It hit me a day or two ago that an awful lot of women these days — actresses and broadcasters to some extent, but mainly average, non-famous women in the under-30 range (including movie publicists) — speak with thin little pipsqueak voices. Couple this with a general tendency to use mallspeak accents and phrasings (which 85% to 90% of under-30 women have done in order to sound like everyone else) and it almost seems as if inane peep-peep voices have become a kind of generational signature.
Go to any bar and restaurant and walk around and listen to women’s voices…”peepity-peep-peep” and “squeakity-squeak-squeak,” over and over and over.
For whatever reason these women have decided that sultry, smoky, husky voices — the kind that Lauren Bacall and Glenda Jackson and Anne Bancroft and Patricia Neal used to play like soulful wind instruments — aren’t as appealing or have perhaps been categorized as unattractive, and that they need to project more of an amiable “ooh-ooh” Betty Boop thing.
I’m obviously not reporting scientific data, but it does seem as if an awful lot of Minnie Mouse voices are being feigned or emphasized these days, and that the rich, intriguing tonalities found in the wonderfully adult voices of Meryl Streep or Ann Sheridan in the 1940s, or Jessica Lange or Katherine Hepburn or Greer Garson or Faye Dunaway or Jodie Foster aren’t heard as much.
You can’t be one of those super-cool women who wear short skirts and long jackets and speak with a peep-peep voice. You have to sound like Anouk Aimee or Simone Signoret or Joan Crawford or Jane Russell….that line of country.
I really do think it’s affected to some extent. Chosen. Performed. Almost anyone can go deeper or higher if they want.
There’s that old story about director Howard Hawks telling a young Lauren Bacall (i.e., before he cast her in To Have and Have Not) that it’s sexier to speak in a lower register, and that she should give it a shot. Bacall took Hawks’ advice and trained herself to speak with a deeper voice. It was that simple.
So if Bacall can do this, anyone can in either direction. And I think — suspect — that a lot of younger women have persuaded themselves, perhaps not consciously, that squeaky-peepy works best in today’s environment. Mistake.