This may just be another cliche story about a young man pressured by conceived notions of masculinity who ends up becoming an enforcer for a crime family, but I think there’s value in my telling it even if just one person can learn from it.
College was an opportunity to close the book on the milquetoast nerd I had been. Thanks to a hit summer movie, I had an easy road map for this: I started talking like Christian Bale from the Batman movies. The throaty depth, the slight lisp- it seemed perfect for the kind of affected masculinity and panache I wanted.
It worked, to a point. The impression my new voice gave to everyone I met was that of a worldly, capable man. I was pulled into the deep of the social pool in a way that my old Jimmy Stewart, nasally elocution hadn’t done for me in high school.
It started simply enough, I was at a bar with friends and the crowds pressing on each other had us mingling with a group of genial enough thirty-somethings who would turn out to be members of the crime family I would end up working for. One named Billy suggested, “‘ey, James Bond, my buddy Louie who just went to the John? Total rat. You should go put a scare into him.”
As they say, peer pressure is a motherfucker, and so are the adulating cries from a half dozen women. I did as Billy suggested, and waited outside the bathroom for Louie. When he emerged, I sprung on him shouting something in the gravely Batman-Bale voice (I think the line about “where are the drugs going?”)
Louie had been stealing portions of drugs he was handling for the mob and Billy had actually been onto him. Since he was on edge about his embezzlement, Louie was so startled that he tried to pull a gun on me, but lost his footing. Louie fell into a window which broke under him and a shard stabbed him in the throat.
Louie bled out right there in front of me, and I couldn’t say a word in either of my voices. I was calling the cops by the time Billy came to check on the noise, and he asked why I’d do that. Finally, in my best Bale voice I quoted: “People are dying Billy, what would you have me do?”
Thus began my years of being the mob interrogator. They liked my voice. So have plenty of women and others I’ve met in my years- over a decade- of putting it on. It’s not who I am, or at least it wasn’t.
Now, when I take off the facade, I don’t know who I am without it, and much like Batman, it’s terrifying the think that it’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me. I allowed doing Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne/Batman voice to turn me into a mob enforcer, and now if I want to be something more, I have to start from scratch.
I hope young men can take my story to heart and learn from it, if only to choose a better voice for their personas, for example Steve Carrell is a pretty stand up guy with a versatile body of work to draw from.