Interpersonal Relationship Analysis: Characters of the Film Public Enemies

Last Updated: 10 Jan 2022
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Communications 100 Interpersonal Analysis Effective interpersonal communication is crucial to development of all denominations of relationships between two or more individuals; from roll relationships shared between a doctor and patient, to platonic relationships shared between friends. Chiefly, interpersonal communication is arguably the most essential aspect contributing to the success or failure of a romantic relationship between a dyad.

Communication directly influences the type of relationship participants share, how the relationship unfolds, and how satisfying that relationship is to the individuals sharing it. A lack of communication between individuals in an intimate relationship, such as one shared between a boyfriends and a girlfriend, typically results in mutual dissatisfaction which can lead to a decline in health of the individuals, both physically and emotionally, and ultimately, the disintegration of the relationship altogether.

Read also Analysis of Characters in Flannery O’Connor’s “The Life You Save May Be Your Own

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Romantic relationships develop and change over time as people communicate with one another. The evolution of the relationship can be depicted through four specific models; Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor’s Social Penetration Theory, Mark Knapp and Anita Vangelisti’s Knapp’s Stage Model, Leslie Baxter and Connie Bullis’s Turning Point Model and, Leslie Baxter’s Dialectical Theory. The progression of romantic relationships can easily be analyzed in films because they are vividly depicted and often over exaggerated.

Michael Mann’s 2009 film, Public Enemies, an adaptation of the non-fiction book by Bryan Burrough, Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34, chronicles the progression of the romantic relationship between the notorious bank robber John Dillinger and Billie Frechette while he is pursued by FBI agent Melvin Purvis in the midst of the Great Depression. The relationship Frechette and Dillinger carry out in the film perfectly displays the natural progression of an intimate relationship through the first five steps of the staircase in Knapp’s Stage Model.

Knapp’s Stage Model is a communication model that conceptualizes relational development as a staircase consisting of five steps, with each step representing a respective stage of the relationship, that lead up toward commitment followed by five steps that descend from commitment towards the end of a relationship. The five steps that lead upwards towards commitment in chronological order are: initiating, experimenting, intensifying, integrating, and bonding. John Dillinger and Billie Frechette met one night at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago where the initiating stage occurred.

Initiating is when the individuals try to establish as positive an impression of oneself as possible to appear likeable and pleasant. This stage is where the first impressions are made from a greetings and physical appearance. However, in order for the initiating stage to occur, the individuals need to signal interest in initiating contact at all. In our society, especially historically in time periods like the Great Depression, men typically initiate heterosexual romantic relationships, but only after the woman sends cues that they are single and interested primarily through kinesics nonverbal communication like eye contact and smiles.

Dellinger can't see Billie anymore. Billie reappears, dancing with a young man. Dillinger keeps his eye on Billie. Music ends. Young man escorts her to her table. He tries to join her. She turns him down. Dillinger finishes his drink, approaches. He now sees how beautiful Billie is. She looks Dillinger straight in the eye. Clear skin, dark eyes with humor playing about the edges. He unexpectedly starts to feel nervous. He gives her his best grin. Next is the initiating stage where Dillinger initiates communication following a standard interpersonal script for meeting a new person consisting of an icebreaker and beginning an introduction.

Billie forms a first impression of Dillinger based on her perceptions of him. Billie categorizes him by labeling him in her mind as “Not a hustler” and interprets that “he’s holding something back” from the sensory input she selected to focus on. She then provides feedback showing her mutual interest to proceed to the experimenting stage. DILLINGER I don't know what you said to your friend, but I sure am glad you did. What's your name? Billie looks him over: a well-made man in a good suit with a great smile. And, paradoxes: he easily talks to women but he's not a hustler. He's young, but there's a world of experience in his face.

Open, but he's holding something back. BILLIE Billie Frechette. DILLINGER Can I buy you a drink? Billie rises and they cross the bar. Is that French? BILLIE On my father's side. There's an "e" at the end. Do you have a name? DILLINGER Jack Harris. Music changes to "Bye Bye Blackbird. " The experimenting stage on relational development is when the participants try to learn more about each other by asking questions and start to self-disclose information to establish common interests. Typically, the proxemics observed between two people who are just beginning to become acquainted is at a personal distance of eighteen inches to four feet.

However, because the progression of relationship between Dillinger and Frechette is depicted in a film that is just under two hours in duration, the experimenting stage is combined with the proceeding intensifying stage. Thus, Billie and Dillinger quickly move to an intimate distance while dancing to increase their connectedness. This stage is full of “tests. ” First, individuals test the potential of progressing the relationship further by increasing self-disclosure to see if the other reciprocates the same level of disclosure and gain feedback on their impressions.

Billie tests Dillinger to see how he reacts to her ethnicity in era in which darker physical characteristics were not valued as highly on the social comparison scale of attractiveness. Billie expresses her self-concept perceptions that that been influenced by the reflected appraisals from society when she shares her primary identity by stating “I’m Menominee Indian,” and secondary identity by stating “I check coats at the Steuben Club. ” BILLIE Do you dance, Jack? DILLINGER I don't know how. BILLIE How come you don't know how to dance? It’s easy. Follow me.

This is a two-step. She smiles a pretty smile at him. She stays an inch or two distant in his arms. It’s slow and languorous. He follows her with little difficulty. DILLINGER My, but you are pretty. They look into each other's eyes. He pulls her closer, wants to kiss her long smooth neck. He almost can't resist... Their lips are an inch apart. And then she rests her cheek on his shoulder and the kiss that wasn't hangs in the air around them. He whispers… Daddy’s French, what's on the other side? BILLIE Im Menominee Indian OK. But most men don't like that...

She glares at him. DILLINGER I'm not most men. BILLIE And I check coats at the Steuben Club. What do you do, Jack? DILLINGER I'm catching up. BILLIE Catching up on what? DILLINGER On life, meeting someone like you. Dark, beautiful, like the black bird in that song He touches her hair. She laughs at the flattery. Holds his eyes a beat with an ironic look. He returns the look. They look away. Say, how'd you like some dinner? Billy nods. He nods courteously to her girlfriends, grabs her coat, puts a hand around Billie's waist and steers her out. It’s cold in the street.

Dillinger pulls her close. Following, is the integration stage of relationship growth. During the fourth step, the deepest levels of self-disclosure begin signaling trust and intimacy and the individuals portray themselves as couple. Billie and Dillinger go to a restaurant together appearing to others as a couple. This scene also perfectly illustrates the three key factors necessary in the influence of one’s attraction to another: proximity, physical attractiveness, and similarity. GOLD COAST RESTAURANT – NIGHT Dillinger slips him bills. He and Billie are shown to a table.

The clientele is North Shore old money and businessmen. Some of the women are in dazzling dresses even though it's mid-Depression. A few stare at Billie. She's out of her class. BILLIE What is it, exactly that you do for a living? She stares at him, ignoring her menu. He looks over the top of his menu DILLINGER. I’m John Dillinger. I rob banks. That's where all these people here put their money. BILLIE Why'd you tell me that? You could have made up a story... DILLINGER 'Cause I ain’t gonna lie to you. BILLIE That's a pretty serious thing to say to a girl you just met.

DILLINGER I know you. BILLIE Well, I don’t know you…I haven't been any place or done anything. DILLINGER Some of the places I been ain't so hot. Where I'm going is a lot better. Wanna come along? BILLIE Boy, you are in a hurry. DILLINGER If you were looking at what I am looking at, you'd be in a hurry too. Laughs at his flattery, which she is also finding persuasive, then leans in. BILLIE Well, it’s me they're looking at this time. DILLINGER That's 'cause you're beautiful. BILLIE They’re looking at me because they're not used to having a girl in their restaurant in a three-dollar dress.

He takes her hand DILLINGER Listen, doll, that's 'cause they're all about where people come from. Only thing important is where somebody's going. She smiles excitedly BILLIE Where are you going? DILLINGER Anywhere I want. Let's get out of here. She nods. They get up, get their things and he leads her with his hand on the small of her back. On their way... a man intercepts Dillinger. (To Billie): Go wait outside. I'll be right there. Billie turns and walks out of the restaurant. Finally, the fifth stage of the relational development incline towards commitment is bonding.

The bonding stage is where the relationship is characterized by public commitment. STEUBEN CLUB- NIGHT Dillinger enters, sees Billie talking with another hostess checking coats and hats. BILLIE (Without looking up at Dillinger): May I check your coat, sir? DILLINGER You ran out on me. BILLIE You left me standing alone on the sidewalk. She places her hand on her hip DILLINGER If you're going to be my girl, you have to swear you'll never, ever do that again. A CUSTOMER comes up and puts his ticket on the counter. BILLIE (Ignoring customer) Hey! I’m not your girl!

And I’m not going to say that DILLINGER I'm waiting. CUSTOMER So am I. DILLINGER (to Billie) "I am not ever going to run out on you again. " Say it. BILLIE No. DILLINGER Well, I ain’t ever gonna run out on you. And that's a promise. CUSTOMER Well, I want to run out of here. So, lady, will you get my coat...? Dillinger swings him to the counter, grabs the man's ticket, slams through the half door, finds the man's coat, tosses it at him... DILLINGER (To Customer): Hit the road Sport. Beat the tip. (To Billie): You ain't getting other people's hats and coats no more either.

You’re with me now. He takes her coat and holds it for her. She doesn't move. BILLIE I don't know anything about you. DILLINGER I was raised on a farm in Mooresville, Indiana. My ma died when I was three. My daddy beat the hell out of me because he didn't know no better way to raise me I like baseball, movies, good clothes, fast cars, and you. What else do you need to know? She gets into her coat. Dillinger opens the door for her. Although this interaction is fictional, John Dillinger and Billie Frechette really did carry out a relationship that progressed much like the one depicted above.

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Interpersonal Relationship Analysis: Characters of the Film Public Enemies. (2017, Jan 21). Retrieved from

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