Armitage epistemology: or, an exercise in source critique

[This is a building block. It’s a sort of summary of and variation on an exercise that I sometimes do with students I have in the first and second semesters of college study. I’ve just substituted “Mr. Armitage” for “historical events” and “interviews” for “the source.” For those worried that this taxonomy is too simplistic: this post is not the end of the discussion, and I am not implying that all texts are interpretable using some sort of neo-historicist fourfold exegesis. This is just a game I play to get students to think. I do it, for example, with Bartolome de las Casas’s Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, an account of the conquest of the “New World” that students tend to be inclined to accept at face value when they should not.]

Richard Armitage as Ricky Deeming in George Gently. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery. A totally gratuitous photo that has nothing to do with the content of this post. Or maybe it does, since Ricky is trying to hide who he really is. Or is he? Who is Ricky, really? We never find out for sure. In any case, all that notwithstanding, a rolled up workshirt over a t-shirt is one of my favorite looks for a man, probably because it’s my dad’s favorite outfit. That’s really why I picked this shot. The picture would get plus points if the shirt had been flannel, as I love to rub my cheek against a flannel-covered shoulder. Not that many women are rubbing their cheeks against Ricky’s shoulder. OK, enough adlibbing. If the question at hand doesn’t interest you, feel free to swoon in the comments. about Mr. Armitage as Ricky. I know I do.

This 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 “is he for real” discussion that erupts every time a new interview is published. This begs the question of what it is that we can know about Mr. Armitage, a question covered under the philosophical discipline of epistemology. (I am not going to run you, my poor readers, through that whole encyclopedia article, as historians tend not to think of the reliability of knowledge as based in such particular conditions. I offer it only for the purposes of definition. Historians tend, in the terms of that article, to be rather crude evidentialists. Thus I will play a game with you like the one that I force my beginning students to play, one that elucidates the basis of an evidentialist epistemology of Armitage.) 

Quiz question: What can we know about Mr. Armitage based on what he says about himself in interviews?

A) We can know Mr. Armitage reasonably well based on what he says about himself in interviews and can trust everything he says.

B) We can know Mr. Armitage to some extent based on what he says about himself in interviews. We can trust what he says based on our application of relevant context(s), linguistic conventions, verbal and non-verbal cues insofar as we have them, and our own experiences of interpreting conversations with everyday interlocutors.

C) We can know Mr. Armitage to some extent based on what he says about himself in interviews, but what he makes such statements primarily for publicity purposes and we cannot apply tests that facilitate the determinations argued for in B) with any strong reliability.

D) We cannot know Mr. Armitage at all based on what he says about himself in interviews.

Most of my students are at A or B when they start college, and my goal is to move them to consider the possibility of B, C, or D when they are reading. Obviously one stance does not apply to every source, or at least not in the same way, but I want them to realize that they will harvest more from a source the more suspicious they become of it, i.e., the further they move toward D as a method of reading.

It may help here to consider a specific example, so I’ve chosen one from the May 30th Mirror interview.

[Interviewer]: What type of girl would you go for?
RA:
Someone a bit naughty. And who likes food – because I really do – and who doesn’t take life too seriously and has a sense of humour. I could never go out with another actor, I’d find that hard – the stresses of the job, they just pull people in different directions.

I think everyone can see that (A) as an answer falls apart here on the face of it. We can’t read without interpreting, and we can’t interpret without context. I don’t know exactly what a Brit means when he says he would go for someone “naughty,” for example. Is that someone who doesn’t feel compelled always to play by the rules? Someone who tells off-color jokes? Someone mischievous? A practical joke player? Sexually naughty? More than one of those things? Or something entirely different? And is this a listing of the most important attributes of the potential “girl” postulated by the reporter, or just some that occurred to him off the top of his head in a casual interview situation? We don’t know, because we have no clues to orient us.

So (B) is, from my position, the least skeptical interpretive stance that is nonetheless tenable. We might call it an optimistic common-sense position. Although it continues to assume that Mr. Armitage is reporting accurately about his preferences in a “girl,” (B) allows us to ask what he means by “naughty,” for example, and most of us will either apply our own definition of that term, or ask what cultural and linguistic clues tell us about his employment of it. As readers we will also ask what context might be definitive for his selection of these factors as opposed to others. The cynic in me, for example, notes based on my own relationship experiences and those of my close friends that people often state that they want in a partner the opposite of whatever issue bugged them the most in a previous relationship that went sour. So I would be tempted to contemplate the possibility that Mr. Armitage’s last serious relationship partner might have been a serious, perhaps rule-bound person with little or no sense of humor, for whom food was either unimportant or “the enemy.” In the same vein, since it seems unlikely, given the people he associates with, that Mr. Armitage has never gone out with an actor or performer in the twenty years of his adult life, I also find myself as reader mentally inserting an [again] right after the word “actor” in his response. Also, given his other statements in this article, we might wonder that he doesn’t report that he really wants a “girl” who likes to ski or who is in possession of a strong taste for adventure, for example. (B) also allows us to diagnose quotidian linguistic conventions like irony or sarcasm (although those don’t appear in this snippet, as far as I can tell) or politeness (which might, since he doesn’t reject the question out of hand as too personal). (B) is also problematic because some interpreters interpret more than others or in a more or less skillful way; (B) allows “projection” into the interpretation — but as we saw, (A) is impossible as we can’t understand the speech of others without making some assumptions, and without projection, without making some starting assumptions about our interlocutors, communication itself is impossible. But here’s a projection for you: Mr. Armitage’s juxtaposition of “[someone] who doesn’t take life too seriously and has a sense of humour” is revealing, as if he (conversely) believes or is at least asserting here that a person who takes life seriously does not or cannot also have a sense of humor. Importantly, (B) does not stop us from adducing interpretations that are slightly outside the evidence if we have good structural reasons for doing so. It is the first step out onto the interpretive ledge.

Despite the dangers, given the content that can be derived from it, it will be the least problematic stance from the standpoint of many readers who want to think well of Mr. Armitage. It offers the closest and most literal reading given our previous knowledge about Armitage. Thus, in the end, we might choose (B) as our interpretive stance just because the information that we gain from a positive take on the optimistic stance squares with our other information about Mr. Armitage as gleaned from about eight years of interview material. That is, numerous interviews have already created a picture of Armitage, and the material given here squares with it or at least does not contradict it explicitly.  Unfortunately the optimistic interpreter, however, that raises the problem of the tropes of the Armitage figure, or why it is that the press has always cooperated in giving us a very positive picture of our hero. Elements of the Armitage trope include: modesty, sincerity, forthrightness, etc. So at the very least, before embracing (B) without hesitation we have to do some critique of the medium in which our source appears.

That problem moves us as readers on to (C), which we might characterize as a more skeptical version of (B); in applying it, we as readers are directed more strongly toward context, audience, and interest as interpretive frameworks, because up until now, we have been reading Armitage as if we were asking the questions and Armitage were giving the answers to us, which is clearly not the case. Although we continue to assume that we can know some things about Mr. Armitage based on his statements in this interview, when interpreting from the position of (C), we start to apply filters generated by factors already raised by problems implicit in (B) in more explicit and aggressive ways: What is going on in this interview? To whom is he speaking? And cui bono? Who stands to gain if we believe his statements?

For instance: The interviewer is going to know, at the very latest after having googled Mr. Armitage, that the single factor of highest interest in potential readers of the article is going to be his relationship status. Mr. Armitage is going to know that making statements about his relationships threatens to throw his fans into speculative overdrive — at the same time that he probably feels that his personal relationships are none of our business. The interviewer wants to publish accurate or at least non-libelous/-slanderous information, and also wants to get an interview that readers are interested in and forward to their friends. Assuming we believe Mr. Armitage’s statements about himself in other venues (which we are inclined to do if we embrace [B]), we may infer that he may wish not to lie about himself in print. As a person professionally dependent on the good will of the press, he may also not want to alienate the interviewer. Finally, in giving this interview, Armitage is also speaking in a number of different contexts simultaneously: at the very least, to the reporter(s) in the casual atmosphere of the place where he is being interviewed (as the interviewer informs us, he breaks down and orders a glass of wine), but also as the spokesperson for his latest venture, which he wants the press to promote, and also for the benefit of all of us around the world who are hungry for more information about him. Given these different venues, and the impression he wishes to create, he has to judge the practicality and utility of any statement he makes about anything in a frightening array of situations.

So, still following (C), interpretive insights come in such as: love of food is generally seen as an appealing trait in humans. Being “a good eater” is a term of praise for a man or a woman where I come from, and enjoying your food when you come to visit someone is a way to warm the heart of every female above six years old. It’s also a trait that a lot of women have. Indeed, even some women who act in practice as if they hate food will claim to love it under the right social circumstances. Of course, you can eat very little and still love food. Saying that you like a woman who enjoys eating (since liking food seems to imply liking to eat it, a not unreasonable conclusion) is also not only a very classically male sort of statement, it plays on all kinds of cultural tropes that connect enjoyment of eating with enjoyment of sex. Mr. Armitage can hardly be unaware of these. Saying something like this also implies that you like a woman with a few curves (or don’t mind them, anyway), and most women these days have at least a few curves.

While I am not claiming that this statement is an intentional prevarication, then, I thus do note that it is also one that carries an extremely high cultural resonance and it is a classy way of saying “I am a real man.” If “naughty” has any sexual connotation for him, this statement about food backs that up, as eating a bit too much is one way of being naughty and thus connects the statement about naughtiness to the statement about liking to eat — which he makes in the form not only of a statement about the hypothetical “girl” but also about himself. In short: if you were trying to appeal to as many people as possible with a statement that makes you sound male but not Neanderthal, this is the sort of statement you should make. I could also make some extrapolations here about the benefits to him of saying he wouldn’t go out with an actor (it serves as a potential explanation, for example, for why he is never seen in public with starlets on his arm), but you get the idea. (C) is thus the skeptical common-sense stance. It accepts that while some things can be known (that Mr. Armitage makes certain statements, for example, and that he gives the necessary cues to signal their veracity), others are overdetermined or at the very least unverifiable. Mr. Armitage may indeed find women who enjoy food attractive, but plenty other reasons for him to make that statement also apply. Presumably, as well, enjoying food may be necessary, but not sufficient, for him to find a woman attractive. As embracers of (C) we can accept more fully that knowledge attained from interviews is highly fragmentary given the structural factors working on the statements the speaker makes.

Finally, (D), which is — in our scenario — the strongly skeptical position, and one which, from the standpoint of most fans, moves beyond the boundaries of common sense. I don’t need to explore this much because I don’t think many of the readers who have gotten this far would accept it, given the widespread conviction that Mr. Armitage is being sincere in his interviews or at least as sincere as he could be. It would also disable the act of reading almost entirely, as I note below; that is, if the purpose of reading an interview with Mr. Armitage is to find out something real about him, the conviction that it was impossible to do so would make reading the interview pointless from the standpoint of most Armitage fans. For our purposes, however, (D) could encompass a spectrum of possibilities: first, that the conditions affecting the possibility of knowledge created under (C) are so severely limiting that our knowledge of Mr. Armitage is inevitably indeterminate — we know what Armitage has said, but not whether it is credible information about him; second, that everything Mr. Armitage says about himself in interviews is a lie and that he seeks to mislead us for reasons that we could guess or that are entirely unknown to us; or the possibility that Mr. Armitage is doing something other than speaking about himself when he makes statements about himself in an interview. I am leaving that last hypothesis intentionally vague because it’s the topic of my next post.

For now, I wish to observe that:

1. The pudens discourse operates successfully only between (B) and (C). That is, the hide / reveal dynamic that also pertains to many of these interviews relies on the reader’s belief that she will apprehend something real about Mr. Armitage — whether she is optimistic about the truth of that belief (B) or skeptical about it (C). This means that as much as some of us would like to urge Armitage to stop making personal statements in interviews, in some sense, as a person who wishes to create continued demand for what he has on offer, he has to hint credibly occasionally. The appeal to the reader of the interview is to discover something that she then does not actually discover — a sort of intermittent reward schedule that keeps her coming back for more. If we stopped believing that we can know things about Armitage based on his statements, then we would probably stop listening to his statements.

2. All of these scenarios assume that Mr. Armitage knows who he is and can report accurately about it (or choose not to) to us. In short, he has a stable self which he communicates to us and which we interpret correctly or incorrectly, or a stable self about which he lies so that we are misled. This self may change historically (his notion of himself may develop in some way, or he may change his opinions about things), but it is essentially both stable and knowable. We assume this because we also assume ourselves to have stable, knowable selves which we can use to interpret his. This seems highly problematic as an assumption, though, and it is where I will pick up tomorrow (I hope).

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.

~ by Servetus on May 31, 2010.

61 Responses to “Armitage epistemology: or, an exercise in source critique”

  1. A v. interesting analysis. I was already at (C) primarily because proving (D) is like proving there is no God. You can believe it, it might be true, but how to prove a negative? Also, I think even an accomplished liar will leave the occasional fingerprint. It’s hard to rubber glove your entire persona.

    The consistency of his interview personality across time and regardless of interviewer does also offer data. Writers want readership, but scandal sells even better than what the public wants to hear, and the British gossip rags are brutal.

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    • Yeah, the medieval and early modern debates over the existence of G-d were very much on my mind as I was writing this. Nice point about the consistency of the persona, too. I’ll pick this up shortly.

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  2. Also residing at (C). But interested in the develpment of (D). When attempting to “disengage” a little from the actor crush, a bit of skepticism is useful. Will keep comments on that pending your (D) premises, servetus.

    Harking back to a previous post, 1) I don’t see how we can take every single public statement at face value. 2) It’s entirely valid to promote discussion, where comments are filtered through the individual viewpoint of blogger and commenter.

    There is not likely a “right” or “wrong” interpretation, but the exercise of discussion, trying to support the viewpoint IS the point.

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    • I think some people would just say “look, you can’t believe everything you read,” which is common sense, although there seems to be a fairly intense emotional need on the part of some readers of these things to believe what they are reading. The point for me isn’t that we should be skeptical so much as what we can learn by reading the source that way.

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  3. The interviews with RA stem from the Entertainment branche and are aimed at the same branche and the main public. I take these with a lighter attitude. No man falls overboard if he doesn´t tell the whole truth about relationships. I consider these as job interviews in which one does not always tall the whole truth and make things more prosperous than the boring reality. Employers for office jobs nowadays also ask after one´s private life. They would like to know if one´s private life is running smooth, so that the employee doesn´t bring his private problems to work.

    Then there is the British media, as Grerp accurately points out, are very minded on scandal. So far RA has been treated very mildly, it will be to a certain extend.

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    • Yes, he’s been really successful in convincing the British media that he is the way he appears to be in these interviews, and as you say, that is tremendously necessary in the UK. I’d hate to see him be the object of some kind of awful press campaign.

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  4. servetus, I found your analysis fascinating and very informative and of course, engaging. An angle that I think might add some light to our approach towards Richard’s interviews is our experience with interviews with other actors. I have never found these remotely interesting. I might have skimmed through some, but I never felt that I really learnt much about the person involved. It could be that my emotional investment in RA means that I approach interviews about him differently. Compound that with the fact that I have yet to read any negative press about him and it seems to me to be a fair assumption that this person is for real. In the end, as you say, it’s a matter of personal choice. I think that you’re right to point out that cultural interpretations also have a bearing of how we read what he says.

    Keep the discussions coming, they sharpen and challenge our perceptions, which can only be a good thing!

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    • Excellent point, MillyMe. There are generic conventions in celebrity interviewing, questions that readers expect to read in such pieces. I think that these would fit under (C) as well, the skeptical common sense stance. Normally we don’t pay much attention to the convention, and the exception occurs when we start to care about the answers. If Colin Firth had been asked these questions, I’d have read the interview and then yawned.

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  5. i would have chosen B XD

    But very interesting, I will tell some friend about this analysis!

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  6. Fascinating analysis indeed but I think we have to consider that Mr. A does not only exist in interviews. There are the comments other have made about him, those tat met him briefly an those that have worked with him for longer periods of time. Now those people want to promote something as well and have to be taken with a grain of salt but sometimes it is telling what they say about RA but not about others. And what they say has so far been universally positive and perfectly in line with the way he presents himself. So this adds to the impression that he is what he appears to be. Surely, when you analyse historical texts you take other sources into considerate as well to establish if your source is reliable or not?

    Furthermore, nothing has ever emerged that contradicts what he says about himself. Some thing he may have mentioned may not have played out but that does no mean he has lied about it. With a sceptical approach we can still assume that we know very little and at some point something may emerge, but as someone else you cannot proof a negative. For example, many celebs have drug or alcohol problems. Nothing indicates RA has (except that he ordered a glass of wine) but we cannot proof that he has not and never had. We only will know should he ever be arrested drunk.

    Last but not least, how important are those interviews and the personal bits he reveals? How many people really care? He as never marketed himself, he only ever does interviews when he has something to promote, once or twice a year, and 95% of the things he say are work-related. For those without a personal interest in him the remaining five percent are just – boring. He is not someone who is everywhere and works daily on creating and selling an image. With a celebrity of that type I would be a lot more sceptical if they are genuine than with him or any other low-key interviewee.

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    • Welcome, jane and thanks so much for these excellent comments. You understand exactly the kind of questions I am trying to get at.

      1) Classical epistemology would say that in order for us to know something, it must be true, we must believe it, and we must have good reasons for doing so, i.e., the belief must be justified. We cannot “know” something that is false. So the fact that Richard Armitage exists apart from his interviews does play an important role in our knowledge of him, in that we couldn’t know anything about him if he didn’t really exist, because our knowledge would not be justified. Originally I had a paragraph in this post about whether Mr. Armitage exists, and then I decided that this question was only of interest to me, since most people believe that he actually exists and would find the possibility that he does not absurd. My personal position is that his actual existence is irrelevant to me as a critic because I am never going to be confronted with it — only with things like interviews that could be evidence that he exists.

      2) What others say about him and its remarkable consistency — another great point that I didn’t include in any drafts of this piece, so thanks for raising it. I’d put this in the realm of (C), I think, that is, there are generic conventions operating on those speakers as well. They are or may indeed be impressed by certain of his traits, but then again they are not going to say negative things about him to the public as they are all in the same business together. I found it interesting that relatively little about Armitage was said by his castmates in Robin Hood. Maybe I just am not reading in the right places, but I found myself wondering if that was a less happy set than (say) Spooks, where everyone who’s been interviewed about him says more or less the same thing.

      3. If you are following the drift of this post you probably have realized that I think the personal bits he reveals are very important, but that they are not necessarily evidence for knowledge that we can have about them. I think they would be important if they could serve as the basis for knowledge OR if we could figure out which ones might as the basis for knowledge about him, but (see discussion above) we can’t really figure that out.

      Again, thanks so much.

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  7. I have not wondered if he exists, assuming that seems too far fetched, but if he is human. Could be he is an alien that appears to be the perfect man when around others but turns into a slimy green monster when alone.

    As to what his RH cast mates said about him, you didn’t look in the right places. Obviously those interviews are a bit older. I completely agree that no-one would say anything negative when he has a show to promote but it was remarkable what they did say about RA but not about the Star of the show as you would expect. The latest of them being David Harewood who said something in the respect that they were all great guys but RA is a true gentleman. Or eariler Lucy Griffith who said one sentence abut JA when asked and then went on for a paragraph how great it was to work with RA, how hard he works and how much he helped her. BTW a treat that is repeatedly stressed by people that know or met him is modesty/slight shyness. If he appears modest in an interview it may well be false modesty because he likes to be seen in that light but if castmates say he’s got no ego at all or is one of the most humble men they know it does have some weight.

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    • The issue to me with his existence is that it is outside of the range of my cognition, not the possibility that he is an alien. To some extent I am arguing against the possibility here that we can know “what he’s really like” because that makes it easier to process the information.

      I’ll look for the Harewood interview. I noticed the Griffith one, but I read it as a statement about Armstrong more than about Armitage.

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  8. So you only take into consideration what allows you to form a negative opinion about JA but not what shows RA in a positive light because anything positive could be faked for PR reasons? (That is what we are talking about, isn’t it?) With all due respect for healthy scepticism, I’m all for that, and would consider myself leaning towards what you call c) but I do consider the possibility that he might be what he appears to be and there is simply no need to put on an elaborate show. I’m aware that we cannot KNOW with 100% certainty what he is like but we can weight how likely it is that he is mostly genuine. That is not the same as blindly believing everything.

    And for your information, my remark about the alien was a joke.

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  9. I understood your remark about the alien as a joke, and my response was made in the same vein. Perhaps I should have added an emoticon?

    To your larger point, I don’t have an especially negative opinion of Mr. Armstrong (though I have been accused of that); I’d describe my stance more as bored or disinterested. I’ve written in several places on this blog and elsewhere that I think he was unable to transcend the awful scripts he was given, so I suppose that could be understood as a judgment on his acting talent. Still, I am not especially concerned with him. I do think it interesting, however, that in a situation where Ms. Griffiths was asked to comment on working with Armstrong, she made an extended statement about Armitage. This is a common rhetorical technique in the West that goes back (to my knowledge) at least to Tacitus: in praising the Germans, he was criticizing the Romans.

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  10. Actually she was asked about both. And am not sure Ms. Griffith would consciously use a “common rhetorical technique”. No disrespect to her but at that point of time she was a girl barely out of school not a politician or scholar. Some people just say what they think EVEN if they are doing an interview to promote a TV show. With most of these interviews we are discussing I get the impression that the actors just met the journalists and chat casually. Surely they have some guidelines what they should try to mention and what should be avoided (e.g. which spoiler should be given as a teaser and which not) but apart from that? If everything were so carefully choreographed no-one would ever blunder and give an unfavourable impression. And if every word RA ever has uttered would be designed to create a certain image we would not be here discussion what he should or should not say about his fans because an army of PR experts and psychologists would have made extensive studies what is likely to please most readers and would have written a textbook.

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    • Hi, Jane, and thanks for the continued comments.

      The point about rhetorical strategies is that we all use them, both consciously and unconsciously. Age is not really a determiner of one’s skill in mobilizing a particular discourse; little kids mobilize strategies all the time to get what they want both consciously and unconsciously. I’m a discourse critic by profession, though, so I may believe some things about rhetorical strategies and discourses to be true that you would not accept.

      The question of whether and to what extent people can control their participation in discourses and/or their performances is interesting, though, and it seems to have something to with whether they are perceiving themselves as performing or not. As in that huge campaign blunder made by Gordon Brown, he clearly felt he was performing when speaking to the elderly lady, and felt burdened by it, otherwise his exposure of his opinions in the car would not have been so explosive. There is a clear benefit, if you think you are performing, to performing a discourse or a strategy close to one that you actually feel you can embrace yourself.

      w-r-t writing a textbook about Mr. Armitage’s statements about his fans, that is kind of what we are doing here, I think! (Or at least it’s what I’m doing. I should not presume to state what others are doing when they discuss these questions.) But in fact PR experts do study this sort of thing. In my attempts to answer the question “why Armitage?” I am heavily concerned with discourse and rhetoric as elements of what make the man so attractive to me. Again, I don’t presume to speak for others.

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      • Could I suggest something? I need to preface this with an apology in case I’m straying off topic a little or going into introspective territory that is not within the scope of interest here. It just occurred to me that the question of ‘Why Armitage’ might be incomplete. I wonder if the question of ‘Why Armitage?’ should be accompanied by the question of ‘Why Obsession?’ (or which ever word you choose to describe it). This would require a more intense focus on the ‘me’ than the ‘richard’ in the Me+Richard equation that may be too personal for this blog(?). ‘Why Armitage?’ looks at the ‘pull’ factors (that are of course not independent of the ‘me’ as what makes him attractive is subjective) but what are the ‘push’ factors? (that, for example, would lead one to ponder the question of ‘Is he real?’ in the first place). To put it more directly, maybe the attendant question ought to be ‘Why Me?’.
        Very interesting analysis btw!

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        • Thanks Skully. I think you are absolutely right in your conceptualization of push/pull, but I assume that I and my life are of much less interest than Richard Armitage, so that is part of the reason. And I feel like I write a fair amount about myself already.

          I’d be happy to write a post about why I wonder if Richard Armitage exists. Of course, I also wonder whether I exist…

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          • Personally speaking, at this point in time I’m actually more interested in understanding ‘why fan fervor’ than ‘Why Armitage’, I think (although ‘Why RA?’ is still a fun question to entertain). So you and other RA fans are equally interesting as RA himself. It’s true, you do write a lot about yourself already, but I wonder if that is in the context of the ‘pull’ more so than the ‘push’ (not that I expect you write in the later context). I should disclose that my ‘angle’ here probably reflects my academic interests (miscosociology / the self) – so from my point of view, on the level of the individual fan, the social conditions surrounding the ‘me’ or the ingredients of the push, need to be understood before the reasons for and intensity of the ‘pull’ can be fully illuminated.

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            • I don’t think I can separate why me from why him, but see what you think of the next post. It’s the exposition of point D and relates to performing the self. It’s been ready to go for awhile, but I’ve been hesitating because it is SO personal. I’ll try to make myself hit publish tomorrow.

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              • They’re probably not so much separate questions, but two sides of the same coin?
                It’s probably sensible to feel cautious about posting personal stuff. Good luck!

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  11. “Again, I don’t presume to speak for others.”

    Except Richard Armitage himself.

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    • You took the words right out of my mouth, KiplingKat. *shakes head*

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    • Thanks, KiplingKat. I wrote that I don’t presume to speak for others who comment on this blog. As far as I know, Richard Armitage does not comment on this blog, but even if he did, I certainly wouldn’t presume to know what his motivation is, as poststructuralist criticism is suspicious of determinations of intent. I also wrote that discourse and rhetoric are important elements of Mr. Armitage’s attraction to me, and would not speak for others, a comment that presumably does not apply to him in the least.

      I’ve made it clear throughout, in the kindest way possible, in private messages to you and in responses to you when you were posting as Anon, what the interpretive rules are that I follow. These are stated throughout the blog, at a level that most readers probably find redundant. I even invited you twice to write a post on “Why Armitage?” that expressed your own position on this question. You made it clear as Anon that you are opposed to interpretation beyond the literal, and you did it via ad hominem attack. When I noticed you posting from the same IP address as Anon, I warned you that what I was planning to publish in the next few days was likely to upset Anon. You stated that you would not be visiting, and that seemed an appropriate decision from my perspective. You display in this comment that you seem to have little of substance to add to Anon’s stance here, and I find the insistence on solely literal interpretations scarcely enlightening, especially when it ends in attacks on me.

      In the interest of not sacrificing my enjoyment in writing on my own blog to endless self-defenses, then, I am blocking you from posting. This should hardly trouble you, since what I write only seems to make you angry. I wish you well.

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  12. Thanks Servetus,

    at last someone who uses her brain and not her heart when readindg interviews about Mr. Armitage.

    I wish I had a teacher like you at uni.

    Like

    • Welcome, lucrezia, and thanks for words that defintely poured some balm on a tired soul this morning.

      Like

  13. Hear, hear, servetus!

    (thought the tone of the commenter was familiar!)

    Like

  14. Think that should have been here here. Used to be able to spell…

    Like

  15. […] problem at the basis of RAFrenzy’s only superficially rhetorical question was to develop an Armitage epistemology in order to determine what it is possible to know about him. There, I suggested our fascination […]

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  16. I love that he says he wants someone naughty! Although I wonder about the extent to which what he actually said has been processed or filtered by the interviewer. My theory is that he sees himself as a bit boring and conservative and longs for someone to spice up his life. But he may just be having a larf!

    Like

  17. What an interesting post. I think I sit within the realm of (C) bordering on (D) – I guess I’m a sceptic – I would like to know the situation he was in when he gave this interview. I think the interviewer mentions he had a glass of wine with them … did this relax him a little and make him give away more than he meant to about being “single” (which I still maintain was not very wise); was he actually “playing” the readership in saying what he thinks they would like to hear (although the bits about ‘motherly’ and ‘middle aged’ may not have won him brownie points; or (just adding a new slant) is the journalist “tweaking” the facts a little in order to stir up the fans in a semi mischievous way?. Just mentioning they had a drink with him and then he managed to get them tickets into the show … “what a gent! ” implies the interviewer was getting “pally” with him … and let’s see if it gets a reaction from the fandom! I’ve seen this tactic employed before by a writer who posed as a fan on one of the forums. If I wrote an article like that, I would certainly be checking out the reactions to it on a fan forum. Lol – what a suspicious nature I have! So, no, I have trouble believing what I read in the celeb pages of the Mirror – I just can’t really say that I know much more of Armitage’s personality from these types of interviews. Am sticking with (C).

    MTA: The VL interview was probably the most honest I’ve come across to date.

    Like

    • I think he is still trying to figure out how much it is “safe” to say, but I’m more skeptical than you, I guess, in that I think he’s got to be highly aware of how desirable other people find him (even if he doesn’t feel that way about himself) and he’s got to know how that will play, so that he said that stuff for a reason; we just don’t know what it is. However, I agree that the highly edited version of this article means that we don’t see the arc of the entire conversation.

      Like

  18. Just for the record, I think that I am somewhere between B and C.

    Like

    • I think that’s where most people are, kaprekar, and I think that there are good reasons to be there. It makes the most sense on a common-sense level, and it also makes reading his self-revelations very exciting!

      Like

  19. […] on “me and richard armitage”: In an initial post, I argued for the impossibility of meaningful “real” knowledge about Mr. Armitage based […]

    Like

  20. […] generally agreed upon to be both appropriate and fashionable. This was the tone I intuited (strategy [B]) behind Mr. Armitage’s sweet but nonetheless rather artless statement about the designers of […]

    Like

  21. […] Armitage. Of course, I've never sent him one, either. I just diddle around on this blog. And since I am on record as doubting that both he and I exist, there should be no real problem, right? Just in case: LOL! tee hee! Another joke: I have no idea […]

    Like

  22. […] again. Well, at least Richard Armitage says things about himself, quite a lot of them, in fact, and other people who are in a position to know say things about him, too. In the case of Sarah, however, she’s given only a brief opportunity to introduce […]

    Like

  23. […] — it’s that I see so many similarities between our lives. To counter this reaction, I developed a four-level epistemological scheme to remind myself and others what we can reliably kno…. On that scheme (and even though I never published the final post in that series, because I lacked […]

    Like

  24. […] is again me choosing to give him a B reading, and what he’s quoted as saying is of course the sort of thing one says when one writes a […]

    Like

  25. […] in terms of “what” and “whither,” and I’ve commented on things like how we can know “who he is” and my own identification with Mr. Armitage that get to content issues, but […]

    Like

  26. […] question is also pretty difficult to answer even if we develop a more exact version of it, since we don’t know all that much about what Mr. Armitage is like in real life; most of our information is based on interviews. So maybe the question should be, “why […]

    Like

  27. […] or maybe I’ve strayed into what Servetus calls “B” or maybe “A” in Armitage Epistemology. I stray so boldly because my bullshit detector is sensitive enough to realize when someone else […]

    Like

  28. […] case that I read a statement as joking or ironic that others have read as completely serious. [Cf. "Armitage epistemology," which I've promised Frenz I'll get back to later this summer. I also think that the "banana" […]

    Like

  29. […] different standpoints use the same information very differently. (Read as counterpoint on “Armitage epistemology” that involves Mr. Armitage and me reading the same sources, as opposed to me reading him as […]

    Like

  30. […] Armitage had ruined all men” for her, made that statement in jest (as we can’t really “know” Richard Armitage), it does speak to the holistic nature of his appeal that has become part of the […]

    Like

  31. […] emphasized before that our essential knowledge of Richard Armitage based on things he says or is reported to say is hermene…. This is the B or C reading. There’s a very obvious D reading available here that I’m […]

    Like

  32. […] those of you who still remember these categories from Armitage epistemology, below I offer something like a “d” […]

    Like

  33. […] craft and persona. She throws everything into the effort — take, for example, her discussion of Armitage’s interviews, in which she mobilizes the whole critical arsenal from post-structuralist views of authenticity to […]

    Like

  34. […] was a new blogger, relatively speaking, and writing about what we can know about Richard Armitage. Jane was the first person ever to present a strongly rational but nonetheless substantial disagreeme…, stick to her guns about it, and not get angry at me when I didn’t automatically agree with […]

    Like

  35. […] Richard Armitage the person, or at least my fantasy of Richard Armitage the person. Very early on, I presented arguments that it was impossible for fans to know who Richard Armitage is based on the information they have access to. I also fully acknowledge that what I think about […]

    Like

  36. […] I think this may only be the second time I’ve done it. The entire original exercise is here — in which I analyze a statement made in 2010 regarding the sort of woman Richard Armitage […]

    Like

  37. […] basically unreliable — that is, under normal interpretive conditions I would presuppose the “D” reading. We can make better and worse readings of the information we have available — readings that […]

    Like

  38. […] realized long ago, practically from the beginning, that I had absolutely no contact with the “real” Richard Armitage. Everything with […]

    Like

  39. […] I’m loosely referencing the exercise on source critique put forward by Servetus on Me + Richard Armitage. So, to start with, I’m definitely not […]

    Like

  40. […] know about identity, and my surprise at how controversial that turned out to be led me to outline a series of levels of knowledge as derived from highly problematic sources, with the goal of discerning methods things that might […]

    Like

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