“[Steve Whitmire]’s capable of very deep performances. The falling out between me and Steve is really about business ethics. Working with him on set was always good.”Brian Henson, quoted in a retrospective on the Muppet Christmas Carol in The Big Issue
So … it recently came to my attention that, since completely trashing him to the Hollywood Reporter five years ago, Brian Henson has since said some things about Steve that could be interpreted as nice. Most of them aren’t as inherently contradictory as the quote above and seem to be pure, unmixed compliments.
I found out about this because a reader used them as examples to support the case that I was being too harsh towards Brian. At my request, the reader was kind enough to provide some links to videos of Brian making these compliments, and I am very grateful.
I didn’t expect the clips to change my opinion of Brian, and they haven’t. Without an apology for the things he said in 2017, anything complimentary that Brian has to say about Steve now only shows him to be inconsistent and untrustworthy. And as the above quote shows, he doesn’t seem to have any regrets about trashing Steve back then, or scruples about taking digs at him now.
The reason that I was so excited to see these clips is because it gives me an opportunity to make an attempt at reading Brian’s body language. Approximately six months ago, I started becoming interested in body language and behavioral analysis from watching the Behavioral Arts channel on YouTube.
Despite the clickbait-y titles that he uses on his videos, Spidey makes a point of emphasizing in all of them that body language analysis is an inexact science, that certain behaviors can mean different things in different contexts, and that body language is open to interpretation.
I echo Spidey’s caveats and add one of my own: I do NOT claim to be an expert in body language analysis after watching these videos for six months. Spidey had to study this for decades to get to be an expert; I still have a LOT to learn. I reiterate: I do not claim ANY expertise in behavioral analysis. If an actual body language expert wants to come tell me that I am way off base, reading things into Brian’s behavior that aren’t actually there, I will defer to their expertise (after I verify their credentials, of course).
Nevertheless, even to a relative neophyte at behavioral analysis, Brian’s body language when he talks about Steve suggests some VERY interesting things.
I have here three video clips of Brian: one from 2018, one from 2020, and one from 2022. As you watch them, pay particular attention to Brian’s face as he mentions Steve’s name; something about his expression changes every time.
Before I give you the actual links, I want to point something out: In each case, I’m linking closely to the relevant part of the video, but I’m also making a point of giving a little bit of context at the beginning. An important part of behavioral analysis is establishing a baseline of behavior for the individual because it’s the deviations from baseline that are significant.
Okay, here goes:
2022 D23 Expo — Muppet Christmas Carol Panel:
2018 — Evolution of Puppetry:
2020 George Lucas Talk Show — Muppets Tonight Watch-Along:
Did you see it? If not, try watching them again. I’ll give you a hint: Look particularly at his eyes.