Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The rule of conversation

So I was playing Saints Row the Third, and towards the end of the game my wonderful Russian protagonist fell into a rather humorous exchange with her partner in crime, Pierce:

Pierce: "We may die here! Is there anything you guys wanna get off your chest?" not exact quote...
Player: "I want to make love to Pierce in front of a live audience!"

Now it was a couple of days later that I started to wonder: "Why is it funny that she said that?" If my other, male, character had said it, (substituting Pierce for my female accomplice, Shaundi) no doubt it would have still been funny, but it would not have seemed an acceptable framework for the character. What I mean by this is that the assertion "I want to make love to Pierce in front of a live audience!" was an acceptable utterance from a character whose framework consisted of an Eastern European masculine-woman stereotype; while for my other character, a British-Cockney Male stereotype, this would have been degrading to his character.

My initial answer to this difference in attitudes could have easily boiled down to "Well, they're different types of people," but what really got me wondering was "Why does one particular character framework get away with retaining dignity in an utterance that another would not?" Don't get me wrong, the initial joke was definitely at my character's expense, but she still seemed to retain her dignity after the exchange.

At first I thought that it was a gendered issue, as overt displays of sexual attraction are more acceptable for women than men, (for example, the twilight phenomenon,) but I soon dismissed that as it seemed that the situation revolved around my character's personality as a whole moreso than her gender, and although her gender DID constitute a part of her personality, it did not define it.

Then... after a long hard think... I realised!

The nature of this statement, and the reason why my character got away with it, was symbiotic. Pierce was, to put it bluntly, a bit of a pushover; while the protagonist was a strong, leader-type. My previous comparison between my other, British protagonist, and his accomplice Shaundi, was flawed, as the two character personalities both constituted strong, independent types. The exchange simply didn't work between them because it was indicative of a power relationship, of which one could not exist between two similarly independent characters.

So all in all, what did we learn today?

When two people are having a vocal exchange, the rules of the exchange are indicative of the relationship between the participants, and there exist no 'ground rules' to which we can draw what is 'acceptable' or 'unacceptable' in any exchange.

In any case, I really wanted to use the word 'symbiotic' in the above paragraph, so here it is again:

The rules of any vocal exchange are symbiotic to it's participants.

There, said nicely.