A friendly reminder that I am not perfect

When I post stuff about people-reading, especially with example videos, I don't expect to be 100% accurate every time. I've been known to tell people I have spooky psychic powers, but only because I think it would be rude or tedious to explain that my only actual superpower is the ability to pay some fucking attention. This is totally okay. Being wrong is, in most cases, not a big deal. You explain what you drew the wrong conclusion from and end up looking kind of silly, which is fine because "did a thing and ended up looking silly" is a pretty good descriptor of probably half of all human social interaction.

When you do this kind of analysis on fictional characters, it's much easier to come to a conclusion other people agree with. This is because you're working with a "complete" picture. The information presented to you in the movie or show or comic or novel is literally all there is to work with -- everything else is speculation that is, however well-founded, completely unverifiable. Any interpretation of a character's actions which can be supported by evidence from the text is a valid interpretation.

This isn't possible with non-fictional people. In real life, you never have all of the context. Holmes was fond of saying that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. This only kind of works with people. When you're using it on something concrete, to which actual logic applies, your only hard boundaries are the laws of physics. You can definitively rule something out by inspecting the hypothesis and realizing that this particular sequence of events is not physically possible. With people, that doesn't hold true. When you're inspecting reactions and motives, there is always another possible explanation. It may be bizarre, out-of-character given what you know of that person, or involve implausibly rare circumstances, but you can never know that that isn't what's going on. You are always missing information, and there is a non-zero chance that one of these unknowns, if you knew it, would change the entire situation.

The main thing I am going on for my interpretation of the video I posted is that Downey seems to be holding back some element of rapport he normally has with other people on stage. A large part of the reason he gets away with having such a big mouth is that most of his sarcasm pours forth as if he is making the tacit assumption that the person he's interacting with is as bright as he is and will appreciate the absurdity of whatever he's talking about. They're not always, but it's polite to pretend, and other people find the implication of kinship charming.

He's not doing this with Ferguson. The "Remember that part [of the movie, where the Hollywood swelled-heads get their comeuppance]?" question is not delivered in a conspiratorial wink wink nudge nudge amirite? manner -- that tone says to me that RDJ thought he was making a pretty blatant point of some kind and either he figured Ferguson wouldn't catch it or Ferguson would catch it but wouldn't be able to do anything about it while they were on the air. He's also letting a lot of hook lines just splat onto the floor, and he has to know that he's doing it. (Downey did start out as a comic -- go find some of the sketches he did for SNL while he was in the regular cast. He doesn't look old enough to watch that show, much less perform in it.) Normally, even if he really has no idea what the host is talking about, he makes some kind of wiseass remark that leads into the host's explanation. He gives a lot of flat 'no' answers here without making an effort to pick up the thread, or redirecting by sheepishly drawing attention to the fact that he keeps dropping the ball.

Usually when someone is deliberately not engaging with a person they're interacting with, it means that for some reason, they don't want to. One very plausible reason for this is that they just don't like whoever they're talking to. It's not always the reason, but it's so overwhelmingly common that avoiding someone for an unrelated reason, like you're embarrassed over something or have a crush you're trying not to do anything about, is often misinterpreted as hostility. I don't know enough to know that there's another reason Downey is acting like this with Ferguson, and he strikes me as a pretty straight shooter in all other respects, so I played the odds.

There are, of course, other possible explanations. Being oblivious to this sort of stuff might be part of the host's television persona, in which case RDJ is just playing along like the pro that he is. A commenter on G+ suggested that they might have had a bet over whether Ferguson could get him to crack up, which would also do it; it's usually pretty easy to get him to dissolve into laughter for any reason or no real reason at all, and being determined not to do that would likely result in cutting out a lot of the social communication he normally uses, so as to avoid getting too involved in the jokes. A lack of engagement can also come from the guest being totally out of it in some way -- drugs/alcohol, medical problems, exhaustion, issues in their personal life, the usual. I don't really see any of these, but I also can't say that the drugs made him noticeably more or less odd on camera twenty years ago, and as an actor he is exceedingly good at masking (or simulating) misery, pain, lack of sleep, etc.

In short: I'm just guessing, like I always am, and nothing I say about anyone else should be taken as gospel, ever.

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