Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Rub a dub dub...

The French Film industry has recently been branded as 'racist' for not allowing black actors to dub white stars' voices, although white voices are quite often used to dub black stars' voices, such as Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman and Danny Glover. The reason apparently is that white voices are more 'universal', whereas black voices are too distinctive. Hmmm, that's an interesting one.

Dubbing is a huge industry in France and one of the more bizarre things about living in France as a native English speaker (the list is long, let me assure you). Familiar tv characters, who have very distinctive voices back home, are transformed into French speakers with completely different voices.

This isn't really a problem when you are seeing a film for the first time; you just accept that that is how their voice should sound. But when it's a tv series you've seen hundreds of times in English, it can be slightly disturbing.

One of my local cafes always has 'Les Feux de l'Amour', or 'The Young and the Restless' to you and me, playing on the tv in the afternoons. Who knew that Victor Newman spoke such beautiful French? Or imagine watching Joey in 'Friends' and saying 'how you doin?' in French. It's just bizarre...

Many of the French 'voices' who dub the big names stars have become household names because of it. And once they find the voice of a certain actor, that voice tends to do that actor in several movies. Here's an article about Maik Darah in the Paris Voice magazine some years ago. Mme Darah has been the French voice several times for Whoopi Goldberg, Monica on Friends, and Madonna. I guess she's been one of the lucky French black voices allowed to do a white star's voice.

Problems can arise though when instead of doing a straight translation of the script, the dubbers are forced to water down the original. French audiences just have to hope that what they are hearing is as close to the original as possible.

But imagine not ever hearing George Clooney's real voice....

4 comments:

softinthehead said...

I hear what you're saying, the lovely George, but truth be told he doesn't have to say a word to turn me to jelly.....mmmmm! But a French Joey, now that I have to hear.

poppy fields said...

I had never seen the Nounou d'Enfer in English and when back in the states a couple of years ago I heard Fran Drescher's real voice, I was kind of thankful for the dubbed version :)

The Duchess said...

Meredith, did they even try to make the dubbed voice as annoying as Fran Drescher's? And what about Karen in Will and Grace, wonder what her dubbed voice is like....

jonnifer said...

That's really obnoxious about black dubbers not being cast to do white actors' voices if it's true. It sounds like blind auditions (and CVs, and apartment applications, and...) are called for.