Richard Armitage as John Porter in a promo photo related to Strike Back viral video by David Clerihew. Source: Русскоязычный Cайт Pичардa Армитиджa; I got it from Richard Armitage Net.

Gulp. This picture of Porter in captivity, to me, is way more provocative as an image than if Richard Armitage had ever appeared with all his clothes off. Looking back, I feel like I’m being pushed. At the time it appeared, there was Servetus’s analysis of that viral video. I could never make myself publish anything about my reaction to that video last summer; what I wrote was so completely outside my blogging persona that I was afraid to say those things in public.There were reactions there that I never even discussed with a friend or therapist.

I would like to claim that although I may justly deserve temporal and eternal punishment, I do not deserve to be plagued with provocative images like this. I was a good girl all day today. My usual persona. Servetus the good girl. I went to a retirement party last night and did not misbehave. Today, I wrote lecture notes for one TA who’ll be teaching a class in my absence for Passover next week, finished a study guide for one film my students are watching this term and wrote most of another one. (Let me know if you want detailed contextual descriptions of scenes from either The Lives of Others or Head-On). I graded a little, and I even managed a leisurely breakfast and a nice conversation with my friend and colleague the former Cambridge professor. All by staying away from Armitageworld all day. And making notes about things I wanted to blog about as soon as I have time.

I think tomorrow I have to give in. I’ve gotta write about this. This image is really close to a very odd fantasy I’ve been having about John Porter for weeks and weeks now. Praying for strength, transparency, honesty … or at least finding some way to write about this. Cause yeah. The power dynamics behind this sort of image are definitely one root element that feeds my Armitagemania. Gulp.

Look away from the screen, Servetus.

~ by Servetus on April 17, 2011.

33 Responses to “Wow.”

  1. Good grief. I nearly stopped breathing when I found the images on the Russian site. What is it about him that directors love to place him in bondage? And I love to watch it? I have never felt that way about a man before.

    This picture gets to me. He is brave, he is proud, he tries to brace himself for what is coming, and yet he is so afraid. It shows in the tension in his neck and shoulders, the way he withdraws to the corner, making himself appear smaller than he is. Is it Richard’s dance training that he can express so much with just his body? Moreover, in just a static image?


  2. The pose does a lot for the perceived movement issue — his leg position makes it look like he’s struggling; his chest position makes it look like he’s breathing hard. It’s a sort of feeling that you get from his pictures that you can sense what’s going to happen next.


  3. I can’t even spell the sound the sound I just made on seeing this.

    The caged wild animal again. He’s clearly feeling fear. The braced set of the shoulders the chest looking like it’s heaving. He’s backed right into the corner too.

    At the same time though you can see that he’s not going to take it quietly.
    You get the idea that Porter’s a man who’ll use the adrenaline of fear as fuel. That raised knee and look of intense introspection suggests to me that he’ll fight back as much as he’s able.
    He’s also psyching himself up not to give them what they want.
    ” I’m sorry Sir I can’t answer that question “.

    OK now I need to go and lie down in a dark room with some ice.


    • Same here. I couldn’t sleep because of that picture.


    • You are so right – the ability to psych himself up, very important for a soldier. Without it he probably wouldn’t even have passed SAS selection.


    • Even after all this time he can still amaze me when it comes to how he “becomes” the person he is portraying and it is much in evidence in this video and the “still” pictures. How DOES he do it in each and every role he plays? Quite, quite mindblowing!


  4. Really interested to see what you will write about this Servetus. I found the stills even more provocative than the video and I hadn’t thought that possible. I cannot in all honesty admit to the effect one particular one had on me – one I had earlier saved on my computer – except to say that my response shocked me. So I’m with you!! Gulp!!


  5. I wrote a ficlet entitled “Captive” after repeated views of that viral vid last year, it impacted me so strongly. There was, I should say, nothing sexual in that story, just the inner thoughts of an unnamed soldier in a very bad situation who refuses to give his captors what they want.
    But to say I didn’t have a very visceral, primitive reaction to first the vid, and now, even more strongly, to these images, would be a lie. It was not unlike the response Wild Man Guy evoked when I first saw him in S3.

    I fear for John Porter here; I want to protect him. I respect John Porter here; he is a brave and undaunted man, even in his fear.

    But I also desire him. There is something both terrible and tantalizing about this image.

    I haven’t been able to stay asleep, mainly due to Benny’s overwhelmingly loud snoring that strikes on occasion and some pain issues. But looking at this image is enough to keep me awake, anyway.


  6. The composition of this image, the textures, shadows, colouring and positioning of everything is very evocative, but what brings it to life is the dancer’s grace of the body and the incandescent beauty of the captive! As the previous posters say, it appeals on so many levels, but most of all on that visceral level!


  7. Medical me wants to tend to his wounds and help him heal 🙂


  8. Nice boots 😉


  9. There is the “good” side, and there is the “bad” side. And I’m not referring to my profile which is dubious.

    The good side strives for analytical expression and resistance to being swept off goat hooves. The bad side is replete with visceral reaction.

    Right, adhering to the good side. This screencap. Monochrome, beige, brown, dirty white. Transfixed by the focal point of the black hair. Textures – of the walls, of the camo and filthy t-shirt, of the grungy mattress, of the skin. Light and shadow: if shadow can be said to highlight – here emphasising arm, leg and profile. Angles: the diagonals of the mattress reflecting the angle of the arm and leg. Could a da Vinci or a Michaelangelo create a composition any more compelling?

    Bad side creeping out; keeping it to a minimun. Sheer overwhelmiing size (shrimps are sensitive to size). Initially accustomed to the lean and long height of Thornton, Monet, Gisborne and emaciated Lucas, there was some intimation that this was a bigger frame than first thought. Quite big shoulders. Sturdy thighs. Rather defined rear end. This screencap captures it. As did the NZ press conference contrast with the other production and cast members. Think I’d pass on meeting the actor in RL. Might feel more than usually diminutive -diminished? than ever.

    All right, so much for keeping to the minimum; the bad side triumphs again…


  10. My mind is not stopping on the fact he is tied up…somehow I know that John Porter is more than capable of executing his escape. What I see is the determination, the intelligence (working out how to get out of there), the strength, the capabilities. He’s my hero. And I need a hero to believe in. Today, more than most days, I need to hear ‘everything will be all right’, have his strong arms around me, his towering frame to lean against and to hear him say ‘good girl’… I’m putting aside my strong feminist side and saying today, I need someone to take care of me for a change.


  11. It’s hard to know how to react to these images.

    Objectively, I’m impressed by how much action Armitage can convey in a still photo. He has a dancer’s kinesthetic sense – the ability to recognize and control his body’s position in space. It’s why he’s such a powerfully physical actor, and why the fact that he has mostly taken action roles instead of “serious” roles doesn’t make me feel the slightest bit deprived.

    Viscerally, I expect this image had precisely the effect the director intended: a jolt to the loins and an exclamation not fit to print. The hero in bondage is a trope as old as the hills, and for good reason. Armitage gives us everything here – pain, fear, resistance to fear, desperate calculation, and the physical intensity of a powerful body struggling to break free. Complicating things is the underlying awareness that the actor is submitting to this, though the character is not.

    And completely off-topic, I’m diverted by how that site renders “Armitage” in Cyrillic. Transliterated back to English, it looks more like “Armitidge”.


  12. He is poised for movement. The foot planted, the butt placed on the pillow for a little more height to ease raising and lifting himself. Back against the wall for the same reason. The look of focus and determination as he works his bindings. Judging by the position of his right wrist he may be almost free. All that in a single photo. WOW is right. Await your analysis…see the reward you got for being a good girl? *:)


  13. Those new pics of RA as John Porter- oh Lordy!


  14. It is amazing the picture. Surprising because it’s only Porter, but I feel that so much is happening. Photo exudes an incredible tenseness. It seems to me that this is because it is visible tension in the muscles of the neck, concentrating on the face of JP, and perhaps by reducing the color of the pic. to a minimum. In one word WOW!


  15. OMG
    Can I breathe now ?

    When looking at this particular picture, two separate parts are striking:

    The upper body part: if you only consider him from his torso up.
    The waves of the hair, the line of the nose, the inner light of his gaze, the light avoiding his face, the curve of his shoulders: All of it make me think of an Greek hero that has fallen, and waiting for the gods to decide on his faith.

    The lower body part, from his torso down.
    The lower abdomen, the pelvic area, the inner tights, all sensible areas exposed, does show his potential weakness.
    But at the same time, the so powerful and muscular tight (glup, can’t swallow anymore, just of the thought of it); its position of waiting and at the same time bent and ready to move forward: this let us think that he is ready for his very next move, which will lead him to escape from this position.

    This one picture, with very carefully chosen position of every inch of his body permit him to express it all.


  16. Servetus, I’m very much looking forward to hearing your take on the power dynamic in play here. It’s definitely tricky, and its implications are a little frightening. I’m certainly no psychologist, but here’s what is going on for me when I see this picture:

    First, there’s the physical tension. Here is a beautiful, powerful man held captive. He’s injured, he’s exhausted, but he’s still physically resisting his captors. I have mixed feelings about this – his endurance makes me desire him, but instinctively I want to rescue him. Maybe this wish is not entirely altruistic. The liberator, after all, is in a position of power.

    Then, there’s the emotional tension. Porter is a righteous man. I know he won’t capitulate, and therefore I know that when the interrogators arrive it will go hard for him. He knows this, too. He’s afraid, and I’m afraid for him. But at the same time, I know perfectly well I’m not looking at an actual prisoner under duress. That would be obscene, whereas this is hot. Why? Because the actor is an accomplice to this scenario. In order for this photograph to exist, someone tied his wrists behind his back and told him to get on his knees, and he willingly complied. No matter how believable Porter’s distress, still I know this. What I’m seeing, then – the strain of taut muscles, the heaving chest, the desperate eyes – is being performed for me, and I too am an accomplice.

    Maybe it is the director, like the interrogator present but unseen, who holds the power, and the rest of us obediently acquiesce.


    • @CP – I probably shouldn’t say this but I had a visceral reaction when I read your words “someone tied his wrists behind his back and told him to get on his knees, and he willingly complied.”
      Somehow this is even more impactful than the pictures for me. The fact that he is an accomplice to this scenario, as are we.


      • As an actor he necessarily is. IRL his captors would have to force him, as seen in SB episode 2, when he gives himself up to Hakim.


      • @Calexora – I’m glad you did say this. Servetus has brought us into deep water here, but if we’re to have a serious discussion of why this kind of imagery is affecting, I think it’s necessary to own up to those reactions even if they’re uncomfortable.


        • yeah, this is really deep water, deeper than even i realized. But CP is avsolutely right and that’s where my post started … who am I in relationship to the director? Or am I directing? The previous post on the viral vid, during the summer, I left at the point of how Armitage constitutes the unseen other in the vid, but I didn’t specify who the unseen other was, just mentioned some possibilities.

          I’m grading a whole pile of papers on the lines between victim, bystander and perpetrator in the Holocaust at the moment, and one of the themes of the course has been the thrill of whatever kind that we get today from the “pornographic” aspects of Holocaust evidence. So this is on my mind …

          gotta get back to those papers, but keep talking.


        • @CP- Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to think too much about it (just wanted to note my immediate reaction when I had it) but the interplay of power dynamics and erotic undertones is jarring…I don’t know where this reaction is coming from in me. Looking forward to reading more views on this but also to have more time to process this within myself…(after my work day is done).

          @Servetus, I looked over your post of last July on the viral vid last night, which was fantastic BTW!… Again, it was bringing up a reaction but it’s as if my mind was trying to shut it down. Deep waters indeed. Will have to think more about this.


        • @CP. I am in total agreement with you here. I look forward to how it will go as I’m sure it will certainly be a serious discussion because, lets face it, it is what you (Servetus)excel at and the imagery here is, as has been said, extremely affecting!! Deep water indeed, but I am already owning up to having those uncomfortable reactions.


  17. “Power dynamics and erotic undertones” exactly sums this up. It pysically took my breath away when I first saw it. I cannot ever remember an instant reaction like that. I have read all the discussion about light, planes and angles and I agree with all of it but none of that struck me at first. It was just sheer magnetism and I do not thnk any other actor could have achieved that even if photographed in axactly the same way. This man has something extraordinary and I wish I knew what it was.


  18. […] my confusion only temporarily by my intense need to finish grading. Here I’m following up on the post where I noted the reaction. I tried to make this cohere differently, and it didn’t work, so for today you get: my […]


  19. […] to consume what they have on offer and seek to shape our desire to consume further such products. What CP said in response to pictures of bound John Porter that surfaced in April, one of which I rep…: the actor is an accomplice to this scenario. In order for this photograph to exist, someone tied […]


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