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Shifting Voice of Madness

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An easy way to demonstrate insanity in a character is using an inconsistent speech pattern, or even multiple speech patterns that the character rapidly switches between. The character's erratic behaviour regarding their speech and mannerisms may also disturb other characters, especially when switching mid-speech. It's also used as an indicator of Split Personality, or Many Spirits Inside of One.

Rapid mood swings are also a characteristic used this way, and frequently associated with temporary stress-induced insanity. Suddenly Shouting is a common overlap, when a character switches from calm to angry, and back again.

Not to be confused with Voice of the Legion where there is in fact more than one speaker co-habiting the body or Voices Are Mental, where the minds of the persons have switched over. Also does not overlap with Flip Personality, where the rapid changes are used to indicate that the character is some form of possessed, not insane. Supertrope to Talking to Themself, where the character is knowingly holding a conversation, and switching personalities in order to do so. Compare Secret Identity Vocal Shift.


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    Comic Books 
  • In Savage Dragon, the title character's Distaff Counterpart, She-Dragon, would to all appearances be talking to herself in different voices, all of whom had their own distinct word balloons and personalities. She was believed to be crazy for years, but it turned out she was speaking to inter-dimensional beings.

    Fan Works 
  • The Hellion of The Land of What Might-Have-Been speaks in a wildly-distorted tone of voice, described as deep and thunderous one moment then high and sing-song the next. For good measure, her dialog is conveyed in a patchwork of italic, bold or underlined text, just so you recognize the Hellion's voice long before she appears.


  • At the climactic Elstyn family meeting in Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday, only Simon, the recipient of the threatening notes, takes a cup of tea offered by the maid. That maid is revealed to be Derek's insane former nanny, who targeted Simon in the belief that he was trying to take Derek's inheritance. She rambles insanely about Simon: "I tried to warn him, but he wouldn't listen. Won't listen must be made to listen." And follows that with a Stage Whisper order to Derek: "Make him drink his tea...." Once she leaves the room, an Inspector from Scotland Yard is disturbed enough by the behaviour that he asks everyone to avoid touching the teacup, since the police intend to have it analysed. Afterward, there is some speculation among the other characters about whether she will be legally judged insane.
  • Children of Dune: When Leto confronts Alia, she starts making disjointed statements and speaking in different languages as the multiple personalities inside her all try to talk at once.
  • Discworld's Canting Crew features Altogether Andrews, a beggar and burned out psychic who was overrun with spirits. Andrews' facial expression and style of speech changes as his body passes between the controls of the various personalities.
  • Good Omens features Witchfinder Shadwell, whose accent is described as a random, shifting mixture of accents from all over Britain. His deputy, Newt, finds him unlikeable and possibly unstable, but considers operating as a "witchfinder" to be decent enough pay to tolerate a boss who believes witches are real and need to be burned.
  • The Sherlock Holmes short story, "The Adventure of the Dying Detective", features Sherlock giving instructions to Watson on what man he is supposed to fetch, interspersed with calm musings on oysters covering the world or excitedly telling him to shift the coins in his pocket to be better balanced. He's faking delirium to convince Watson that he's near death, to trick the murderer into confessing to him.
  • Padan Fain, aka Mordeth, Ordeith or Shaisam, is the Big Bad Wannabe of The Wheel of Time. As a result of a very unusual sort of Fusion Dance, he's a composite of two very broken souls, and as such changes accents frequently, usually with his mood and usually without his noticing.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Monster of the Week in Doctor Who episode "The Face of Evil" is Xoanon, an intelligent computer who was in the process of developing a personality. When the Doctor tried to fix it by connecting it to his own brain, it broke instead, giving it a copy of his own personality which conflicted with its own newborn intelligence. As a result, when he returns during the events of the story, the computer has multiple conflicting personalities and is batshit insane. To indicate this, the computer has multiple voice actors, including the Doctor's actor himself, who randomly switch out midsentence while the computer is speaking.
  • In the Kung Fu: The Legend Continues episode "The Secret Place", the villain is a crazy man who has taken a busload of students hostage. His insanity manifests by changing his voice/personality while quoting from movies & tv shows.
  • In Night Court Dan hooks up with a woman with multiple personality disorder, all of which are movie villains. Her voice changes as she goes from character to character.
  • Moriarty from the BBC series Sherlock is generally depicted as Ax-Crazy. One of his more peculiar habits is to sometimes change accents, from an Irish accent to an RP London accent to, most strangely, an American accent (he does this during his Rooftop Confrontation with Holmes in "The Reichenbach Fall").

  • Throughout Eminem's music, he uses a lot of different voice tones, usually to represent different characters commenting on the story or highlight a particular passage, but (considering Eminem's notorious mental health problems both in kayfabe and out) it ended up giving the impression that he was just crazy - which he then ran with.
    • Throughout Encore, Eminem creates the sense of the cartoonish mental breakdown he's having by switching into various accents and personas, ranging from a vaguely Southern Rap accent, an English girl group, a strutting carnival-barker, jeering children, Rabbit, a homophobic preacher, and a roaring Rebel Leader. Especially worth mentioning is "Ass Like That", where he slides between a Hindi accent, the voice of his nemesis Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando.
    • This is especially apparent on his album Relapse, where the album's exceptionally Ax-Crazy incarnation of Slim Shady flits between a variety of accents, mostly Hindi, West Indian and Arabic, though Scottish and German show up, as well as a lot that are just unidentifiable. He also switches his vocal delivery as often as his accents, going from his signature Subverted Kids' Show Creepy High-Pitched Voice to nasal machine-gun rapping to deep, hollow Dissonant Serenity in the space of a few verses.
      • A few songs make the connection between the voices and Slim's insanity - in "Elevator", Slim raps a passage in an uncharacteristically soft, gentle voice, then shouts in his natural voice tone and accent, "All these fucking voices in my head, I can't take it!". He then starts rapping in a German accent - "I'm the Scheiße, ask Dr. Dre, son!")
      • In several other Relapse songs, the nose-pinch voice Eminem used on "My Name Is" and "The Real Slim Shady" (accompanied by 'chk-chk' disc-scratching sounds) is used to represent a slightly saner voice inside Shady's mind - as if it's the voice of the classic Shady trying to break through the Serial Killer version of himself. This can be heard on "Old Time's Sake", "We Made You", "Drop The Bomb On 'Em" and most prominently on "Things Get Worse", in which the nasal voice takes much of the hook, begging Shady to shut up and stop saying these awful things.
    • Throughout The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem/Slim mostly skitters around in a low growl or a high-pitched, catty half-whisper, but breaks into Suddenly Shouting, parodies of the voices of various golden-age rappers, and occasionally older versions of his own voice and flow. Particularly, note the way Eminem lapses back into his original The Marshall Mathers LP voice and delivery when describing people putting a cat in his mailbox and spitting on his onion rings in "So Far...".
      • Used for Continuity Cavalcade in "Bad Guy". As Matthew becomes increasingly demented, his voice starts veering between various older Eminem flows and characters as he paraphrases old Eminem lyrics - the voice of Stan from "Stan"'s third verse, the Marshall Mathers LP voice (as he references "Criminal") and the squeaky early Slim Shady voice (as he paraphrases the 90s D12 obscurity "Desperados").
    • Also used for Continuity Cavalcade on "Discombobulated", in which Eminem dramatises the journey through his comeup with a variety of his old accents - the Relapse accent and the slurred, Southern-twang flow he used on Encore.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate. Xzar of Zhentarim is utterly insane, and delivers most of his hammy lines in different voices and tones to indicate his insanity, even quoting Hannibal Lecter.
  • In Carmen Sandiego: Great Chase Through Time, Jacqueline Hyde shows her multiple personalities while being jailed. Her gentle apology abruptly switches to a rough, mocking, Evil Gloating.
  • At the end of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the true Mastermind behind everything switches rapidly between personalities, including a cutesy teenage girl, a tomboyish punk, and a haughty condescending personality, each with its own vocal patterns and tics. In the dub, she has two voice actresses to accommodate this and the sequel adds a third.
  • In Chapter 2 of Deltarune, Spamton's dialogue is frequently overridden by barely-relevant hyperlinks with distinctly different formatting compared to his primary speech patterns.
  • Maximillian Roivas' autopsy reports of the various aberrations in Eternal Darkness start out sane with the Zombies, but the more insidious the creature, the more out of tune with the natural order it is, the more crazed and unhinged he stands to sound, especially with those creatures commanded by Xel'lotath. Doesn't help that his entire chapter in the game involves him not only facing these horrors, but literally (in-narrative and in-gameplay) losing his mind.
  • In Fallout, the Master suffered from an extreme exposure to the FEV virus, and ended up being reduced to just a sentient blob of flesh that somehow managed to fuse himself with the machinery in his hideout. When you finally meet him, his speech is constantly alternating between a normal male voice, a male computerized voice, and a female computerized voice.
  • In the Outlast: Whistleblower Expansion Pack, at one point Waylon is sneaking around and hears several inmates plotting to turn over anyone they find to Eddie Gluskin in the hopes that he'll leave them alone. Eventually we find out it's actually just one guy talking to himself in multiple different voices/accents.
  • The Portal character GLaDOS is slowly revealed to be insane to the player, and 'her' rapidly shifting tones and moods foreshadow this.
  • In Rune, Loki gives his Evil Gloating of his master plan in this manner underneath the bowels of the Earth, going from sing-song voice to violent outbursts and back again in a manner of seconds, having been driven insane by his captivity by Odin.

    Web Comics 
  • Gamzee Makara from Homestuck, when sane, types WiTh AlTeRnAtInG cApItAlIzAtIoN, but when he becomes dangerously insane, he types JUST like THIS, which is specifically shown to correspond with a similar change in his actual speech - while insane, the volume of his voice fluctuates wildly. One of his victims explicitly comments on the change in his intonation (and complains that it makes him hard to understand), and a single word all in lowercase is enough to make Karkat start panicking.
  • Questionable Content's Randy normally speaks in an excited tone of voice, but during one exchange with Yelling Bird, his text size drops dramatically, speaking in all lowercase (except for the word "I"). The claim he made during this exchange was that he is eternal and he might not be wrong.

    Web Video 
  • Any character from the titles of videos from Bosh are given voices that are edited to have these weirdly memetic mannerisms when saying a word as the title of a video.

    Western Animation 
  • The Care Bears: Adventure in Wonderland. The Care Bears meet the Mad Hatter in Wonderland, who performs a song assuming many mannerisms of different personas brought by simply changing hats, to accentuate his particular insane fixation on hats.
  • HIM from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) switches from sugar-sweet effeminate giggling to a very deep, menacing voice in very sudden and unpredictable ways.
  • Batty Koda in FernGully: The Last Rainforest changes accents/opinions in mid-sentance as a side-effect of the electric Animal Testing he used to endure. But the Doylist explanation is that he was voiced by Robin Williams, and the company gave him an insane character so he could use his many voices in one role.
  • The Red Guy from Cow and Chicken is always in a constant shift of moods and changes his voice accordingly, going from faux-sweet and fluffy whispers to sudden shouts of mania, all to keep them in their toes.
  • The Joker from, well, you know, became very famous for this during his series, and his later showings. He simply can't hold a single emotion for a moment, and it goes from fake amicability to shouts of rage. Other Jokers from other animated series have shown similar styles, but they all follow Mark Hamill's perfect performance.

Alternative Title(s): Shifting Voices Of Madness