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.

~ by Servetus on May 17, 2012.

40 Responses to “Implications of others’ other crushes and Armitage Grey — 50 Shades of Dealbreaker?”

  1. I may indeed be joining you one of these nights, now that I am back in central daylight time zone for a few days! Sorry to have missed last night’s chat session. :D

    • Not everyone is there every night but some people are usually there each night. We’d enjoy having you. We can get saucy and ridiculous. I know that’s hard to believe.

    • Please do join us one of these nights!

  2. Now, after all the discussion about the ‘shades’, I slowly think I should push out my long waiting and dust covered post about s/m. So far, I thought it too strong for CD, but perhaps now ;o)
    Servetus, I think by now you are seeing more in RA, not only your “fantasy self”, so I would not automatically think you changed your perception, but I also get the idea that you perhaps accept the shades of grey in your life better (good term from – as it seems – a not so good book-trilogy).

  3. I have to say, both Alexander Skarsgard and Ian Somerhalder are both off my crush list for wanting to play this character. I really hope RA doesnt say anything about wanting to play him, because i now only have him and David Tennant left!

    IMHumbleO, we have spent far too much time, energy and money trying to make people understand and accept that domestic abuse is wrong (domestic makes it sounds so harmless, doesn’t it?). To see someone i like wanting to promote the bloody silly trope that pain = love is an instant turn off. This is worse in Ian Somerhalder’s case, as he actively promotes saving the planet, and has even set up his own foundation. “Save the planet, but beating women is fine!” “Care more about an inanimate rock than the real, actual people who share you life!”

    However, there are limits to my avoidance. With these two, I wont avoid everything they do, though at the same time, I will no longer go to see it just because they are in it. (Thank god, this means I don’t have to watch Battleship any more!)

    With people like Roman Polanski, Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson (I’m sure there are others but I’m rubbish with names) it’s a total vito. There is no excuse for what those people did. I have never and will never see a Roman Polanski film, I don’t care how lauded it is, and I will never again willingly watch Sheen or Gibson on TV or film.

    Call me misguided, but i work hard for my money, and i wont give it to known rapists, wife beaters, racists and misogynists.

    I won’t even watch them if it’s on free tele, because however misguided my thinking, this feels like a taciturn approval. Maybe i wont change any minds, but if we all thought more with our wallets and considered properly what we watch, and what message that sends to those around us, maybe this would be a better place.

    So basically i guess my moral code is, wanting to play a sadist is bad, but actually being one is unforgivable.

  4. I would try to resist the implication that wanting to play a certain kind of character means legitimating the things the character stands for. If that were the case, we’d have to disapprove morally of a much broader array of actors than we actually do. Anthony Hopkins was amazing as Hannibal Lecter. I was completely grossed out by that movie. I certainly don’t condone what that character did in terms of recommending real life behaviors, but I would have hated to have missed that performance. I think I’m going to limit my disapproval of actors to those who actually hit their wives, rather than those who think a character who does that is a problem. This was a topic (it’s a matter I have in draft) I was going to raise separately, but Armitage has either hit or almost hit women at least twice in his work that I am aware of.

    I think, however, that we’re unlikely to hear Richard Armitage actually admit in any credible way that he’d really like to play any particular role. Except Richard III, lol.

    • I don’t have a problem with people playing bad guys, they act for a living and their job is to do what they’re told. Plus, many actors on their way up cant afford to be picky.

      However, when they actively campaign to play a sadistic/romantic role that seriously warps what love means, and then say things like “i was born to play this role” without considering the implications, or the message that could send to their fans/viewers, they go down in my estimation.

      What would you think of an actor who said he was ‘born to play James Earl Ray’ (the man who killed MLK). Using words like that implies personal approval of the character, his actions and beliefs. Unless you are racist, how can you feel that you were been ‘born to play’ a racist?

      I’ll watch a true story, documentary or similar on spousal abuse. I wont however, watch a movie which glorifies, normalises or promotes spousal abuse as normal or acceptable.

      That’s the big difference. No one at any time said or implied that what Hanabal Lector did was normal, acceptable or in any way okay behaviour. .
      50 Shades is all about promoting the abnormal, the f*ed up and the quite frankly, dangerous, as romantic, true love and perfectly acceptable within the confines of a loving relationship!!!

      • I actually don’t agree that wanting to play a role, even of a distasteful person, intimates approval of the character, his actions or his beliefs, no matter how badly someone wants to play it or how openly or enthusiastically they express their desires to do so. I’m not personally going to, nor will I ever on this blog, legislate about what kind of artistic representations of reality are generally acceptable for anyone beyond myself (and, should that ever happen, minors for whom I am legally responsible). I hope it’s clear from things that have been said in the last two months that I am going to do my best never to get into the business of telling people what they can or can’t, should or shouldn’t read. This is something about which I feel quite strongly. Your reading of 50 Shades is one reading, and you are entitled to it, and as I stated on your blog, as a reader, I share some of your reservations. However, those reservations are not the topic of the discussion here. The topic of this post is not whether or not 50 Shades is morally or politically acceptable, but rather about whether its aesthetic elements of the work are conducive to my or other fans’ continuing Armitagemania should Armitage play that role. You’ve made it clear that they wouldn’t be for you. If you want to talk about why 50 Shades would turn you off of Armitage, that’s fine. However, I don’t want to wear out my nerves on a general moral or political discussion that was not the actual topic of my concerns here.

        Readers who wish to discuss with Cat the acceptability of James’ novels are referred to her post on the topic here:

        http://cswinchester.blogspot.com/2012/04/trouble-with-50-shades-of-grey.html

        I would ask anyone else who wants to talk about that issue to do so there. I am done with it.

  5. Excellent description of the trilogy and why I don’t think it would ultimately interest him. There’s just not enough real substance to the characters.

    The emotional immaturity is monumental and the character of Christian is just–creepy. And not in an interesting, “wouldn’t that role be a great challenge” kind o way that would capture RA’s attention.

    It’s not about nudity or sex for me, because many well-known and respected actors appear in such scenes these days and I don’t think less of them for it. Heck, as you know, I write graphic sex. I enjoy writing graphic sex. People enjoy reading it. But–the movies I refer to offer more in the way of a storyline and character development representational of life as we know it. Sometimes sex is a metaphor.

    I like the analogy one of my readers gave for Fifty Shades: it reminds me of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Lots of hype and hoopla.

    I will be curious to see how it is adapted, even though I wouldn’t pay to see it in a theatre. Unless, of course, Mr. Armitage appeared in it. I would go to see him in anything. Yes, even amateurish borderline porn.

    • that was my conclusion too ( your last lines).

      • I have this thing about fidelity. As my mother said about my cousin when he was doing six months in jail for growing pot, “What he did was wrong but he’s still family and I’m going to see him.” Richard Armitage is “family” and I am going to see him. ;)

  6. Strangely enough, I’ve been pondering the question of defection too tonight, but in a different point of view. Richard is far from perfect, he’s not the best actor that ever walked this earth and I don’t like everything he’s been in, but I don’t care because it’s him.
    I won’t say a word about 50 shades trilogy because i don’t give a damn about it :)

    • One reason this post is a problem is that there are about four separate topics. So discussing it is going to get tricky :) An example of how *not* to write a blog post.

      • It may be an example of how *not* to write a post, but it made for fascinating reading as usual all the same!
        I’ve had a lot of experience being a one crush woman, with other much less intense admirations on the side along the way, and I can’t see myself defecting any time soon! Even in this “drought”. It’s not just his body of work, it’s him. I’m totally hooked. :)

  7. ” I have one very specific fear about..the real Armitage..”…I’m curious
    it’s almost unbearable. ;)

    • yeah, I know.

      I’m working up toward writing about it. It’s probably not what you think. But if I say it I’m going to take a lot of abuse, and I had enough of that recently that I’m going to wait before saying the next impossible thing.

      • I would encourage you to write it anyway. LOL I am curious but also no one has the right to abuse you for any of YOUR fears.

      • Your fears can’t be simplistic or boorish ,there will be food for thoughts, I’m sure dear Sevetus.:)

      • I don’t wanna make you post anything but I’m so curious about what you think about RA…I see the “mirror” thing that’s going on with him & you. I think it’s a good thing if he leads you to accept your flaws. Or: if your writing does. I should write more, would do me good *lol*. But I can’t see myself abusing you for anything you’d write.
        I’m also reading or watching everything from high to low quality – if I’m curious enough – so I’m positive that I’d watch RA in really questionable characters and would still love him, if not for this then for his other work.

  8. I have to admit that the New Crush is very impressive personality-wise. He most certainly knows how to engage with his fans and appears to have fun doing so. I like that. He doesn’t appear nervous about pleasing or disappointing and that is making him attractive. I wish I could say I am a one crush fangurl, but the truth is I am not. I can appreciate all good natured, good looking men. lol…..Regardless, I love RA and I know I can be very forgiving of whatever work he decides to do as long as he remains sweet and humble. And if he were to do p%n, will I would just have to watch that too. lol Maybe I need higher standards but right now, this is working for me.

  9. Well, I would still like the bloke–Richard Armitage–to choose to do a Rom-Com movie sometime soon. I could use a little bit of hearts & flowers, RA gets the girl and lives happily ever after making lots of babies, and he doesn’t use a weapon–unless you count his endlessly endearing charm–right now.

  10. Would I watch Armitage in porn? No I wouldn’t. But I can’t imagine that he would ever go for a strictly pornographic film. And if he did, I imagine I would lose all respect for him as a serious actor. I don’t know anything about 50 Shades of Grey other than it’s all over the media right now. I don’t partake of erotica – not based on any moral objection or any lofty ideals about what is or isn’t acceptable viewing/reading. I’m just not into it.
    There are several reasons why I have latched on to this “fantasy” of RA and the healing component is one. I have always assumed that as the healing progresses, the RA fantasy/obsession will regress. At this point I don’t think some other “fantasy” will come along that would replace RA particularly since I’m not prone to such “fantasy’. I think I just happened upon RA at a place in my life where he feels a void.
    But I’m curious about who the actor is that instigated the defection. Where do we go to find out? I looked on Snicker’s Mom’s blog, but didn’t see anything.

  11. I know this is a hypothetical question, bec RA is more than a wee bit too old to play this character. The character is in his late 20′s. Honestly, I can’t figure out HOW they are going to turn it into a movie.

    As for the books, I read them. For me, I would have had a different reaction to them in my 20′s than I do now as a 40 year old married woman. These books were written by a women close to my age for adults. I don’t find anything harmful about that. If you bring up these books around my husband, he’ll get a stupid smile on his face bec he enjoyed the benefits.

    Altho, I am concern about younger women reading these books and how they would interpret them. If people view it as nothing more than erotic fantasy, I don’t see harm in it. Would I want my daughter reading them as a young woman? Hmm … Would I want to sheild her from this? Would I hope that I raised her to know better?

    If RA would take a role like this, he wouldn’t fall out of favor with me. I understand that actors take roles for a myriad of reasons. They tend to go for roles that scare them and take them out of their comfort zones. So I wouldn’t judge him if he chose a role like that. I truly admire actors when they put themselves “out there.” It is something I could never do.

    The problem comes when you see gratuitous sex or violence. That’s the icky territory. When it serves the story we don’t seem to react to it. I had to watch Son of Sam for a project I am working on. I couldn’t finish watching it. I had to turn the movie off. I think we have the same reaction to sex on screen — if as the audience we feel like the actor is being exploted it bothers us.

  12. One more thing, I wanted to add that much of the fan fic I have read, esp ms angie’s, waay waay better than 50 shades. I think the book could’ve used some serious editing. She did a bonus chapter from the man’s perspective and that was interesting. I think if she interlaced the woman’s perspective and the man’s it would’ve have been much much more interesting a read, at least for me. That being said, I read the entire gamut from classics, to non-fiction to chick lit and I enjoy it all. If you saw my book pile you’d think I’m a bit psychofrenic!!!

    Good on her for a $5 million movie deal!!!

    • Aww, thanks, @Rob. I confess that’s what I kept thinking as I read the three books–”Good grief, a lot of us could do better than this!” LOL Did you read the Kindle edition or the actual Vintage paperbacks? I know there was supposed to be a copy editor in place for the print edition. Lord knows they needed it. It would be interesting to compare the e-book and print editions. I found it amusing a story told from an editor’s POV should be so in need of one. ;)

      As I’ve said, I really don’t know how they will film these books, either. And as I said from the start, of course Richard is too old to play a guy in his mid-20s, even if he was interested, which I seriously doubt. But he MIGHT be the only one who could make this character actually appealing to me. After all, I fell for Robert Lovelace. ;)

  13. I keep reading that this the most desired part in Hollywood right now. Several young, hot actors that are far from being “beautiful unknowns” get mentioned. Latest of them Chris Hemworth. If the studio can afford to pay the author $5m (I have no idea if that is extraordinary?) the budget cannot be that small. They will probably try to make this into something more mainstream?

    • There is certainly plenty of hoopla. That’s what I am thinking, Jane–that they will have to water it down somewhat to make it workable. Actually, a good scriptwriter could vastly improve upon the source material IMHO.

      • I can’t really judge as I haven’t read the book (I’m content with reading what our fanfic writers produce), but I can see this turning in something like 9 1/2 weeks. More focus on plot and romance and the sex toned down from disturbing to mere kinky and filmed somewhat “tastefully”. One thing I am sure of, if this is hyped and sells well, they will try to make the most of it and that won’t work if it only appeals to “niche” tastes. After all, I’m constantly told RA and writers managed to turn SB the book into something better. ;-) And if it has potential to be the next big thing, many actors will be interested.

  14. Yes $5 mil is A LOT for a first time online author. I think it is a huge deal bec it is online fac fic that went viral. This is the new publishing paradim you have to build an audience online before an agent or publisher will touch you. I did like how she used the characters and story as a jumping off point and created an entirely different story from it. It reminds me of rappers who sample music. I kind of love that.

    I really like Ian from VP Diaries and sort of hope he gets the role. I think he’ll add a humanity to the character that was missing in the novel. I like when actors take characters and bring them to life and make me think about a novel in a diff way.

    Excuse typos, vry tired.

  15. [...] mentioned before that I have a “greatest fear” with regard to Richard Armitage, but was unwilling to elaborate. I’ve never talked about it in detail on blog, although I [...]

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