On the rhetoric of fan letters, or: Why I may never actually write to Mr. Armitage

bZirk said it here: Mr. Armitage probably needs another fan letter like he needs a hole in the head.

You see: the rhetorical problems involved confound me. I can think of two reasons to write a fan letter.

a) to express admiration for the work of the addressee. (This is the explicit justification.)

b) to express that special thing that *I* found in the work of the addressee, i.e., to say “I admire you. Look at MY unique admiration of you! SEE ME!” (This is the implicit motivator.)

Presumably, b) is stronger than a), and probably very few writers of such letters — even those conscious of the problems involved in b) — can keep it separate from a).

Even assuming that b) were a legitimate motivation for contacting Mr. Armitage, any letter would have to go under in the flood of letters he receives. What can he possibly say, except “thanks!”? Thus, no matter how great the letter, or how unique the insights, nonetheless the circumstance of being part of a very large fandom means that even unique insights will appear conventional or simply disappear.

So all that effort — and it requires true effort for most people to write a sophisticated letter — would be wasted. In the worst case it would create negative feelings in the recipient stemming from the impossibility of responding adequately to the effort the writer put into the letter.

I posit that the true audience for the fan letter is actually fellow sufferers from Armitagemania, who can be offered new insights into Mr. Armitage’s work by reading the unique perceptions of their fellow fans.

Mind you, I am not trying to discourage anyone else from writing, if she or he has something to say. But receiving adoration is a burden. Writing for a single recipient is hard. In contrast, adoring someone — especially from afar — is easy, and larger audiences make that sort of writing fun for the writer.


I wonder if I’ll actually be able to stick to this.

~ by Servetus on April 10, 2010.

13 Responses to “On the rhetoric of fan letters, or: Why I may never actually write to Mr. Armitage”

  1. I have mixed emotions about the letter I sent. Well, it wasn’t to Richard Armitage but rather to one of the agent’s staff. I made the big mistake of drafting it as an email, and then I couldn’t control myself and can it. After I hit send, I wanted to kick myself but good. So whatever you do, DON’T DRAFT an email. LOL!

    I will out myself but good and share it. Yes, I still have it in my archive. I look at it sometimes when I’m tempted. Maybe it will help you refrain.

    Dear Mr. ___________,

    I have no idea how to start this note and make it so clever you can’t stop reading, but I’ll spare you the requisite babbling about never having written to a celebrity or their representatives although in my case it’s true.

    Here’s my situation, and if you can help me out, I will be very grateful and always say nice things about your mother, and buy you a year’s supply of really fine fresh fruit from some exotic locale or perhaps something else (that’s not illegal) that may tickle your fancy. Yes, I’m half kidding, but I would be very grateful.

    So here’s the short of it. I’m visiting the U.K. in August and bringing my 70 year old mother with me. She is recovering from a major bout with cancer (you know the disease that’s supposed to happen to other people). For most of my life, she has had plenty of means to acquire whatever she wants. It’s made it really difficult to find something she cannot easily get. So today, I’m writing this note and feeling a little like an idiot but still compelled to do it out of love for my mother. Is it possible for me to get her on the set of the series Spooks to watch the filming and possibly meet Richard Armitage? Or something along those lines? My mother really likes him and yes, I like him as well. I guess we’re two ladies from America who think he’s grand, but she doesn’t know I’m asking this and might think it’s completely lame for me to do so. Nevertheless, I think she would love it.

    By the way, I sent you this note because I understand that you are an assistant to one of Mr. Armitage’s agents, and frankly, I felt you would be more amenable to reading my note and considering it. Other than that, I am afraid it will go into the abyss (auto responder).

    I do thank you for any consideration and hope that I will hear from you.


    Lisa _________

    I think it was about 1am when I sent this crap, so always proceed in the light of day. I think if I had drafted this thing at noon, it would have been 86’ed.

    The reality of my trip is that we were so busy with other things that it was a blessing this didn’t work out.


  2. I had already decided I would never write any letter to any agent or to the darling man himself. So don’t worry, don’t feel guilty, it’s not your fault. I also – and strangely ? – do not wish the meet the handsome wonderful man in person. Strange enough but I’d run away from such an embarassing situation:I’d risk a heart attack just to feel awkwardly uneasy and longing to disappear in front of such a gorgeous giant . What could I say? I’d be speechless and look a total fool and that’s something I’d willingly avoid, No, thanks. I’m sure of that. So, what is the object of my Armitagemania as you call it? Mr Armitage’s work. I’m just contented to watch and to listen to him. That gives me joy enough.No, better be honest.It gives me great joy! And I hope to have more and more to watch adn listen to. That he goes on in his rather workaholic style giving all of us reasons to go on admiring his talent.
    So, you see, we do agree. We do not need to write a letter of admiration. But , in any case, what is this blog of yours if not a series of public letters of admiration for Richard? Maybe you are wrong…You’ve written that letter … many letters!
    Thanks for this interesting thread!


  3. Maria Grazia, you absolutely hit it on the head. I’m writing a series of letters to Mr. Armitage because I can’t surmount the embarrassment to bring myself to write him an actual letter. Pretty paradoxical, isn’t it? I have exactly two fantasies that involve me as I am meeting Mr. Armitage as he is, and I may write about them some day, but they have similar themes to what you report about your thoughts about running into him.

    bZirk, I think this letter shows you in the nicest possible light. In the U.S., it wouldn’t be unusual to ask to visit a TV set to watch filming, I think, if it were a big, established studio. I imagine it would be tremendously boring, though, watching them film the same scene 17 times.


  4. I’m a techie; I would have loved watching the mechanics of how things are filmed. My mother also is a film nut, and she and I have spent no telling how many man years discussing film techniques. Not that we know squat about it, but we’ve had a good time speculating.

    I hope you’ll share your letters with us when you’re finished; otherwise, it’s cruel to tease us. 😀


  5. You are reading them, bZirk. Everything I write I put on the blog, eventually. 🙂


  6. Me, I’ve written him several letters (and only the first was the expected gushy “OMY, U’re Teh Awesome!” All the others were a bit more reasonable).

    I am a proponent of writing fan letters. I consider them a form of applause.

    When one is on the stage in a performance, you know you’ve touched your audience when they reply with applause.

    Film and television have no such feedback. So, the reciept of fan letters is a round of applause. All together, they say, “We appreciate your talent and work.”

    Sure, he receives dozens each month (and more around Christmas and his birthday). And while he can’t acknowledge them all the way he’d like to, we do know he appreciates them.

    I’d also love to meet him, because I think he’d be interesting to listen to. Wouldn’t mind spending a day on set either. My degree is in film, and I love the stuff.


  7. […] and would be unlikely to unless I had some guarantee that I’d get to see him from afar, as I don’t find watching repetitive takes especially interesting. I don’t want my picture taken with him; as the remark above should indicate I don’t […]


  8. […] anywhere; I don’t want to have my photo snapped with you. I don’t want your autograph; I don’t want to write you a fan letter. (No offense to anyone who wants those things, they’re just not on my list.) Laying aside the […]


  9. […] arbitrary wall around it for myself (for instance, incessant blogging okay as long as fenced in by the “no letters to Richard Armitage” rule). I don’t think I would be writing this blog if it were just to give him positive reviews of […]


  10. […] Of course, other people might be. I make the bubble transparent to fans because I find it useful to work on my self-development project in this way, and because I suspect that some of what I experience has resonance for fellow fans. Before you object that I sometimes write Armitage letters here — yeah, dude, that’s because I don’t send him actual letters and because I assume the audience for whom those thoughts have greater meeting is potentially one of fellow fans. […]


  11. […] Sleep doesn’t have a lot of effect on me, as pictures keep chasing their way through my head. And I puzzle a bit about the stage door thing as well — how do you tell someone that watching their work has changed your life? Because of you I decided it would be okay not to keep trying to be a professor and to temporarily stop being a teacher and to seek out something else? Because of you I decided it would be okay to follow my own happiness? Because of you I know how much I want to write? Because of you I remembered that I wanted to be creative? Because of you – it sounds a little nutty. Of course, I could say it in a letter; in that instance it sounds just as nutty, but at least not as completely out of place as a random, impassioned declaration at a stage door with a few dozen people who want a picture watching impatiently. But I muse — the problem is that I want the message understood for what it is, not for some crazy declaration, and that requires conversational context with my addressee that I’ll never ever have. I want a “thanks for letting me know” — or some similar message of understanding — that I will never get. This is the condition of the fan that one never really escapes: the “see ME!” problem. […]


  12. […] at bay, and now it’s gone. Sudden, crazy need to write Richard Armitage an actual letter. I’m never going to write him a letter. I will write him a letter. What the fuck. Now, after all these years of writing as a faulty means […]


  13. […] do that. Suddenly, I needed to give him something. And the only thing I could think of to give was something I’d promised myself I would try never to do. To write a letter. One of the earliest resolutions I’d made, and one of the firmest, the one […]


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