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Cozy Voice for Catastrophes

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The work you are reading deals with some dark, dark things. Distressingly unique methods for killing characters, living manifestations of dark psyches, and things that should traumatize every character in the story for life.

So, naturally, this should be treated with the deathly serious import such subject matter warrants, right?

No, actually. One school has it that if you're going to revolt your reader, you'd better do something to make your story easy to read. So the narrator or viewpoint character will speak of those horrific topics in a calm, sort of folksy way that both engages and detaches the audience. It's also applicable to audio and video. In combination with a Lemony Narrator, this may lead you to wonder if said narrator has been rendered insane by the story they are telling.

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See also Dissonant Serenity, Soft-Spoken Sadist, Relax-o-Vision and Danger Deadpan. The effect may be similar to a Creepy Monotone if the dissonance between the voice and the description is stark enough.


Examples:

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     Fanfiction  

     Film  

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     Literature  

  • The Green Mile is the epitome of this. People's faces are melted off more than once, but the tone is always that of an old man with good stories to tell. Stephen King novels in general have a very folksy, affable quality to the narration, no matter what nightmarish situation they're narrating.
  • Old Man's War is similar, right down to the, well, old man. The aliens they fight each have their own unique way of being horrifying, but the narrator's matter-of-fact tone sees you through.
  • This could almost be considered Amélie Nothomb's trademark style. Fear and Trembling is an excellent example.
  • Ender's Game is a borderline case - Ender is not exactly a poster child for Angst? What Angst?, but he's still a child discovering new things, affording the proceedings a kind of wonder.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay sometimes indulges in this, with the narrator reflecting on hard or horrible events as if looking back on them from decades later, or addressing them with a sort of gentle poetry or clinical detachment like a teacher lecturing his class. The overall effect is a sense that yes, things are horrible now, but life goes on and the world carries on.
  • Ciaphas Cain has the Framing Device that they're Cain's memoirs, written while he's in retirement decades after the events he's describing have happened. Thus they're written in this rambling, detached manner, Cain sidetracking himself for whole paragraphs or recounting events that were terrifying at the time with his usual humour or Lovable Cowardice, regardless of whether he's describing the horrors of an Ork occupation, a pile of corpses sacrificed in a Chaos ritual surrounded by Brown Note-including sigils, or a colossal Tyranid swarm barreling towards a town. He drops this entirely however when recounting his expedition to a Necron Tomb World, which shows how much he still fears them.

     Live Action TV  

  • A possible alternative name for this trope is "The David Attenborough Narration". Such a calm soothing voice, easing you through the violently graphic imagery of a seal being snatched from the beach and shredded by a killer whale.
  • The narrator of Pushing Daisies was voiced by Jim Dale. Every episode we would hear him describing creatively violent murders in dulcet English tones.

     Music  

     Radio  

  • Cabin Pressure: When filming a safety video for MJN, the initial plan is to have Douglas do the recording, but Carolyn's boyfriend Herc Shipwright (voiced by Anthony Head) is present and offers to help out. Carolyn shoots down objections on the grounds they may as well use Herc while they've got him. Then Douglas and Herc get into a "syrup off".
  • Invoked in a John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme sketch. An actor is hired to read an emergency broadcast which he believes is part of a movie script. Unbeknownst to him, he's actually recording a real emergency announcement, because the government is about to release a biohazard and needs a recording of a soothing voice telling people not to panic.
  • Dead Ringers:
    • "Joan Bakeswell Talks You Through The Apocalypse", as she explains to the listeners of BBC Radio 4 how actually Britain being annihilated in nuclear war is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.
    • "Penelope Wilton Makes the 2010s Sound Lovely" is an attempt by the Beeb to invoke this. However, it turns out even Penelope Wilton cannot make the 2010s sound lovely, and she gives up about five seconds in.
    • Another sketch has BBC newscaster Hue Edwards introduce himself as the "comfort blanket for the news".

     Video Games  

  • GlaDOS of Portal describes everything from deadly experiments to your impending death with the same urgency as an automated recording announcing the next train to arrive. At the end and in the entirety of Portal 2, she drops this for a detached monotone that manages to be soothing and creepy at the same time.
  • Vigil in Mass Effect lays out a million-years-old cycle of galactic-scale genocide in a relaxed, calm manner.
  • Bastion applies this both visually (through a cute, childish art style) and aurally (Logan Cunningham, an actor with no previous major credits, has been noted by multiple reviewers to give very soothing narration even when listing off the names of all the dead people the protagonist finds in the street.)
  • Transistor, Spiritual Successor to Bastion, has Royce Bracket, who retains the same soft, frail, scatterbrained voice regardless of whether he's describing the agents of the apocalypse or trying his best to kill you.
  • Mega Man Legends: MegaMan Juno always talks in a calm, soft voice, even as he tells Mega Man he's going to wipe out the island's populace, and then electrocutes him to trap him so he doesn't interfere.
  • In The Secret World, Kaoru of the Dream Palace possesses a soothing, relaxing tone of voice that never loses its serenity even in the face of an ongoing apocalypse, especially notable if you've just been chased off the street by a horde of Filth infectees. This is actually commented on in "Nightmares In The Dream Palace," when John recalls being deeply reassured by Kaoru's voice, commenting that it "made everything alright."
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     Voice Actors  

  • Paul McGann has a soft, pleasant voice, and has said in an interview that for this reason he's often asked to narrate documentaries on frightening topics.
  • Uh, Miles Richardson, anyone? This is the guy who played Irving Braxiatel.
  • Morgan Freeman is the go-to guy for one of these as shown by xkcd.
  • The British equivalent to Freeman, Stephen Fry, can also do this, and he in fact did with two very personal documentaries about very frightening things (HIV and bipolar disorder).
  • As referenced above, Sir David Attenborough has a calm, soothing voice that makes the most heart-rending scenes in a documentary less awful.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch has a low, purring baritone, and has done documentaries and audiobooks related to murder and war.

     Web Original  

  • The Little Fears, a YouTube personality, makes videos wherein she recites Creepypasta stories, 'true' accounts, and her own made up tales in this manner.
  • Welcome to Night Vale has the velvety baritone of its narrator, Cecil Palmer, relate the various bizarre and horrifying events that regularly happen around town. Because Cecil is a local and is Conditioned to Accept Horror, he treats the news with disturbingly understated matter-of-factness. And even he is outdone by Kevin, his counterpart in Desert Bluffs, who veers straight into Stepford Smiler territory.
  • Night Mind does a good job of having a memetically soothing voice, considering most of his content deals with horror webseries.
  • Cryaotic has quite a voice, putting it to use in his "Cry Reads" series and several Let's Plays. People who are new to his content almost always point this out.
  • Downplayed in Alice Isn't Dead. While the truck-driver Narrator is capable of displaying agitation and fear in her Captains Logs, she's remarkably coherent and relatively muted when describing horrifying paranormal events that occur both in the past and in real-time while she's driving, where panicked babbling or wordless screaming would be entirely understandable.

     Western Animation  

  • In Thundercats 2011, Court Mage Jaga (veteran voice actor Corey Burton) has an Opening Monologue wherein he describes the necessity of a kingdom's fall in a reassuringly pleasant tone.
  • Despite looking like a demon from hell and committing some of the most monstrous acts of the series, Darth Maul's got serious Vocal Dissonance going on in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Even when he's threatening to torture Obi-Wan to death, his voice is rich, velvety, and smooth, never raised much above a whisper. He sounds more like he should be narrating an ASMR video than threatening to chop off people's heads.
  • Throughout The Midnight Gospel, most of the people Duncan interviews tend to possess very calming voices, often serving as an immediate contrast to the violence and the horror that's sometimes playing out around them:
    • Glasses Man (voiced by Drew Pinsky) speaks in a very easy-going, relaxing tone of voice, and actually carries on a rather lackadaisical discussion of drug prohibition even while zombies are besieging the White House.
    • Annie and Raghu the deer-dogs (voiced by Anne Lamott and Raghu Marcus) are both very amiable, folksy characters with the voices to match, and also carry on with a very frank discussion of death, cancer, alcoholism, depression, spirituality, and the toxic myths surrounding artists... all while Annie, Raghu and Clancy are being butchered in a slaughterhouse.
    • Jason the psychopomp (voiced by Jason Louv) might just take the cake: he possesses a very soothing monotone that seems quite appropriate for discussions of nonessentialism and enlightenment... except it's playing out across a nightmarish spectacle of Bob repeatedly dying and getting rewound back to the start of the Bardo Loop.


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