The smoulder

(A diversion in difficult times.)

Back on the 15th, Tim Evanson recognized the 3/16 birthday of Ares, um, actor Kevin Smith, writing on Facebook, “We miss you” (Smith died, at age 38, in 2002, from an accidental fall). A (female) reader commented on FB:

I miss that smouldering look.

Referring to this smouldering look, which KS was a grand master of:


(#1) “Kevin Smith as the studly Ares” (the Greek god of war, in tv’s Xena: Warrior Princess), as I put it in my 6/23/17 posting “Typo time”: the smouldering look, plus (among other things)  a masculine plunging neckline, muscular arms, a confrontational stance, a huge phallic dagger, and a well-filled crotch dramatically displayed in leather

As I said on FB:

Oh my, yes. Steamy, studly Kevin Smith (especially as Ares in Xena). Is there a term for that look when directed at a woman? (I have often thought Smith deserved an Emmy for Best Cruise of Death from a Straight Man.)

The Smoulder. It seems that there’s no widely used term, so I’ll follow the FB commenter and call it the Smoulder (using her spelling, which is also the one I prefer). From NOAD, where sense b is the relevant one:

verb smolder [AZ: also smoulder]: [no object] [a] burn slowly with smoke but no flame: the bonfire still smoldered, the smoke drifting over the paddock. [b] show or feel barely suppressed anger, hatred, or another powerful emotion: Anna smoldered wth indignation | (as adjective smoldering): he met her smoldering eyes. [c] exist in a suppressed or concealed state: the controversy smoldered on for several years | (as adjective smoldering): smoldering rage.

Note the lack of specificity in “anger, hatred, or another powerful emotion”  (including sexual desire, but also intense attention, dominance, disdain, and more). There’s discussion of this indeterminacy in my 3/28/20 posting “Reading faces”, on how facial expressions in isolation aren’t usually reliable guides to how people feel: people do judge emotional states (though imperfectly) from facial expressions, but from these expressions  plus other non-verbal cues (posture, hand gestures, and so on) and aspects of the context in which the facial expressions occur (including, very significantly, knowledge of the person exhibiting the facial expressions and how they customarily behave, though I didn’t treat this in the posting). I noted there:

(I have a long-standing interest in facial expressions in two contexts: during mansex, and in cruising for sex beween men. In both, I’ve noted how difficult it is to interpret the emotional content of facial expressions — whether as emotional state of the source or as emotional state perceived by an audience. Meanwhile, the expression itself just is; it’s a gesture, and that’s all. It’s just stuff, as I’m fond of saying.)

The portrait of KS/Ares in #1 packs in lots of this other stuff. Tim Evanson posted two head shots and a head + naked torso shot so that you can better attend to the Smoulder by itself:


(#2) Ares Smoulder with lots of romantic hair


(#3) Basic Ares Smoulder (cf. #1)


(#4) High-intensity Ares Smoulder, plus muscular manly torso

These are, of course, still shots, so they’re missing two more components of the Ares Smoulder: (a) narrow focus: Ares’s gaze is narrowly focused on the object of his attention, not taking in a wider scene; and (b) fixity: his gaze is fixed and unmoving for a significant period of time. The Ares Smoulder shares both of these features with the gay Cruise of Death; indeed, fixity is a major component of gay cruise faces in general, which are held for significantly longer than a normal gaze exchange. Gay cartoonist Rick Fiala’s depiction of a Cruise of Death:


(#5) For some reason, the cartoon lacks a prominent jutting package on Cruise Man

(See the CofD references in the Page on “Cruising for sex” on this blog.)

The anatomical details of the Smoulder and the CofD are not entirely clear to me, but one one significant feature is a partial, a slight, narrowing of the eyes (combined with some lowering of the eyebrows and a neutral positioning of the lips). On narrowing of the eyes, from my 5/26/16 posting “Porn for the holidays, with narrowed eyes”:

Narrowing (or squinting) of the eyes — involving lowering the upper eyelid and raising the lower, often lowering the eyebrow as well — can convey a number of different emotions: anger, ferocity, discomfort. People also squint in bright sunlight… And they narrow their eyes for greater focus in examining something, so that narrowing can indicate intense attention, or be used as a display of dominance.

Without context, narrowing is often interpreted as anger.

… Narrowed eyes are a regular feature of Clint Eastwood’s characters. Conveying anger, ferocity, intense attention, or dominance, or some combination of these

Kevin Smith. About the actor, rather than his character. The very basic facts, from Wikipedia:

Kevin Tod Smith (16 March 1963 – 15 February 2002 [from an accidental fall]) was a New Zealand actor and [rock] musician, best known for starring as the Greek god of war, Ares, in the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and in its two spin-offs – Xena: Warrior Princess and Young Hercules.

KS was a serious athlete, hoping for a professional career playing rugby, when he was sidelined and took up acting as a kind of diversion, something he more or less fell into.

This is where Tim Evanson comes in, saying how much he misses KS, who was a lot of fun to watch (the Hercules/Xena shows were wonderfully cast, and were scripted and directed with notable playfulness). A FB exchange between Tim and me:

Tim: Everyone who worked with him said he was the most gentle, sweet-natured guy they had ever met. While on the set of Xena, he saw a homeless person watching the production. He took his lunch from the catering truck over to her.

Lucy Lawless [who played Xena] once said he had the most dry, … self-deprecating wit of anyone she’d ever met. He was most effective when using his own looks and sultriness to extremes, and could crack everyone up doing it.

Arnold: Yes, apparently it was something he could just turn on deliberately. A remarkable talent.

Tim: He apparently really didn’t care that he was good looking. [Television producer] Rob Halmi said that he found it very funny that fans thought they knew him, when all they did is think he was handsome or sexy.

Well, he was handsome and sexy.

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