HomeArts & EntertainmentCommentary: Expressing opposing opinions on the voice acting industry

Commentary: Expressing opposing opinions on the voice acting industry

Mario has a voice associated with him when you see his cartoon face. Charles Martinet is linked to the character like Kevin Conroy is linked to Batman. They are the voices people expect to hear out of character adaptations. One would expect Martinet to voice Mario in a movie based around the titular character, but instead Hollywood opted for one of their go-to solutions for a leading man, Chris Pratt, subverting the work of voice actors. Who has ever looked at Mario and thought, “Yeah this would be better with Chris Pratt.” There is a trend in Hollywood of both undermining and undervaluing the voice acting industry. Voice actors and actresses have begun to speak out recently.

“Mob Psycho 100” is a popular anime starring a protagonist named Shigeo Kageyama, whose nickname is Mob. Kyle McCarley voiced the character in the English dub of the anime for the first and second seasons in the series, but in a video he uploaded to YouTube, McCarley explained what his current situation involving the role was. “It has been made abundantly clear to me that in the case of season three of ‘Mob Psycho 100,’ Crunchyroll is not going to be producing that show on a SAG-AFTRA contract,” McCarley said in the video. 

SAG-AFTRA is an American labor union representing people within the entertainment industry, and Crunchyroll is an American subscription service focusing on the distribution, creation and licensing of anime-related products. The main gripe McCarley had was  Crunchyroll was not willing to consider working with a union contract. McCarley was willing to work with Crunchyroll without a union contract if they would agree to hold a meeting with SAG-AFTRA to discuss potential agreements over projects in the future, but they would not hold the meeting, McCarley said. The situation has turned messy as Crunchyroll continues on with production of the dub without McCarley and with the possibility of not reprising other cast members’ roles. This is a case of companies refusing to work with labor unions, despite labor unions being the most popular they have been since 1965, according to Gallup. 

The bigger problem behind this debacle is it seems the company is not willing to commit to a future of respecting their workers’ wishes when it comes to pay. McCarley was being selfless, trying to gain collective ground for the whole, when he could have simply taken the non-union offer extended by Crunchyroll that would have satisfied financial demands, and for this he no longer has a role within the anime. He chose to do this because there are voice actors who are not big stars, who do not have the lead role to bargain with, but an agreement would let them get paid accordingly, which would prevent abuse of power over them as McCarley said in the same YouTube video.

Abuse of power is prevalent in the anime dubbing industry, as voice actress Marin M. Miller would come to understand. According to a tweet by Miller, she got her first job in anime voice acting when she auditioned and was accepted to do work on ”‘Fullmetal Alchemist.” The problem was  she was getting paid $35 per episode. In a string of tweets, she said it took “massive public shaming after a merger” for Crunchyroll to raise wages  to $44 across the board. “I got paid $35 in 2007 and people were still getting those rates THIS YEAR,” Miller said in a tweet. 

Personally, Crunchyroll seems to underpay these talented voice actors by giving them the least amount of money possible and in turn, it forces them to work more for less to keep their career dependent on low wages. Episodes are roughly 20 minutes long, but they are often laborious processes that take many hours of voice work to even get close to a final product, but what about a full-length feature film? 

“Jujutsu Kaisen 0” is a movie prequel for the anime of the same name, and Anairis Quiñones was a large part of the movie, lending her voice for a substantial role. In a response to a fan on Twitter, Quiñones said “I was paid $150 total. No residuals or anything past that.” For a movie that runs for an hour and 45 minutes, and made $34 million during its theatrical release in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo, a website that tracks how much movies make in theatres. For a cast member with that visible of a role, $150 is a low amount. To me it appears that these voice actors and actresses are not in it for the money, they are doing it for the love of the art and the enjoyment they get from being a part of a project they so dearly love. Passion and enjoyment do not pay the bills, nor are they enough to suffice for the work they do to bring these stories to life.

The reality of voice acting is  there are thousands of employees working on projects at this moment who are being vastly underpaid for their work. The actors I mentioned in the article are already established in the industry. Still, they have given firsthand accounts of how they have been mistreated in the past and present. Jobs have been lost, hours have been spent, and years have gone by without any substantial improvement to the working or pay conditions. How is the industry supposed to sustain a level of quality if  employees are treated with little to no respect or dignity for their work? The industry is thriving in terms of the reach and the size of the audience that consumes it as the global anime market size is expected to reach USD 56.39 billion by 2030 according to businesswire, but the people at the heart of it are struggling for their deserved amount. The least we can do for these wonderful patrons of the arts is express solidarity and call for change when they talk about their fight against corporate greed. 

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