WEEK 8: “Sorry to Bother You”

Nina Eldsheim discounts our tendency of reducing sound to its “quantifiable” properties. He argues that we reduce the complex compositions of sound by naming them, with an understanding that through those tendencies “vocal timbre” is racialized. These tendencies are featured in the movie “Sorry to Bother You”- a movie centered on the character Cassius Green, a young African-American male, trying to make a break in a telemarketing company. The scene featured in the trailer denotes how Cassius’ old-timer workmate calls him out for using his natural voice. A voice that is culturally preconceived to deter potential customers. Old-timer Langston, played by Danny Glover, advises Cassius that his voice is not “white enough.” After watching this clip, I realized that when we categorize sounds to labels, to the point of normalization of social and cultural expectations, it is sometimes rooted from necessity. The racialization of vocal markers such as timbre and pitch has been developed and integrated in our society for years. The newer generation introduced to these perpetuated assumptions tied to racialized voice, are forced into these tendencies to confer to the demands of our society. Cassius’ husky and deep textured voice, as well as his speech mannerism, has been discredited by years of inequality and institutionalized racism. Eldsheim extends that “voice is not singular; it is collective.” In this scene, this concept puts Cassius at a disadvantage, his voice is not perceived as an individual, but as part of a disenfranchised collective. Furthermore, the cultural apprehensions tied to his voice are perpetuated by years of underprivileged communities with unequal educational opportunities.  

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