Diversity in Voice Acting

HOLLYWOOD IS TAKING THE HEAT...AGAIN

 IMAGE COURTESY OF PIXABAY

IMAGE COURTESY OF PIXABAY

Hollywood has been criticized for its casting choices when it comes to non-white characters, a discussion that really started to pick up speed after no actors of color were nominated for the acting categories of the 2015 Academy Awards. 

While many believe Hollywood is just trying to hire the best actor or the biggest name for the job in order to bring in more profit, admittedly there's bound to be people of other heritages selected, right? Therein lies the problem-- that's rarely the case. 

Black Panther was a blockbuster hit in recent weeks, with many comic novices being drawn to the box office simply because of the movie's almost completely African-American cast, one of Hollywood's first ever. It seemed like a win for diversity in casting, but now a new discussion is gaining momentum: diversity in voice acting. 

When I first read about this issue, I honestly thought it was absurd. We can't see the actors! They're hired based on their voices, right? Why does it matter what color they are?? But upon reading more into it, I found that it is a real problem. 

Cartoons are no strangers to diversity. There have almost always been people of other heritages on your home screen. But consider how their voices sound. Does that Asian mother on television sound like the one you met at the playground, or does she sound like the stereotyped version of what you think an Asian person should sound like? Odds are she is played by a white voice actor hired for her ability to imitate the stereotype. 

“Even though you may see characters of color represented on screen, you can’t see the faces of the people hired to do the voices. Historically, white people did all the voices including those horrible imitations of what Asians, blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans were supposed to sound like,” according to Rudy Gaskins, co-founder of the nonprofit Society of Voice and Arts Sciences.

But other than authenticity, why should casting directors cast no name voice actors of color when they could hire one of Hollywood's best? I'm glad you asked. 

WHY DIVERSITY IN VOICE ACTING IS IMPORTANT

 IMAGE COURTESY OF DISNEY

IMAGE COURTESY OF DISNEY

  • People of the same heritage of the character have a deeper connection to who they're portraying. When you do a scene, don't you try to draw on similarities and connections you have with your character? Imagine if you had the same traditions, the same family dynamics. Would you not play that character more successfully?
  • Viewers of color can have role models. As simple as it sounds, it is special for a Pacific Islander girl to be able to Google the name of her favorite Disney princess's voice actor and see someone who looks like the character, who looks like her. Yes, I'm talking about Moana. Props to Disney for that win. 
  • It gives lesser-known actors new opportunities. When Scarlett Johansson isn't considered for every role, think of the new faces (and voices) that could be discovered. 
  • Everyone feels represented. Isn't that what this is all about? 

What do YOU think? Is diversity in voice acting important too?

Interested in reading more about this issue? Check out this article by NBC News and it's linked resources.

 

Written by Katherine White / April 4, 2018