Implications of others’ other crushes and Armitage Grey — 50 Shades of Dealbreaker?
[Somehow this is all connected. In my mind, anyway. I'm tracing ground here that I've been over before but it was on my mind again last night, and I need to get this out before I can go on with the post I was writing yesterday afternoon. Fairly stream of consciousness. This should probably stay a draft but I am going to try very hard this summer not to let any more material go to draft where it risks never emerging again.]
I was chatting [ad: join us any night, usually beginning around 8 p.m. U.S. central time and going to around midnight or so. we're lots of fun!] with our friend the defector last night and hearing all her explanations for her recent about-face. I have to admit that they’re pretty convincing. Without saying a whole lot about the topic at this point (maybe I will in future), New Crush has a lot of attributes that the real Servetus finds immensely attractive and they are right out on display. Not his looks — Richard Armitage is still way better looking (and this made me wonder how shallow I am in reality). But a lot of other stuff that the real Servetus admires, New Crush has, and some of it’s stuff that’s at best hidden from view by Armitage, and maybe not even there. It was a particularly interesting conversation because I have one very specific fear about “the real Armitage” that I’ve never copped to here, and it seems to be a score on which New Crush definitely has Armitage beaten. (No, I’m not saying what.)
But I’m not even tempted. I mean, I don’t hate the guy, and maybe I’ll notice him now if he’s in something I happen to be watching, but I’m not switching teams. I already knew I wasn’t suffering from drought fatigue. I realized last night — Mr. Armitage may not be perfect, he may not be the greatest at everything, there may be stuff he’s not good at, maybe he’ll never win an Academy Award, he may at times be frustratingly opaque — but he’s my Armitage. If all of this uproar in my life is related to a developing and continuing fantasy of self, then I read myself as being irresistibly committed to the one that Armitage represents. In a way, there’s a certain amount of relief there. It all suggests that I’m not being disloyal to myself, at any rate.
[Even though I still wonder if I’ll die with his name on my lips. I told a fellow blogger recently that I’ll have to will her the password to the dashboard of this blog upon my demise. And then someone can ghostwrite Servetus. That could be amusing!]
Loyalty to a fantasy (of something). What does it require or forbid?
In the ongoing hype over 50 Shades of Grey, the question has emerged about whether this is a role we’d like to see Richard Armitage in, with positions both for and against represented in Armitageworld. I’ve read all three novels, and in my opinion, they offer readers a poorly written combination of hot sex and morally and emotionally troubling narrative written with adult characters who have infinite money to burn and the approximate maturity of fourteen-year-olds — but I should emphasize that I read a lot of crap and (given the speed at which I read, I don’t waste that much time on it), that is not necessarily a reason for me to avoid it. The series explicitly contradicts many of my moral and political convictions, but so does a lot of stuff I have read; the potential objections that might seem to apply to me appear more aesthetic than moral. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I enjoy explicit sex writing, though, and I was also turned on by pieces of it, so who am I to point fingers? On the whole, admittedly, I tend to believe that media exposure doesn’t cause social and moral ills but rather reflects them, so I tend to be immune to arguments that dangerous reading material corrupts people — you, of course, may disagree, and I know a lot of people do. But I get a ton of interesting insights out of reading materials that are hardly great works of literature, and even my own research is on a “second or third tier culture” subject.
All of which is to say, if you loved these novels or got something out of them, I’m not judging. There’s not enough enjoyment in life. More power to you — and to the author, who got her cut of my $30 and is laughing all the way to the bank. If I ever made $5 million for anything I wrote, I’d pay the taxes, bank it, sell all my professor gear over the Internet, move to the woods, and never be heard from again. I don’t want to see Armitage in this role, not because I’m opposed in theory to him playing a sexual sadist, but because I think the material is so dramatically thin. If he thought Strike Back in its novel form lacked attractions for him, I can’t imagine him being remotely interested in this stuff. At the same time, I don’t think he would even be considered by casting agents. He’s more than a decade too old, for starters, and industry insiders have been described as thinking the only way to make this project profitable is to film it as cheaply as possible. The author herself is rooting for beautiful unknowns, and her deal gave her casting approval. I suspect Armitage’s desired salary already stretches beyond what will be offered to the leads in this film, and after The Hobbit he won’t need a project like this to establish himself in Hollywood or become a household name. So no matter how we feel about the role hypothetically, I don’t think we’re in danger of having to be divided about it practically. Given that he was apparently prepared to do Charlie, I think we’re more likely to see him in obscure indie projects in future than in something like this.
But I was thinking, after talking about it yesterday on fedoralady’s blog, that even though I hope he wouldn’t do this project or one like it, that I would still watch him if he did it. In other words, I can’t imagine that even this would make me let go of him. That’s a slightly new development. In October 2010 I wrote this:
For instance, I can see if he started making p*rn — by which I mean projects that had as their only visible purpose or outcome the arousal of erotic lust in the viewer — I would probably criticize that choice, and potentially stop watching him.
The author of 50 Shades insists that the books are contemporary romance, not erotic fiction. I honestly think this is a false dilemma — even sex has a function as metaphor — primarily offered to make the books “okay” for mainstream suburban readers with money to spend rather than to describe any real generic divide. However, given the paucity of interesting drama here, it’s hard to see how the films could be made in a way that would not seem awfully close to what we traditionally think of as p*rn. Which raises for me the question of whether I’d continue watching Armitage if, in some unexpected alternative universe, he started appearing in p*rn.
Periodically we’ve had discussions in the comments about what would make us go off Armitage. The usual things come up that we all agree on — matters that are huge moral transgressions about which widespread consensus prevails. If he turned out to be a serial killer or a violent racist football hooligan. Then there are matters that some see as decisive but others do not. The notorious smoking issue. (I’ll probably regret having mentioned that; I always do.) The “artistic merit” issue fits here, too, with some fans fatigued by the ongoing series of projects that aren’t high cultural, and others (me) not caring so much. But I think p*rn or quasi-p*rn ends up being a separate question from the artistic merit problem, although I confess that I can’t think of a reason for that feeling that I really believe if I look at it very closely.
In any case, it seems to me now, I have to revisit what I said in October 2010, and not just because I can now brazenly admit that I would have no problems seeing a full frontal view of the guy, which I thought back then but probably wouldn’t have admitted. I’m just interested enough in him that I can’t imagine that even a project like this would turn me off him.
So back to the “fantasy of self” implications of this problem. I wonder that means for me. Does my secret fear about Armitage reflect my secret biggest fear about myself? (That possibility hit me really hard last night after I went to bed, and I — very unusually for me — had a hard time falling asleep.) If fantasy Armitage is a sort of double for me, a shadow self, an animus, a transitive figure that I’m manipulating in order to heal myself, does that mean I’m becoming more accepting of myself? Of my problematic impulses? That I’m loyal to the fantasy even if it doesn’t have all the ideal features I was schooled to think that our desires for ourselves should have? Even if there are better fantasies of self available, that I’m sticking to this one? If I can love Armitage despite my fear about him, that I can do the same for myself? And if that’s the case, am I abandoning my aspirations? I mean, what do these two conversations suggest that this fantasy really means for me?
Fragen über Fragen.