Scene Breakdown: Annie and Jennifer Talk Names on The Flight Attendant

Source: HBO

I had watched this scene before I even watched The Flight Attendant and it was glorious. You all know my name. And if you don’t—well, check that byline. Annie Mouradian (Zosia Mamet) in a particular scene prior to this shrugged off her last name being pronounced wrongly. But then when she realized she’d been calling Jennifer, Jessica this whole it was brought into perspective.

Her name isn’t Annie, it’s Ani pronounced (Ah-ni) as she mentioned, and quite frankly, an easy Armenian name to say. But alas, even that gets mispronounced. This isn’t just an Armenian thing. It seems like in America especially, no one wants to bother properly pronouncing people’s names. Because no one really listens. No one takes the time to really try. (Fun fact: I’ve had people actually say to me, yeah there’s no way I’m ever going to remember that. Sorry. // Well thanks, Chad—your nonexistent effort is appreciated.) A person’s name matters. And for years, I’ve westernized my name, I’ve let people mispronounce it without correcting them because why bother? Why try when they don’t care enough to get it right? 

But as noted to in this scene, it matters because it’s a form of letting people walk all over you. It’s letting people off the hook when they shouldn’t be. “Okay it’s not a big deal, it’s just a name,” right? Oh, but it is a very big deal because while a name does not make a person who they are, it’s a crucial part of their identity that matters. And it’s not even about getting it right—it’s about at least trying. At least putting in the effort to really listen to the person when they break it down.

And Annie is guilty of this, too–like everyone in the office, she didn’t listen or bother to pronounce Jennifer’s name properly. Heck, they changed her entire name for Christ’s sake. But I suppose owning up to it matters, which is what this scene is all about, making sure people who mispronounce own up to it and make sure we refuse to feel shame in correcting people.

Fun fact: the first part of my name is pronounce like “geese,” you know, as in the plural noun of goose, the bird. And yet, I’ll still get people using a hard ‘g’ like giraffe after I’ve given them this very breakdown. This isn’t an inability to pronounce a different name, it’s the blatant choice not to bother because it doesn’t matter to people.

Annie telling Jennifer not to let people call her Jessica is a way for the series making sure people understand just how much this small, but crucial detail matters. 

When you choose to pronounce someone’s name correctly (or as best you can), you choose to acknowledge a huge part of what makes that person who they are. You acknowledge their ethnicity, their culture, their agency, and their humanity. You choose to look at someone and believe that what matters to them also matters to you. You might even look at a name you think you know, but the person might say it differently, and it’s our job to make sure we respect that. It’s our job, as human beings, to make sure that people understand that they are seen and respected. 

It’s a big deal. It really is. I can count the amount of times on my fingers where people (non-friends or family) have made the effort the make sure they are saying my name right. But I lost count of the amount of times people have mispronounced it time and time again and have said, “it’s just too hard, I can’t.” It’s not hard, it’s just a deliberate choice not to. And I’m glad a scene like this exists to remind people that this matters. 

For the longest time, I’ve westernized it to make it easier, and then recently I decided nope, the original, real way is not hard. If people care enough about me, they’ll care to say it right. And I’ve personally never seen an Armenian character on screen (in an American drama) vocalize something I’ve felt so deeply, which makes this scene all the more special.

Listen. Try. It’s that simple. Oh, and watch The Flight Attendant.

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