Acting Gay: Male Actors Shift the Frequency Components of Their Voices Towards Female Values When Playing Homosexual Characters.

I have filtered my research to focus on the way in which LGB’s are represented, specifically in television. Television is a broad sector of the media therefore this may seem quite vague. Although throughout my research regarding the construction of LGB characters, I will continue to specify in a particular genre of television, based on the evidence and knowledge I accumulate from my findings.

Valentina Cartei and David Reby case study brings attention to the difference between the vocal ranges 0f heterosexual and homosexual male television character, as a reflection of how society has built certain perceptions around homosexuality and effeminacy.

‘The purpose of this study was to investigate whether actors playing homosexual male characters in North-American television shows speak with a feminized voice, thus following longstanding stereotypes that attribute feminine characteristics to male homosexual’ (Cartei, Reby: 2012)
After conducting tests which consisted of 5 random voice samples from male actors who played the role of both heterosexual and homosexual characters, the results proved that in fact that the homosexual characters had higher pitched voices to the extent that adult female voices have.
This element of feminisation within male homosexual characters within television can be analysed in two ways:
  1. One being that the decision to allocate a higher pitch voice to represent gay males, in response to the supposed general view in society surrounding homosexuals being increasingly effeminate, therefore television character encapsulate this authenticity to present ‘reality’.
  2. On the other hand, television characters can be seen as the catalyst for reinforcing these ideas linking homosexuality and effeminacy. Many television shows aim to represent reality for example dramas, sitcoms and soaps. This therefore strengthens the identification of homosexual males with feminine tendencies, promoting to the public a generalised and unrealistic characterisation of gay men in society.

This research project has significant relevance to my assignment as it analyses  topics similar to mine, as it aims to highlight part of the subject I am exploring- the negative and unfair representations of gay men in television. As I am making a 3 short documentary videos of the 4 people, who I am photographing (2 homosexual and 2 heterosexual), the pitch of voice plays a key role in regards to the judgement and defining someones sexual orientation- as seen in this project. For this reason, I am taking a different approach to the aspect of voice, and mismatching the audio with the visuals, overlaying sound which does not belong to the person being displayed. The reason for this is to deceive the viewer by presenting that not all representations are accurate and fair in television.


Final Conclusion:

‘Moreover the increased F0 variation observed in the voice of actors playing homosexual characters suggests that they attempt to increase the melodic quality of their voice, another stereotypical correlate of perceived femininity’ (Cartei, Reby: 2012)


Cartei, V. and Reby, D. (2012) Acting Gay: Male Actors Shift the Frequency Components of Their Voices Towards Female Values When Playing Homosexual Characters. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior [online]. 36 (1), pp. 79-93. [Accessed 12 October 2015].


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