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Everyone on dating apps wants banter. But what does that even mean?

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Everyone on dating apps wants banter. But what does that even mean?

“Looking for banter!”

It’s a dating app standard, among the Billboard Hot 100 of bio banality. Along with a passion for food, travel, plants and “The Office” (yes, still), the ability to banter, whatever that may mean, has become a common prerequisite for earning someone’s swipe right.

The number of U.S. Tinder users who listed “banter” on their profiles has grown by nearly 7% since 2022, with the word appearing significantly more often in bios of men who are 33 or older than women of the same age, according to Tinder spokesperson Tomas Iriarte Reyes. Countless articles provide prompts and advice on how to amp up the banter on dating apps. Reddit threads help introverts banter like the pros or suggest ways one can boost a conversation’s banter quotient. The fictional dating app in Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso” is even called Bantr.

But what is banter really? And what is it good for?

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Sex educator Shan Boodram, Bumble’s resident sex and relationships expert and workshop facilitator on Netflix’s UK-based dating show “Too Hot to Handle,” notes that the word “banter” is thrown around more frequently in the UK. The popularity of British reality shows like “Too Hot to Handle” and “Love Island” may have contributed to the word’s adoption stateside.

Boodram says that banter encompasses two of the most consistent factors that contribute to a relationship’s longevity. “Agreeableness and willingness to meet each other’s bids,” she says. She explains the latter as “You scratch my back and I will scratch yours. In 2023, this also means you watch my saved TikTok with interest, and I will watch yours.”

The majority of roughly 100 dating app users I surveyed about banter using an online form noted that the presence of a quick back-and-forth established intellectual parity, comedic compatibility and similar interests. It’s a way to test boundaries, casually introduce personal details that may be deal-breakers and create intimacy. Even those who didn’t explicitly look for bios that mentioned banter wanted everything that banter represents. About a third said they preferred bios that included the term. Boodram explains that just like our animal kingdom peers whose mating rituals include funny little dances and call-and-response trills, we’ve concocted our own ways to signal interest and push for reciprocity through play.

“It’s romance movie terminology,” says Erin Carlon, author of “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” a deep-dive into the Nora Ephron canon. She explains that as romance novels boomed in popularity over the pandemic, the language they employed seeped into the general cultural consciousness, and in turn, onto dating apps. That, along with movies like Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” and “When Harry Met Sally” and later cruder comedies like “Wedding Crashers” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” led Gen-Xers and millennials to believe that we crave, and could even have, the verbal dexterity and impeccable rapport of scripted characters.

At its most thrilling, banter mimics the buildup and climax of good sex. According to Carlson, tension-filled banter was Hollywood’s answer to the enactment of puritanical movie production guidelines in the 1930s — if sex itself was a no-go, charged dialogue was the next best thing.

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It’s “sex without having sex,” says Christopher Cartmill, the head of dramaturgy at Rutgers University. He points to the 1980s television show “Moonlighting” and its equally chatty 1940s cinematic predecessor “His Girl Friday” (and Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”) as examples of hardcore badinage serving as a viable substitute for the boudoir.

In those examples, the straight couples proved their attentiveness through their quick wit and evenly matched cruelty. It’s two proud people conceding that they’ve found the one person who can see through their steely exterior. And the result can be better than sex.

Which, if you’re an asexual like Alexis Bates, 26, of Waco, Texas, is part of banter’s appeal. She explains that she and her current “datemate” will fake fights and improv their way through an argument to reach mutual release. However, she adds, there’s no ill will. In fact, their openness to poke fun at each other and be goofy and vulnerable is a testament to the safety and kinship they’ve found in each other. “It’s cathartic,” she says. “The body registers that we’ve argued, we’ve had these little skirmishes, and we’re fine. It continues to build the healthy relationship.”

Despite its omnipresence on dating apps, banter isn’t inherently flirtatious or sexual. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “mocking, humorous, or arch remarks made about people or things to expose their shortcomings and to make them appear laughable; humorous ridicule; (also) good-humoured teasing or raillery, witty or amusing repartee.” And nearly all respondents to my survey wrote that outside of dating apps, they bantered with friends, family or colleagues (or all the above). It’s a catchall term used to describe everything from a team’s locker room dynamics, to gossip at a middle school girl’s sleepover, to a comedian’s crowd work, to Aaron Sorkin’s workplace dialogue, to the chummy buffoonery of “Seinfeld.”

Which makes asking for banter on a dating app something of a guessing game. Are men looking for a shrewd dame with a wickedly sharp sense of humor and a dynamite body, are they looking for the Pam to their Jim, a co-conspirator for life who’s goofy and charming, or are they looking for a “cool girl,” what Gillian Flynn describes in “Gone Girl” as a “funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex.”

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Maybe what they really want is a true friend. And given that there’s been a drastic decline since 1990 in the number of close friendships men have, it makes sense that they’d ask for the same buddy-buddy ribbing where it’s easiest to search for new connections.

Or maybe they’re looking for all four in one.

Studies researching humor and romance in heterosexual relationships have found that both men and women view having a sense of humor as an asset. Hinge’s love and connection expert, therapist Moe Ari Brown, says that “92% of Hinge daters consider a shared sense of humor to be an important factor when considering being in a relationship with someone.”

But a sense of humor doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. According to a 2015 study published in “Evolutionary Psychology,” which replicated a 2006 study, men seem to want women who will laugh at their jokes and women want men who will make them laugh. (I’ve even seen men write that they’re “looking for someone to laugh at my jokes” in their bios, and survey respondents who do not limit their dating app parameters by gender noticed this sentiment far less frequently among women and nonbinary users.)

“When guys are like ‘I’m funny’ in their bios, I’m like, ‘Let me be the judge of that,’” says Kate Parrish, a 38-year-old straight woman from Nashville, Tennessee who relies on Bumble for finding dates. She says that since joining dating apps after her divorce, she’s become well acquainted with matches who articulate that they’re looking for sparky dialogue but can’t carry their own weight. Still, she says she prefers men who mention banter in the profiles.

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“I suspect that a lot of men who write that they want someone with good banter and a good sense of humor are actually saying that they want someone to enthusiastically talk about what they’re interested in and who laugh at their jokes even if they are offensive,” says Boodram. (Donald Trump excused the pussy grabbing comments he made on Access Hollywood in 2016 as “locker room banter,” and bullying in the workplace, at school and in the sports arena underscores a widespread willingness to excuse derogatory humor as “banter.”)

Like Parrish, I found that many men who said we had good banter were delusional in believing that they had any part in it. Our conversations weren’t so much the stuff of “Moonlighting” fan fiction as they were a game of T-ball. I’d unloaded the plastic stand, bases and mesh bag of balls from the trunk of my car, handed them the bat, and said “go get ‘em slugger” before tossing them a slow pitch. They’d hit it and name themselves MVP.

Alas, I too had once included “banter” on my profile, something of a bat signal to liberal arts majors. I’d seen it on the profiles of the kinds of men I’d wanted to match with and thought maybe if they saw that it were in my bio too, they’d identify me as a kindred spirit. Just two chatty daters with a penchant for sex jokes, bad puns and blink-or-you’ll-miss-it cultural references. I wanted the Harry to my Sally and asked for the one thing I knew I could deliver.

It didn’t work.

Ultimately, “banter” is nothing more than a buzzword, the 2024 answer to the “sapiosexual” craze where online daters peacocked their degrees by designating their sexual preference as “intellectuals.” It’s a Boy Scout badge for chemistry earned through acing a written test alone, a promise of something you may not be able to deliver once the memes and GIFs give way to a cup of coffee or a walk in the park. Or as Carlson says, “Men have always looked for smart and funny women. This is just a different way of saying it.”

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Wendy Williams is diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia

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Wendy Williams is diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia

Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), her medical care team announced Thursday. Here, Williams attends the world premiere of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show in New York on Oct. 28, 2019.

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Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), her medical care team announced Thursday. Here, Williams attends the world premiere of Apple TV+’s The Morning Show in New York on Oct. 28, 2019.

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Wendy Williams, the former TV talk show host and shock jock, has been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia, her medical team announced.

In a news release Thursday, her team said Williams, 59, received her diagnosis last year and that the conditions have already “presented significant hurdles in Wendy’s life.”

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“Wendy is still able to do many things for herself,” her team said, noting that she is appreciative of the kind thoughts and wishes being sent to her. “Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed.”

News of her latest medical diagnosis comes days ahead of the Lifetime premiere of Where is Wendy Williams? — a two-part documentary detailing her health battles following the end of her syndicated talk show in 2022.

Williams, the former TV host of The Wendy Williams Show, stepped away from the world of broadcasting following a series of health issues. (Williams also has Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the thyroid.)

In 2022, due to her ongoing health battles, it was announced that her syndicated daytime talk show would end after a 13-year run on TV.

Williams’ team says they shared the health update this week to “correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health,” as many fans have been concerned, yet confused over the last few years about her physical health and financial well-being.

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In 2022, the 59-year-old was placed under temporary financial guardianship after her bank, Wells Fargo, raised concerns — claiming in a New York court that she is an “incapacitated person,” The Hollywood Reporter reported.

What exactly is aphasia?

Aphasia is defined as a condition that affects the ability to speak, write and understand language, according to the Mayo Clinic. The language disorder can occur after strokes or head injuries — and can even lead, in some cases, to dementia.

Medical experts say the impacts of the disorder can vary, depending on the person’s diagnosis. But mainly, the condition affects a person’s ability to communicate — whether written, spoken or both.

Nearly 180,000 people in the U.S. acquire the condition each year. Most people living with aphasia are middle-aged or older, as the average age of those living with the condition is 70 years old. However, anyone, including young children, can acquire it.

Dr. Jonathon Lebovitz, a neurosurgeon specializing in the surgical treatment of brain and spine conditions at Nuvance Health, told NPR in 2022 following the diagnosis of actor Bruce Willis, that a person’s condition depends on the exact portion of the brain that’s impacted.

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“In most patients that have aphasia, it is a symptom of a larger medical issue,” Lebovitz said.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Frontotemporal dementia, commonly known as FTD, is one of several types of dementia that cause nerve damage in the frontal and temporal lobes — which leads to a loss of function in those areas, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

FTD can also disrupt motor function and movement, which could be classified as Lou Gehrig’s disease — otherwise known as ALS.

There are two different types of frontotemporal dementia: Behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia, which causes nerve loss in the areas of the brain that control empathy, judgment and conduct, and primary progressive aphasia (PPA) — the form Williams has, which affects language skills, speaking, writing and comprehension.

About 30% of people with frontotemporal degeneration inherit the disease. The underlying causes of FTD are unknown.

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What are the treatment options for aphasia and FTD?

For those who are diagnosed with aphasia, there are several treatment options available.

Traditionally, most people undergo a form of speech and language therapy to restore their communicative skills. Additionally, there are ongoing clinical trials that use brain stimulation and may help improve one’s ability to regain skills.

So far, no long-term research on aphasia has been conducted yet.

When it comes to FTD, there are medications that can help relieve symptoms but with time, the disease eventually gets worse.

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Buying Too Much Vintage Bourbon Could Soon Lead to Jail Time in Kentucky

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Buying Too Much Vintage Bourbon Could Soon Lead to Jail Time in Kentucky
On Feb. 8, The Owensboro Times reported that a new bill that will impact vintage bourbon, House Bill 439, received unanimous approval to advance from the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Matthew Koch and Rep. Ruth Palumbo, who claimed the bill was meant to tighten up previous […] The post Buying Too Much Vintage Bourbon Could Soon Lead to Jail Time in Kentucky first appeared on…
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If you love courtroom dramas, this Oscar-nominated film is not to be missed

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If you love courtroom dramas, this Oscar-nominated film is not to be missed

Anatomy of a Fall may feel familiar at first but it immerses audiences in a different kind of legal thriller. Above, Sandra Hüller plays a writer accused of murdering her husband.

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Anatomy of a Fall may feel familiar at first but it immerses audiences in a different kind of legal thriller. Above, Sandra Hüller plays a writer accused of murdering her husband.

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The Oscars love a courtroom drama, and part of the appeal of a traditional courtroom drama has always been the restoration of order. There is an open question, there is an investigation, there is a confrontation, and there is a climactic moment when something is revealed and settles the matter. Even where the system fails, the storytelling succeeds in getting to that resolution. The innocent may be convicted or the guilty set free, but the storyteller gets to the bottom of things, and in that sense, there is order again.

Plenty of Best Picture nominees have fallen into this category: Witness for the Prosecution, The Verdict, A Few Good Men. This year’s courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Fall, looks at this question in a different way.

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Beyond the fact that it’s set in France and in the French justice system, the film is ultimately much less clear than these other examples about the answers to the central questions it seems to be asking. Because there is no huge revelation that makes everything snap into place, you could read it as a story of frustration or of stubbornly persistent chaos. But in its way, it, too, is about the disruption of order and its restoration. And that starts with the “P.I.M.P” cover.

Enter 50 Cent

At the beginning of the film from writer and director Justine Triet, Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) is in her home on a snowy mountain, being interviewed about her writing by a young woman named Zoe. Their discussion is friendly, even flirty. Her kind-hearted son, Daniel, is upstairs bathing his dog. Suddenly, the women are interrupted by a steel drum cover of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” that rattles the walls. Sandra explains that her husband, Samuel, is working upstairs and listening to music, and they try to keep talking. The song finally stops, but then, after a transparently peevish pause, it just starts over, louder. The music continues until the interview cannot go on. Chaos has won. Sandra chuckles and admits defeat, and Zoe leaves. Daniel goes for a walk.

Soon after, Daniel finds Samuel dead on the ground outside the house. Somehow, he has fallen from a height, and his bright red blood on the snow is itself a discombobulating image. Now, chaos has really won.

“We have to live with the monsters we create,” Justine Triet told NPR’s Scott Simon, when he asked whether characters linger with her after a film. “I’ve been living with these people for three years, and I think I’ll probably live with them for at least another year.”

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“We have to live with the monsters we create,” Justine Triet told NPR’s Scott Simon, when he asked whether characters linger with her after a film. “I’ve been living with these people for three years, and I think I’ll probably live with them for at least another year.”

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The rest of the film is spurred by the investigation of how Samuel died. Despite a lack of direct evidence, Sandra is charged with killing him because she was the only person there. As a result, much of her trial is consumed by questions about her marriage. Was it bad enough that she threw her husband out the window, or pushed him off the balcony? Was it bad enough that he jumped? Did he, in fact, just fall?

The anatomy of a courtroom

Triet’s version of a courtroom drama looks different — at least to an American audience familiar with, say, Law & Order — in part because the physical courtroom itself is much more multidimensional and more complex in its use of space.

In most American takes on this genre, you get a courtroom that is laid out in what we might think of as a church formation. The gallery, sitting on benches, faces the judge, who sits on their elevated platform. When a witness testifies, they sit beside the judge, facing the gallery, while they speak. The jury sits perpendicular to both judge and gallery, visually aligned with neither. The attorneys wait with the audience, watching, until it’s time to “go on.” It’s quite flat, with communication running in two directions at most.

American audiences will find the layout of the French courtroom differs from what they are used to seeing in on-screen legal dramas.

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American audiences will find the layout of the French courtroom differs from what they are used to seeing in on-screen legal dramas.

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The layout in Anatomy of a Fall is very different. The courtroom has a square formation. Think of the bench as north and the gallery as south; these still face each other. The defense is arranged along the east side and the prosecution along the west. Jurors are up on the bench with the judges. The advocate general (basically the prosecutor) has an elevated box from which he can descend, and Sandra sits just behind and above her lawyers. When a witness testifies, they stand behind a waist-high barrier facing the judge and jurors, rather than sitting in a box by the judge.

The Anatomy courtroom can be disorienting at first; it’s initially not easy to know where Sandra is exactly, or where she’s looking. Sometimes you can’t tell quite where the hard-nosed (and red-robed) advocate general comes from when he questions her. The process is surprisingly freewheeling — the attorneys freely argue back and forth with each other, and the advocate general asks Sandra questions during testimony from others.

Antoine Reinartz as advocate general in Anatomy of a Fall.

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Antoine Reinartz as advocate general in Anatomy of a Fall.

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The square formation and elevated seating allow for a wide variety of camera angles, and Triet doesn’t offer an establishing shot at the outset to explain the space to the audience.

Instead, the very first time we see the courtroom, we have a bad seat in the gallery, back in a corner where our view is obstructed. Zoe, the woman who conducted the interview in the opening scene, is in the middle of her testimony, and the court is hearing the tape she made of her interview with Sandra. Specifically, the first time we find ourselves in the courtroom, everyone there is listening to the “P.I.M.P.” cover. The shots keep switching their angles and techniques: a steady push in on Sandra, then a wider static shot of just the bench, then a medium shot of Zoe that begins to push in on her, too — but in a shot that’s conspicuously handheld and much shakier. There are big parts of the courtroom at this point, the courtroom that will be the setting of much of the rest of the film, that we haven’t even seen. It’s very (intentionally) disorganized from a sensory perspective.

The son who settles the story

Eleven-year-old Daniel didn’t witness his father’s death yet his arrival brings clarity — if not order — to the courtroom.

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Eleven-year-old Daniel didn’t witness his father’s death yet his arrival brings clarity — if not order — to the courtroom.

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The first long look at the courtroom comes a bit later when 11-year-old Daniel arrives to testify. The scene begins with the camera seemingly nestled against a high ceiling, in the center rear of the room. It looks down, putting the whole courtroom in the frame at once. This shot is neutral, normal, explanatory. The camera holds here for fully 30 seconds, which is an eternity in movie time, and especially in courtroom drama time. The arrival of this very long, very wide shot is jarring, and it changes the tone. It calms the restless camera. It calms the jitters of not fully understanding the space we’re looking at.

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In this sense, Daniel’s arrival starts to create order. A couple of minutes later, as he’s being questioned about inconsistencies in his memory, he looks back and forth between the advocate general and Sandra’s defense attorney, who are standing on both sides of him and arguing about his testimony. For almost a minute and a half, Triet stays with an unbroken shot of his face. The camera just swings from side to side as he looks from one of these men to the other and back, so that he is always facing the lens. Even when he looks over at his mother, we don’t cut to her, as would be the traditional move. Instead, we remain with Daniel.

Two different kinds of order from chaos

So if we know that Daniel’s arrival in the courtroom brings order to the form of the film, it makes sense that he’s a source of order in the story. But how can that be? Even he doesn’t actually know what happened to his father; he was out walking the dog. If order comes from getting the facts, it seems impossible that he can be the answer to the messiness of the drama playing out in front of him.

Furthermore, it’s no spoiler to say that it’s not at all clear that Daniel is telling all of the literal truth about what he saw and heard. He is protecting his mother. So again, it might seem unlikely that he can provide any answers.

I think the solution to this tension is simply that Anatomy of a Fall is about a different kind of order. It’s not order that comes from certainty, but from clarity. Nobody here seems to have certainty about what happened — even Sandra might or might not, depending on what you believe about her. But what Daniel manages to achieve by the end of the film is clarity. He knows what he wants to do, he knows what he thinks is right to do, and he knows what he thinks should happen. And he can articulate all those things to people who are hesitant to listen to him. (There is, I suppose, some irony that might be inferred from the fact that Daniel is visually impaired, but I don’t think Triet is going for anything quite so on-the-nose.)

Even when Daniel is not being fully truthful, he is the one entirely trustworthy person in the story. Whatever he is doing, he is doing out of love alone, while his parents both acted at times out of love, but also out of anger and jealousy, resentment and selfishness. Again, he has clarity — in this case, clarity of motive.

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So while this might seem like an unconventional courtroom drama Oscar nominee, it shares that theme of a courtroom as a step on the way to restoring order, even if it’s only the order of knowing what you think is right.

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