John Travolta: His touchy-feely Oscars treatment of Idina Menzel and Scarlett Johansson analysed by a professional

Body-language expert Judi James says she feels sorry for Travolta

Helen Nianias
Monday 23 February 2015 14:58

John Travolta tried to do damage-repair for last year's "Adele Dazeem" gaffe, but it seems the guy just can't catch a break. The Grease actor ended up snaking round a rigid Scarlett Johansson trying to give her a kiss on the cheek, and gripping Idina Menzel's chin as part of a skit gone wrong.

But what, if anything, does it tell us about the 61-year-old Pulp Fiction actor?

Body language expert and author of The Body Language Bible Judi James reckons that it suggests he's a bit out of touch with how women expect to be treated today. While the situations are intensely embarrassing, and perhaps he should have been more respectful of the women, James argues that, on stage, it can be best to just play along.

"Travolta possibly wanted to have a bit of fun and emulate Benedict Cumberbatch's magnificent photo-bomb of Bono from last year's ceremony, but Cumberbatch chose his stunt cleverly. Mocking a po-faced rock star is not the same thing as getting snoggy with the likes of Johansson and Menzel," James argues.

Johansson didn't look delighted by Travolta's handsy display

"But it's Travolta I feel sorry for. Greeting rituals of any kind are all about status and power displays and perhaps the veteran film star thought a little faux-sexual fooling about might actually receive a grateful and complimentary reception from the two women. Unfortunately both took on the facial expressions of someone having their leg humped by an over-keen puppy, creating the perfect storm in terms of body language poses.

"Grabbing Johansson might have worked had she screamed with delight at the surprise intervention. But instead she turns her head away as he tries to plant a kiss on her cheek and then she lowers him even further by staring deadpan into the camera."

John Travolta grabbed Idina Menzel's chin at the 2015 Oscars

"Travolta's body language with Menzel is rather more bizarre as he seems to persist in his hilarity despite the fact that her signals are suggesting he should stop. This was presumably based on a shared joke about forgetting her name but his chin-grasp suggests a determination to hold her in the pose he wants to perform, complete with eye contact and romantic-looking smiles. Unlike Johansson, Menzel is smiling as she pulls away but her teeth are clenched, suggesting a polite social rictus rather than a grin of shared fun and then breaking away to clap suggests she wants the audience to help her out of the predicament."

"When a man performs quaint, mock-adoration poses like this it can feel humiliating to the woman (a bit like getting a kiss on the back of your hand) as the only complimentary response is a giggle and blush, neither of which feel appropriate in this day and age. But a little leeway for a huge Hollywood veteran in front of a global audience might have been more suitable."

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