Your Voice Isn’t All of You

Your voice is you.

Is it?

Actually, there’s a lot more that goes into you than just your voice. Pillow Talk, a movie by Michael Gordon, explores the boundaries of what your voice can be. In the movie, Brad and Jan share a phone line, which Jan is not happy about, because Brad is constantly using it, and she can never make her calls. They have never met, but through his manager Jonathan, who happens to be in love with Jan, and various other circumstances, Brad ends up in the same club as Jan at the same time, and Brad knows who Jan is but Jan does not recognize Brad. The rest of the movie follows Brad’s attempts to woo Jan using a false name, accent, and persona.

When first watching the movie, one might wonder how Jan could fall for this. Granted, Brad is very smooth and has a couple of lucky breaks to keep up the illusion, but the truth is, it’s not too hard to deceive someone like that. Anyone who has seen the movie Catfish knows that we often take people at face value, and that a well planned scheme could fool almost anyone.

My hypothesis is that we take people at face value because we often have to. If everyone constantly questioned the authenticity of every other person and their actions, society would fall apart. Nothing could be accomplished, from business deals to marriages. Nothing would happen. We hope that everyone’s better nature prevails and accept what they show us about themselves as true.

That’s why Jan believes in Rex Stetson. She has no reason to suspect that he’s the promiscuous playboy she shares a phone line with.

The important thing is that it’s not the voice Brad uses that fools Jan. Brad could have used almost any kind of accent he wanted to. It wouldn’t even have to be a discernible accent; he could sound like anything or anyone as long as he doesn’t sound like the voice Jan will recognize. That’s a wide range of options.

Brad creates a believable backstory. He drops remarks in conversation that are congruous with this new character and solidify Jan’s belief that he’s a man from Texas. This is what fools Jan.

His accent helps, but it’s not what makes Jan believe in Rex Stetson. It might even be the least important thing he does. As I noted earlier, he could have used any accent. If his accent were followed with the same believable act, it would certainly have succeeded. He might even have gotten away with using his regular voice, given that Jan had only ever heard him over the phone, and probably didn’t pay much attention to what he sounded like. There’s a good chance she wouldn’t have recognized his voice in person. At most, it would take a slight tweak to his voice to fool her (in terms of his voice). On the other hand, even if he’d used an impeccable accent, but made mistakes in his act, Jan would have seen through it right away.

So no, your voice isn’t you. You are you, if that makes any sense. Your background, your story, your pool of experiences are what make you you. Just changing what you sound like when you tell those stories isn’t enough to change who you are.


2 thoughts on “Your Voice Isn’t All of You

  1. I think this is a great article. You explain your points clearly and explicitly. I agree with your statement that the change of a person’s voice is not enough for changing who he or she is. For instance, sometimes I like doing a little prank to my friends. I would mimic the accent or voice of another person and try to fool them. But they always recognize me quite quickly, even though they say that my voice becomes almost like that another person. The true reason why I can’t fool them by simply altering my voice is that though I sound different, I am still myself. I speak in a way I am used to and I make jokes that are so me. And the way I speak is nurtured by my life experiences, and my backgrounds. And apparently these elements, which are hard to change, make code switching even harder.


  2. I like you have chosen a side with such a controversial topic. Honestly, i feel that you need everything, voice, story, background experience and all. Its great that you have analyzed the fact that he drops quotes and phrases that make him look like the person he was pretending to be. That adds to the fact that life story, persona and experience are needed when we code switch.


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