How does Wilderrama sleep at night?

From the tv series NCIS, Season 14 Episode 6, “Shell Game”, an exchange between the NCIS-Agent characters Tim McGee (played by Sean Murray) and Nick Torres (played by Wilmer Valderrama, whose name I am forever telescoping into the portmanteau-like Wilderrama) that turns on joking with senses of the interrogative adverb how — in McGee’s question “How do you sleep at night”, intended to convey modal + means how ‘by what means is it possible?’; and Torres’s response “On my back. Naked.”, conveying truth-functional + state how ‘in what state?’.

(#1) Torres and McGee in the NCIS episode “Love Boat”, Season 14 Episode 4

Then I turn to WV the man, as a hunk with a wonderful smile (two things I post about on a fairly regular basis), and as a performer with a notable actorial persona.

The sleep exchange. (M is McGee, who tends to be earnest, bordering on humorless, and very conscientious; T is Torres, who’s easy-going and playful)

T: That mystery e-mail still driving you nuts?
M: It’s not driving me nuts, it’s just, it’s annoying.
T: Want to feel better?
M: How?
T: Take a look at this.
M: You have 98,000 unread e-mails?
T: 98 plus.
M: How? Why?
T: Well, when I was undercover I-I… I never checked them, you know? So, I could never… I could never catch up, so at some point I just quit trying, man.
M: How do you sleep at night?
T: On my back. Naked. Fresh air feels nice.

The question How do you sleep at night? (with the interrogative adverb how) that M asks is of course not the How do you sleep at night? that T so playfully answers. It’s a joke, son.

Senses of interrogative how. Dictionaries seem not to do a lot of sense differentiation for how — NOAD boils the relevant OED2 entry down to ‘in what way or manner; by what means’, all as one sense — and I don’t know anything in the semantics literature that covers this territory (but then I’m basically pig-ignorant of the semantics literature), so I’m sketching  a treatment improvisationally here. I would be happy to be illuminated.

What we have here seems to be the juxtaposition of two wildly divergent senses:

M’s modal (specifically, epistemic) + means how ‘by what means is it possible’

T’s truth-functional + state how ‘in what state’

You can appreciate something of the range of senses for interrogative how by considering four different ways of answering the question How does he sleep at night?:

truth-functional + means how in: How does he sleep at night? By taking Sominex.

truth-functional + manner how in: How does he sleep at night? Restlessly.

truth-functional + state how in: How does he sleep at night? On his back. Naked

modal + means how ‘by what means is it possible’ in: How does he sleep at night? By ceasing to care about his responsibilites.

Note 1. The modal + means how can have the modality made explicit: How can he sleep at night (after what he’s done)?

Note 2. Related to state how are two senses that are listed separately in many dictionaries, including NOAD: condition (stative) how (How do you feel? Sick.) and quality (active) how in How did they play? Very badly.)

Wilmer Valderrama. Basics from Wikipedia:

Wilmer Eduardo Valderrama (born January 30, 1980) is an American actor, producer, singer, and television personality. He is best known for the role of [the foreign exchange student] Fez in the sitcom That ’70s Show (1998–2006) and as Carlos Madrigal in From Dusk till Dawn: The Series (2014–16).

After some time on the original NCIS, WV moved to NCIS: New Orleans.

Back on That ’70s Show, it was already obvious that (if you actually looked at the whole young man) he was a hunk — and so he is, with a physique that looks “naturally” well-proportioned rather than gym-crafted:

(#2) A face and torso shot from an NCIS episode

Then concentrating on his handsome face and muscular forearms:

(#3) A Valderrama portrait (also from NCIS)

And then his smile:

(#4) He has a beautiful smile (I’m really into smiles) (Wiki Commons photo

And on the academic side, I’m interested in smiles and other facial expressions as projections of personas; and on the way smiling and neutral faces are deployed in various sorts of posed “public portraits” — from driver’s license photos through p.r. shots (by actors, businessmen, political figures, entertainers, sports figures, and the like); compare WV in #3 and #4.

Actorial personas. From my 2/3/19 posting “Edward Winter”:

I was … interested in [Winter] as a member of what I’ve called the Acting Corps (actors who get regular work and so pop up in movies or on tv, notably or inconspicuously, in various roles); also in him as a man with a conventionally good-looking face, a leading-man style of face (rather than a character-actor face); and also in him as someone with a strong and recognizable actorial persona, which runs through a number of his performances.

… As a member of the Actor Corps, Winter took on a wide variety of roles, but he seemed to be drawn to intense, even manic or deranged, and rather nasty, characters who are physically highly strung, either taut or in constant motion.

Earlier, in my 3/30/17 posting “Billy Zane”:

charming, boyish, playful, and sexy (his perennial actorial persona)

And so on. For some time I’ve had a posting in preparation — my writing life is forever a mess — on Jane Curtin, who has a notable actorial persona, on display recently in the tv series Unforgettable, where she plays the gifted but crusty medical examiner Dr. Joanne Webster: genuinely sweet but also pointedly competent.

And then we get Wilmer Valderrama: amiable and playful, but dependable, with an easy physicality and with intensity in reserve. A Good Guy.


4 Responses to “How does Wilderrama sleep at night?”

  1. Timothy Evanson Says:

    Valderrama smiles with his eyes, as well. There’s that well-known phenomenon of people faking smiles but without the concomitant use of the muscles around the eye which also indicate pleasure and the enjoyment of humor.

    Mark Zuckerberg notoriously smiles only with his mouth, not his eyes. Some actors, on the set too long and having to perform too many takes, do it as well at times.

    Valderrama always seems to smile with his eyes, I’ve noticed.

    Oh, and like you, I noticed his sweet, superb pectorals and shoulders on “That 70s Show” and self-abused to him regularly.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Yes, Valderrama gives you a full smile, complete with crinkly eyes. He’s one of a collection of presumably straight men whose actorial personas suggest they are in fact Good With Gays (and Women) and in real life would get my Queer Seal of Approval (which selects from the great mass of queer-antagonistic straight guys a select group who are genuinely trustworthy and can become true friends).

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    Your mention of “actorial personae” reminded me that I occasionally wonder if Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax, Unforgotten, plus occasional roles on other British shows) ever plays a character who’s actually happy.

  3. Robert Coren Says:

    The main topic brings to mind a silly joke from my childhood:

    Person 1: “I knew a man once who had a dog with no nose.”

    Person 2: “No nose? How did he smell?”

    P1: “Terrible!”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: