Rachel Butera’s role as General Leia is under threat after she joked about a sexual assault victim.
For those who watched Dr Christine Blasey Ford recount her alleged assault at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanuagh yesterday, reactions were mixed.
Many spoke of their desire to sit through Dr Ford’s testimony – which often veered into painful territory as she relived the long-lasting psychological effects of the incident – in solidarity with her. Others expressed fury at the fact Dr Ford was being forced to relive trauma in front of an audience of millions and that the hearing – ostensibly to decide whether Brett Kavanaugh was fit for the role of Supreme Court Justice – seemed more akin to a trial testing Dr Ford’s credibility as a witness.
The overriding conclusion however, was that Dr Ford was a ‘hero’ for coming forward.
Except it seems, for one actor. Instead, for Rachel Butera, the voice of General Leia Organa in the animated series Star Wars: Resistance, the main takeaway from watching Dr Ford testify in graphic detail about being held down and sexually assaulted as a 15-year-old, was… her voice.
Butera posted a one minute video to Twitter, in which she imitated Dr Ford’s distinctive way of speaking, along with the caption “I can’t believe this is my voice, can you???. Dr Christine Blasey-Vocal-Fry-Ford.”
In the video itself she pretended to be Dr Ford, saying:
“I sound like I’m still back at that high school party [where Ford alleges the assault took place]… I can’t help it, I just have this kind of voice like a baby, even though I’m a doctor. And I’m on this […] political stage and I have kids myself. I don’t know why I speak with vocal fry, um, but you can listen to my testimony and hear that a grown woman sounds this way.”
Vocal fry, for those unacquainted is a speech pattern most famously used by the likes of Britney Spears in Hit Me Baby One More Time and Kim Kardashian. It’s caused when someone drops to their lowest natural register and has been the subject of feminist debate in recent years, thanks to critiques that police its manifestation in young women.
Studies have found that young women who use vocal fry are “perceived as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive and less hireable.” In contrast, research shows that men actually use vocal fry more than young women – but they don’t suffer the associations with ‘airheadness’.
"I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school" - Christine Blasey Ford gives testimony in #KavanaughHearings https://t.co/RGLhzWMovX pic.twitter.com/u2E6ST0EKt— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) September 27, 2018
Backlash to Butera’s video was swift; Twitter users called for action from LucasFilm and Disney, citing the actor’s role as Leia, stating that mocking sexual assault victims was the antithesis of the values the character stood for.
“Rachel Butera (the new voice of Leia) should be deeply ashamed of her actions today. Carrie [Fisher] would never stoop so low,” wrote one user.
“I am absolutely disgusted with what Rachel Butera did today, and it is a disservice to both the character of General Leia Organa and Carrie Fisher,” posted another. The hashtag ‘#NotMyLeia’ also began making the rounds.
Star Wars, and in particular the character of Leia, reminds me to stand up for what I believe in. Rachel Butera, the voice actor of Leia in Star Wars Resistance, posted a video mocking the voice of Dr. Ford. To me, that is unacceptable and I hope Disney/Lucasfilm addresses it.— Joseph Scrimshaw (@JosephScrimshaw) September 27, 2018
For her part, Butera quickly removed the video and followed up by posting two apology tweets.
“I was by no means mocking a rape victim I am 100% on Christine Blasey Ford’s side!” she wrote. “I am just a vocal impressionist and decided to imitate her voice but it was a mistake. I apologize and I believe ALL women.”
A second tweet doubled down.
“I am seriously sorry I honestly didn’t think this would offend anyone I just thought I was imitating the voice.”
Both the video and the apology tweets were then deleted, with Butera’s account placed on lockdown. A huge misfire.