Voice Is Mightier Than The Pen:
Treat This Power Responsibly
By Mahmoud Taji
What I want to bring to your attention is a focus on the amount of power we wield as voice actors.
In 1839, Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote:
And what are these scripts that we read as voice-over talent, except words written down using a digital pen on a bed of letters and keys?
Why is it that when we get casting direction we are told to be Authoritative or Warm, or Convincing?
It’s because the Voice is even mightier than the Pen. For though the pen writes eloquently, the voice expresses infinitely more.
Why is a podcast so much more entertaining than a written article?
Is it because we are lazy and don’t wish to tire our eyes? Or is it because as human beings, we make connections with each syllable from the caster? With each inflection, with every emotion that seeps through the words that flow out of them, we relate.
I believe in accountability. I believe that what we say should be a reflection of what we are willing to be accountable for.
Just like a lawyer who defends a murderer - and knows he is a murderer and yet still gets him acquitted because he wants to show off how good he is, or how convincing he is. Or get a big fat paycheck.
There is a saying attributed to Samuel Johnson (but it is not confirmed as his originally):
This goes against Islamic doctrine, since according to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
So, what does that mean? It means that you are accountable for your intent.
If I am preaching Goodness to you and then go and commit evil behind your back, then that only makes me a hypocrite and makes my word less meaningful.
VOICES OF AUTHORITY
If we take any and every voice-over job that comes our way, does that make us hypocrites - promoters of things we do not believe in?
Is that all that we stand for? Making money?
I don’t believe that we are hypocrites. I believe that we are people who God has given the gift of oration. A gift far mightier than the pen, and in turn, the sword.
We are the voices of authority that convince people and teach and command. We are the convincers, the negotiators the promoters.
It is funny that these profound words of wisdom were propogated via a comic book character:
I don’t know who wrote those words for Spiderman - Stan Lee, that other guy Avi, or Ari something. But the words ring true to me in almost everything I do.
If I am given the responsibility of being the voice of authority, then I should treat this great power with great responsibility.
WORDS OF POWER
If you doubt what I say and don’t believe that the power of the voice is so profound, then read up on the panic caused by the War Of The Worlds radio broadcast in 1938.
Maybe it's not my place to talk about ethics - to each his own. But as a voice among many other voices, I can’t help but think that being a voice-over talent means much more than just an mp3 sound file that someone puts on a documentary or an advert.
These are words of power.
Mahmoud Taji is a voice actor based in Cairo, Egypt, specializing in Classical Arabic, New Standard Arabic, many forms of Colloquial Arabic (Egyptian, Shami and a little Khaleeji), bilingual Arabic / English text, and translation services. A Muslim who follows the religion of Islam, he rejects voice work from a number of industries, listed on his web site as VO Restrictions. He has a degree in journalism and mass communication, is creative director at a Cairo advertising agency, and publishes the lively and informative blog, Taji’s Voice Emporium, and is developing a directory of voice-over job and casting sites.
VO Directory: http://voiceover-casting.com/emporium/directory
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