Where Plain Speech Went (to die)—Has it Died?
Asher invites guest and colleague Steve Pruneau to comment on the "Talk Like a Man" episode. Asher shames modern movie dialogue and the cultural fad of avoiding words that contain commitments. In a world of indirect utterances, there are no tough guys, only understatements. Comments on Aaron Sorkin, Jerry Brown, Ed Rendell, and others.
The podcast, the show about being a man, I'm your host, Asher black. And we're going to be joined by a colleague of mine. Steve porno (Pruneau). Steve has worked with me on a variety of projects and I with him and we've known each other for quite some years and have learned to disagree with style and verb. Sometimes it's heated, sometimes it's not, and we just shake our heads and walk off. I don't know what we're going to end up with in, in this particular episode, but we want to pick up where we left off, which was me ranting about the changing speech patterns in a monologue about the decline of the culture. And if I know Steve at all, he will have a completely different perspective on this and I will find great points in it. And probably still largely I think what I think at the end, I don't know. So we're about to find out. So what's your take on the language having evolved? Has it evolved to be less effective or less clear, or if, you know, to use our adjective less man hearted, our movies representative of that change in the culture, or are they anomalous and not reflective of the culture?
I think the reflective of the culture. Look, if you understand yourself and what you're about, you're going to hedge your language a lot less in moments where there's an issue that's important to you, but that's the thing is if you know what you're about, you're going to be a lot less concerned. So, you know, if you're in a company and you're not worried about your job, you're going to say a lot more of what you think and believe, or if you're in a group of people and you just committed. Look when you're centered about who you are and what's important to you, you're going to care less about other people. Now, I think you're actually making a distinction between normal courtesy and actually having some hesitancy about causing offense. And there's a big freaking difference. And I, I agree with the basic premise that look, you know, if you know what you want, it's going to come tumbling out like Boger or Rhett Butler.
This point that when you speak, if you qualify every phrase as buffer, if you prevent educate, if you're circuitous, a couple of things happen, one, you risk not having your point get across to you. Rob the language of it's rhythm, it's directness, it's ability for the tone and the language itself to carry your point and three, you create a communication pattern with people in general and foment this in society that is circuitous indirect, cautious walks on eggshells does not say what it means and buffers to the point of, of not being understood. So when I hear it guys say, look, you know, I want to tell you something and I kinda sorta want to just tell you, this is where I'm coming from. You know, I feel this. I'm not saying it's true. And if you have a different point of view, that's okay. My God, I remember Tony soprano, his right-hand guy has conciliary. It started off, you know, like, Hey Tony, some of the guys and I've been talking and you know, you know, we, we love you, right? And he's like, skip the preamble and got to the point. What do you want? The guy says, yeah, we think you're wrong. Do you think this is an issue? Or is it a manufactured issue? There are so many manufactured issues these days, which bathroom should there be a third bathroom, but what do you think?
I don't think it's an issue with language. I think it's an issue with hesitancy and confidence. I, I see this with directors and writers and artists. And you use this example, actually I think with artists, which is, if you look into the audience, you know, you're a little bit unsure. You're going to get shaped by the audience and you're not going to produce your art. There was a story I was, I heard actually it was about Firefly and the guy who wrote the Firefly series. And this point that he said that the pilot and the security officer had to be married. That was part of his story. And it's a white man and a black woman and the security officers, the woman. And he said the, the, the studio didn't really want that in the story. And he told a story that he said, even as, you know, he didn't have quite as many credentials at that time.
And you know, this is a big chance for the studio to take up the story and the series. And he said, he dug it. And he went all in and said, if you want to make this happen, this is the story full stop. And they went with it. They, as, as we all know, you know, Firefly made it through at least one season. But it's that conviction. I saw an interview with the actress, from a girl with the dragon tattoo. And there was a scene that she said she flat out dug in. She would not do it. And she had already signed on, she had already, they'd already been shooting and she had it out with the director and she would not budge. And during the interview were saying, what, weren't you a little bit concerned? You know, that it might fall apart.
She said, yes, but I was that committed. And so I think what's being talked about here is there's an element of conviction that I think you're describing, but then there is an element of delivery. So I might be committed to something, but I might deliver it for that other person in a way that I hope gives them some level of regard or respect. So I think when you talk about this issue of language, I think for me, it's primarily about the strength of your own internal conviction, whether it's about your principles or your art or the thing you want to get, the thing you want to build. So that is not a function of how we communicate as a society. I don't think there's some speech pattern. That's pervading a society that is causing everyone to do it. I think it's a lack of conviction. That's getting revealed through this way of talking. And I think people talk that way because, and they can be influenced there. There is that. Okay.
I think that's right. I think it's insightful what you're committed to determines how you talk. And so the question becomes, if you hear people consistently buffering, prevaricating being circuitous, avoiding the point, maybe they're not that committed. The old proverb is out of the heart. The mouth speaks, right? So, or out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. So the idea is maybe we have these speech patterns because we have these thought patterns and the thought patterns generate the speech pattern and, and the, the real quest to being a little bit like bogey, if that's a goal and his direct forum or or Rhett Butler or Don Draper, maybe the quest is to be more committed or maybe more importantly, to be more aware of what we are committed to. And when a particular discussion is about a commitment versus something flexible, you know, where's your line, what's your boundary?
What is your goal? What do you want more of? What do you want less of? What do you approve of and disapprove of, you know, et cetera, I can't help, but notice that this pattern of speech though, in facts, areas of life, where it's not so much about commitment, it just becomes the normal pattern. Now we just use the same Patois for everything. So there's a, an action movie coming out with the guy that was in breaking bad. I forget the guy's name, Cranston Bryan Cranston. It's an actually moving, coming out and he's on the subway. And you know, it's the typical action movie. Seeing these guys are overconfident. He's going to show him what for secret train, black ops specialist, former security, you know, the usual meme I get so tired of it. How many people does black ops have? Gosh, that's half the country now I'm gonna, his line is I'm going to mess you up.
And I'm thinking, gosh, that is a far cry from dirty Harry, go ahead, make my day. Or do ya punk? You know that, I don't think those lines hold a candle to the kind of stuff I'm talking about with bogey and Don Draper wrapped Butler, but they're still better than I'm going to mess you up. And I think of bogey in I think it was in the Maltese Falcon. He slaps this guy and he says, when you're slapped, you'll take it. And you'll like it. And, and I think, okay, there it is. He's letting the guy know, you know, I'm not giving you the option. I'm enforcing this point of view way better than I'll go. I can't imagine bogey. I'm going to mess you up. So I do think this lack of knowing what we're committed to being certain of it and committed, meaning it's not an option. We're not asking the crowd if it's okay, that that affects our speech, as you said. But I also think that then our speech affects the rest of our speech.
You know, one thing that's different now versus say 50 or 60 years ago is now everyone can publish. They can hit print on whatever medium you want. They can record audio podcasts and they can shoot video. And where 50, 60 years ago, the content that got into print or onto film was highly curated, right? Managed speech and presentation of self was, was managed. And now it's highly improvisational. And so I speculate that the there's probably not a substantially more propor, larger proportion of people who are less sure of themselves. It's just that now that everybody can publish, we're hearing that part of society where 50, 60 years ago, we were only hearing the curated content of the nightly news, film, television, and printed newspaper. Now I think we're saying, we're seeing, oh, look at, look at this speech pattern. But to your point, it's sort sorta reverberates now into our culture and where it, some people perhaps are saying, well, maybe that's how my characters are going to speak in my film now because it