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Defining the Female Voice of God Narration Style


By Dylan de Koning | 25th November 2021

The Goddess has lost her voice and must find it once more.

No, I’m not talking about Ariel of The Little Mermaid. I’m talking about the Voice of God: a style of voice-over that has been used in film, TV, and advertisement for almost 100 years.

We are all familiar with the Voice of God voice-over style; deep, booming, and most typically male. But why are female examples of the Voice of God so rare in movie trailers and beyond?

In this article, we will break down this style to see how we can apply it to female talents and attempt to break the mould of what is considered authoritative and God-like.

 
What is the Voice of God Anyway?

A term originating with Westbrook Van Voorhis’ narration in The March of Time, the Voice of God began as an objective voice-over style for news coverage in radio and cinema. The ability for a voice to present imagery and information from around the world, effectively manipulating space-time is an important element to the voice.

The style adjusted over time to apply to movie trailers, film narration, voices with authority. However, it has remained in the camp of male voice-over talents to fill roles attributed to The Voice of God, which seems unfair.

In our previous blog on the Voice of God, we simplified it to:

“An unseen, non-diegetic voice-over that draws attention and respect through its all-seeing ability to represent a scene.”

Which re-introduces the curiosity around the lack of popularity surrounding the female Voice of God. A definition like this certainly doesn’t exclude a female voice actor playing this role.

So let’s dig deeper.


Vocal Traits and Authority

The female voice is sublime. The excellence of female voice-over is obvious; each major representation of the traditional version of this style uses deep masculine voices to draw attention and promote authority. Which makes sense for an objective and omniscient speaker, as deeper voices are typically perceived as trustworthy by audiences.

Needless to say, men are predisposed toward deeper voices as a matter of biology. Although, it seems unfair to pretend that this also means that women’s vocal traits lack authority or are considered untrustworthy.

When there are female talents that can perform incredible feats of God-like proportions, such as Ellen Dubin’s work as a trailer voice for the game Skyforge.

Ellen is also responsible for Voquent’s IVR voice-over, as well as performing as one of the sinister Bene Gesserit Ancestors in the most recent Dune movie. Her voice oozes authority and is a rare example of the Female Voice of God.

This is evidence that it can be done, so maybe we should be looking to reinvent this voice-over style to exemplify the uniqueness that comes with the talents of female-centric voices.

 
Defining a New Voice of God

 

The first step to building this new version of the traditional authoritative style is to take a look at different routes to authority, as opposed to simply having a deep voice. Persuasiveness, knowledgeableness, authorship; are tremendously important to inventing authority in content like documentary; however, we are more concerned with vocal traits here today.

It was not I that came up with the theological criteria for Godhood. The existence of traits that could be seen to demonstrate divinity can be seen as the bar for a God and serve to also act as a loose guide for our own definition of the female voice of God.


Omniscience: Confidence & Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep's voice is not particularly deep or audibly powerful. Her voice is on the softer side and yet in The Devil Wears Prada, as well as many other roles, she commands authority.

Now sure, her character literally has authority over every other character in this film, including her boss, but the authority in her presentation comes from another place. In this role, she convinces us that this character is all-knowing when it comes to fashion and it’s the character’s confidence in the delivery of her lines that sells this to us.

 

While her role here is not immediately aligned with “The Voice of God” as we know it, there is much we can take away from her delivery. Confidence: the reassurance that what she says is factual, accurate, and objective.

 

Omnipresence: Guidance & Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett has a lower register than the average. She uses deeper tones in her voice which are not necessarily masculine but are certainly authoritative.

 

Her voice is so strong and clear when she articulates that we can’t help but listen when she speaks. She also uses this deeper tone on specific words to emphasize the most dramatic information, piquing our interest when she chooses.

 

The speech of Cate Blanchett is the guiding light that we follow through the rough history of Middle Earth. She teaches us what we must know, throughout time and space, there are no boundaries, and her voice reflects her gentle learnedness perfectly. She is guiding viewers through events that she was not present for, a narrator outside of space-time – her ability to enrapture the viewer with an exploration of the world is central to the omnipresent, all-present nature of the Female Voice of God.

 

The sheer presence of Galadriel’s speech is enough to demand attention. This is not obtrusive or aggressive, as you might hear in the bombastic sound of Don LaFontaine, but rather soft-spoken. There is an inescapable and enthralling magnetism to this performance, which has left it in the minds of fans of Lord of the Rings for decades.



Omnipotent: Powerfulness & Angela Bassett

 

With no room for disagreement, Angela Bassett’s voice is pure power, and she does this not by reducing emotion but by harnessing it to her advantage.


She uses a range of pace, tone, pitch, volume, and energy to change her voice as she speaks. She keeps the listener on their toes and provides an emotional sense of narrative to her words, always creating dynamic and authoritative voice performances.

 

As a monologue, there is power and depth to her speech – which fulfils the requirement for the female voice of God to be one that is powerful and expressive.


 

In a world…

Voice-over is big business. Commercial voice-over, movie trailers, animation; plenty of opportunities exist, which no singular vocal format will match. The great thing about this industry comes in the form of diversity, genuine multilingual talents that offer full language localisation and accents that are natural – not faked.

 

This is the same for the Female Voice of God. Where once was the domain of only men, women have begun to tread and find success. The achievements that can be discovered by women are not mere counterparts to male talents, female speakers have the capacity to alter the game and carve space for their unique abilities.

By re-examining the Voice of God for a female voice actor, we can craft something wholly original, rather than committing to mimicking the traits that male voices typically embody.

 

The traits are all there. So, who is ready to break the mould?

  

 

Listen to Female Narrator Voices Now



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Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning is a narrative writer, script reader and film buff from Scotland.

About Author

Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning is a narrative writer, script reader and film buff from Scotland.






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