What to Watch: ‘In A World’

Words by Jessica Rovniak.

For March’s theme of Speak watch: In A World…

In a World… is written, directed, and stars the amazing Lake Bell as Carol. Carol is an aspiring movie trailer voice-over artist. Her father Sam (played by Fred Melamed) happens to be the most successful man in the same business. But as she fights to create a female voice in the male dominated world of voice-over acting, Sam spearheads efforts against his daughter. (There’s also a love interest! It’s Demetri Martin and he’s magnificent).

The film is a funny, down-to-earth piece that speaks not only to the sexism disguised as traditionalism in Hollywood, but also to the growing popularity of up-talk and voice frying among young women. Among linguists, “up-talk” is the tendency women have to end sentences (that are seemingly statements) with an “up” sound, as if the statement was a question. (Women also tend to ask more questions than men in the voice-over field: “Can we start the meeting now?” versus “We’re starting the meeting.”)

A similar problem is voice frying, described as sexy baby talk in In A World. These trends are detrimental to young women. According to a study quoted in The Guardian, “this speech pattern makes young women who use it sound less competent, less trustworthy, less educated and less hirable.” The growing popularity and lack of tangibility of this problem makes it much harder to tackle. In A World articulates the problem through an advocate for women in film, Geena Davis. As a movie executive, she expresses the importance of voice-overs from TV ads, movie trailers, and radio personalities. She claims that if we make those voices female, we give women power that they’ve never had before.

For a movie that starts as a tale about a quirky girl who just can’t seem to earn the respect of her father, it ends by enlightening the viewer of a much bigger issue. We need to encourage women. No more questions! No more “sorry”! No more talking like a beanie baby! Love yourself and be confident. Speak!

In the words of Carol, “Now, who’s ready to be heard?”

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