*ooof*: A Gesture of Reassurance

It feels slightly wrong to go *ooof* today on Servetus’ blog. You all know why. Servetus is home for a little while – although hoping to be online. She has shared her (family’s) story with us all, and we have been with her, virtually, but nonetheless compassionately and honestly so, and accompanied her and her dear, late mother on the difficult journey which we all have to face with our own mothers, unless we already have done so. I would like to mark the occasion, although sad, with a few images that still hit – but maybe in a different place. I am sure you agree with me that a light-hearted post on the (often superficial) attributes of Mr A would be out of place today. Therefore I have decided to give today’s post a different shape – with a message that is intended to communicate love, and tenderness, and compassion, and reassurance, the way only those who we are deeply bonded to can do – like a lover. Or a mother – isn’t she the first person we bond with and thus the first love of our lives?

How do we express that we care? By deep gazes and tender touches. They are reserved for those whom we love, as friends, as family or as lovers. Mr A seems particularly good at communicating care or maybe that is just what we (want to) see despite a back catalogue of action-based, often rogue-ish characters. And there is a gesture in his repertoire that crops up again and again in his oeuvre. The cupping of the face. If you hadn’t already fallen in love with Mr Thornton by the time he was rather abruptly refused by Margaret, then the climactic railway station scene in N&S certainly shattered your heart into pieces, when Mr Thornton gazed deeply, softly into Margaret’s eyes, and placed his right hand on the left side of her head. – Marian, unfortunately, never allowed Sir Guy to show her his deepest care in that way, but after her death, it was Meg whom he thanked for her kindness by tenderly touching her face. – In The Vicar of Dibley, Harry showed all his love and happiness at just having been wed to his beloved vicar by cradling her head in his hands and leaning in for a long kiss. – Poor, miswritten misguided Lucas/John expressed all his hope and dreams in the same gesture when trying to convince Maya that he was going to do the right thing in order for them to be together. – And who would’ve thought that hard-as-steel SAS soldier John Porter would be capable of such tenderness, when he poured all the reassurance he could muster into the cradling hands as he promised Katie Dartmouth to get them out of the kidnap situation.

The scenes I have just described do not exist as stills from the respective shows. A great pity, as a pose such as this has such an interesting dichotomy of simultaneous dynamicism and static the-eart-stood-still-ness which lends itself to photographing. It gives opportunity for wonderful studies of facial expression, and it is the face, indeed, that gives the individual “cupping” scene the interpretative meaning – whether this is a gesture of love, of thanks, of hope, of reassurance or of pity. And even though the images I am going to show you are not photography, but screencaps, I would like to use them to illustrate an important aspect that applies to photography as much as cinematography, i.e. where the following images originated. Let’s talk about Point of View.

Point of view does exactly what it say on the tin – it is the actual position from which the camera observes the scene. There is meaning in it – sometimes very obvious, for instance when a “hero” is shot from below (see here). But with two subjects in our caps, this can take on interesting other meanings and opens up interpretation.

ep2hd_025The lightest touch, full of security.Screencap from Strike Back, Sky k 2010. Source.
Image via RAnet

Take for instance the incredibly emotional and evocative cap of Porter reassuring Katie. This shot is taken at Porter’s eye level. The camera thus puts us onto the same visual level as Porter, we are with him. And even though we barely see Katie in the shot – none of her facial expression is visible in this cap – yet we can really feel what she is feeling. The camera very cleverly does capture the hand on Katie’s hair in the foreground – we can almost feel the touch of the hand on her hair. Shot with a very shallow depth of field, our gaze is extremely focussed on Porter’s eyes – they are the communicators in this image (although in the actual scene it is also his words that convey a huge amount of meaning as he reassures her that he will get them both out of the situation). The image, however, does not really need the spoken word – it is clear from the determined gaze on Porter’s face that he knows for sure that he will be able to save them both from the kidnappers. He is intense, and yet incredibly tender, signified by the hand, not manically gripping but softly touching Katie’s head, expressing calmness, reassurance, confidence and care.

vod2-282Holding on to love. Screencap from The Vicar of Dibley, BBC 2007. Source.

The kissing scene in The Vicar in White is a classic over-the-shoulder shot, that is used a lot in cinematography (but not so much in photography). This is a POV that will *almost* put us into Harry’s shoes. The camera angle allows us to believe that we are extremely close to the scene – but we are still outsiders, not quite taking part in the sweet, joyous kiss that these two characters have just shared. We have not quite become the subject ourselves, but we are so close that we can see what he is seeing and imagine what he feels like is feeling. (A true POV on the other hand from the subject would attempt to make us feel as if we were experiencing the scene first-hand. This is as close as Richard Curtis lets us get, though. Curse him ;-))

Episode 8The sensual reassurance. Screencap from Spooks, BBC 2010. Source.

In contrast to that, we are more distant bystanders when it comes to the intimate scene between Lucas and Maya. The eye level is of less importance here – what counts is that the camera has removed itself a couple of yards away, distancing the viewer from what is happening. This is a ruse, of course, to also emotionally distance the viewer from the meaning of the scene – Lucas is telling Maya that everything will be alright. The POV subtly cautions us, not to be drawn into Lucas’ loving gesture. We are kept out of reach so that we can assess objectively what he is planning. We are not allowed to be touched by him – or by his gesture.

epnine_088An evocative thank you. Screencap from Robin Hood, BBC 2007. Source.

The shot of Meg and Sir Guy is an interesting example of POV. The camera angle here superficially takes on an undecided position – we are seeing both subjects equally well, in profile, so the camera seems to be impartial about the emotions that are being conveyed. Sir Guy carefully uses his right hand to stroke Meg’s face so as to not obscure the facial expression from the camera’s gaze. However, the scene is shot at what appears to be Meg’s eye level – which makes the viewer want to adopt her position. On second glance, however, we realise that the eye level is not Meg’s but Isabella’s – who has turned up in the background of the image. Even though she is blurred out by the dof, she still stands out due to the clever lighting in the shot (with Meg and Sir Guy in darkish light, looking like shadow and Isabella much more illuminated by the torches on the dungeon’s wall. Suddenly we see the scene the way Isabella sees it – we have been placed on the outside, on a POV like Isabella’s, but cleverly so that we can actually see her, too. The focus of the camera tells us that Meg and Sir Guy are in the centre of the attention – for a second, before the blurry background calls out to us with the realisation that the scene is observed by another character who is central to the scene, even if as yet not in the centre of the attention.

ns4-322Never ending love in a caress. Source.

As for the shot of Mr Thornton and Margaret – this is a piece for the hand-lovers among you. Someone in the BBC camera department certainly knew what they were doing… We are in this with both of them, shot as it is, on both their eye-levels. Even though the focus is on Thornton’s eyes, the gesture is given extra space in the scene, just by virtue of the large hand being so prominently splayed across the side of Margaret’s face. Again, despite the slight fuzziness of the hand, we can discern that Thornton is holding his beloved’s face with the lightest of touches, merely grazing her face, feeling the pulse of her heart on that spot underneath her ear.

Love, care, compassion, reassurance. All expressed in a simple gesture. A gesture that we are familiar with from the earliest days of our lives. The very first intimate touches that we experience ourselves are our mother’s hand, cradling our head, as we are being placed on her chest after being born. It is the first experience of life that we are given, and one that we carry with us for all our lives. It occasionally gets buried under the trials and tribulations that we must get through, but it is the basis for our own confidence. It is just in that one gesture – that we never remember consciously until much later and we never thank our mothers for – and neither expect to be thanked for when we bestow it on our own children. This is the ultimate gesture of security, of being looked after, and of being loved, unconditionally and forever. And the memory of that, and of the woman who has bestowed it on us, transcends time, distance and state of being. She’ll be with you. Always.

~ by Guylty on September 3, 2013.

70 Responses to “*ooof*: A Gesture of Reassurance”

  1. Serv here, looking in. I’d meant to write last night but we were all unbelievably exhausted. (Just go up again after about twelve hours of sleep.) This is beautiful, Guylty, and mom has very much been with us, the last few days.

    And let the Armitage appreciation go on … he’s definitely a comfort in rough waters.

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  2. Great post Guylty, for many reasons. Thank you as always. This time you – and Mr. Armitage – moved me.

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    • Thank you, Micra. Looking at all that tenderness and concern and care – both displayed by RA in these scenes, but also by Servetus’ many friends in the blogosphere over the last few days – I was quite moved myself. (I actually rang my mother, spontaneously, after I had finished writing, to tell her I love her – something I don’t do often enough…)

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  3. This is really lovely Guylty.

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    • Thanks Judi – a reaction to all the lovely outpouring of feeling in many shapes and forms I have witnessed the last few days. (Hope you received my mail, btw.)

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  4. Beautifully said, guylty. Hope it was a comfort to you, serv. my thoughts and prayers continue to be with you

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  5. Lovely post, Guylty- great visuals for a very thoughtfully worded sentiment. Like everyone else (how could you not) I love John T gazing at his beloved Margaret, but the one I just adore is big, tough John P showing so much gentle compassion and reassurance towards Katie- such a beautifully acted scene.
    Serv, hope you can continue to rest as needed, and spend some quiet, reflective time with your family.

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  6. So well thought out and thoughtful Guylty. I was wondering what you would come up with on this post and as usual, you never disappoint. And to Serv- we are all there with you.

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    • Thank you Perry! It means a lot to read that – I was wrecking my brains for an appropriate topic. KatharineD pushed me in the right direction, and while it was not difficult at all to find the sentiments, the exact words were not that easy… just as it always is when you write for someone specific on a delicate topic.

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    • Yes, I realize this format is not your comfort zone, but you managed to combine the photography lesson with the life lesson. Just perfect. Katharine often urges in the right direction- doesn’t she?

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  7. What beautiful choices G! I can see why it was hard to write, but you’ve done an amazing job. This post is a beautiful gesture all in itself!

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  8. Perfect.

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  9. Wow, what an amazing post, G.! Really moving. Our relationship with our mothers have such a profound impact on our lives, good or bad. Sadly, not everyone has had such a loving mom. I love that gesture, cupping the face. I think it works well because his hands are so big. Adds to the reassurance factor. And other things. 🙂

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    • Yeah, I was probably a bit sentimental and overly easy on the whole mother-daughter relationship, Marie. I know (from own experience) that they are not always happy and golden. Let’s say, it suited my purpose 😉
      The hands – definitely made for carressing! 🙂

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      • Oooh, I like how that sounds – hands made for caressing! Indeed they are. Didn’t mean to throw a damper on your wonderful warm posting. Not overly sentimental by a long shot!

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  10. Beautifully and sensitively written, Guylty! Your post makes me wonder happily at what kind of subconscious touch memories he must have of his own mother to call on for his acting. It also makes me yearn for him to be able to do this in RL with his own child…how’s that for a gender bending thought exercise?

    And I would like to send a virtual head-cupping to Servetus from all of us, inspired by Guylty’s brilliant oof.

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    • What a lovely idea, the “subconscious touch memories” that the actor may be drawing on for his own acting. It was something I was wondering about, too. Just the fact that this particular gesture has come up in several of his past characterisations has made me wonder whether that was actually *him* bringing the gesture in, rather than the script demanding it… Whoever came up with it – it’s a very effective way of communicating all those messages. And yes, definitely hope for him to be able to use the gesture in his RL, too – with a child even better, passing on the love and the confidence to the next generation.
      I like your idea of a virtual head-cupping from us to Servetus!

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  11. This is beautifully written and very moving. The human touch affects us on so many levels — physically, emotionally and spiritually. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to express love through touch.

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  12. A very touching post indeed, Guylty! Lots of love and hugs dear ((Serv))… ❤

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  13. Beautiful discussion Guylty. I had the privelege of attending the services honoring Mrs. Servetus…she was a remarkable woman – like mother like daughter I think. I also gave Servetus a big hug on behalf of everyone who was there in spirit. 🙂

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    • That is wonderful news, Obscura. I am so glad to hear that someone from our community was actually physically present at the service – and it couldn’t have been anyone better than you. Thank you for passing on our compassion. I think it is so much better conveyed in a gesture – a hug – than all these feeble words…

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  14. A really lovely post guylty and perfect sentiment. Serv I send you my love at this time xxx

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  15. S. this is so wonderfully written. Love, care, compassion, reassurance. That sums it up downright perfect. Of course, thanks to Katherine too as she apparently suggested this topic. It appears the best imaginable way, how you appreciated this special situation by adding some comforting and relevant thoughts. Just looking at this various pictures can virtually do a lot as we all know. Nonetheless all this is hard to put into words and you mastered it brilliantly. Terrific!
    Truly it is RA who made me aware of this gesture (are there any other actors who use this kind of touch?) and it literally nearly drove me out of my mind when I saw it the first time in N&S. His hands!! „Cupping sb’s face“. I’m afraid I never heard of this expression before. Really couldn’t remember if ever, and if so, when I was touched (and looked) by a man like this. Sigh. You’re right, it’s a simple gesture and we can see it quite often related to kids, but still as I would say, there is nowhere near enough of it to be seen around. BTW I love the idea that you are all out there…….
    Good to hear that you slept a lot last night and that there is more precious time to spend with your family, Serv! xx

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    • Thank you Linda xx! I will admit that I laboured over this post. Servetus means as much to me as to all of you. She is an example and a wonderfully supportive, warm person whose grief has touched me deeply (and as a rational, practically-thinking German that doesn’t happen very often…). And that made it hard for me to find the appropriate words for the situation. I know that Servetus appreciates every single gesture of compassion and condolence she has received. She does not need big, lengthy words. I would have much preferred just to show her my heartfelt compassion by a single gesture. I probably wouldn’t have used Mr A’s preferred gesture 😉 – but a hug would have said it all…
      I have to agree that I also became aware of the cupping gesture through N&S, even though I frequently cradle my daughter’s sweet and lovely face in that very same gesture and have been for as long as she has been in my life. I think, I should employ it more, test it on Mr Guylty 😉

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  16. Beautiful post and so right for today, Guylty. Thanks also to Katherine for suggesting this.

    Sending a big hug to Servetus.

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    • Thank you, Bolly – I hope it is not flippant to say that I feel something beautiful has come out of a sad occasion. The communal, shared outpour of compassion that I have seen the last few days makes me feel very proud to be part of this community, and to know one of the figures at the centre of it.

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  17. What a beautiful choice for the post. It is actually all about love in images. For me the railroad scene is overwhelmingly touching so full of emotion and the touching is what makes it work so wonderfully. Your choice to use all of these images with their meanings is truly fitting I think. Serv we are all with you of course and hope that this post and the comments we bring will continue to bring some comfort to you. You can almost feel that “cupping” of the face can’t you and know that it brings calm, compassion and comfort and I know that this is a man who would feel that in real life as well.

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    • I was thinking a long time that I should discuss a picture of Thornton with his mother. And then I remembered that Servetus has previously looked to Porter for strength – and with that Katie Dartmouth-scene in mind, the course was clear… Thanks for commening, Peggy!

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  18. Beautiful post Guylty, and thankyou to Katharine too. There is nothing more I can add than what has already been said so well by others here. My heart is full.

    Thinking of you Serv.

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    • Thank you, Mezz – wordiness is not necessary (I should remind myself of that – I waffle too much). Just adding your name to the list of commentators *somewhere* says it all.

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  19. Lovely observations as always, Guylty. That top pic of Porter is worth a million feels, I mean words. (Dang it, now I’ve started thinking in your strikethrough fashion! 😉

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    • Yeah, that first pic was what really got me in those feels that you mention. As I said – there is a lot more going on in the actual scene: the way he whispers hoarsely, betraying deeply felt emotion, the way he moves very softly, the words he uses. It all adds to the basic emotion that has been laid by the gesture… It’s incredibly moving, actually.
      (And I wish there were strikethroughs in comments allowed, too :-D)

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  20. We all need human touch to live. Thank you for today’s post Guytly. It is important to know that someone cares about us, these are great pictures showing us that.

    Thank you Servtus for sharing your mom’s and your journey with all of us. Some of us have a hard time talking about it, but you have made it a bit easier for me. You are not far from my thoughts. (((HUGS)))

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    • It’s good to be reminded of the fact that we are cared for – or were at some stage of our lives. We need that memory in times of hardship. It’s the hope that pulls us through…

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  21. This is the perfect *ooof* for such a sad time. Thank you, Guylty. It might even be your best, most perceptive *ooof* yet. But it was very hard to read. I had to walk away and calm down. I lost my mother suddenly 10 months ago and our friend Servetus’s loss has brought it close to the surface again.
    And yet – Yay! How good to finally have a rational explanation for why we all find that kiss from N&S so affecting. Now I know why my little daughter loves it when I cup her face and nuzzle her dear little nose.
    Of course, that delicate spot below the ear is also the bit that vampires fancy. Can’t say I blame them. 🙂

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    • I am really sorry to have had *that* effect on you, Groovie. (((hug))) Actually, I was aware of that possible reaction, that I was balancing on a knife edge between “pleasantly touching” and “reigniting grief”. Without being self-aggrandising here, but I was quite distraught after writing this – thinking of my own mum (whom I haven’t lost yet), and feeling bad about the run-ins I have with her. But then again – even sad reminders are reminders, and serve us well when they let us release pent-up emotions. In any case, I am sorry about your rather recent loss, Groovie. Go, grab that little face of your daughter’s and get your share of love and reassurance 🙂

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      • Ah, no worries, Guylty, I’m a tough chick. This might sound macabre, but it was because I lost my mother that I found this RA community. I was sitting up late trying to write her eulogy when I caught a TV rerun of Spooks, which I had never seen. RA was in it. I remembered him from N&S, and I remembered how in N&S the heroine loses her parents suddenly. I bought the DVD, and lo and behold …
        An online community is not the same as a mother, but this particular community is a beautiful thing.

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        • That is an interesting story, how you found the RA community at a time of loss or need. But it sounds logical, too – looking for something to soothe the pain, we turn to the lighter feelings of life, a bit of eyeing or admiring, to cheer us up. That seems to have worked for a lot of us in the case of Mr A.
          And I completely agree – this community is beautiful and motherly in the nicest meaning of the word: welcoming, reassuring, supportive, positive… I can’t imagine not being part of it.

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  22. Wonderful post, as usual. You and Katherine are great collaborators. I am searching my brain to remember other “cupping” scenes from other actors besides RA and I can’t think of any. I think it’s because I can’t cram another male image into my brain when RA is residing there. And I remember my Mom asking for hugs constantly, which she received with joy and thanks. Touch is so important and primal, thanks for reminding us.

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    • I checked on RAnet in a few shows that seemed likely to potentially hold such a scene. Nothing – but then again, the characters in BTS, CF, ML were not exactly the reassuring, truly loving kind. The Impressionists might have held some promise, but I couldn’t find a cupping scene there. Is Thorin likely to do some cupping? If so, to whom ;-)?
      I have only copped on to the importance of touch in the last few years. I fear I may have been a bit too distant with my own kids when they were babies – they are not that happy when I smother them in an embrace. But then again – they are 14 (boy) and 12 (girl)… and mothers are embarrassing, not reassuring *lol*

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  23. Beautiful *ooof*, Guylty.

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  24. […] thanks to Guylty for writing and KatharineD for suggesting the tremendously comforting *ooof* and you all for the sweet comments and the “Memoriam” idea. My Armitage fantasies […]

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  25. I feel strange tightness in my throat,Guylty. Beautiful *ooof*.

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  26. This is an *ooof* that really touched my soul, thought a long time if I should comment or not… Our feelings with Servetus we`ve shared on her post…
    Personally, I lost my mother eleven years ago (commited suicide, she was 57 years old) I was raised with this “promise”… had a lot of therapies and can finally deal with it…
    So, this is my personal experience, I never thought that “fandom” is more than swooning and drooling, for years I was still a reader of the communities and blogs and so on… and now I feel there is a special bond, no jealousy but reassurance…
    So, guylty, you´ve done it one more time (delete my post if it´s not appropriate)

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    • I am with you on the “not sure if I should comment or not”-issue – I mulled it over a long time whether I should *ooof* or not. Sometimes it is just so blatantly obvious that words are really just hollow… But then I thought that words are all we have in a community that is so dispersed and whose platform is the blogworld.
      BTW, your post is in no way inappropriate, Ute – I completely agree with you that my view of a fandom was as you described – until I joined this one. It is simply amazing to have become connected to so many people one would otherwise have never met.
      On a personal level – your own journey of loss sounds especially tough. Hugs.

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  27. This is beautiful and overwhelming, Guylty. And here’s a hug for Serv *hugs*

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  28. Very lovely post! Hugs and Love!

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  29. […] (via KatharineD) helped me skillfully onto the obvious bridge to this topic with her post on the caress as gesture of reassurance in Richard Armitage’s oeuvre. She managed to get three of my top Armitage reassurance moments in there — Mr. Thornton with […]

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  30. […] the point about Armitage for reassurance that Guylty started and which I pursued yesterday via a brief examination of Armitage’s performance as John […]

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  31. […] So, yeah, it’s about me.  Its about wanting that connection that you can’t get anywhere else, and that human need for interaction and understanding and – again – appreciation and desire for mutual support. […]

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