to “Wilde.”

  44. filmsofdusts says:

    “Tom Doniphon is an idiot. It isn’t racist to only date those members of the species you are attracted to.”

    Well, filmsofdusts, announcing you will date only white people is racist per se, because it refuses to take into consideration a nonwhite person’s individual qualities or lack thereof while using race to exclude that person. Therefore race becomes the sine qua non of social interaction on an intimate level for a racist such as LexG.

  45. Race is a social construct not genetically determined.

    You would be surprised by the colors of skin in your ancestry.

    If Lex has a preference for fair skin it does not make him a racist.

  46. “Race is a social construct not genetically determined.”

    He’s 100% right. Outside of social construct circles, I’m mistaken all the time for Yaphet Kotto.

    And social construction workers are the hottest on earth.

  47. Lex, is it still offensive if it’s true? Just because she may have done stage work doesn’t mean she hasn’t done illicit things to get ahead (pun intended). She hasn’t shown the necessary talent to be as popular with casting directors as she currently is so it has to be something else.

  48. For Tom Doniphson:

    I don’t know what part of ‘I’ve ONLY EVER DATED ASIAN GIRLS” I could be clearer about, or that I’ve never actually had sex with a white woman. They’re rarer in LA than Lo Pan’s bride with green eyes.

    So I am SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE when I tell you that aside from their heightened hotness and the fact that THEY ARE WHAT I WANT, my chances of being ANNOYED or having to go to CHINESE TEA CEREMONIES or AUNT MING’S NAIL SALON or doing a rain dance in front of Buddha would all decrease ten TRILLION times if I could date a nice, skinny, rootless, anorexic Atheist white girl with no nearby relatives and no STUPID CULTURAL DECISIONS that I have to engage in.

    You guys can talk up Asian or Latin all you want, have a blast, but WHEN YOU DATE ETHNIC, you aren’t just getting a girlfriend, you’re getting a BIG BOISTEROUS ANNOYING FAMILY and PSYCHO BROTHERS and vatos and family barbecues and sisters-in-law staying at YOUR APARTMENT and having a Quinceanera or having a TEA CEREMONY on your sofa. Fuck ALL that.

  49. LexG rules!

    I know think you should move to Norway.

    I am sure you can get a job subtitling films with your Nordic girlfriend.

  50. The fact that there are no rigid boundaries does not negate the fact that humans have evolved differently to adapt to diverse environments.

    Variance in sickle cell, lactose intolerance, heart disease, autism, and why organ transplants differ do not come down to race.

    Nothing is black and white as it often comes down to shades of camouflage.

  51. “Race is a social construct not genetically determined.”

    Funny how people who argue that are usually among the strongest proponents of racial classifications. You hear it all the time in college, and it always sounded like a weasel maneuver to me. Probably because most of the people who said it were weasels.

    That’s not directed at filmsofdusts, by the way. It’s such a common adage that you’ll hear it in just about any conversation about race if there’s a college graduate present. It’s one of the Great Accepted Truths of our time.

    But are any of these same people willing to say “Ethnicity is a social construct not genetically determined”? Because here in the 21st century “race” is pretty much an anachronistic concept, isn’t it? What we’re really talking about is ethnicity.

    But it usually comes down to political usefulness, not intellectual consistency. “Did I say racial categories don’t really exist? Well clearly I didn’t mean that to apply to income disparities and party affiliations. Viva la revolucion!”

    Like I said, weasels.

  52. So glad you brought this up, Jeff!

    Wilde actually seems to know where some of her lower registers are (must be the NY in her) but so many women out in LA sound like they are five! It’s creepy, in the sense that they seem to be making themselves sound like little girls in an effort to appear sexy as well as non-threatening.

    I remember reading a great interview with Jane Fonda about this in which she discussed her voice changing and getting deeper as she was more in touch with herself.

  53. RuPaul & Dame Edna have great voices. Oops. Umm. Scratch that one.

    Seems to me the actresses with the good vocals are smokers.

  54. lex is utterly hilarious and pathetic because his two greatest desires are utterly contradictory. One is achievable if he gives up the other, but he can never give up the idea that he might somehow become famous. Even though, in almost every other place in America he’s more likely to find women that fit his type. So, infected by the pernicious virus that is the desire to be famous, he’s thrown away any chance at happiness ever. If even a tenth of what he says here is true, he needs professional psychiatric assistance.

  55. They sent to mandated “psychiatric assitance” after one of my many suicide threats. It was total bullshit, a total waste, I got nothing out of it. Talking to some shrink DOES NOT GET YOU LAID, nor does it get you famous. Waste. Of. Time.

    I used to break up with girls because I’d tell them they weren’t Scarlett Johansson and I need to be free to date famous women when I ultimately get famous.

    Now I just want a girlfriend who is BLONDE, ATHEIST, and has NO RELATIVES within 2000 miles.

    This shouldn’t be the most SUPERNATURAL request on planet earth.

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