You’ll remember I was pondering this question. Well, it’s come time to piss or get off the pot. A month of not writing very much despite having plenty of things to say. I’m sad and frustrated with myself in equal measure. And if I am not going to be writing this blog anymore, I am going to be writing something else. So, answer to the question — ad fontes.
What is the source code of this blog?
I decided on two things.
1. My abiding affinity (call it what you will — crush, infatuation, Armitagemania, obsession, fangirling, love, whatever) for Richard Armitage and my amazement at the effects he has had on me in the past and continues to have. That’s been the charge from the very beginning, to understand how he affects me — what he does, how I react.
This has not changed in the slightest in intensity in 4.5 years. I had wondered if going to London or even going to the stage door, if I would be able to manage that, would change anything in that regard, but it hasn’t. Armitagemania is just as meaningful as or more meaningful than it always has been, and it occupies as much emotional energy as it always has.
Richard Armitage as John Proctor in The Crucible. Source: Robert Delamere on Twitter
2. My conviction that blogging here has been the most useful possible tool for exploring Richard Armitage’s effect on and meaning to me, and for finding myself not just as a fan but also as a human and most importantly, for developing myself as a writer. My feeling that illuminating the things I feel and do with the most honesty that I can is central to that project, even when that decision has led to problems. My continued faith in the utility of this blog for accomplishing those things remains untarnished.
. There is a third collateral effect of those two things — it was never a reason for blogging, but it has been an effect of blogging and often a reason to continue at unhappy moments: the friends I’ve found and the things that we do together (like spReAd the love, and, when it was still a going concern, fanstRAvaganza).
Those things are still rock solid. So what’s the problem? What’s in the way of executing the source code?
4. Since September 22nd, everything about how I see myself in relationship to the Richard Armitage in fandom has been in flux — to the extent that I have at least four times considered breaking my own tacit rules about how I write about the fandom here. I don’t want to say a lot more about that because this post is not meant as an incitement for readers to engage in fan policing. Short of making threats or inciting campaigns to harassment, people can and should express their opinions to each other. And I decided it wasn’t either in my own or the fandom’s interest for me to confront the person who said it, which is what I should have done following my own principles.
Rather, I’m recounting my own reaction — I began to wonder, on that day, if I really belong here anymore. This may seem odd because of everything that happened this spring — you’d think if I were going to be horrified by certain kinds of fan discourses, or horrified enough to detach myself from the fandom, period, it would have happened then at the very latest, given everything that’s happened in this fandom since 2012. I know what it was that stunned me about this moment, and why it tripped a personal trigger, but I think the bigger perception on my part was simply that something I’d always seen as marginal to our fandom even when I was the target of it, something I didn’t ever want to be around or expose myself to, was moving front and center.
The reason that that matters, frankly, is that this blog has always been a tool for self-exploration and secondarily something for like-minded fans to enjoy. I was writing for me and for you — or, at least for those readers who enjoyed what I was writing or saw something in it that struck a chord with them. I guess the last month has made me doubt the persistence of the like-minded audience. I am not fishing for compliments, or comments, here — I know that plenty of people read this blog and enjoy it. Thanks to every one of you! — but it’s more that the last pieces of the idealistic picture of the fandom that I held in my head as my audience when I wrote were challenged enough that I didn’t believe in them anymore. Which made it hard to write — because every time we write, we have an audience in mind. And suddenly I didn’t believe the audience that I’d believed in for so long really existed anymore.
I’m under no illusions that my prejudices about what our fandom should be like can or should have any real purchase for others — indeed, even articulating that thought as a prescription would be self-contradictory and hypocritical. Again, short of avoiding causing harm, there is no right way to be a fan, and as one myself, I can only try to be my best possible self, something at which I regularly fail, and hope that others will do so as well. But I can note the places in which I feel I belong, and those in which I feel, or have begun to feel, alien.
I think this is where “4.5 years spent at this” starts to matter, simply because as time passes, as a fan one begins to observe dynamics repeating themselves and things that had provoked a big reaction at one point leave one shaking one’s head, but no longer capable of true outrage. I had an exchange this summer with an Armitage superfan of much longer duration who told me how she dealt with the potential negative effects of the Armitage fandom’s role in her life and it was an eye-opener. “Detachment” was her motto. And that made sense to me — I totally agreed with what she was saying and why. One can be a fan, even a superfan, of Richard Armitage, without having to engage with the Richard Armitage fandom regularly or even at all. Eventually one finds one’s friends and one sticks with them and avoids places that generate the kind of exchanges one finds problematic. And that approach has lain at the root of my refusal to be involved in imdb meaningfully, and my nearly total withdrawal from Twitter in the last month. (I doubt anyone has missed me in either place, frankly.)
It’s just that if there’s one word that doesn’t describe this blog, it’s detachment. “Involvement,” “engagement” might be more accurate descriptors. If I try to write honestly, from the heart, in ways that speak to people, then “detachment” as an approach doesn’t really work. And I don’t want to close myself off to new friends, new things, new media — things to learn, things to observe, and things to enjoy — I can’t shut myself off from the fandom.
So. A long post to say “I know what’s up with me, but I don’t entirely know what to do about it, yet.” But if an essential piece of the source code, the formula for writing this blog, was honesty, I needed to articulate this for myself in your presence.
From Heather Armstrong, whom I think about so often.
I need to keep writing; in order to do that I need to put back together my picture of the like-minded audience; and I think the only way I can do the second thing is to do the first. For my own sake, I’ll keep trying. And hopefully, now that I’ve published this, other things will once again become easier to publish.
[I would welcome comments on the many vagaries of the fandom journey and on strategies of coping with one's own fandom experiences. Policing comments will be edited or deleted.]