Habit or Gestural Slip?

Most of you probably already know Simon Cowell. The British-born celebrity has become most famous for his crude and brutally blunt statements on the hit TV show American Idol.

Although Cowell will no longer be appearing on future episode’s of American Idol, he also appears on Britain’s Got Talent. Back in April of last year Cowell and his team met Shaheen Jafargholi, a young boy with an immense singing talent.

When Cowell first met Jafargholi, he was of course, skeptical. Below is the first episode when he meets Jafargholi for the first time. You should watch the clip from the very beginning to understand the premise of the rest of the video.

Play close attention to the very clear nonverbal behavior done by Cowell at 1:04-1:06. It’s pretty blatant and in most western speaking countries, this emblematic gesture is quite insulting.

Do you think this was a nonverbal gestural slip by Cowell, or him simply wiping something off his lips?

It’s also interesting to note the face cover done by the other judge at 0:37-0:38 and the mother at 0:40 after Simon says “You’ve got this really wrong”

6 responses to “Habit or Gestural Slip?”

  1. Keith D. says:

    In my experience, Simon Cowell is very discerning and extremely savvy about what makes top quality entertainment.

    When I look at the audience’s reaction when he starts singing his second song, that looks like exactly what the producers would want to generate, that makes good TV and gets the studio audience excited and riled up and that energy improves the entire production. At about 0:43 or so, JUST before he says what his second song is, I detect a very subtle and quick smile, I can only think of it as potential duper’s delight, as if that song was what he came there to sing in the first place. before all the pre-screening and pre-production stuff took place and they planned for him to sing that first song instead so they could create that reaction in the audience. In the shows I’ve watched, they rarely do this for people who don’t have some serious talent. Besides, what’s the likelihood that they just happen to have that second song laying around and queued up to play on the spur of the moment? That’s not how TV is produced.

    As for Simon’s gesture, he makes that quite a lot and generally there’s something behind it. I think it might be a gestural “slip”, especially since he finishes it off by bringing his index finger up to his lips. The camera cuts away there but that one almost looks like a “hush” gesture, so maybe they were directed at someone on the production crew. But Simon also seems to have a playful side, which is why I put slip in quotes above, it may have been quite conscious and intentional that time.

  2. Sherlock says:

    I agree that it seems unlikely to happen that quickly, the transition between songs as depicted on television. However, these shows are edited. They wouldn’t show the footage taken between swapping tracks- its boring. I also don’t doubt that the Britain’s Got Talent crew have got an iPod or music player with a vast, vast amount of music on. Its unrealistic to think that they don’t, especially Michael Jackson.

    Though, that looked like a hint of disgust to me as he mentioned the name of the new track, but yes, there are also hints of a smile there too.

  3. Javier says:

    I think that kind of gesture in this case with Simon Cowell, it wasn’t just only a gestural slip. I think he was sending a clear and deliberate message to somebody and could be malicious (maybe to some producer or worker of the Tv). I think the gestural slip is too long to be a simple wiping . I agree too with that move It’s pretty blatant and it is the emblematic insulting gesture.

  4. I’m told by my English colleagues that the middle finger doesn’t have the same meaning. I be interested in understanding more about English emblems. We assume because of the similarities in the language that there would be similarities in the emblems.

    Any Brits have a take on this?.

  5. I think it’s difficult to determine what the intent of Cowell’s gesture is, because the way it is edited, we can’t see how it originates. He could be rubbing his eye, something we don’t get to see – his middle finger is already at his eye when the clip starts.
    Plus, to me it seems to be two gestures (touching the inner eye and trailing the middle finger down plus wiping the middle finger over the lips), I If I reproduce the gesture on my face, I feel I would do that if I were unsure of what was going to happen, it has a waiting, pondering quality to me. The swiping feels like what I would do if I were happy or triumphant about what happened, it’s like a non-verbal “Yes!” to me.
    Then again, I’m not English, so if that gesture has a clear meaning in Britain, it evades me, being German.

  6. Dan says:

    It’s a classic gestural slip that Cowell has done of a number of occasions, not only on BGT but American Idol and both X Factors as well. You don’t rub your face with your middle finger. It’s an unnatural position for the finger to rest. You might rub it with your hand or index finger/thumb, but not with your middle finger.

    Classic gestural slip. I would expect nothing less from someone like Cowell, in any case.

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