“Male-female conversation is a cross-cultural communication” (Tannen. You Just Don’t Understand. p. 42). This quotation from Deborah Tannen drives the main point to the communication theory of Genderlect Styles. http://www.afirstlook.com/edition_7/theory_resources/Genderlect_Styles. Tannen sees male and female communication as two unique cultural dialects. Male communication tends to focus on status, the ability to command attention and independence. Males also tend to communicate through shared activities. Females communicate to connect with other human beings. They form bonds through intimate and open conversations. Neither way should be viewed as superior nor inferior, just distinct cultural dialects. This cultural difference between male and female communication appears aggressively in the 2002 film, “Habla con Ella” directed by Pedro Almodovar (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0287467/).
The plot revolves around the connecting lives of two men, Benigno, a hospital nurse and Marco, a reporter for a local paper. Both characters share a similar story of a relationship with the female culture. Benigno has been assigned as a caregiver to Alicia, a young ballet dancer who has been in a coma after a car accident. Benigno as been secretly obsessive about Alicia years before her accident, from watching her ballet from his apartment across the street. Marco meets Benigno when Marco’s romantic interest Lydia, a famous matador falls into a coma after being gored in a bull fight. Marco had previously broken Lydia down in an interview and believes he caused her lack of focus which led to the incident. The relationship of the two men and the way they connect with each other and to the lifeless women drive the film’s plot. Their relationship not only supports the Genderlect theory but also challenges it.
Benigno, a nurse and caregiver for his aging mother for the past twenty years has more of a female way of communication, not only in his relationship with Alicia but with Marco too. In a conversation seen between the two men after both have been spending time beside the bed of their comatose victims, Benigno urges Marco to “talk to her(Lydia)” and it will help him cope with the unknown outcome of the accident. Until this point Marco has felt very awkward and out of place while staying with Lydia. While Marco remains silent on Benigno’s comment, Benigno leans down and tells the comatose Lydia that he will come around and eventually tell her how he feels. This connection-focused communication appears as Marco learns Benigno has been carefully caring for Alicia for the past four years. As Marco spends time with Benigno and Alicia in the hospital he discovers that Benigno openly shares all his thoughts with Alicia and has formed an intimate connection and relationship to her despite having never truly met her. This type of intimacy and openness with a central focus on connection leans towards the female culture in communicating despite Benigno being male. Alicia’s dad, a psychiatrist questions Benigno’s sexuality at one point.
While Benigno’s open, yet one-sided conversation with Alicia reveals a feminine side to his character, he and Marco also connect with the male culture of the genderlect theory. The relationship between Marco and Benigno strengthen as they spend their days caring for their comatose females. This shared activity is a doorway that males use to connect contrasted to woman who like to have open and intimate conversations. In one scene Marco and Benigno bring the two women to Alicia’s balcony. They dress them up and set them in comfortable relaxing chairs with sunglasses, hats and magazines so all four can share a peaceful and relaxing time in the afternoon sun. The two motionless bodies of the females lean slightly in towards each other at one point and Benigno remarks that, “They are talking about us.” Through this experience and other similar ones Marco and Benigno form a relationship that helps them deal with their situations and unrequited love.
While Marco and Benigno’s friendship forms through the victimized females they care for, the outcome of both men’s situations drastically differs. Eventually Marco loses the connection and relationship he has with Lydia and moves away while Benigno’s compassion for Alicia drives him to commit an unthinkable act out of his obsession with ¡her. The friendship is rekindled when Marco desperately tries to help Benigno who has been driven to the brink of insanity due to his aggressive affection for a woman unable to return the feelings. The genderlect differences appear again as Marco visits Benigno in prison to listen to him. While both main characters are male the two sides of Genderlect communication theory appear in the relationship they have together.
3.Tannen, Deborah, You Just Don’t Understand. Ballentine, New York. 1990.
4.Griffin, Em. Communication: A First Look at Communication Theory. Mcgraw-Hill, New York. 2009.