In the documentary Do I Sound Gay? debut director David Thorpe takes the audience on an investigative journey through the filmmaker’s own anxieties about the sound of his voice. An entertaining and informative experience, in just over an hour running time Thorpe manages to showcase the professional opinions, pop culture references, and humorous anecdotes from a motley band of professionals and celebrities alike.
The film begins as Thorpe is coming to terms with a recent break-up. While the cause of the break-up is unknown, Thorpe reveals how annoyed he was listening to a group of fellow gay men talking on a bus ride. Often people can’t help how they sound, but it still led the filmmaker to ponder, “Do I sound that gay?” The audience is soon whisked away on an adventure through interviews, visits with professional linguists, and casual conversations with Thorpe’s own friends and family. While it is undeniable that a “gay accent” exists, particularly among American English speech, the heart-warming part of the discovery is that this has been a part of pop culture and history for many years.
Self-conscious of his own speech patterns, Thorpe spends much of the film working to train his voice to sound “less gay.” The source of his anxiety is never discussed outwardly, however, one begins to wonder if Thorpe’s discomfort with his own speech patterns began as a teenager, growing up in the predominately conservative and anti-gay South of the 1980’s. Many of his childhood friends appear in the film, often sharing the sentiment, “You didn’t sound gay in high school, but yeah, you totally do now.”
The film leaves plenty of space for humor, between the musings of Thorpe’s own friends in New York, the comments of on-the-street interviews, and of course, a collection of interviews with the likes of Margaret Cho, George Takei, Dan Savage, and David Sedaris. However, Thorpe didn’t strive to make a comedy. The filmmaker carefully peppers the film with segments of a more serious nature, including high school students who face bullying for sounding gay today.
Having an exciting debut at the Toronto Film Festival, Do I Sound Gay? is currently making the rounds worldwide, including a stop at London’s BFI Flare. An impressive film by a first-time director, Do I Sound Gay? is poised to garner laughs and inspire new thinking for the foreseeable future.