Armitage’s microexpressions, Guy’s insecurities

Earlier I mentioned that I found the range of expressions for humiliation that Mr. Armitage found for Guy to be broad, diverse, and telling. Here are some examples of those microexpressions in Season 1, Episode 1 “Will You Tolerate This,” in which Guy has only three major scenes, all of which stage humiliations in various ways:

At 7:06 to about 7:40, a chunk of Guy’s first appearance in the series:

Apologies that it’s in Spanish; I couldn’t find this scene in English on youtube, and its aspect ratio seems slightly off. You can see all of this a lot more easily if you watch at 1/8 speed on the DVD, or even on netflix, pausing frequently. But you can still see the expressions flickering across Guy’s face–in fact, if you can’t understand Spanish you might look at them more closely. I have had some issues with it, insofar as in the scenes where he is speaking, the tone of Armitage’s voice and the rhythm of his statements also play a role in our perception of his humiliation. The Spanish dubbing doesn’t really capture Guy’s occasional sarcasm, either.

Robin has just appeared in Locksley, Guy is trying to get to the bottom of a flour theft, and threatens the villagers; at 7:06 Robin says “wait,” and camera goes to Guy, who raises his head in surprise and watches Robin advance–his previously motionless horse now moving very slightly; in response to the demand for more respect, Robin says “Sir Guy of Gisborne” and bows sarcastically; camera goes to Guy and we see that he has *already* lowered his head, so we see him staring from under his eyebrows at Robin and a slight twitch of the corner of his mouth; then camera goes to Robin, who says “My name is Robin, Earl of Huntingdon and lord of this manor. Your services are no longer required.” Camera goes back to Guy, who we see for about two seconds, but Armitage works in several visual signals there: a flicker of surprise indicated by a slight twitch of the mouth, a very slight upward widening of the eyes, a clear breath (which we see reflected in the steam around his mouth) and the just barely visible related motion of his shoulders, and then the narrowing of the eyes again. Camera goes back to the villagers, who are draping Robin with a ratty ermine cape. Camera then goes back to Guy, who is still staring at Robin from slightly under his eyebrows, though his eyes reveal more than a bit of worry. His lips twitch very slightly and he twists his neck and extends his jaw (this is a characteristic Armitage move, and analyzing its appearance in various roles would be worth a separate post) in a way that appears to indicate something between acknowledgement and resentment. Key here the lowering of the head, a submissive move, and mouth movements. The small mouth and thin lips enhance the sudden lack of confidence. At the beginning of the scene Guy seemed bored and impatient; now he seems humiliated and insecure. (It’s also immediately clear from this scene why Armitage needs the eyeliner and the cape–both are markers that make key indexes of Guy’s emotions more visible, especially when the camera is moving quickly.) Note that Guy does not speak after Robin’s challenge, which heightens the significance of the expressions.

Guy reappears at 8:42 above, and continued here, to 1:14:

Everything about this conversation indicates humiliation–as Robin notes to Guy, a superior who has to demand respect has none. That Guy even has to ask Robin for more respect is a measure of the humiliation he felt at the previous encounter–an encounter that underlines all he has failed to be or achieve in Locksley in Robin’s absence. At the very end of the last excerpt, when Guy is insisting on more respect, he can’t even look Robin in the face but jerks his head into profile, as if he is talking for the benefit of Thornton, then at 0:13 above, in response to Robin’s comment that Guy has not earned the respect of the villagers after three whole years, notice Guy’s  sniff and lowering of the gaze along with a twitch of the lips and then an almost invisible nervous lip-licking, with the gaze down until Guy says he and his men are leaving. It’s only at the point where the conversation turns to the Holy Land that Guy appears to regain his status, with his knowing glance when he says “Do not pretend that you do not love war.” As we learn later, Guy knows something about Robin in the Holy Land, and in general, his character feels a status gain when he has superior knowledge, underlined here by his insistence that Robin will have to talk to the Sheriff before doing anything, and Guy’s security that Robin will be surprised by the present style of government in Nottingham. This conversation is all about establishing status, and Guy loses, in particular through the repeated jolts in the conversation which Robin ends and then restarts, presuming on his right to preempt Guy’s time. (So, one could argue that Guy’s humiliation reveals Robin’s insecurities. The insight that a lord who has to demand or force respect has none applies to Robin with reference to Guy as well–does Robin have to humiliate Guy in order to reassert his sense of self as lord of Locksley Manor?)

Guy’s next big humiliation in this episode begins at 6:49 above, at his very next appearance, when he goes to the Sheriff to complain that he’s been displaced (another inherently humiliating situation–now we see fully that he can’t enforce his status independently but needs to rely on the Sheriff to do it for him). This is a really great scene, as we see Guy at his most unguarded so far (and we won’t see his face this open again for quite some time in series 1, except, perhaps, when he is killing); he seems to show that he actually does rely on the Sheriff–his apparent parental figure–to support him, and he gets only derisive laughter. The laughter undermines his knowledge, expressed in his previous scene with Robin, that Guy knows what is going to happen when Robin reasserts his power. If Robin has underlined Guy’s failure to be loved, the Sheriff underlines his inability to act forcefully with his superior arms–and removes the security he feels about the Sheriff’s explicit support. This is the point at which I feel the most sympathy for Guy, as he is actually acting inside the canon of medieval norms when he points out that he has no title to Locksley. (I want to write more about the extent of Guy’s medievalness, which has come up before.)

At 6:58 we see why Armitage’s acting style has to be so restrained–his motion of crossing his arms (classic defensive or hurt body language–all joking in fanfic about the lack of pockets in Guy’s clothing notwithstanding), jerking of his head, and then the glance at the Sheriff with the jerking motion in his eyebrow (this is only the third instance of that particular eyebrow motion I have noticed in all of Armitage’s acting so far), in combination with his clothes, now read as highly emotional in comparison to his earlier tense restraint (almost camp–an impression heightened for some reason in the Spanish version. I don’t know why that should be and I have to think about it more. Maybe because the Spanish Gisborne’s voice is higher and the Spanish Sheriff’s voice is lower than in the English version–also the Spanish Sheriff refers to Guy as “mi querido Gisborne” when he promises to get the house back). The camera then obscures Guy’s face, and the next glance we catch of him is his sighed admission that he outnumbered Robin’s men 24 to 1. His attempt to explain himself (with reference to medieval status issues) is made with lowered head but even then cut off by the Sheriff–of whom all we see is the sole of his slippers; the camera thus gives us another indirect report of Guy’s lowered status. The last view of Guy here reveals some genuine anger/disgust–but then he flees the room rather than standing his ground with the Sheriff.

Finally, the council of nobles. It’s prefaced by Robin’s entrance with a crazily phallic gesture: he takes off his sword in a demonstrative way that makes it look like he’s unbuttoning his pants to urinate. Guy appears at 8:39 and 8:42 above and the rage and humiliation postures are joined in a combination of postures that Armitage has signaled before in this episode: stooped shoulders, crossed arms, stare from underneath the eyebrows. Guy looks horrible. His face is sweaty and oily, and his bangs are combed forward in a way that makes his ears look huge and makes him look a little like an unhappy pony. At 8:39 he is raising his head slightly, like a snake about to strike, as Robin impugns Guy’s management skills–it looks like Guy is not going to be able to take much more or this; at 8:40 his rage is evidence with the utterance of the simple word “three.” For the remainder of the scene, which extends through below at 1:34, we can see this stance in the background, as Guy glowers until the camera focuses on him again at 1:27. It’s as if he’s chained by his inability to speak as an equal in the council of nobles; he knows he is only a policeman, and one without estate. He is thus finally humiliated by his own inability to respond or act.

The Armitage Army screencappers really saw a lot of what was going on in this scene (these images begin at image 60/98 in their image gallery) and what impresses me most about their capping is that they not only noticed the numerous faces Guy makes in the background, but they caught several clear microexpressions on Armitage’s face:

These are all faces in response to Robin; I might call them (1) gloathing (2) hostility/insecurity; (3) insecurity/humiliation; (4) scoffing (5) incredulity/ insecurity (6) humiliation/ sadness / weariness. Indeed, almost all of these faces are tinged not only with humiliation, but with sadness and/or fatigue.

I’ll close this too long analysis by noting that the straightest posture and the calmest, most relaxed face we’ll see from Armitage in the whole episode occurs at 8:36 here

when Gisborne witnesses the Sheriff’s refusal to pardon Robin’s peasants, as if he only escapes humiliation by watching that of others (this goes, later, to the question of whether Guy is a “sadistic lieutenant” or not — I would argue that he is, but not in the violent physical sense that we are used to thinking of sadism). Also, in the execution scene, where Guy is functioning as the Sheriff’s “right-hand man,” seen here:

That at 0:53 and 0:56 Guy looks strong and confident, with an open stance and his hands on his sword, but as Robin approaches the stairs at 0:57 he has ducked his head and crossed his arms, as if Robin’s mere presence is enough to cause him to lose status. At 6:40 we see Guy’s only smile of the episode, the signature smirk with the raise left cheek, as he witnesses Robin’s flight.

If you’ve persevered this far, read “the punchline” for the conclusion.

~ by Servetus on March 14, 2010.

8 Responses to “Armitage’s microexpressions, Guy’s insecurities”

  1. […] microexpressions, Guy’s insecurities: the punchline This is the analysis that presupposes the claims I am making in this […]


  2. Excellent! By the way, if you want video clips of just the scenes you wish to highlight, let me know.


  3. […] the characters and his insecure position ends him up in gender trouble. I’ve also discussed extensively the many ways in which Mr. Armitage plays Guy’s humiliation, and evaluated the reasons for his success in doing so. So I am partially going over familiar […]


  4. […] I argued here, we need to consider Guy’s crossed arms as a defensive posture of humiliation rather than as […]


  5. […] have won Marian. I love the way that a slight move in the posture of the head and shoulders changes the defensiveness of the arm-crossed pose that we encounter so often at the beginning of the series into bravado. There are so many problems with season 3, and I found myself thinking today that a […]


  6. […] push the silhouette of Mr. Armitage’s shoulders and chest out even more dramatically. Otherwhere I also mused that the shoulders are an important characterization mechanism given the early season […]


  7. […] Extension of the chin and/or jaw that would bear further analysis; almost all of his characters do […]


  8. […] tagged posts on Me+Richard, which highlights particular story-lines and the use of Richard’s microexpressions to dig deeper into Guy’s […]


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