Quick hit: Why are all those movie trailers voiced by men?

The New York Times ran an article last weekend about why so few movie trailer voiceovers are performed by women. The article discussed the perception that women’s voices aren’t strong enough to cut through the noise of a movie trailer, and suggested that even if they can, many of us trust men’s voices more than women’s:

Do moviegoers want to hear female voices? Research indicates that our brains are wired to prefer theirs to male ones; that’s the reason robotic voices, like those in GPS devices, tend to be female. (This probably has an evolutionary explanation: fetuses in the womb, identifying with their caretaker, can distinguish their mother’s voice from others, a study published in the journal Psychological Science found.) When it comes to credibility, however, research into the perceived believability of a voice — an important quality for the omniscient narrator of a trailer, as well as the spokesman or -woman for any product, which is the function a trailer serves — tells a different story.

“On average both males and females trust male voices more,” said Clifford Nass, a professor of communications at Stanford, noting some gender disparity exists in that women don’t distrust female voices as much as men distrust them. In one study conducted at Stanford two versions of the same video of a woman were presented to subjects: one had the low frequencies of the woman’s voice increased and the high frequencies reduced, the other vice versa. Consistently subjects perceived the deep voice to be smarter, more authoritative and more trustworthy.

It’s a fascinating subject. I’d never given much thought before to why the voices telling me to see movies are men’s voices; it’s something I’ve simply always taken for granted. But now, I can’t stop noticing it. Every time an ad comes on the TV or radio, I’m making a note of whether it’s voice by a man or a woman, and whether their voices are noticeably deep or high. Gender is everywhere, folks, and it’s amazing how often we don’t even see it.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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