Interpretative Dubbing: The Voice Stars in the 1980s China
The thesis is a study of the voice actors’ reading of foreign films in the late 1970s and 1980s China. The specific group of voice actors who achieved stardom constitutes the subject of this study. By delving into the professional and personal experiences of the voice actors, the thesis theorizes the group of voice actors as an “interpretative community” possessing regular reading strategies and practices as a result of their similar social position. To account for the voice actors’ patterned reading of foreign films, I consider two layers of the identity of being a voice actor in the cultural and social context in 1980s China, that is, state employee and celebrity, and juxtapose the reading of the voice actors with those of the official and the public. In other words, I contemplate questions such as what it was like in working as state-employee and celebrity, and how the two layers of identity affect the voice actors’ interpretation of foreign films. Accordingly, the thesis is divided into two parts with the first part looking at the voice actors’ subversion of and compliance with the official narrative of foreign films, and the second part examining the interaction between the public and the voice stars. Journal articles and (auto-) biographies written by the voice actors and interviews in which they participated consist of the major sources for analysis in this study. I also highlight the dubbing style of the voice actors as expressive and constitutive of their reading of foreign films. It is through examining these written and audiovisual materials that I discern the limitation and freedom of interpretation within a politically ambivalent regime, attribute the popularity of the voice actors to Chinese people’s cultural orientation towards the West, economic transition, and distinctive celebrity culture in the early 1980s China, and demonstrate interwoven relations among the voice actors, the public, and the officials. The study is intended to inspire and promote further research into issues that are critical in understanding contemporary and historical cinema across the world, such as the multiple actors engaged in the dubbing industry, the role of translation in transnational films, and the possibility of agency in working in a politically ambiguous environment.