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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Voice of Guy v. Voice of God

Photo of Ira Glass, host of national radio series, "This American Life"

People of a certain age will easily remember the Voice of God. He was the assuring narrator of history and science films shown in schools in the 1950's into the seventies. 

Those deep pipes and stentorian tones were so calming, authoritative and necessary in the era of the Cold War when people took nuclear war threats so seriously that many families built backyard bomb shelters. 

At our Catholic grade school we prayed to defeat the evil Communists and learned how to drop-roll-and cover beneath our grade school desks. The Voice of God that narrated our weekly films said, "Whatever I say is true, and my serious, sober manner says, 'Trust me, I know'."

The story of how the melodious pipes of maturity left us for the media narrators we have today is one that's fun to explore. The reasons why the Voice of God morphed in the past 40 years from authority and confidence into relaxed, cool and collected Voice of Guy may be due to the arrival of inexpensive video tape cameras and recorders. Maybe it was the birth of the Internet era, where everyone is a broadcaster. It is part of the story of supply and demand for programs that flipped from scarce to limitless with the arrival of digital technology.

Voice-over narrations in podcasts today usually reflect a much more common man, though still male of gender and pale of complexion with few exceptions like James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman.

Another change is that today's media announcers usually represent a younger demographic. The Voice of Guy is more casual and youthful, reflecting the culture's young consumer orientation. Inflection in a sentence is rare. What is up with that? Are they expensive, or what?  Advertisers seeking sales and producers seeking ratings all gravitate toward "them that buys" or young people, for the sake of making money.

No doubt yet another style of speaking will become de moda in the future. Will it be an even younger version of the current hipster a la "This American Life"?

Or will history's twists and turns and world economy ups and downs require the return of the reassuring tone of a mature adult to comfort us again?