The Armitage morass, or: why Servetus can’t get out (and you can’t, either)

I said I would plug this blog and I am happy to do so, not least because I feel like engaging with judiang is going to help me keep on track with some of my blogging goals. Before you do anything else, go over there and look at what she’s already written! Reading her today inspired me to revise and publish this building block post, in light of recent developments, after dithering about it for months. Part I is more about me and my reaction to stuff that’s been said here and elsewhere since the first week of January; part II is more about Armitage. Feel free to skip to part II; no offense taken.

***

I.

Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) castigates Mr. Slickson (David Crellin) for manipulating his workers to the detriment of all the Milton manufacturers in North & South, episode 2. My cap.

One reason for this blog when I started it last Spring was to figure out what it is that’s so magnetic about Richard Armitage that I couldn’t wrest myself away from him — it was to be a means of figuring out what it is I’m supposed to be learning from him. As readership has grown, an increasing struggle has become involved — for one, with my qualms about how much I can reveal about my real life given my career situation. It’s been suggested by readers that I’m endangering myself and harming people to whom I have obligations. That’s the issue that’s hardest to deal with it because it actually relates to outcomes that seem plausible. I’m not harming anyone I know or to whom I am obligated by doing this, but the question of how writing this blog will affect my own life remains open. It’s hard to be open about the long list of stuff that’s bugging me and explaining the etiology of the current crisis in an honest way that demonstrates why Armitagemania has entered my life has turned out to be more difficult than even I anticipated. An equally serious problem has been occasional strong sentiment expressed by readers either on or off the blog that it’s not appropriate or ethical to write honestly and openly about what Mr. Armitage means to me or the role he plays in my life because it’s not fair to him, or because my interpretations constitute projections of my issues onto him. Although it’s hard for me to believe that the potential negative consequences to Mr. Armitage created by the contents of this blog in past and future are really much worse than incomprehension, astonishment, or embarrassment (a problem that, insofar as he is aware of anything individual fans like me write about him, rests with him to deal with in that ultimately how he feels about anything is his own affair), quite obviously I don’t wish to do him harm.

John Porter (Richard Armitage) stops to remember fallen comrades in front of the regimental memorial in Strike Back 1.1, presumably reproaching himself for his failure to protect them. Source: Richard Armitage Net

Guilt (even in its misplaced version) is a big motivator for me. But not a positive one, ever, even when I should feel guilty — and misplaced guilt’s one that’s been overused in my life and so thankfully seems to have less and less effect. Even so, concern over these problems, along with the desire to be liked and attract readers, has frequently led to me retreat into analysis or saying less than I might. With this post I’m not saying that I’m abandoning analysis of his work — I’m emphatically not, because the issue of how he achieves his effects is part of the draw for me, and whether I like it or not, detailed analysis is part of whom I’ve become in the last two decades. Just in seeking out these caps, I found two things I’d like to comment on, and I’ve become the master at writing a thousand words about fifteen seconds of film. So be it; it’s who I am right now. (On the other side: If this blog constitutes intellectual wankery to you, by which I assume one means writing about trivial things in unnecessarily ornate or complex terms that hide more than they reveal, or even worse, pseudo-intellectual wankery, by which I assume one means writing that masquerades as saying something meaningful when in fact it says nothing, don’t read it.)

I’m also not saying that I’m not still afraid of the consequences of such honesty — I know it will offend people, and some will express that sentiment with more venom than I really understand. Those people’s feelings are indeed their right and their privilege. I’ve never set out to create controversy, and I like to be liked as much as the next blogger, and to some extent I don’t understand the anger that surfaces toward me in my email, and in snide comments made elsewhere, and very, very occasionally, in comments here. But one of my chief problems in life has been an incapacity to take the kinds of creative risks that facilitate growth because I’m too afraid of damaging myself or people close to me. It’s one of the huge rhetorical problems with the professor job: say something controversial to differentiate yourself, but nothing too controversial, even if it’s what you think, because then you either can’t get yourself published or won’t be taken seriously. If this activity is to be successful in a way that my academic life has not, if it is not to disappoint me in the end in exactly the way the intellectual life of the university has, it is going to have to dare more. I am going to have to fear less. If the reaction of some readers to the blog is negative criticism of me, anyway, I’ve already lost them, so where’s the loss in saying what I really think to the people who indeed react positively, which is by far the majority?

So I’m giving myself notice that I am going to charge ahead again with more energy and less trepidation toward work on the actual project that led to the inception of this blog. Mr. Armitage: if you are ever reading this for some reason and you feel this blog harms you in a particular way you can specify, please have your agent contact me in some verifiable manner to explain, and I will take it private or stop entirely. I reiterate that this seems improbable to me. The apparent bigger problem is me, to whom I say: Servetus! Stop being such a coward. Sapere aude.

Gorgeous picture of an apparently enthusiastic Richard Armitage with Andrew Lincoln at the Strike Back premiere, April 15, 2010. Source: Richard Armitage Net

In the end, I developed this immoderate attachment to Mr. Armitage and his work because other things are wrong that will no longer let themselves be ignored. I grew up in a faith that teaches divine providence and I chose one for myself as an adult that has strains that stress similar themes. While intellectually I believe in the possibility of coincidence, on a gut level I do not, and the most successful therapy I’ve had stresses the significance of understanding events by association of meaning (as opposed to solely by causality). My life has never ceased to involve an ongoing search for meaning. Hence my most inner convictions suggest to me that all of this is not coincidence, and that this attachment has developed for specific reasons. That attachment is clearly non-volitional. I did not choose it, would not have chosen it — indeed, there’s a different sort of commitment that stands in the background of my life that I would choose a much more non-volitional attitude toward if I could. Armitagemania stands outside my previous life experience, and I’m still not sure I would choose it again. [In a scholarly article there’d be a long footnote to the mystics here, except I’m not sure whether I’m the mystic or whether Armitage is.]

At the same time, however, in the end, if my feelings were and remain unexpected, this act of blogging is volitional. No one forces me to write here, and soon I’ll be done with being forced to write elsewhere or indeed at all. I am blogging because I want to use it as a tool to help change my life, not least because of the flow experience it provides. It’s been suggested to me that I should be suspicious of flow from blogging, but I wonder why I should be suspicious about any kind of flow that harms no one and helps, at the very least, me! Why should I blog if I have to be afraid here in exactly the same way I was afraid every day in my office for eleven years? In the end, it is impossible to take any kind of action without affecting others. In the end, all interpretations involve assumptions and misassumptions, understandings and misunderstandings, of both myself and others. In the end, all I can do is articulate honestly my reasons for the conclusions I come to and try to see what they mean, and hope that I can express myself so as to be understood in productive ways. Armitagemania may involve an experience of intoxication (though that’s not all it is), but blogging is an active attempt to harness that energy for flow. I was excluded from flow for years here — indeed, let it happen to me, participated in surrendering it myself for reasons that were always proclaimed good and rational and sensible — until I lost the confidence that I could create anything of value at all. No matter how tenuous my hold on that now, I am not giving it up: not until I know more about why this is happening and how to make it keep on happening. It takes too much energy to keep building a wall against potential misunderstandings that I cannot control anyway. (Where have we heard this theme before recently, albeit it in more humorous terms, Armitage fans?). Basta ya. I’ve done apologizing.

Roger Hodgson sings “The Logical Song,” a world-wide hit for Supertramp in 1979. I reject the strong distinction between childhood and adulthood, but the general problem he outlines here has always resonated with me.

***

II.

As a first move towards confronting the fears that lie at the root of the discussion above, and as a first notice of my rejection of ongoing attempts to limit discussion by the dubious means of coercive moral suasion, as an insight or a justification of sorts, is a desire to talk about something I’ve been turning over in my mind in various ways since June, trying to come up with an algorithm, a series of causal relationships that explain how something happens. But lately I’ve realized that’s not the way to explain it — understanding Armitage’s effect is not related to causality, but rather to synchronicity. Which elements are associated together by meaning?

My conclusions about these associations I will express in a relationship I call the Armitage morass. I’m aware that in common parlance that word has a negative connotation — something one can’t escape from, like a bog — and sometimes I think of it that way, when I can’t get him out of my head. At the same time, the word also has a usage in set theory, the field of knowledge that concentrates on how we can know which things (in this case, numbers) belong together — a fundamental human cognitive activity that’s taught beginning in primary school in the United States. [I beg your tolerance here as a historian trying to speak simultaneously in the languages of philosophy and mathematics. I may not always succeed. Your careful observations on the distinctions I draw are welcome and encouraged.]

“Which of these things is not like the others?” or: Set theory for preschoolers

In set theory, the morass refers to an infinite combinatorial structure (a structure for creating infinite potential combinations in sets that are finite but may be non-measurable) that is used to make large structures from a smaller, identifiable number of approximations. That’s the positive sense of the word that enlivens me on better days. As far as I understand it, and I may be bowdlerizing here, but I like this metaphorical usage, it’s a way of creating something sophisticated, or understanding the creation of something that may be sophisticated in a way that defies attempts to measure it, from a limited number of elements. For the Armitage morass — the structure that generates the set of all the outcomes that Mr. Armitage has created and ever will create for us as spectators — I’ve identified four approximations: (1) identity; (2) acting proficiency; (3) embodiment; and (4) choices of role. These elements are approximations because it is not entirely possible to define them exactly (what constitutes identity, for example). They are also still quite rough, but I’m going to continue to work on refining them.

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in a publicity photo for series 3 of Robin Hood. Source: Richard Armitage Net. Does anyone seriously think Armitage could have been Guy without his body or his personality? So why do we persist in separating these out?

1. Identity: the element that makes Mr. Armitage who he is and not someone else, that distinguishes him from the other people we know and makes him recognizable as Armitage. It incorporates inter alia history, experiences, the effects of perceptions of others, social embeddedness, the effects of culture, environment, and genetic background, as well as personality, volition, physicality, “the self,” imagination, etc. Oversimplified, perhaps, as “Richard Armitage the person.”

2. Acting proficiency: Mr. Armitage’s capacity to exercise his vocation with a particular degree of skill. Acting proficiency includes “talent” or “natural gifts” but also learned and practiced skills which are deployed intentionally or unconsciously to achieve an effect in a performance.

3. Embodiment: this means not only “looks” or physical appearance, but also all of the other the properties of the fact that he inhabits a particular body with certain features that facilitate certain effects on us because we also have identities, embodiments, and a situatedness. This element cannot be omitted because Mr. Armitage cannot act without his body (even in audio work). Not only is it part of his identity, it is the only means he has for manifesting himself to us. Without his body, we would not be able to perceive his skill or indeed even be aware of him.

4. Roles taken: these are the guises in which Armitage appears to us when fulfilling his vocation, including not only his dramatic roles, but also his public persona — the role of being Richard Armitage in public for the benefit of publicity, fans, etc. One assumes that these are largely voluntary stances, although the extent of that varies (perhaps he took some roles more willingly than others, or that his attitudes toward some roles changed or will change over time).

One of the first signs that John Bateman does not share the ethics of Lucas North: Lucas / John looks in resentment at Harry at the end of Spooks 9.2. Source: Richard Armitage Net. As I will argue below, Armitage’s performances combine inseparably and with particular technique and subtlety the role(s) — two — that Armitage plays here, his appearance, his acting, and the elements and experiences of self that he puts into the roles.

It is useful, indeed necessary, to think of these pieces in a morass called Richard Armitage because together the approximations, though themselves relatively small in number, give us the raw materials necessary for such varied roles as John Standring and Guy of Gisborne and John Porter and so on. Neither are they fully separable. In the end, when we see Lucas North, we cannot fully fathom what is going on without thinking about Armitage’s choice to appear to us in this guise (his casting as Lucas and acceptance of the role), the way in which Lucas looks and moves when Armitage plays him (embodiment), Armitage’s ability to convince us that he is Lucas (acting), and all of the pieces of himself that Mr. Armitage puts into the role (both experiential and imagined).

Armitage is thus more than his body, or his personality, or his skills, or his professional choices — but he is never, ever less than these as seen through the structure of their combinations, either — which, due to our lack of perfect information, we may not always glimpse clearly, but which it is the task of more and more precise analysis to cast light upon. It is thus equally a fallacy to reduce the complexity of Lucas to how Mr. Armitage looks, as it is to say that how he looks plays no part in the effect that Lucas has on us as spectators. Similarly, it is equally false to assert that Armitage’s personal attitudes toward playing attractive (sexy) characters have no influence on how he plays an obviously sexy character like Lucas, as it is to assert that all that Armitage does in the Lucas role is stand before the camera and appear sexy. It is equally incorrect to claim that Mr. Armitage’s career comes only from his choice of roles as it is to claim that his career has had no relationship to them, equally missing the point to say that Lucas is only the script, as that Lucas is only Armitage’s creation and has nothing to do with the script at all. And so on.

Rosie (Keely Hawes) and Harry Kennedy (Richard Armitage) skirt an actual morass in “The Handsome Stranger,” the first Vicar of Dibley Christmas episode in which he starred. Source: Richard Armitage Central Gallery. Geraldine is hiding in the morass. Make of that what you will; I certainly thought about it myself.

Servetus thus embraces the task of understanding Richard Armitage as a morass which requires a balanced consideration of multiple elements insofar as we can obtain information about them, without the arbitrary exclusion of any of them. The utility of this concept derives from its notion that a sophisticated structure of combination (a constructible universe, in the language of set theory) cannot be talked about in the absence of any of its necessary elements — or as if any of those elements were abstractable from the others, or must be suppressed. I’ve read some indication that it’s not acceptable or ethical to talk about Armitage’s body, only his acting, because talk about his appearance = objectification. But if ethics demand truth, then it is ethically necessary to speak of the combination of all of these things with as much honesty as possible — not edit them out because we find some of them emotionally distasteful or politically inconvenient. To pretend that there is no person behind any of these roles because we are uncomfortable about the conclusions that our fellow fans might draw about how we interpret the available information about that person — because we are afraid the person might be damaged by others’ misinterpretation of our stated perceptions — is as obfuscating as it is to reduce the effect of Armitage’s roles to his (apparent) identity (or what we know about it). Indeed, to speak about Armitage’s performances as if they were the result of one of these elements exclusively rather than the others thus denies the elements’ relationship of meaning to each other as integral parts of a whole. To say that some of these parts play no meaningful role in affecting others darkens, rather than elucidates, our understanding of what is going on in Armitage and in our fascination with him. It goes without saying that everyone must be responsible in what she says — but everyone’s notion of responsible speech is going to differ because every person as an interpreter differs. In the end, we need more readings of Armitage if we’re going to understand his work, not fewer — more voices that discuss greater numbers of approximations — not an intentional suppression of any aspects that make up the morass, miscast as an ethical stance in order to silence fellow fans and assuage our fears, whatever they are — and as if we had a right to act on our fears about Armitage as if they were naturally also his fears about himself. When we say, “it’s only about his acting, not about his appearance,” probably most of us are also lying about ourselves in our roles as interpreters — which is equally unethical as spreading alleged misinterpretations of Armitage, and, given the sort of information we have about ourselves, probably involves a lot more intentional effort.

This is not to say that any provisional interpretation is going to be perfect. Sometimes some of these things are quicksand: a transfixing photo, a complimentary statement about Armitage in the press, a fanfic, a vid, grabs our attention and focuses it on one element to the exclusion of the others. But one of the things that makes Armitage great is that he can’t ever be reduced to any of these things, that his combinatorial structure, the Armitage morass, transcends them. As soon as I think I’ve put my finger on one of them I find myself feeling that I’ve completely ignored another. If you’ve been reading the blog over the last year you’ll have noticed that I’ve been mired in various of these approximations at different times, with a long spell on embodiment in the summer, but also a long but interrupted discussion of identity there as well.

The role Servetus was prepared to hate. As John Porter (Richard Armitage) realizes that Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) has suffered under the lie he told back in Basra and will continue to do so, he forgives Collinson, in Strike Back 1.6. Source: Richard Armitage Net.

I’m pretty sure, though, in reflecting about this now, that Armitage grabbed me first because of the roles. This is the place that I started, with North & South, and ultimately come back to, the primary reason that I keep watching — because this choice of roles says something to me. Eventually I’ll say more about that, because it’s counter-intuitive from my personal perspective that I’d ever consider watching a show like Robin Hood, let alone Strike Back. But in trying to understand how those characters were put together I had to look closely at him, and of course the first thing I noticed was his embodiment. Thornton was devastatingly attractive. But that, in turn, was jarred by my perception of “Armitage the person” in the DVD interview, whom I did not find anywhere near as compelling as Thornton. It seemed like he had an entirely different body and personality. Which pushed me toward acting and trying to understand how the slightly giggly and nervous Armitage of that interview could so fully inhabit Thornton that I really thought they were entirely different people. Which made me wonder about who Armitage the person was and what personal qualities he must have that allowed him to do that. In the end, discovering what he said about himself, what people said about him, and some of the stuff he has done also just mired me further, and a bunch of the identity posts from last summer seem in retrospect like me trying to undermine that aspect of the morass in order to bring the whole thing tumbling down.

So it’s a complex structure and it’s a bog. He picks an amazing sequence of roles that he enhances through his fabulous acting which is accomplished through a transfixing body and anchored in an (apparent) personality type and ethics that I admire greatly. When, after a period of overfocus on a single element, I want to write him off as one of these things, I fall back in, attracted by one of the others. Right now, I can’t get out. And I wonder if that sort of inescapable combination is part of what draws other viewers to him, as well.

~ by Servetus on January 28, 2011.

101 Responses to “The Armitage morass, or: why Servetus can’t get out (and you can’t, either)”

  1. I’m a bit reluctant to comment,and there’s much to comment on as usual, and you always make me consider issues I never considered before. Believe me, I’m a master at trying to avoid any conflict, especially because I want the experience of being a fan of Richard Armitage to be something positive and fun.

    I agree, the way and actor looks, the instrument of his body, is part of the arsenal an actor uses to create a performance and to tell a story. So why not consider all of RA to be part of what attracts us to him, his acting ability, his physical beauty, his wonderful and versatile voice, his height, his intelligence, his training…all is part of what attracts us and what we admire. If he wasn’t as physically and personally attractive as he is, would we be this devoted to him? I don’t think so. But I also don’t think there’s anything for any of us to feel guilty about. When I visit and read the blogs that write about RA and his various roles, I sense a great deal of respect and affection, even when mentioning his physical attributes.

    He appears to be quite a level headed human being. I’m sure that he can handle his growing fame. I always think when he expresses his discomfort with some things he’s had to deal with because of fame and success he’s not telling us he can’t handle it. I think he’s being honest and sharing his feelings, but he knows it’s something that comes with the territory. He chose this profession from the time he was very young and labored in obscurity for a long time. I think he must be happy to finally arrive at success in his career.

    Well, I’m just rambling now…and thinking of him in NZ!

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    • I think one aspect of this that I didn’t underline as much as I might have is that all of these work together for Mr. Armitage, as opposed to some actors whom we hear about and think “oh, I’m going to have to not think about that when I am watching him.” So I understand the impulse to say “let’s not be curious about him as a person,” because eventually we might find out something we don’t like and then he’s in a category with whoever actor with anger management issues or whatever. I don’t want to discount that possibility, but he does seem honest about stuff that comes up for him, and it’s his very willingness to say “there are things fans do that I don’t understand” that makes me okay with an interest in his personal life. He’s obviously not an idiot.

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  2. Fair warning- there will be multiple posts, much to contemplate.

    First point- I have recently paid more attention to those who criticize innocuous (to me) commentary as objectification, harm etc to Mr.Armitage. I wonder why they bother reading blogs and websites in the first place as that would seem to negate their position on fandom and their perceived “protection” of Mr. Armitage.

    Re criticism. The following is not directed to servetus in defense of you or anything but seriously, criticism, founded and unfounded, constructive and destructive, results from taking the chance to be brave and express your creativity. The only rules worth following are: 1) Do no harm by writing what is untrue or false 2) Be honest enough that you can look at yourself and those around you and not feel shame or guilt. 3) Know and expect that someone is not going to like what you have to say and will probably tell you, loudly and stridently and probably nastily.

    Have to take a break…just re-watched the Challenger disaster…losing it.

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    • You bring up an interesting point, Ann Marie. If you know the viewpoints and positions taken at certain blogs, websites and forums make you so uncomfortable or upset you or go against your personal belief system, then why would you continue to visit them?
      To me that is being a glutton for punishment, and life brings enough troubles without going out and looking for them.

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      • I will say that I read a number of blogs (not on Armitage) that represent positions that I personally don’t care for. I don’t, however, comment on them in order to annoy people who agree with those positions. I read them in order to learn about those attitudes so I can understand them better. Also, I’ve learned through reading blogs by people with whom I disagree about politics that there are good people of every political persuasion; people who disagree with me are not, on the whole, evil, and even people who (say) parent their children in ways I wouldn’t are not evil or even necessarily misguided. I feel that this point is neglected in our public discourse at the moment.

        I feel like we could use Armitage blogging as a way of shedding light on our prejudices and learning about each other. But in order to do that we have to open our minds and not type the first thought that comes into them all the time.

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        • I do sometimes read blogs where I don’t agree with their viewpoint, but I am also able to refrain from jumping into the fray and getting into arguments with the bloggers and commenters. I guess I really don’t have the time to spend at the places where I don’t feel I “fit” or maybe I just prefer to use the time in some other way.

          Oh, there are definitely people with whom I don’t share certain views but I know they have a lot of goodness and decency in them. I think of Richard’s approach to his characters–some good in the bad ones, and some bad in the good ones. Very rarely is it all black or white in the Real World, either. That’s the problem I have with this particular commenter at Frenzy’s blog. She only seems to have room for a single viewpoint–hers–and everyone else is “wrong” or “bad.”

          And I don’t know how many times I have read blog entries on articles on television shows or movies where it quickly became apparent the commenter simply launched into their diatribe without putting some thought into it first–and often they haven’t even read the actual article, just the headline. I detest that.

          Open our minds and open our eyes, yes.

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    • I remember exactly where I was that day. Awful.

      I think it’s easy, particularly at the beginning, to be concerned about objectification in a relatively simple way. As you know I have written about this before along with my feelings about it. I also started this blog along the “don’t objectify, you’ll frighten the man” line. To some extent I am still there, at least in terms of opposing a perception of Richard Armitage that is only about his sex appeal. What I realized recently, though, is that you can also objectify him as an actor. To some extent, lacking full information about him, we’re all in an objectifying situation — he is what we interpret him to be for us. But on a logical level there is little difference between saying “he is his body” or “he is his acting.”

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      • I think there is little difference between”he is his body” or “he is his acting” because his body allows him to act the way he does. That his facial, eye, mouth muscles move and react the way they allows him to convey what he wants in the manner he chooses.

        I have never wanted to “sleep” with the man but thinking of him can make me smile. I don’t perceive him as “handsome”, especially all the time, but at times incredibly good looking in a masculine way, yes absolutely. Charm, charisma, a quiet genuineness, his voice, those eyes, (I’ll never decide what color they REALLY are) it all works for me!

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        • I agree — and hence both must be considered. At the beginning of this blog there were a fair number of comments about how sexy he is, “but of course that’s not what’s important to me” or remarks along those lines.

          I definitely want to “sleep” with some of the people he’s played. With Richard Armitage the person? That’s a more complicated question. 🙂

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        • Richard’s sexiness is just part and parcel of who he is. I don’t think you can really separate his personal qualities from his acting abilities, and it’s OK for us to axknowledge he is a very sexy man, along with being a very intelligent, insightful, generous, hard-working, good-humored, charming, mega-talented and yet modest individual.

          Am I attracted to his characters? You betcha. Do I want to run away with RA himself? Oh, my, that IS complicated–I am, after all, a happily married woman who believes in fidelity–but I definitely would love as a journalist and a fan to interview him and gain more insight into this amazing fellow.

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        • I admit I love the way his eyes change color, in part because mine do the same thing, so it makes me feel a strange sort of kinship LOL The silliest things make me happy sometimes, ladies.

          Predominately blue, but green in certain light/with certain wardrobe choices and occasionally grey.

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  3. I read through this before getting ready for work–no time right now to fully formulate a reply, but I agree with what you say as well as Musa and Ann Marie. I think there is much respect, affection and admiration for Richard Armitage expressed on the boards and forums, and there is truly no harm in appreciating all aspects of this amazing individual–mind, body and soul. Vive L’Armitage!

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  4. In regard to pt. 1, the issues of fandom and one’s personal reactions, and choices of expression, to it will continue to be subjects of discussion. Personal Fandom appears to be on the agenda for Fanstravaganza, so there will likely be considerable (and I do hope), civil discussion.

    I’d like to think that you did not lose TOO much sleep over recent discourses; but of course you did. Wankery? Join the large number who blog, or who subscribe to many of the Fanstravaganza blogs. (Yes, I know wanky and wankery are faintly different in nuance) As for “trivial”, well, there are those are those who consider the arts trivial in comparison with business studies…aren’t they equally important?

    (In an arts mindset this morning; TVOntario had a programme on the Baroque last night. Not my favourite period of art, but my goodness, I learned a lot from this! Still, not hunting for a print of a Zurbaran to adorn the living room wall…)

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    • @fitzg,

      For me, the arts have NOT been trivial in the least, and because of my background, it’s particularly important for me through my newspaper work to champion local artists, musicians, writers, dancers and others young and old who display creative spirits. There will always be attention paid to sports in this country, and business: so I will stand up for what’s important to me, and what often falls by the wayside in the greater scheme of things.

      Because Mr. Armitage is truly an artistic fellow (he plays multiple musical instruments, paints, acts, dances, sings) he is someone I can relate to as a fellow “artiste” and I think he’s a fantastic example of someone in the arts who stuck with their dreams and worked hard to make it all happen as a viable career.

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    • I know that I’ll have at least one interview to publish that addresses some of these specific issues.

      As an academic, I find there is no subject too trivial to study if it has meaning. In fact, there are many professional journals now focusing on the meaning of fandom, popular culture, and the study of celebrities. I’m not a huge fan of the idea that someone should study something because it is objectively important. We should study things because they move us, because they have the potential to change our lives.

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  5. Thank you so much for the plug! I’m absolutely thrilled that anything I can say will spare somebody else the time spent needlessly flailing about. Your blog fascinates me because not only do I get to accompany you on you exploration, but it also teaches and makes me rethink and redefine myself.

    There is so much to comment on but let me say this:

    I fully endorse what Musa, Ann Marie and Angie said. It’s all down to personalities really. There’s the personality of fear-based people who feel threatened by views they can’t or won’t understand, and don’t have the skills to express disagreement civilly. (I think that fear is causing the stridency and nastiness we’ve been seeing in public discourse lately). There are those who have no moderation switch and take their dislike/adoration to extremes. There are people who are just like being disagreeable. As long as you are ready and have rules to keep debate under control, I don’t think you will have serious problems with blowback on this blog.

    Psuedo-intellectual wankery? LOL! I’ve got to remember that one. Express yourself the way you feel comfortable. This your personal journey of discovery and we are just along for the ride and to discuss things along the way.

    As for RA and his roles, I agree. These roles were nothing but characters on paper until RA inhabited them. I have a theory about why fans who are drawn in by his beauty, feel guilty mentioning it. But that’s still percolating.

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    • “No moderation switch”: excellent point, judiang. I dislike extremists, quite frankly, in many areas of life.

      And fear, which is often based in ignorance and/or intolerance, can drive people to behave in very unseemly ways, especially online, but now, increasingly, out in the public eye. And yes, some people just like to be “bloody-minded.” As my mother used to say, they would argue with a hole in the ground.

      This is, above all, Servetus’ blog, her playground, and she sets the rules.

      While others wrote the words in the scripts, it is Richard who breathed life, heart, soul into Sir Guy, Thornton, John Porter, Lucas . . .

      As for me, I do not openly mind saying I greatly appreciate what a physically beautiful human being he is. Maybe it’s because I am older and more comfortable with expressing myself–I don’t know. But if it were good looks alone that he had, I would have moved past this “obsession” long, long ago. For me, he is the total package in a performer–and a person.

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    • I look forward to hearing your theory, judiang.

      I’ve blocked the commentors on this blog who persisted in attacking me, but I have been wrestling with comments about the blog I read elsewhere. Which is silly. People are free to like what they like and not like what they don’t like. It just would never occur to me to attribute evil impulses to people I disagree with. I do think you are right that the current public atmosphere in the U.S. has legitimated some kinds of things that are destructive and mostly related to fear.

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  6. If I may be honest, I had to skip some of the ´academic wankery´.
    That´s to say, I lost my concentration in your flood of words. I came back when you talked about the difference in his presence between his acting and talking about it.

    Isn´t it typical of actors, especially English ones, when they have played drunks, to say that they never touch drinks in real lives? To portray the opposite? I´m just sketching an example here.

    Can we get a glimpse of the ´real thing´? I did a workshop on acting in front of the camera once. You work all day, rehearsing, to make the best possible effort and outcome in expressing that character in the best way. A character you don´t relate to, but have to find simularities with in your own life (confronted with the task of acting), by tuning in to feelings, certain situations etc. In short, those filmed seconds should portray that character! The chosen edits also twist once´s perception of a character. Looking at the results, I thought that I´ve seen a ´me´ in a different being.

    To read about (this) actor´s acting, dissected by a theologist (as you said you are), in ´academic wankery´, is a total new approach, at least unknown to many RA-minded readers. It may raise protective feelings by some or may cause offence by others, because they don´t see the point of your reasoning. You offer a viewpoint of a minority (academics) of the fandom. That´s not to say that wankery could be far fetched.

    I´m just saying.

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    • I’m glad you skipped what you didn’t want to read, Violet. As I indeed am an academic wanker.

      I think as an academic (soon to be former academic) part of the reason for writing this for me is that people tend to think of academics as people too focused on the minutiae of problems. I wanted to show, at the beginning, that very close analysis can indeed be revealing.

      And 100% agreement on seeing oneself in one’s own representations of certain characters.

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      • Actually, since I started reading your blog, it has allowed me to notice things in RA’s performances I might have missed out on before (although I always found I learned something new with each re-viewing); new points to ponder, new viewpoints to consider. So it’s been enriching–and fun!!

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        • Same here! 🙂 It has been edifying, and keeps being edifying. I would never have noticed – let alone known about – microexpressions before reading this wonderful blog.

          Screw the world, servetus. Do your own thing. Let the naysayers say nay all they like. It’s not their blog, it’s yours. 🙂 If they don’t like it, they can bugger off. What you do in your spare time is nobody’s business but your own. (Unless it was something illegal, of course, but fanblogging isn’t.)

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  7. All I have to say is keep on keeping on esp if you have found “the flow.” People will either “get” you or they won’t and so be it. That is the way of art, but the creation is waaay more important than the critism of that creation. Creation is divine. Critism not so much, esp snarky critism.

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    • “Criticism” can quickly descend into snarkiness and back-biting and lose its objectivity if we aren’t careful. I am certainly not saying we should never criticize; but we should endeavor to make it constructive and civil in nature and not descend into name-calling just because we can’t reach a point of agreement.

      My art teacher who was also my practice teacher and mentor, always stressed to find something good to point out first in a student’s work, and then to follow up with suggestions for improvement. I thought that was good advice and tried to follow it.

      And yes, keep on keeping on, Servetus.

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      • I think the key is that the criticism has to be made in a way that helps the artist to see that it is not mean-spirited. There’s always a temptation to swoop in for the kill, and it should be avoided.

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        • Exactly. Do it in a spirit of kindness and genuine desire to help, rather than in enjoyment of tearing someone else down.

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    • I do think criticism is important, too, but then there’s criticism in the sense of analysis and criticism in the sense of negative comments about something. Of course, sometimes those things do coincide.

      But I can’t live without the flow and I’m not letting go of it any more.

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  8. Well, I have a few thoughts on the Armitage Morass. First, I love bogs. I start into the bog not really wanting to get wet and muddy, my boots fill with water so I take them off. The cold mud reaches my thighs and begins to suck me in. I grab hold of a skunk cabbage, lie down flat on the surface, and drag myself to clearer water where I wash off as much of the heavy mud as I can (I love mud, too). I climb up the far bank and go about my business happy with the experience and thinking next time I’ll take the kayak.

    Another thought of mine is the difference between Thornton and Guy. I love them both. How Armitage turns the truly awful Guy into the beloved is a mystery to me.

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  9. had to take a break. Armitage makes Guy three dimensional. I forgive (well, almost) his “heinous crimes) because he is so damaged. I see his knok-kneed, splay-footed walk, his awkward sword-play and bow work and love the little boy who has seen so much horror and somehow survived and love him. I cringe and must look away from his killings but know he doesn’t want to be evil. I absolutely hate Marian for her double-dealing. I also know if she were to give in and marry Guy, he would be a terrible husband.

    Armitage seems somehow elemental like hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and yet I can live without him. He is Ulysses’ sirens (lash me to the mast, sisters). He is a thought.

    Do other actors affect fans the way Armitage effects us? I have never felt the way I feel about RA about any other person.

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  10. Mary Lou,

    No one else has had the effect on me RA has, and I suspect no one else will. He is unique. He engages my heart, my soul, my libido and my intellect. RA is–magical.

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    • As is SO often the case Angie you have just taken the words out of my mouth!! Magical indeed:)

      (Listening to “Your my Obsession” on the radio – very apt when it comes to the TDHBEW!!

      @servetus This is YOUR blog! We LOVE it! DON’T change it for anyone! ALWAYS feel free to write whatever is in your heart! Know you are MUCH appreciated!

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  11. To begin with, that I have never fascinated me as no other actor as I am fascinated with Mr. Armitage. And still and still trying to understand why this is (but it’s more getting to know itself what the obviously helps me to your blog.)
    The body of each actor is his workshop, so yes, it was the first of what I paid attention to watching RA. But whether or not this is when we get to know other people? We see that the first of its physicality. Later we enter deeper into the morass, and getting to know his personality, his interested, his life story ect. The same was true in the case of Mr. Armitage, first noticed how incredibly handsome man is, then I found out how great is the artist, how hard he worked for his career.
    Besides, when it comes to RA, this is what I call “the magic of RA” because I will never understand the magic of this phenomenon even if I could meet him in person. Is not that magic is what he did playing Guy, I’m sure that if not Mr. Armitage, I would not have watched Robin Hood. I am sure that only he was able to shrug me so, and force them to consider how multidimensional was Guy. And so it is with all the characters played by RA

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    • I think we can all agree the character of Sir Guy would never have captivated so many of us if it were not for the man who crafted that role. Guy could have so easily ended up the cardboard baddie, the panto henchman we could laugh at and despise. Instead, we got a human being who was capable of brutal acts we detested, and yet, showed an aching vulnerability, a complexity, moments of genuine nobility and tenderness and goodness–and so we loved (at least I did, and do) the “bad guy.”
      And yes, such a beautiful disaster, our Sir Guy. We could not look away.

      He brings depth and breadth to each of his characters. He makes us care.

      As you say, Ania, the looks may capture your attention first, but you stay to learn more about him and discover what a fine and versatile actor he is, how hard-working and dedicated to his craft–and, seemingly, what a thoroughly nice human being he is, too.

      What’s not to love?

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      • @ Angieklong, that’s why I like the interviews with Mr. Armitage, because then even the small part I can learn not only about his work (which is very exciting for me), but also as a very interesting and nice person he is.

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        • I think sometimes surely he is too good to be true; all that talent and charisma and beauty combined with such s likable personality and gentlemanly nature, and yet, it seems he is indeed the real thing. The more I discover about him, his approach to acting, his philosophies of life, how those who work with him view him (never a bad word) the more I appreciate him. And his acting only gets better and better.

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      • Indeed, the morass.

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    • Ania, I think there must also be interesting twists on this stuff when one watches him in a foreign language, dubbed, at first, then later encounters the voice? What language were you watching in when you originally discovered him?

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      • @servetus – Regarding “the voice” – today someone has posted on YT a short clip (with slides) of Richard reading “The Lords of the North” – wonderful!! I recently ordered the audiobook from the UK so after listening to that I look forward even more to when it will arrive!!

        We talk so often about “his body” and various parts of it and how he uses them when he acts. However small a part of his body he uses – it may be just a glance of the eyes, or a slight twitch of the mouth – he can convey so much. We also talk about his “body of work” and the many characters he has portrayed and “become”. But it also struck me that his voice is perhaps one of the most important parts of him. When we hear it we (or most of us) immediately recognize it as it is uniquely HIS. So even if none of these other “parts” are visible and we only hear him speak, we find him just as fascinating. So yes!! In a morass indeed!!

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        • Absolutely — the voice is central, and certainly nowhere more so than in the audiobooks. I put voice under body in this particular taxonomy, but that wouldn’t necessarily have to be the case.

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      • Servetus,

        There are several Strike Back trailers in different languages posted on YT currently. I listened to one where Porter was dubbed in Italian and was flailing with laughter. The actor’s voice was so high-pitched compared to RA’s Porter voice, it struck me as ridiculous.

        RA’s voice is very distinctive, along with his looks, and I love the fact he doesn’t look or sound like so many others.

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      • @servetus In my case, I’ve heard from the beginning of a beautiful voice of Mr. Armitage, when I watched Robin Hood on TV. Although the dubbing in my country you may find strange, because dialogues of the characters read only one reader (for movies broadcast on TV, in cinemas subtitles in my language are at the bottom of the screen, the DVD can be set freely-and that’s why I like movies on DVD) Exceptions are some movies for children, mostly animated, in which other actors lend their voice the characters. So such a strange way I heard his voice, only thing I had is to increase the volume is the voice on the TV and try not to listen to the reader.

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        • Aha, thanks for the clarification. I do think that how and when one perceives his voice are important aspects in explaining his effect. At the same time we have at least one reader here who is huge fan but has hearing damage such that she can’t really hear him.

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  12. Ah, Bogs and Ireland and heat-producing peat fuel. And the Fens and Constable country and big skies. And the constant effect of changing atmospheric light on the colour and mood of the landscape.

    Morass is thought-provoking – connotations of something to “get out of” PDQ? Or something within which to work toward another landmark. Perhaps not an end, but more a changing, but evolving set of goals? And toward a strong, but stronger sense of identity?

    Reserving major remarks about further personal codes of conduct of fans for now. But I think that those who are brave enough to raise heads above the parapet, and manage a blog are always going to be targets. Fan commenters will be, too, but it will be the blog-owners who will be more injured and vulnerable. And, Judiang, keep going, and practice writing. A craft, as much as an art.

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    • Any time you put yourself out there– blogging, vidding, writing fanfic, and yes, commenting online–there is the possibility you will be criticized and even attacked. So it takes some guts to do so. Kudos to all who brave it.
      @Fitzg, your comment to Judiang is right on target. Writing is both a craft and an art. And the more you do it, the more you practice–the better you become.

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    • Yes, Mary Lou definitely agrees with you on the positive aspects of the bog.

      I see it both ways. Sometimes I think, “you could be doing something more valuable with your time,” but then it’s almost always immediately followed by the response that doing this makes me feel good.

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      • Servetus,

        That’s why I do all the RA-related stuff I do–I enjoy it, I feel the spark of creativity, and hey, it makes me feel good!

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  13. Ania and all others, I’ve always managed to develop some actor crushes, so I feel a bit less embarassed about this. However, for a number of reasons, I have to explore the stronger impact of this particular actor.

    It might have something to do with Internet/YTube/screencap/DVD access.
    It might have something to do with the particular confluence of features and just plain physical characteristics, which just plain conform to what attracts me.
    Clear acting expertise. The combination of intuitive process, with the crafted process,to engage the audience? Could go on here, but best to try to keep to some relatively concise? remarks. 😦 Is this concise?

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    • @fitzg,

      I think it is all of the above. Modern technology allows us access to so much more than in past years, when going to see an actor in a movie at the theater, buying movie magazines or eagerly watching their weekly appearance on a TV show was about all you could do. Now we can access performers pretty much 24/7 and everybody has got an online fansite or two.

      And yet I have no desire to hang out at other actor’s websites or forums or snaffle hundreds of screencaps for my media library, download videos and shows, collect all their DVDs and audio work . . . I’ve had celeb crushes here and there, but NOTHING like this. Call it a mania, call it an obsession. Call it The Armitage Effect. It’s potent, whatever it is.

      I look at Richard Armitage and a see: a man of unconventional beauty of face and a Greek god’s body; an excellent actor who is able to inhabit a variety of characters and make them believable and compelling; a dedicated and hard-working professional who is also a complete gentleman; an intelligent and insightful creative soul, and a down-to-earth, good-humored, modest and likable fellow. I like what I see, and hear and the way he makes me feel. Surely he does help boost the serotonin levels in my brain, which help me combat the pain and fatigue of my illness? Surely, Richard Armitage is good for what ails me?

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    • @fitzg You have a good point. I also have followed another actor for a long time, and maybe I feel less conflicted about being an admirer of RA in part for that reason.

      I will say that I don’t believe any other actor inspires the in-depth analysis of his work that RA has, and continues to, inspire. I’ve wondered about this for a while and think maybe part of the inspiration is RA’s own analysis and understanding of the roles he plays and the motivation and backstory of each character, that often he has to research and develop himself because it’s not there in the scripts. Listening to his interviews when he talks about his work I think there may be a kindred spirit there. (Though being somewhat shy I think he probably wonders why all the attention). All speculation since I don’t know him of course 🙂

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      • @Musa, you have a point there. Many actors talk about going out and researching their roles, but RA actually discusses the extensive internal prep work. He doesn’t shy away from doing so even when it verges on obsessive, like when he mentioned having difficulty shaking off the John Porter character. He definitely gives us more to analyze.

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        • judiang, I think this is right: and to some extent, because he has played such differing characters he gets a lot to say — as opposed to if he’d constantly been typecast, which would have limited the novelty of certain kinds of questions.

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          • There is really no reason for interviewers of Mr. A not to have some fresh new questions for him each time he makes his rounds–pssst, I am speaking to the Bubble Heads who keep bringing up the effing circus–because of the rich variety of his roles and the types of work–audiobooks, voice-overs, narrations and radio plays as well as his television/film work. And the fact he is such an intelligent, articulate and insightful individual doesn’t hurt, either.

            Of course, as I believe you pointed out once, Servetus, sometimes the people doing the interviews don’t seem to be the sharpest tools in the shed (;

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      • Musa, I think this is right — with the conventional hottie celebrities we don’t usually get as much info about how they think about their acting in interviews. I also think there is a synergy aspect, that is, the Armitage fans I have encountered tend to have a high need to communicate at a very sophisticated level, a sense that they have something to say, and a willingness to say it.

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        • He touches something in my core that almost demands a response from me. And as I write for a living, it seems so natural for me to explore how he affects me on different levels through my writing. It’s a lot more than “OMG He is so HAWWWWWT” although, as matter of fact, he is . . . 😉

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          • yeah, and I think it’s easy to stop there, after one’s established that he’s hot. Some days that’s enough — even extending it from sexy to beautiful. But that’s not the whole story, of course.

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            • And I think it’s OK on certain days to just say, “My gosh, but isn’t he FINE?!” As long as on other days we also appreciate all the other wonderful qualities this “consummate character actor with a leading man’s face and body” has, and you obviously do that right here at this blog, Servetus.

              I would say you capture the whole story–as much as any of us know of it, of course.

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  14. I think that you have got it servetus – he’s the complete package – looks, acting, body, personality – I’m sure one day I’ll find out something I really don’t like about him, but that day has not come yet…

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    • As I have said before, I consciously looked for something to dislike in him when I first really felt myself falling hard for this actor–and I haven’t found it yet.

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    • I sometimes wonder if I did find out something I disliked about him (let’s say: he’s a stingy tipper and he showed up on one of those websites where waitstaff dish about which celebrities are mean in restaurants. I’m not talking frugal tipper, I’m talking one of those people who always tips the minimum or less on principle) if it would interfere with the rest of the picture or if I’d find a way to write it off.

      There’s also the question of finding out something truly awful about him (that he’s an axe murderer, let’s say), which would be a true test of my rationality.

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      • I think for me, unless it really turned out to be something awful along the lines of ax murderer or child molester or serial rapist, I would be able to rationalize it and say, “So what? What’s the big deal?”

        I do hate cheapskate tippers, however. My brother-in-law, who is very well-heeled, tends to want to never pay more than the minimum even if the service was excellent. ):

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        • On the “really awful,” in a way it would be a criticism of your own judgment, right? I mean, if I had this much admiration for a serial rapist, I’d start to wonder about my own judgment. Of course, everyone has her own definition of the “really awful,” and mine might be different than yours. The debate over whether he smokes is something in this line. Some people find that totally reprehensible. Not me.

          On tipping: if he were a poor tipper, it would suggest that he doesn’t have the generosity that he appears to have — i.e., it would conflict with the larger picture. So we’d have to decide how to alter the picture, or whether to abandon it.

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          • I admit I have always been intrigued with those women who are fan gurlz for reputed serial killers–the sort who hang out in the courtrooms and then write the prisoners and even marry them in spite of the fact they have been sentenced to multiple life sentences or even to death. To me, that’s perfectly crazy, but obviously not to them.

            Obviously, what is beyond the pale for one person is perfectly acceptable for another. As for the smoking issue, I don’t smoke myself (I am actually allergic to tobacco, along with about a million other things ):) but I also know and am friends with people who do smoke, and I can’t stand in judgment over them.

            They might find my affection for chocolate or habit of chewing my nails when I am really stressed distasteful. Nobody’s perfect.

            And yeah, I don’t see the generous soul we see in so many other situations would be a cheapskate at the restaurant table.

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            • I suppose being married to a convicted serial killer or rapist who’s in prison is the ultimate way to experience extreme danger at a safe distance?

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  15. Yes, the too easy access to too much info, and the temptation to comment, interpreting through our personal – narow binoculars? is there. It’s fact, and it will take a 14thC Plague to curb it. Which, come to think of it, The Black Plague had a converse effect. The Renaissance?

    Mr. Armitage is fully capable of surviving very well any mild (and supporting) fandom, as well as any positions, which (head above parapet) I consider extreme – in any direction.

    And we will survive our utterly ridiculous obsesion with this actor. Not least because of his unforeseen? position as a catalyst for the many talented vid artists and musically ear-perfect/visual vid artists. And people who discuss his wardrobe and unreleted to the subject,other tailoring – is wardrobe a fitting pick-up topic? of wardrobe to a not-conventual body-type, to which few of us conform? Not completely certain I liked floppy overcoats, or teddy-bear stripey sweaters. But the sweaters work with the character…

    Because, I think he’s a very good actor. And as mature as any of have been, will be, at 39. And constantly maturing as an actor. And in more control-of, and to raising the level of interviews.

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    • Amen, Fitzg.

      And the Great Fire of London allowed some of the worst parts of the city to be razed and improved when rebuilt . . . food for thought.

      Indeed, I remain absolutely amazed at the amount of talent and creativity that has arisen due to the RA fandom. He is undeniably inspiring to so many of his fans.

      I know I wouldn’t be writing fanfic, or poetry, or creating new lyrics to songs tailored to him and/or his characters and singing them and posting them on LJ or putting together slide shows, for just anybody.

      How many of us got our start in fic writing, vidding, art manips and the like due to RA, and how many of us were inspired to get back into creative mode because of his influence? A catalyst, indeed!!

      He is a bloody marvelous actor. Just re-watched him as John Porter in the first two eps of Strike Back. Almost cried in the scene where he is comforting poor Katie.

      And, yes–he’s a proper grown man, it seems, in this world of make-believe an actor inhabits. Reaching for the stars with those big, beautiful feet of his planted firmly on the ground, growing ever more comfortable in his own skin and quietly confident. A pleasure to watch, to listen to, to study, analyze, admire and emulate.

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    • We also really see him growing through his roles, which is a factor.

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      • For me, it is a bit like working with a student and seeing them progress and how exciting that is to see the growth. I watch Richard’s career unfold and expand with genuine pride.

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  16. For me it is his body of work before his body that I admire. I have never seen an actor as at home in contemporary dramaa as he is in period drama. Some will excell in one genre but be like a fish out of water in another. Robin Hood is a good indicator of this. Look at Jonas Armstrong woefully out of depth as Robin Hood To RA head and shoulders above anybody else in the cast.

    Many people were prepared to hate John Porter and I think were Stunned by what RA did with the character. Evem Lucas/John in spooks a story line I will hate forever for the sheer implausability of it was an acting masterclass by the man.

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    • Yes about Robin Hood! I don’t think the producers expected Guy to be as popular as he was. That RA outclassed JA was evidenced by RA getting more dramatic scenes as S2 progressed and it was quite evident by S3. It wasn’t that JA was a bad actor, he did the best he could with what he was given.

      Ditto on Spooks as well. The story was so outrageous that I wonder if the show didn’t jump the shark. However that did not stop the story from being suspenseful and riveting, thanks to RA.

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      • @Judiang,

        For me Spooks did jump the shark in S9. I only stuck with it because of Richard, but I found it increasingly painful and uncomfortable to watch. I had formerly looked forward to a new Spooks ep; I ended up actually dreading it.

        They would never have dared give the ridic storyline with LuJohn to any lesser actor, because they knew it would have descended into total farce if they had. I still can’t bear to actually re-watch the series, except in certain fanvids.

        I think JA is an OK actor (I admit I have never seen him in amything else, and Froggatt has certainly redeemed herself for me for the horrendous Sreechy Skank Kate with her sympathetic performance in Downton Abbey). It seems by his own admission he was too full of himself in the early days of the show and truthfully, I think he would have benefited from some of the same tutelage Richard gave Lucy, but likely though he didn’t need it.

        I think Jonas was miscast to begin with (the romantic, heroic leading man type he just isn’t, at least not for me. I know they were going for a Robin for a new generation, but . . .) and then saddled with a Robin written and directed as a self-absorbed, self-serving git who was hard to admire or even like at times.

        This Robin came across as the spoiled noble who had never really grown up in spite of the horrors of battle and loved playing the hero to win more adulation. Jonas’s lack of experience in comparison with Richard’s, and the fact I never witnessed much on-screen chemistry between JA and LG, all worked against him, for me.

        Robin fans complained it became the Guy of Gisborne show. Well, of course, it did. Guy became the most interesting and complex and compelling character, thanks to Richard’s nuances.

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    • I also don’t want to create the impression that I’m legislating on dogma here: i.e., that all fans must consider the whole package when considering Armitage. If people just want to consider one aspect, that’s fine. What I am arguing against is the insistence that other people conform to one’s own analytical guidelines.

      I think you’re absolutely right about the body of work — and the more different things he does, the more different things he’ll get to do, so I look to it to expand. And as someone who was really watching SB because he was in it and not because I had any interest in the genre or the plot at the beginning, I think I can be evidence for your own reading 🙂

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    • Khandy,

      One of the things I so admire about RA is how he takes whatever is thrown at him in a role and makes the best of it. Long hair extensions in RH S3 (after commenting he wanted to shave his head)? He incorporated all that hair right into the character. Can’t imagine S3 Guy now without the mane.

      The preposterous storyline and character asassination in Spooks 9 that sent me into a near-depression? RA was the best thing about it, the only thing that really saved it for me and kept me watching.

      A lot of people have talent; but not all have the sort of keen dedication to getting things right, to making the most of each opportunity RA has. I don’t see him as ever just “coasting” along on his good looks and charm as some performers do.

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  17. @servetus: Wankery? Pshaw! A comedian described a radio station over here as ‘the place where it’s OK to know stuff’. I feel like that about your blog, servetus, so don’t ever give up the in-depth analysis. I’ve learned so much from your (immaculate) prose over the months.

    Such an unselfconscious display of intellect and writing talent will threaten some and arouse fear, as judiang says. Also envy, which I’ve read makes us want to destroy what we don’t / can’t have.

    @musa, fitzg, judiang, and others: absolutely agree that RA gives a lot more of himself in his interviews than others through talking about his roles and it’s so so engaging. Have to admit the contrast between the genial humorous interviewee and the angsty intense roles (Harry aside) piques my interest too – I used to watch Guy and think ‘where does he get all that rage from? I know he’s an actor, but even so…’. When RA fessed up to having a temper you ‘can’t even apologize for’ it was like a piece of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place. Lots of other unfilled pieces though!

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    • I think there is a real generosity within this man. A wilingness to share his experience and knowledge as an actor with fellow actors for their benefit, and to share his journey in the process of developing a character with his fans. I really appreciate that about him.

      I also have a very temperamental streak–oh, most people would be surprised to hear that, because I have learned to ‘temper my temper’ and channel it in other ways–so I have to say hearing he had one, too, was something of a relief to me LOL. I had also wondered how such a seemingly laid-back and good-humored fellow could be so believably dark, brooding and angsty. As you say, feefa, another piece of the always fascinating puzzle.

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      • One reason that I am transfixed is, I think, what I read about his generosity in professional situations, e.g., in that interview with Lucy Griffiths: “And, I just absolutely love working with Richard. He’s probably the best scene partner I’ve ever had. … Richard and I just understand each other quite well. He allows me to say what I think about my performance and his performance without getting angry about it, and the other way around. I often will ask him if there’s something he can suggest to help me out, or if he can give me a reason. If I’m finding something difficult, I can ask him why he thinks that might be. We have a very good friendship as well. We laugh a lot together. And, he’s just very professional. He really, really prepares his work, and he’s very generous. He’s prepared to help you as well. He does whatever he needs to do, to make things easier for you, which is just wonderful, really.”

        To me this kind of behavior embodies one of the most important religious principles I embrace — the idea of love for the neighbor as oneself — and something that I’ve only slowly come to learn over the last three years or so, when things have been especially bad in my life — that making space for others and acting generously changes the world, and that you can do this for others even when things aren’t going so well for yourself. I don’t know how his parents or his life taught him this, but it impresses me no end.

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        • His kindness, generosity and preparedness in his work come back to him ten-fold in things like Lucy’s comments and more recently, I believe, in his being cast in The Hobbit. There are many stories from LOTR and the current Hobbit regarding Peter Jackson’s shoots as being “like a fmaily”. I think that the ability to work and get along with others was a factor (not diminishing his talent) in getting cast. It is a long, isolate shoot and chemistry and synergism is going to be very important.

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        • It goes back to doing unto others what you would like to have done to you, I think. Richard really seems to embody this in his relationships with his fellow actors and the crews.

          He hasn’t forgotten the struggles of his past, getting established as an actor, and he reaches out to help others who are just starting in their careers. He seems to be a team player who is a first-class pro but also blessedly down to earth.

          That’s why I think he is such a good role model for anyone considering a career in the arts, but also just as really nice human being. It impresses the heck out of me, too, Servetus.

          And Ann Marie, I am sure Richard’s personality and work ethic were also factored into PJ’s choice, along with his fantastic talent and versatility. He’s no fool, that one.

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        • I really hope Richard and Lucy get to team up again in some future project. We already know they have great onscreen chemistry, seem to truly enjoy working together, and Lucy just continues to grow as an actress–and part of me would like to see him get the girl this time around.

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    • Thanks for the kind words, feefa. I’m trying to think about how much to say about this here — but this means a lot. I’ve had a lot of issues over the years with people’s meanness and not understanding the reasons for it, and only recently have come to understand that one component of it, though not the only one, is feelings of being threatened. I don’t know why, but I can’t control how others feel or react.

      At some point Keith Allen made a joke about it being interesting to work with someone who had so much repressed rage and I really thought it was a joke but it turns out it wasn’t. Indeed, a puzzle piece fell into place.

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  18. It’s just not possible to appease everyone. All of us come from very diverse backgrounds with different mindsets. When someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t make you wrong and him/her right or vice versa. It’s just that he/she does not see things the way you do. Therefore, just do what makes you happy. Referring back to your earlier quote, if it stops being fun, it should stop altogether.

    The vulnerability of revealing oneself to complete strangers over the internet is very intimidating and requires courage. Not everyone has that. Courageous Servetus, I wish you all the strength and courage you need! 😀

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  19. @Angie, please do me a favour and kick Gisborne off the couch and out of the house. I’m tired of his haunting me….as if! 😀

    Emotional cowardice might prevent me from re-watching MI5 S9. For many reasons, including a lack of character continuity, it lacked authenticity. The writers seemed to bring in far too many new elements for assimilation. (That’s only this person’s opinion, mind you).

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    • It has a lot of really haunting moments, though.

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    • Fitzg,

      I am an emotional coward about spooks 9, too. At some point, I guess I will be able to watch it again. Right now, it’s still a bit raw for me. After the pain of RH’s denouement and appearing to lose Guy (because of course he has achieved So Not Dead status and is alive and well and recovering from that trip to see Servetus), losing Lucas, and not even in a good, heroic way but in this shabby, ridiculous manner they concocted–ah well, it’s a lot.

      You are right, though, Servetus–it had its haunting moments. I just wish it would quit haunting me . . .

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  20. Thanks for everyone’s patience with me on this. I hesitated a long time before posting it, until I realized I wasn’t going to be able to continue until I had said this stuff. I had a nightmare about it after I posted it, and then have had to distract myself with stuff everytime I sat down to respond to comments. It’s been frustrating to face how angry I was about what happened on Frenz’s blog last weekend, which was what finally prompted this to come out. So I guess it’s good in that regard.

    I think we all have our own “personal” Richard Armitage, but no one owns him except him — and it’s hard to come to terms with it when someone writes something we don’t like. But I still want us to read more perspective on him and not fewer, and when someone tries to shut a blogger down for not representing her particular perspective, that makes me extremely angry.

    OK. Calming down now and responding to comments.

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    • Servetus,

      You have a pretty good idea of how upset I’ve been about this issue. I detest censorship and I felt like this individual was more or less trying to censor you at your own blog, and Frenzy at hers, just because you guys didn’t conform to her particular world view of how the RA fandom should behave.

      There is room in the fandom for many bloggers, each with his or her own POV, just as there is room for many fanfic writers and vidders and their own individual visions.

      I appreciate you for encouraging different viewpoints to be expressed, but in a civil and courteous way–encouraging expression, not supression.

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  21. […] to exercise power over others.” I was reminded of this point while looking for a cap for the Armitage morass post. This is a topic that could be covered in encyclopedic detail, but right now I want to talk about a […]

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  22. Was rather concerned about lost sleep etc for you. I feel that you and Frenz handled the situations tactfully and patiently. There is a point at which a blogger must, responsibly, deny a commenter access. And grapple with the censorship and free speech issues. Personal attack on the blogger oversteps the line.

    I so hesitate to become involved in confrontation in personal life, and also online. But, if a blogger is under personal attack from a commenter, at some point, I will weigh things, and add the two cents’ worth. As, rarely, I will do in RL. Generally, in RL, it’s easier to reach out and, if not attain complete consensus, remain cognizant and RESPECTFUL of differing perpectives.. Generally. In Cyberspace, it’s trickier.

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    • Thanks, fitzg. I think because at the moment I’ve invested so much emotional energy in Armitage, the writing takes on that energy and thus the dreams. This is no tragedy for me, insofar as I usually find it really easy to sleep. So it will come out in the wash.

      The ethical issues are difficult. Frenz said a few posts back that acting as someone else’s conscience on the internet is usually ill advised. The question becomes how to respond to someone in love who is attempting to be one’s conscience for one. I don’t know the answer to this question.

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  23. […] that it could not be denied, and indeed, was impossible to factor out of the effect he has on me (the “morass”). How I experienced it then and understood it at the end of February, 2010, when I decided to start […]

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  24. […] once we’ve become slightly more immune to the power of the pictures to flummox us. Moreover, I agree, on the whole, with the point that Armitage’s physical appearance is irretrievably par…, something I called “the Armitage morass.” I also share her opinion that Mr. […]

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  25. […] degree the successful employment of one’s physicality to move an audience. Eventually, I argued that four factors working together in a relationship of combinations comprised the sources …. That’s the rational piece; I don’t think we can separate his body out from either his […]

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  26. […] I’m not trying to stop you from using your own explanations for what you’re doing. I don’t believe in a line between beauty and talent as reasons for appreciating Armitage, for instance, but you […]

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  27. […] calm on the whole beauty – talent relationship than I have in a while. I’ve always said it was a false dilemma, even as I conceded that at that decisive moment of Armitagemania onset, the beauty was […]

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