An Analysis on the Movie Reality Bites
Communication is a vital human process that people do everyday. Communication is used by people to be able to interact with one another and to develop or establish a particular relationship with the other participants in the communication process. Through communication people are able to understand each other’s views and ideas.
The main foundation of communication is the interpersonal communication, which is communication process that happens between two individuals. The basic elements of communication are the verbal and non-verbal communication. These are channels or modes of communication utilized by the participants in order to convey their messages.
Verbal communication is one way of interaction with another person. It is composed of certain components such as sound, words, and language (Sussman n.p). For this is the type of communication, use of words is essential where the use of language that can be used by the two individuals involved is its main characteristics.
At birth, the absence of infants’ the capability to speak makes it difficult for them to send messages to their intended receiver. They often resort to crying, babbling, and cooing to be able to convey their messages (Sussman n.p).
Verbal communication is different in various cultures. In low-context cultures such as the United States and other European nations, verbal messages are presented directly. In high-context cultures such as the Asian countries, messages are interpreted based on the underlying social, physical, and relational content (Verderber and Verderber 55).
The development of language reflects one’s gender, culture, tradition, age, and other social factors that can be seen when conducting interpersonal communication. The world is composed of over 3,000 languages and major dialects that make verbal communication far more complex and diverse (Sussman n.p).
There is also a difference in the manner in which women and men construct verbal messages. These differences affect the way the message is perceived especially when it is received by members of the other sex. According to Verderber, women tend to use more intensifiers and hedges than men. Intensifiers strengthen the word (e.g. so, quite) while hedges tend to weaken it (e.g. somewhat, may). Women also frequently ask questions than men. Women solicit as many information, elaboration, and reactions regarding the message they have sent (Verderber and Verderber 56).
On the other hand, non-verbal communication is a communication tool in the absence of words and language. In many situations, people say what they think rather than what they really feel. The old cliché “action speaks louder than words” is true in the sense that people tend to incorporate hidden non-verbal messages in their communication (Messina and Messina n.p).
Nonverbal communication is learned and developed at an unconscious level. People sometimes are unaware of the nonverbal messages they send. Some forms nonverbal communication is general or universal such as facial expressions and gestures. However, some gestures may convey various meanings in different cultures and the use of nonverbal communication to display emotion may also vary (Verderber and Verderbar 76)
Verbal and nonverbal communication are utilized and shown in movies. Silent movies, for instance, are famous for its nonverbal communication element. The movie, Reality Bites, directed by the actor Ben Stiller, is also composed of verbal and nonverbal communication elements. The movie was shown in the year 1994. It aims to give an overview of what Generation X is really like. The movie revolves around four friends who recently graduated from college and started to deal with life’s hurdles. The film attempts to give emphasis on the overly-hyped Generation X.
The story mainly focuses on the main character, Lelaina Pierce, played by Winona Ryder. In the film, she graduates as a valedictorian of her college and faces the reality and hardships of living away from her supportive but out-of-touch parents. She dislikes her internship under a TV personality. She gets fired from her job due to the prank she pulled on her boss, causing her to become unemployed. In the movie, she also has to choose between Michael Grates (Ben Stiller), a music-video executive, and Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke), her friend who was a typical slacker. In the end, Lelaina chooses Troy because they already have a constructed reality and established relationship (Reality Bites).
The film gives the audience a preview of what life is after college. It also gives the viewers an idea on what Generation X is, as the public has often associated them with idealism, laziness, unemployment or underemployment. The film also gives its viewers a glimpse on different societal issues which clearly affects the Generation X nowadays, such as the issue of AIDS, its treatment, and how individuals accept it. It also presents the issue of homosexuality and how it was perceived by the people during the time when the film was released.
Verbal communication conveyed in the film in the form of dialogues creates the full effect of what the film really meant. The dialogues, script, and interaction of the actors are the ways of using verbal communication in a movie. Dialogues give life to the characters; these dialogues allow them to deliver the whole message of the film. The verbal message exchange of the characters enable the film to show its underlying theme, genre and theory used. Through the use of verbal messages in the film, the director was able to transmit his ideas to his respective audience.
Non-verbal messages are portrayed in the form of gestures, facial expressions, and the scenes that the camera captured. Non-verbal messages in the film send message that the audience could understand in the absence of words. For example, the eye contact between Lelaina and Troy is an implication that they are falling in love with each other. The scene where Lelaina tries to catch up to Troy who is about to leave also implies that she chose him over Michael Grates (Reality Bites).
The underlying communication theory in the film Reality Bites is Constructivism offered by Jesse Delia. The theory tries to explain how the cognitively complex individual is able to conduct sophisticated communication and achieve positive outcomes. Individuals with high cognitive capacity are able to construct rhetorical messages designs and attain multiple communication goals (Lane n.p).
Constructivism is a scientific theory which attempts to explain why there are some people more successful in attaining their goals than others by utilizing rhetorical message design in their interpersonal communication. It only shows that cognitive process plays a big role in human communication (Lane n.p).
In the film Reality Bites, the application of the theory of Jesse Delia is best exhibited in a general scale. By viewing the whole film, the viewers would be able to grasp the theory than merely examine a few parts and dialogues made by the actors.
The theory mostly applies to Troy Dyer for he is the character that constructed the most rhetoric messages in the film. His rhetoric messages were intended for Lelaina, for he had liked her for a long time. Michael Grates is a music video executive who can give opportunity to Lelaina, when he discovered that she documented the typical everyday lives of her friends. However, Troy Dyer as a typical slacker can offer nothing to Lelaina but his messages (Reality Bites).
Examples of rhetoric messages by the character Troy Dyer are:
What happened is that um, I kinda got this arcane glimpse of the universe and the best thing I can say about that is… I don’t know” (“Reality Bites Quotes” n.p).
There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a… a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know… a quarter-pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter becomes a cackle… and I sit back and I smoke my Camel Straights and I ride my own melt (“Reality Bites Quotes” n.p).
His interpersonal communication goal is to get the love of Lelaina through the use of rhetorical design messages in his dialogues. In Constructivism, it said that those who are able to construct rhetoric messages are the ones most likely to attain their goals. At the resolution of the film, Lelaina and Troy end up with each other.
Communication plays a large part in society and the lives of individuals. Whether we are in an interview looking for a wonderful career or just plainly conversing with our loved ones, communication is highly important. Thus, in order to attain our desired communication goals, we must be equipped with the proper language and the ability to convey the message through the most appropriate way.
Lane, Derek R. “Constructivism”. Honors: Communication Capstone Spring 2001 Theory
Workbook. University of Kentucky. 14 Feb 2001. 9 May 2008. <http://www.uky.edu/~drlane/capstone/interpersonal/construct.html>.
Messina, James J. and Constance M. Messina. “Nonverbal Communication Issues.”
Coping.Org. 2008. 13 May 2008. <http://www.coping.org/dialogue/nonverbal.htm#Content>.
Reality Bites. Dir. Ben Stiller. Perfs. Wynona Rider, Ethan Hawke, Ben Stiller. Universal
“Reality Bites Quotes.” Geocities. 9 May 2008.
Sussman, Lyle. “Verbal Communication.” Effective Communication. University of
Louiseville. 2007. 13 May 2008. <http://cobweb2.louisville.edu/faculty/regbruce/bruce//mgmtwebs/commun_f98/Verbal.htm>.
Verderber, Rudolf F. and Kathleen S. Verderber. Communicate!. Belmont, California:
Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
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