Monday, August 11, 2014

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2917: Thank you Robin Williams - examples of a Suppressed Smile and a Bitter Smile - Dead Poets Society (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Robin Williams has passed away earlier today. He was a great actor and a great comedian. Dead Poets Society was one of his best and most inspiring films. For his role in it, Williams was nominated for an Oscar for best leading actor (The film won an Academy Award for best screen play and was also nominated for Best Film and Peter Weir was also nominated for best director). The above video is from its final scene after Williams's character, John Keating, has been fired from a boy's prep school in 1959 (a fictional Welton Academy).

In this moment John Keating is suppressing his laughter because he had instructed all of his students to rip out the introduction in their poetry texts several months before on the first day of class. His replacement and Welton's headmaster is figuring this out. In this low resolution and oblique view, it cannot be fully appreciated (yet this is very analogous to many less-than-optimal, real-world situations). Please watch the video to better appreciate this nonverbal nuance.

Most comedians instinctively know that a sincere, but partial smile (aka a sincere, suppressed smile) is mirrored by the audience and thus is a very effective comedic tool - for the audience's brains are therefore already primed and half-laughing as well. Robin Williams was a master at using such body language.

This second image is another beautiful example of why Williams deserved an Oscar nomination - for here he displays a wonderful expression of emotional dissonance. This smile is both sincere (relaxed forehead, partially closed eyelids, dynamic concave-up furrows in the lower lids and upward vectored cheek contraction - all with good right-left symmetry) and yet Williams' mouth shows very thinned and horizontally stretched lips with a tightened "mustache area". This nonverbal cluster indeed projects two opposing emotions - that of sincere joy for the growth and courage of his former students, and yet bitterness and anger that he was made a scapegoat and had to leave under such conditions.

O' Captain! My Captain!

Bless you Robin Williams. Thank you for the laughter and inspiration. I too sir, am standing on my chair.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2915: The Many Faces of Tony Stewart - Body Language Tells

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2916: Rory McIlroy, the PGA Championship and Body Language of Self-Contempt 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2595: Barack Obama's Emotional Dissonance, Low Confidence and the "Turtle Retreat" - He Does Not Want To Be There

Nonverbal Communication Analysis 2759: Vladimir Putin, Annexation of Crimea and Mouth Asymmetry - Body Language

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2898: Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman, a Suppressed Smile and ....

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2508: Anne Frank, Sincere Smiles and Emotional Comfort

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2679: Tina Fey & Amy Poehler - Body Language of Suppressed Smiles, The 2014 Golden Globe Awards and Variation on a Theme  

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2652: Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live - Trying to Suppress the Laughter