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Women Voicing Movie Trailers Should Be Normalized

Movie trailers have been alluring viewers since 1913, according to the Michigan Quarterly Review, while the majority of narrators are male voices.


Today, findings reveal that women's voices aren’t often used for narrating movie trailers. This year Box Office Mojo released the 200 top grossing movies in the U.S. Out of the 200 movies, the majority are male narrated.


Analyzing this topic on a marketing level shows that movie genres, gender stereotypes, and marketing psychology play a factor in the narration used in movie trailers.


Movie genres such as action, comedy, romance, horror, and documentary all have different tones that the film expresses. In return, the narrator in the movie trailer is usually of similar tone.


When a film is actively in progress it is advised that the movie is best sold in the same way as every other product. This is done to persuade audiences to view the movie, according to the Nashville Film Institute (NFI).


As the marketing of a film is an important factor in its production according to NFI, it wouldn’t make sense to pair a strong and compelling narrator with a romance movie, as an example.  


These characteristics of a specific voice would be better suited in an action movie, resulting in a probable higher success rate for the movie.


However, why do the characteristics of a voice boil down to a gender basis discussion?


Throughout history women’s voices are described to be motherly and soft while men’s voices are described to be strong and compelling.


Why isn’t a woman's voice described as strong and compelling on a marketing level?


Tanya Mingione is the owner and President of Pinnacle Research Group and previously worked at Psychological Motivations, Inc. as the Vice President. During a phone interview, Mingione shares her perspective on this topic given her background of expertise.


“It makes perfect sense that a man’s voice would be more appropriate for action, action movies account for 11 per cent of movies that are made – so why wouldn’t a woman’s voice be used for a romance or for a family movie?” Mingione said.


Although movie trailer marketing is the main focus regarding this topic, gender stereotypes are still considered. This is due to male or female voices playing a factor in the psychological marketing.


“Again, I’m falling on gender stereotypes, but it’s still the way it’s done for movie companies,” Mingione said.


“It’s quite interesting, something that I read really fascinated me and it was that we’ve always associated the voice of God as a male voice, and if the narrator in a trailer is supposed to be this omniscient person, at the core of what we’re thinking means that it’s a male voice – and that blew my mind,” she said.


Psychology plays a factor because of the response and behavior from viewers after watching movie trailers.


The International Journal of Business conducted research in 2022 to show how affective, cognitive, and environmental responses from audience members relate to viral marketing of movie trailers.


According to the researched results the levels of audience behavior revealed marketing strategies for companies to promote film trailers, after the audience watched the “Spiderman: Far From Home” movie trailer.


The “Spiderman: Far From Home” movie trailer doesn’t include an official narrator but does include clips from the movie with majority male voices used. In the trailer there are two women voices who are heard to say a few words. The majority of the visuals are also men.


Contrastingly, a study conducted by psychiatrist Dr. Michael Hunter revealed that, “women’s voices stimulate an area of the brain [in men] used for processing complex sounds, like music.”


Research further showed that a woman’s voice stimulates complex reactions in the brain for men, compared to a man’s voice.


Male voices activate the “mind’s eye” which is a region of the brain used for conjuring imagery, according to Dr. Michael Hunter’s findings.


Dr. Michael Hunter feels that this implies a woman’s voice could communicate more information in one sentence, compared to a man’s voice - being heard by a man.


Held separately from the movie industry, Google and Amazon’s home assistant devices as well as Apple’s Siri - all use female voices.


Women also voiced for 51 per cent of commercials in the 20th century according to the study from Providence College’s journal article called, “The Gender of Product Representatives and Voice-Overs in Television Commercials: An Update.”


Author and actress Lake Bell, wrote, directed, and starred in the movie called, “In a World” released in 2013. Ironically, the movie is about a female voice actor trying to break into the world of movie trailer voice overs.


The unique, yet simple direction - in this creative project brings this topic of conversation out in the open, in order to begin changes in a male dominated movie industry - down to the narrators.


As women push for creative freedom and equality, documentaries are interestingly a genre that commonly features female voices today. For example, Angela Bassett narrated the National Geographic channel’s documentary, “The Flood.”


Emmy and Academy Award winning actress, Allison Jenney, was also chosen to narrate the documentary special called, “Expedition Amelia,” released in 2019.


However, David Frederick Attenborough, who is an English broadcaster, is one of the many known voices for multiple National Geographic documentary narrations.


According to a report by Martha Lauzen, Executive Director for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, 52 per cent of the leading characters on streaming programs shown during the 2020-21 season were played by women.


This is an increase of seven per cent compared to a year ago, according to the most recent report.


The report found that women consisted of 45% on broadcast network programs.


As this topic continues to circulate in the movie industry, more research and comparisons must be conducted and released in order to back-up the changes that need to be made.


While the movie industry continues to succeed, women are gradually increasing behind and in front of the scenes.


If the momentum continues, more women will be used as narrators in movie trailers ahead.


Edited by Kavya Venkateshwaran

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