Through this process, Thorpe also traces the history of the voice in popular culture, from the image of the intellectual 'pansy' of early cinema to its more insidious iterations like Clifton Webb's character in Otto Preminger's Laura (1944) and almost every Disney villain since. Do I Sound Gay? is at its most engaging when it focuses less on its director's personal experience and expands outwards, analysing other's perceptions and personal battles with their own voice. An interview with Zach Collins, the teen who was brutally beaten in a classroom full of students for his effeminacy, stresses how in some communities such visibility is genuinely dangerous, and how many gay men are forced to 'code-switch' or altogether erase the gayness from the voice due to their job or home situation. The act of 'covering', hiding the parts of your personality that are deemed unacceptable by society, is fascinating and could have done with some more attention - only an interview with Don Lemon, who had to learn how to not act gay, black or southern to land his role as CNN News anchor, places the gay voice within a wider context.
But Lemon is an outlier amongst Thorpe's subjects, most of whom are his friends and members of New York's self-professed gay intelligentsia - Dan Savage, Tim Gunn and David Sedaris. Thorpe would really have benefited from expanding his lines of enquiry further, and drawing the focus more thoroughly away from himself. By sticking to his personal journey rather than spending time on the cultural and historical implications of his subject matter he waters his own ideas down, turning a topic that affects an entire community into a personality piece. It soon becomes clear that rather than erasing his sibilance and upwards inflection through speech therapy, Thorpe must embrace his voice as a source and signifier of his own queer power. But one leaves with the sense that Thorpe knew it was going to go this way all along, and as such he turns Do I Sound Gay? into a vanity project that could have survived on the strength of its subject matter.
Adam Howard | @afahoward