It has been theorized that the ability to communicate through language made the human species possible and in the same way, each individual becomes humanized as he/she enters into verbal communication with those around (Simmons-McDonald). If this statement is accepted as true, then it follows that the continued development of the human species depends on each individual being able to participate effectively in the process of communication. Was this the message of the movie “My Fair Lady”? Mr. Higgins certainly believed that a person’s accent and tone of voice determine his/her prospects in society and that ‘verbal class distinction could be extinct if the English taught their children how to speak.’
The process of effective communication has been broadly defined as the successful exchange of information through a series of stages consisting of Sender, Encoding, Channel, Decoding, Receiver, and Feedback in a particular Context. The goal of effective communication is getting the message across without misunderstanding and confusion. Effort should therefore be directed at reducing the frequency of problems at each stage of this process with clear, accurate, well- planned communications. This paper will focus on the use of communication codes to exclude or include individuals in social contexts in the movie “My Fair Lady”.
Encoding is the process of transferring the information being communicated into a form that can be sent and correctly decoded at the other end. So, in a sense all language and writing systems are codes. The ability to encode effectively is vital to successful communication. It requires the sender to convey information clearly and simply, as well as having such in-depth knowledge of the audience that he/she can anticipate and eliminate any sources of confusion that may arise. These include cultural issues, mistaken assumptions, missing information. The sender should consider the following:
• Choice of words or language used in encoding the message
• Different interpretations given to the same words by different persons
• Effect of past experiences on current perceptions
• Misreading of body language, tone and other non-verbal forms of communication
• Noisy transmission resulting in distorted or inconsistent messages
• Personal biases
• Interpersonal relationships
• Cultural differences
Successful decoding is also a skill. It involves taking time to read or to listen actively to the message, as well as having sufficient knowledge to understand it. Contexts are determined by questions like Whom, What and Where. They can be intra-personal, inter-personal, small groups, large organizations as well as mass communication like movies.
If, according to Walt Disney, ‘movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives … towards the ideals and the objectives of normal adulthood’, then the movie ‘My Fair Lady’ may have been conceptualized to help English youths master the use of their own language. The overall message of the movie was encapsulated by the challenge undertaken by Mr. Higgins to teach young Eliza Doolittle to speak proper English (like a duchess).
The movie highlighted the differences in the way people encode their messages and the positive or negative responses that can be directly attributed to the manner in which the message was initially encoded. An expert in effective encoding was Mr. Alfie Doolittle, Eliza’s father, who was a direct contrast to Mr. Higgins, whose crude and impersonal manner was almost guaranteed a negative response.
Mr. Doolittle’s philosophy was to enjoy life doing as little as possible and finding ways to benefit from the hard work of others, ‘with a little bit of luck’. The customary response of ‘not a brass farthing’ did not deter him from trying again and again to find someone to support his drinking...