Weekly obsession update

So: the only thing I watched all week was Strike Back episodes 1 and 2, but of them, I watched several scenes obsessively, probably a dozen times a day for most of the week. A gracious friend made this possible last Sunday evening, and then she topped her generosity off by facilitating viewing of episodes 3 and 4 last night.

Richard Armitage as Peter Macduff in Shakespeare Retold: Macbeth (2005). Breakfast scene. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery.

And this afternoon I finally got to Shakespeare Retold from netflix. I think that Annette at Richard Armitage Online puts it extremely well: “This performance is a physical one. Richard Armitage’s skill in using his body to convey emotion, in a part with few but significant words, is used to the full. This skill is most evident when he is told of the murder of his wife and children, in long shot, the slow loss of control over his body being a very moving image of the sense of total loss he experienced at that moment.” I don’t have much more to say than that. (I was also impressed by James MacEvoy’s ability to flare his nostrils at key moments, though I felt like he overdid it.) My main response is how well this particular adaptation of Macbeth works, and how sorry I am that as soon as Mr. Armitage gets a supporting role in a Shakespeare play, the role itself seems to get cut down. He was excellent, but we didn’t see much of him — same as with Angus in the BBC Macbeth, but Macduff plays a central role in the play! (I am prejudiced because early modernists consider the speeches in Macduff’s scene with Malcolm an important source for discussing views of kingship in early modern England.) This adaptation thus ends up being all about the internal self-destruction of the willfully immoral, and not about the other theme of the play, the morality of government and the obligations of kings — a major reason the play was hot material in its own day. I know that the shortening has to do with the television adaptations, but it became clearer to me this week after watching Strike Back why he’d be eager to do “The Rovers.” If his last three big roles have been Guy of Gisborne, Lucas North, and John Porter (and the latter seems likely to be renewed, something I can’t disagree with based on my viewing — I am eager to see the last two episodes and would happily watch another series), and he really wants to keep up his acting chops for a major dramatic lead, he needs to keep his hand in in more classical roles. As he said, he’s looking for another North & South,* and I doubt that Strike Back is likely to get him that, though I could see it getting him a film role as an action hero. OK, Mr. Armitage, I forgive you for wanting to appear in a role that I am unlikely to get to see. Maybe we will all get lucky and it’ll become so successful that they’ll make a film version.

[* footnote to that article: Mr. Armitage, Machiavelli was not a “baddie.” He actually wrote several republican treatises, and he was tortured as a consequence of his attempts to defend republican liberties in Florence. If you’re thinking of The Prince, keep in mind that (a) no one really understands what the status of that text is; scholars have been fighting over it for centuries; and (b) it’s primarily the reception of The Prince that makes us think of Machiavelli as evil — not the text itself. Since you put him in a category with Richard III, I’ll assume you mean that Machiavelli was a baddie in the same sense as Richard, i.e., he’s been widely misunderstood by posterity. But it’s good that you said that in a magazine article and not in my class, for you’d definitely have gotten points off!]

Santi di Tito, Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli (now in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence), who like Richard Armitage also had a marked jaw and protruding nose. This is not a contemporary portrait; it looks like it was made from a bust of Machiavelli also in the Palazzo Vecchio that is thought to have been based on the man’s death mask. Source: Wikipedia.

Anyway, Strike Back. My absorption with this became a little frightening to me. Eventually I realized it was connected to thoughts I’d been having about Sparkhouse, so I finished up some drafts I’d been writing earlier on the roots of my inclination to trust servicemen and farmers, and the price paid for the myth that the serviceman will always save you. This is getting long, so I think I am going to make the Porter obsession into a separate post.

Thanks to everyone, by the way, who kept coming back here and looking for me during this last week. It’s gratifying to be missed, and I’ll try not to leave you alone for so long again. If I’ve been a regular commentator on your blog, I should be caught up with that again in a day or so.

~ by Servetus on May 17, 2010.

20 Responses to “Weekly obsession update”

  1. Actually, he said he wanted to the Behn’s “The Rover” (singular) because he felt he needed to do more comedy (and he has not been on stage in ten years).


    • Yes, I read that, too, repeatedly. However, I am giving up taking anything he says literally, I fear. Too risky. And, perhaps I should say that I feel myself justified as interpreter in advancing explanations of his decisions that he might not advance himself. That’s what makes me an interpreter. As I’ve said before, this blog is only tangentially about him. 🙂


      • “Yes, I read that, too, repeatedly. However, I am giving up taking anything he says literally, I fear. Too risky. And, perhaps I should say that I feel myself justified as interpreter in advancing explanations of his decisions that he might not advance himself.”

        Wow…Ignoring what someone says in order to hear what you want is actually rather psycho. When you ascribe motives to him is *is* about him….and when they are motives he has not stated, it’s about you projecting yourself onto him. And that is what crazy stalker people do, creating elaborate fantasies around the subject of their affection ascribing thoughts and motives that they want to see.

        And that is just wrong. He said what he said. You can not read his mind and you don’t know what he is thinking beyond that.

        You have no right to “interpret” what I say and do beyond my words and you have to right to do that to him just because he is famous. The “safest” bet is to pay attention to what the man said and to take his words at face value. You have no actuate ability to do anything more and no right to do anything more.


      • And I have to ask what “risk” do you think you are taking by actually listening to what the man says? Do you think he is going to show up at your house with a hard copy of your blog in his hand and say, “HAHA! FOOLED YOU!”

        A while back you had a post about the fan base needing to be more respectful. Well part of that is taking Richard Armitage as he is and listening to what he says rather than projecting your ideas, ideals, and personal issues onto him.


  2. Interesting post. This morning I made the decision to complete the questionnaire on the AA site for the psychologist who is researching fans and forums. My reasoning for doing this was that I wanted to make the point that as a member of a site, I enjoy the social interaction potential forums and blogging allows and that members on the whole are not into obsessive idolatry of a male actor. I wrote some fairly lengthy comments to make the point that I feel the majority of his fans are well read, educated and intelligent and that I particularly enjoy reading posts that inform and provide interesting background information to his work (or potential work). Your posts illustrate my point perfectly! Thank you for this.

    MTA: I found Shakespeare Retold a little gruelling to sit through but it was very well done. Like you I’m enjoying Strike Back even though it isn’t particularly “cerebral” in content …lol. It’s good fun.


    • Thanks for your kind words. I should probably go take that survey.

      I was obsessive this week. However, it doesn’t shade over into Armitage worship — it’s more about the characters Mr. Armitage is choosing to play. I think he’s picked roles amazingly well in his still relatively short career.


  3. I bought a copy of Shakespeare Retold and I watched RA’s performance which was very good, but I agree that I thought he would (should!) have had a bigger role. As I am not so familiar with the original play, (I prefer Shakespeare’s comedies) I was waiting to rewatch it with my son.
    @ Anon — I find it very disconcerting that whenever someone makes insulting comments on someone’s blog they are always by a person who hides behind an anonymous moniker. You are an unnamed person coming to someone’s abode on the blogosphere and flinging insulting words like “psycho” and “stalker” at them.
    While I can see that you may have a reason for thnking this way, the fact that you are anonymous just makes these comments all the more rancorous.
    Forgive me for intrepreting Servetus words here (which I admit I have NO RIGHT to do… but I believe she was being somewhat facetious when she made the comment about not taking everything RA says at “face value”. We do know he has a sense of humour and has said a few things in the past that have thrown a few of us off on a tangent.
    Furthermore, on a person’s own blog they are certainly allowed to come to any conclusions they wish. People may visit or not, people may comment or not, but hopefully they will at least be civil and not anonymous when they do.
    If one does not agree, one has the “right” to start their own blog.


    • Indeed, I was being facetious. I’m not claiming that nothing he says about himself is accurate, only that we have to interpret it.

      Or maybe he was serious when he said he was practicing his riding in the off-season on the superposable horse that came with the Guy action figure.

      (that was facetious)


  4. Anon: You’ll have noticed the emoticon behind the word “risky,” which is intended to convey the information that I am grinning when I say it. Apprently that didn’t come through, and I’m sorry to have offended you.

    Since you say you’ve studied history, I’m sure you learned that events are overdetermined (have many causes that cannot always be parsed independently of each other), that explanations for events often are constructed outside of the explicit reasons stated for them — indeed, they must be, for certain events only can be explained within larger frameworks — and also that all sources are perspectival (we used to say “biased”) and need to be subjected to source critique.

    Need for source critique is particularly acute in cases that involve autobiographical, witness or eyewitness statements. People misreport information, especially about their own motivations, all the time, intentionally, unintentionally, and in the realm between, due to ignorance. This to me seems an obvious point, particularly in the case of Mr. Armitage, who often adopts a dead-pan tongue-in-cheek delivery for certain kinds of statements. Or are we to interpret his sarcasm literally? And what about when we are missing important cues as to interpreting the valence of a statement? You yourself are subjecting me to a source critique when you criticize the interpretive statements that I make. Interpretation is unavoidable, since none of us really know what anyone else is thinking.

    Every interpretation has a hermeneutic that stands behind it. Yours appears to be strongly literal. Mine, in contrast, is one of pretty strong suspicion. I’m still sorting out how that applies to Mr. Armitage. You’ll notice that I took more at face value his statement that he was looking for another role like “North and South” than his statement about comedy. That signals something about my interpretation of him, as well: that I am more willing to accept his statements that transparently reflect self-interest than some kinds of other statements.

    You don’t have to agree with my hermeneutic, but I’m puzzled as to why you seem to want to attack me for it, especially as I’ve invited you (twice now) to write a guest post on this blog. I’ve not treated you rudely, so I’m not sure where all of the hostility is coming from. You seem to be worried that I am going to harm someone — Mr. Armitage? Let me assure you that he’s entirely safe from me, as I’ll never meet the man and don’t intend to say anything damaging about him here, even speculatively. There’s nothing disrespectful to him here.

    If you read the “About” statement you’ll see that the blog is intended as an exploration of my fascination with him, and as fascination is one kind of interpretation, I’ve always been writing within the bounds of my own rules for the blog.

    You seem to be personally involved in a way that I don’t completely understand. I wish you well, and of course you can continue to post comments here, but you might consider the possibility that this blog is not for you, if my interpretations of Mr. Armitage make you so angry.


  5. There was no sarcasm in the statement that he was considering “The Rover” because he felt he needed to do more comedy. He’s looking forward to it, why would he need to be sarcastic about it?

    And why do you give more weight to a statement he made in general (which given his statement about measuring his acting jobs to his *experience* on North and South in the DVD extras, could have couple different meanings other than “I want to do more classical work.”) over one he made specific to the play he was considering?

    And why would a statement about wanting to do more comedy be more or less self-serving than one about wanting to find another North and South?

    What I am hearing is a lot of intellectual rationalizations for projection, which is what I saw with the Puden’s post but I was trying to be nice about it. This is not “source critique”, you do not know enough to make a proper source critique. As a historian, you should know that if you do not have the information, you do NOT try to invent it or make unsupported suppositions. When you ignore someone’s statements to put your own “interpretation” on them, that is projecting yourself onto the person/subject of discussion. Nor is *that* a “source critique”, I’m not trying to tell you what your motivations are for doing it. I’m just observing that you are doing it.

    If Ricard Armitage wants to go back and examine what he said and clarify what he meant, that is one thing. But to have a person he has never even met tell the world what he means based on what was said in a article? It’s one thing to discuss possible permutations of what he says, but to declare yourself his “interpreter”? That’s just arrogance.

    And that, combined with shoddy reasoning, annoys me.

    Though I do love the hypocrisy of the implication that I appear to be “personally involved” just for pointing out what you are doing here.

    If this blog is only “tangentially” about Richard Armitage and it reason for being is to find out why you are reacting to him the way you do, I suggest you stop ascribing motivations to him that you have no way of knowing, and starting looking at you own.


  6. And you’re quite right in that I do not think this is the blog for me either, and I am sorry for it.

    But honestly, I see Allthingsrarmitage doing the same thing, ignoring things Armitage says, cherry picking his interviews, giving more “weight” to one statement over another, in order to project RiCrAr’s personal political ideologies onto him.

    You have better rationalizations, and I don’t think you are so simplistics as to try to make claims about his politics, as but you are starting to project onto him as well.

    This is what I tried to warn you of with the Puden’s discussion, but yesterday you stepped it up to a level of arrogance I felt needed stronger wording. I’m trying to warn you away from some behaviors that are not rational and back to the stated purpose of this blog.

    I hope you listen.


  7. Phylly3 – I’m right with you. My sense is that servetus opens up many avenues for discussion. I do not find personal characterisation useful or enlightening. By all means, let everyone express a dissenting opinion, but I would prefer those opinions to be expressed without such descriptions as “psycho” or “stalker” or “arrogance”, or with the dubious use of sarcasm.

    There are better, and more persuasive modes of expressing an opinion.

    What’s wrong with wanting another North & South, anyway? It served very well an accomplished actor, who has gone on to find other avenues for artistic expression.



  8. Fitzig: Yes this has been a very interesting blog to follow, and there is nothing wrong with wanting another North and South. It’s ascribing his motivations in doing the Rover to a particular interpretation of that statement, when he clearly said he wanted to do the role because he wanted to do more comedy, which is where things went wrong.

    Ignoring the direct statement that applies to The Rover to insist he meant something else, and to insist on the right to ignore the direct statement in order to reinterpret what he said, that is what is not right.

    And believe me, I get even more upset when I see politicians and pundits do this sort of thing, so don’t feel like this is an Armitage specific reaction.

    Phillys: While she may be claiming to have been “facetious” to you, she also wrote out nearly half a page rationalizing her words to me. Not one of which was, “I was just joking”.

    Sort to like how she keeps claiming that this blog is about Richard Arimtage “only tangentially”, when she has started talking about him as a person, his actions, choices, statements, and his supposed motivations.

    I’m sorry, but I really did not know how to put it other than that was just…not right on multiple levels. I tired to be nice about Sevetrus drifting towards projection before, but it not only did not sink in, she got worse.

    My choice of words was stronger because I felt she was not only not listening and honestly, what she said was incredibly arrogant (and I really do not know how else to describe it).

    Could I have couched it more gently? Yeah, and for that I apologize.

    But the sentiment remains.

    And that puts us at an impasse. I think it best for everyone if I go. I don’t like the direction things are headed in here, and I have expressed that. There really is nothing more to be said.


  9. And P.S. Severtus, there was no emoticon behind “risky”. It came at the end of the the statement about this blog being “only tangentially about him”


    • Anon, there seems to be nothing I can say that will please you, so I’ll just wish you very well for the future. I’m sure there will be a lot of Mr. Armitage’s work for us both to enjoy and analyze in our own particular styles.




  10. Having given this some further thought, I do sincerely apologize for the words I chose in expressing my disagreement with the intellectual tack Severus was taking and for starting the argument in the first place. While I still disagree with it for the reasons listed above, it was not worth raising a fuss over. I should have just walked away rather than starting than putting ire out there. It just wasn’t worth it.

    I wish servetus all the best as well.


  11. […] question has been bugging me for awhile, so here it is. To some extent it comes out of this discussion, but it was bothering me well before that, as I’m alternately beguiled and bemused by the […]


  12. […] blogger Servetus, who may be too ashamed to raise her head in the presence of her wish-object and who has repeatedly drawn a rather strict line at contacting her hero (even with flowers) or at actua…. Watching Armitage perform on stage is as close as Servetus the blogger can get without […]


  13. […] man must have an amazing capacity to focus. It also, however, strikes me as another reason to want to get back on stage — the illusion that you can be alone with the other people in the scene must be a lot easier […]


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