A Rant about "The Right Voice"

Alright - so here it is.  An actual rant that has pretty much everything to do with VO.  As this blog is password protected, I doubt anyone will see it - which is a blessing and a curse.


A Blessing because It has to stay hidden because of the curse.


The Curse - no one will read this and no change will happen, because if it is read, any and all chances I would ever have at a role or doing any VO at all would be ruined.  We're not allowed to complain, we're not allowed to have a voice - we're supposed to just shut up and take it.  They're supposed to be allowed to abuse us and pretty much unless you have a pretty face and are a celebrity, you shut up and you take it.


I am sick and tired of hearing entitled Voice Actors say the following: "I think casting someone as the same race as the character if they're a minority is discrimination - they should cast based on quality and fit of the voice alone"


Why am I sick of hearing this?  Because it's UTTER PURE GARBAGE.  The people who utter this tripe?

1.) Caucasian VAs/VOs

2.) Already "famous and established" VAs/VOs

3.) A combination of 1 & 2


Let's go through the reasons why (they're all important, so this isn't a list of most important to least):

  • If it's on quality and fit of the voice alone ... why do they DEMAND A HEADSHOT OR PICTURE?  It shouldn't matter, right?  It's just how the "voice fits"
  • That statement would be true IF race and age were NOT already being used as a reason to exclude auditions.
  • Most characters are still written as white
  • Most characters are still written as male
  • If there is a white character, the "ethnic" actor's voice is more often than not automatically discarded (either consciously or unconsciously) as plausible.  By 'more often than not' I mean virtually all the time.  My own demos weren't even listened to, my auditions thrown out before they were listened to the moment it was seen that I was not a white VO auditioning for a white part.
  • If there is an ethnic character, the non-white actor's voice is listened to, but the favouritism STILL goes to the white VOs, because of the bias of "white is better".  The producers, casting directors and writers overwhelmingly still have a listening bias towards Caucasian VOs.   The "fit" of an East-Asian written character who has an East-Asian accent is better represented and voiced by a Caucasian person than an East-Asian person who grew up in the culture and might even have a natural East-Asian accent?  REALLY now?  Oh... I see... funny how it pretty much **NEVER** goes the other way.
  • This is in regards to North American roles.  North America is strangely unique in the fact that it has such a massive mix of cultures and ethnicities.  When I say mix, I mean a *significant* mix.  The kind of mix where no one notices when walking on the street that there's 1 Caucasian, a small East-Indian Family, a Chinese couple and a group of 5 friends where each person is of a different ethnic background all in the same stretch of sidewalk.  We are in a unique position that the "white role" can still be fulfilled by someone whose skin is not the same colour because they GREW UP in the westernized, Caucasian environment - they DO get it and they DO represent the "Average North American".  However, they also have the bonus of being raised at home (very likely) in their own non-white culture, so they have a significant tie to the ethnic side of their heritage as well.

So when they're casting a Caucasian person who likely only knows about the ethnic character they're playing in terms of stereotypes, stories from their friends and what they see on TV - it's insulting.  It's saying that even though they know nothing of you, they did not have half the experiences you did... they're being held up to "represent you" because their race makes them superior, so we should be thankful. 


What's worse - is that white people don't want to admit it.  They pretend it doesn't happen.  They pat themselves on the back and say "Oh, well, I got the part because I am just THAT GOOD... I am/was the best!" - They turn a very purposeful blind eye to the fact that it is egregiously STUPID and laughably FALLIBLE to think that Caucasian guy who grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood will automatically do a better representation and accent of an East-Indian character than an East-Indian Voice Actor (assuming equal acting skill for both).  


I don't think ANY auditions should require photographs or names.  I don't think ANYONE's identity should have to be revealed until the role is cast.  That is the ONLY true way that "the best voice will be cast".   Unfortunately this is not the way casting calls work.  They instead usually work like this:


**Casting call for**


Role: Becky McWhite


VAs: Jane Wong, Karen Smith, Susan Johnson, Lisa Lee (All actors of equal ability, skill, talent and experience)


**Casting Process**


1.) If photographs/headshots of the auditioners is requested.  This pretty much means anyone non-white looking will now be thrown out.


2.) If photographs/headshots of the auditioners is NOT requested, they now look at the names and decide automatically Jane Wong is not worth listening to and will throw out her demo/audition immediately.  Lisa Lee they're leary about but they listen.


3.) Lisa Lee's audition will be HARSHLY scrutinized for every single nuance, pronunciation, lilt and inflection.  Karen Smith and Susan Johnson will be lauded as "pretty good, they are amazing actors" - and Lisa Lee will not be shortlisted.


4.) One of the clearly white-sounding VAs is now cast.


**Casting call for**


Role: Lily Wong


VAs: Jane Wong, Karen Smith, Susan Johnson, Lisa Lee (All actors of equal ability, skill, talent and experience)


**Casting Process**


1.) All auditions will now be begrudgingly listened to because of "inclusion"


2.) Skip to step three from above, but include Jane Wong as well.


3.) The Caucasian VAs will be cast since they will automatically feel that the Caucasian VA is better quality (hint: No, they're not, but this is racial bias for you) - best case scenario, the ethnic VAs were actually terrible actors and the Caucasian VA actually IS the best choice.  Worst case scenario (and one that happens most often) the Caucasian VA is wholly unfit for the role, makes the character's portrayal a mockery and stereotype and also can't act, but the casting director has a bias (conscious or unconscious) bias thinking "well, if the white actors were this bad, the non-white actors MUST have been worse".


I personally think putting my photo on the front of my webpage is pretty much career suicide.  I know that casting directors, writers look at that image and **IMMEDIATELY** nix me from the possibility of playing any sort of non-Asian role, even though:


1.) I do not speak any Asian/East-Asian Languages.  I ONLY speak English... it is actually *impossible* for me to have a natural "non-white" accent.

2.) I grew up and have lived thoroughly ensconced in North American society and culture.


And I know I'm being discarded from thought *before* they even listen to the demo.


Yet... my experienced, established Caucasian mentor(s) don't believe it's happening.  They keep repeating the first line that the casting directors "don't care about ethnicity" - they just don't want to admit that they have the easiest pick of the lot.   Apparently the sentiment is "Put your picture up there.  They want to see a face" - really?  Why does that matter?  If you want my voice, I should be able to be a brain in a vat hooked up to working vocal cords and still be considered for roles.


I do have a choice.  I can believe my mentor/teacher(s) are idealistic and they really do believe that race doesn't factor in *at all*.  That would be the best... but in reality... the truth of the matter is so blatantly obvious ... it's difficult.


This is so frustrating.


I've heard some of the voices and roles that I've been passed over because I'm not Aesthetically Caucasian - they have terrible recording setups, they have little to no emotion, they can't pronounce simple words... and I'm supposed to believe that I was worse than **THAT**?  No.  No I was not.