Gestures and Actions of the Main Character in ‘the Disaster Artist’ by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

Published: 2021-09-14 12:30:11
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The way speech and actions are perceived can be immensely different depending on the context of the situation. Many do not realize that although speech and actions can be so different, often what someone says and does is judged almost instantaneously into one of two categories: foreign or not foreign. In this specific case, foreign does not pertain strictly to someone who speaks a different language or looks ethnically different. Foreignness in this context is defined as speech and actions that are not normal or that are not usually seen as the so-called appropriate way of reacting in American culture. In the novel, The Disaster Artist, by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, the story of a man by the name of Tommy is told. Tommy struggles to blend in under the observation of his peers and fights to find himself and pursue his dream at the same time. The way the authors have portrayed his “foreignness” gives a lot of insight into how American’s define “foreign”. At the same time that readers are able to follow Tommy’s never-ending drive to reach his ambitious goals, depicting who Tommy Wiseau is under the term of “foreignness” and pinpointing his uniquely foreign gestures and actions, as well as his unusual way of speaking, allows readers to think about their initial biases and what makes up the American culture and society.
Tommy’s distinctly unique actions allow people to be increasingly aware of his abnormality separate from the foreign way he physically looks. An article called, “The Importance of a First Impression” states that when you first meet a person, they make a judgment about you in approximately four seconds and finalize it within thirty seconds (Tracy). The author of the article finishes off his paragraph by saying that, “Everything you do or don’t do either adds to or takes away from your credibility and your capability to influence someone” (Tracy). Sestero implants the first impressions of Tommy through using negatively connotated words to describe Tommy’s actions.At the beginning few pages of the novel, Greg describes a scene in which Tommy and Greg are dining together at a restaurant. When it came to paying the bill, Tommy wanted to pay with his credit card; however, when the waiter asked for his identification card to verify his identity, Tommy adamantly refused and made a scene about how it was wrong for the waiter to ask for it. Greg later explains that he would continuously have to apologize to all the employees at the restaurant for Tommy’s behavior. From here, Greg states that “I’d become accustomed to this; it was how I paid for our dinners”. Sestero in choosing to write this scene italicized the “I”. He does this to distinguish this word from others within the text. This is because he wants to show the audience that is reading that even though Tommy was the one who created a mess wherever he dined, Greg was the one who had to always clean up after him, even though it was not his obligation to do so. Italicizing “I” only made Greg’s tone sound more annoyed towards Tommy’s irresponsibility and the readers are able to get that stronger impression simply from changing the font type. Creating this negative perspective of Tommy in which the audience feels like Tommy’s actions are so foreign to the point that its burdensome for “typical” Americans so early in the novel leads the audience to have this biased impression towards Tommy without giving Tommy a chance to present himself as to how he is.
In chapter 7 of the novel, there is a scene in which Tommy is attempting to purchase rollerblades from a store. He tries to haggle with the store owner, with the store owner simply responding that there is a set price and bargaining was not up for consideration. While Greg observes this situation, he lets the readers know, “that the entire point of western civilization is not having to haggle like a peasant every time money changes hands”. Greg’s comment allows the readers to realize Tommy has not realized that he does not or should not haggle in stores where it is not common to do so. Tommy has not learned that part of the American culture and has been in that non-American peasant mentality for bargaining for goods. Sestero also uses the word “peasant” which has a negative connotation attached to it. His use of that specific word influences the readers to feel a dislike towards Tommy that may be a first reaction coming from the negative and foreign image Sestero has already built for Tommy. An article about judging one’s character by Ron Kurtus, states that “When someone sees you in action or interacts with you, that person makes judgments of your personal, social, and cultural character…”. He mentions that character is judged heavily by reputation as well. The way Greg describes Tommy to the audience by using negatively connotated words and emphasizing certain words to describe his various interactions with Tommy builds an unfavorable impression. It makes it seem as if there is no use for Tommy to try and leave an impression he wants because he will end up revealing his negative aspects anyways.
Tommy’s foreignness and his identity as such are engrained even more through his peculiar way of speaking. America is a country famous for housing many different ethnicities; however, its main language is English making speaking other languages a hurdle between people at times. In the novel, Teaching and Researching: Language and Culture, by Joan Kelly Hall, an interaction between a Filipino English-speaking doctor and American English-speaking FBI agents was observed. They discovered that “While the cues the doctor used were familiar to Filipino English-speakers, they were not familiar to the American English-speakers”. This article shows that although a common language was being used, there was still a barrier in the form of how that language was used to express certain ideas. Sestero often presents Tommy’s choice of words and dialogue in situations where American stereotypes are often used and how it often confused those around him. Sestero makes a point that Tommy’s accent is uniquely his without being easily traceable to a specific ethnicity. This is reflected well when Greg ponders Tommy’s accents and thinks that sounds like an “Eastern European accent that had been hit by a Parisian bus”. Another article about the topic of how to blend into the American community states that “To blend in socially, you’ll need to be knowledgeable and conversant with social norms, in-trends, the American version of history, slang…etc.” (“How do you blend into the American community, especially in the work environment?”). But in Tommy’s case, he was knowledgeable about stereotypical norms and decided to talk about them at inappropriate times. Tommy had a recurring habit of bringing up American football randomly in efforts to blend in. Tommy brought American football up in two different scenes in the book, specifically before preparing to act out a scene for his movie, The Room. Tommy however, had a tendency of changing the script as he pleased and before he acted out his scene, he suggested to make the scene about American football. His suggestion came out of randomness as well and no one understood why he was mentioning it. The football was not related to anything happening in the script. Greg realizes this and ponders, “How you get from an unanticipated football hand-off to potential hospitalization, I have no idea”. Because Sestero mentions that Tommy brings up football in a similar situation again later in the novel, it emphasizes Tommy’s habit of saying things that in his mind, make him blend in more to the American culture by picking stereotypically very American symbols. The random insertions of the topic in a place where it should not be mentioned expose the fact that Tommy cannot correctly make sense of American culture and this, in turn, hinders instead of helps his continuous efforts to try and blend in.
Sestero’s focus and detailed description of Tommy’s peculiar gestures and actions, as well as his unusual way of speaking, highlights Tommy’s continuing struggle of trying to define himself against the judgment and scrutiny of those working towards the same dream. The Disaster Artist records the relationship between Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau and walks the readers through the reasons that Tommy is not able to completely and successfully blend into the American culture he wishes to be a part of. We do see that though he is not consistent in successfully becoming less of a foreigner to others watching eyes, he is consistent and persistent in his unconditional belief in his dream and his drive to get there. Therefore, the readers are treated to a story of a young man trying to find himself and becoming comfortable in what makes him foreign despite his long hair and baggy clothes. Although his self-directed, self-produced, and self-written movie, The Room was known as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies”, Tommy Wiseau combined his distinct and centralized foreignness and his unrivaled passion to still make a name for himself in the years to come.

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