Thursday, November 2, 2017

Do Men in Romances Really Talk Like That?

Is it true that male characters in romances (written by women) don't talk like how men really talk (romantically)? (Or would it be more accurate to state that nobody talks how characters talk in romances?)

Is romance dialog gendered?

The following are snippets of romantic confessions, epiphanies, arguments, and reconciliations written by men and women with gender signals removed. Is it obvious who wrote what? Is the gender of each speaker/protagonist apparent? How much do we readers/viewers rely on outside cues when it comes to romance?

Other than the removal of gender signals, the only other changes are slight tweaks in punctuation. For the scripts, the parentheticals are from the original text.

The images are of couples NOT included in this list, and they do not correspond to the examples (except indirectly--and nope, I don't mean the sex of the characters, or not). 

Example 1
And soon words enough had passed between them to decide their direction towards the comparatively quiet and retired gravel walk. There they returned again into the past: more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment. And there, as they slowly paced the gradual ascent--heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling housekeepers, flirting girls, nor nursery-maids and children--they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgements, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest. All the little variations of the last week were gone through. Thus much indeed W. was obliged to acknowledge: that W. had meant to forget A. and believed it to be done.

Example 2
  "I love you," C. said because this might be the only chance to say so.
  "Really?" J. asked, propping up on one elbow but not pulling away.
  "Yes, really. Since you [traveled with me] the first time." Maybe even before that, but it wasn't as if these things began at obvious moments. Falling in love wasn't like a bird hatching from an egg, for all both events were rather messy and fraught with vulnerability.
  "That's what I suspected," J. said, brow wrinkled as if C.'s declaration required a reorganization of the mind's contents.
  "Had you now?" C. shouldn't be amused but couldn't imagine a world where all J.'s idiosyncrasies weren't amusing and adorable. "Why?"
  C. didn't need to hear J. say, I love you in return. It wouldn't matter--they'd part company one way or the other, and giving a name to the thing between them wouldn't change that. But C. was used to wanting things that didn't make any sense.
  "Because you're my favorite person," J. said simply.

Example 3
N: It is not too late for us. I meant what I said when I said I would leave M. It's NOT crazy. Not if you feel the same way I do. I love you . . . It's the truth. Lord knows, I have tried to deny it, tried to pretend that I am over you, but not a day has gone by when I haven't thought of you. But I need you to tell me, and I can accept it if the answer is "No." How do you feel about me?

Example 4
E. said to L. [about G.], “Now it is all dark. Now Beauty and Passion seem never to have existed. I know. But remember the mountains and the view. Ah, dear, if I were G. and gave you one kiss, it would make you brave. You have to go cold into a battle that needs warmth, out into the muddle that you have made yourself; and your friends will despise you, oh, my darling, and rightly, if it is ever right to despise. Am I justified? Yes, for we fight for more than Love or Pleasure; there is Truth. Truth counts, Truth does count.”

Example 5
G: I'm glad you spoke to me about that...that fault in my character. What you said was right; but there was one thing wrong in it, and that was when you said that for a year I wasn't noticing people,, for instance. Why, you say you were watching me when I did everything...I was doing the same about you all the time. 

E: Life's funny! How could I have known that? Why, I thought...

G: I think that once you've found a person that you're very fond of...I mean a person who's fond of you, too, and likes you enough to be interested in your character...Well, I think that's just as important as [other things] and even more so. That's what I think.

E: I think it's important, too.

G: So I guess this is an important talk we're having.

Example 6
E: You got a better idea?

J: I did once.

E:  You did once.  (Approaches.) I'm gonna tell you this one time.  And I ain't foolin'.  What I don't know, all them things that I don't know, could get you killed if I come to know them.  I ain't jokin'.  (Walks away.)

J: Yeah well, try this one, and I'll say it just once.

E:  Go ahead.

J: Tell you what, we coulda had a good life together, had us a place of our own.  But you didn't want it. You count the damn few times that we have been together in nearly 20 years.  Measure the short fuckin' leash you keep me on, and then you ask me about [those other times] . . . and you tell me you'll kill me for needin' somethin' I don't hardly never get.  You got no idea how bad it gets.  And I'm not you.  You are too much for me.  I wish I knew how to quit you.

E  (stricken, weeping) Then why don't you?  Why don't you let me be, huh?  It's because of you that I'm like this.  I'm nothin'.  I'm nowhere. I just can't stand this anymore.

Example 7
A: There are these people out there, willing to do incredibly dangerous things to get what they want. It's like some giant game of chicken. And what is it they hope to gain? A boatload of money? Or you?

R: Are you planning to join in their game?

A: Hell, no! All the stuff I do . . . it's not to get your attention. See, what I want is to watch through my viewfinder. I want to see what people behind the scenes are going. See the things people don't generally show to others, like who they really are. You're going to show me that, right? I'm the only one who can desire that. I'm the only one who'll get to see the real you.

Example 8
The thought that loathing, bitterness and contempt should forever [replace love] is very sad to me...I blame myself for the entire ethical degradation I allowed you to bring on me. The basis of character is will-power, and my will-power became absolutely subject to yours. It sounds a grotesque thing to say, but it is none the less true. Those incessant scenes that seemed to be almost physically necessary to you...were the origin and causes of my fatal yielding to you in your daily increasing demands. You wore one out. It was the triumph of the smaller over the bigger nature...There is, I know, one answer to all that I have said to you, and that is that you loved me...Yes: I know you did. No matter what your conduct to me was I always felt that at heart you really did love loved me far better than you loved anybody else.

Example 9
  “Do you love me?" I asked.
   J smiled. "Yes."
  "Do you want me to be happy?"
  "Of course I do."
  "Will you do something for me then?"
  "I don't know if I can anymore."
  "But if you could, would you?"
  I cannot adequately describe the intensity of what I was feeling at that moment. Love, anger, sadness, hope, and fear, whirling together sharpened by the nervousness I was feeling. J. looked at me curiously and my breaths became shallower. Suddenly I knew that I'd never felt as strongly for another person as I did at that moment.

Example 10
D. came to the bedside...and sat down with a composure which was not maintained without effort and anxiety. A flickering succession of emotions passed over R's face: astonishment, alarm, dismay, despair, longing, hope, the resolute and heroic rejection of hope. Even when the face closed up and sealed itself, D. declined to remember anything except the brief glimpse of longing, and the even briefer coruscation of hope, quenched implacably as soon as it was born.

"Hullo," D. said. "They told me I could have just ten minutes. I had to see for myself that you really were going to be all right." D. had insisted on traveling with R. in the ambulance that experience like that is going to leave its mark; it had left D extended, enlightened, a person completed, mature enough to know all too well that the supposed losses had not been great, and to turn a shrewd, honest, even predatory eye upon the gains. How curious! D. had never once hunted H. [as D. was hunting R.], never for a moment been jealous.


EXAMPLE 1 is from Persuasion by Jane Austen, the reconciliation between Captain Wentworth and Anne at the very end of the book. Note the irony.

EXAMPLE 2 is from the M/M Romance Ruin of a Rake by Cat Sebastian, a woman. The lovers are Courtenay (a man) and Julian, his Sheldon-like lover.

EXAMPLE 3 is from the episode "Something Borrowed, Something Blue," the Frasier episode where Niles and Daphne finally confess their love. It was written by two men and directed by a woman.

EXAMPLE 4 is from A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. The speaker is George's father, Mr. Emerson. He is speaking to the protagonist Lucy about accepting George.

EXAMPLE 5 is a snippet from Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The conversation is between George (different George) and Emily.

EXAMPLE 6 is from the script of Brokeback Mountain, a script based on a short story by a woman, rewritten for film by a man and a woman, which script was then directed by a man and acted by two men. (All these people are "authors" since the script is tweaked to fit their needs, including the actors--Hollywood is still very obliging when directing straight men in gay parts.) J is Jack. E is Ennis.

EXAMPLE 7 is Akihito Takaba speaking to his lover Ryuichi Asami in the yaoi series Finder by Ayano Yamane. Takaba is in fact the uke.

EXAMPLE 8 is a letter from Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas after Wilde ended up in jail (because of Lord Alfred Douglas).

EXAMPLE 9 is from Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember. The narrator is Landon Carter. He is speaking to Jamie, his girlfriend.

EXAMPLE 10 is Ellis Peters' The Knocker on Death's Door. Dinah is visiting Robert after the capture of the murderer (who tried to also kill Robert).

My tentative conclusions (of course, I knew all the answers though I didn't closely study the quotes until after I chose them): women are far more pragmatic in their romance dialog, both when they write and when they are written about; men are far, far, far more sentimental.

And . . . everybody wants the same stuff.