I’ve been seen through

This was Lina’s comment, which impressed / shocked me so much:

Interesting to me how much the themes here have in common with issues of being a fangirl … the easy one is probably the idea of holding someone up as the object of your desire (and in a blogosphere public kind of way) without his consent and without allowing him any sort of control over the situation.

But also, I think there’s the side of experiencing desire for someone held up (in general and especially in the RA blogging universe) as “almost too good to be true” (Talented! Gorgeous! Modest! Kind! He even learns freaking Maori for goodness sake…) and knowing our own human failings all too well. Part of being a fangirl is pushing at the interplay between the desirable and the unattainable. It almost seems like the literal bonds are your mind’s way of working out the “out of our league” issue–they’re what tether the fantasy JP to the fantasy Servetus–and in your stories when he’s free to go he doesn’t stay.

Classic theme if you look at it that way–seems to me to have lots more in common with Pluto and Persephone (pomegranate = rope) or Beauty and the Beast (magic = rope) than the Marquis de Sade…

Interesting to me, at any rate–YMMV.

Indeed. All along, I’ve been feeling like these images of Porter took me captive, and that that’s a function of my ambivalence about fangirling — the images took me captive last summer, but the actor had taken me captive long before. Blogging has been an attempt to understand what took and kept me prisoner, and in that sense, any kind of fantasy expressed out loud or in words is a performance of my puzzlement at (still) being captive — but I’ve carried on without any real belief that I would thereby be released. Porter in particular, I noticed last summer, seemed like a metaphorical symbol of my own captivity to Armitage and/or Armitagemania. So writing about a fantasy in which I tease John Porter sexually or humiliate him or hold him captive is in some ways also a revenge fantasy. You won’t let go of me? Well, then just see what I’ll do to you — at least in my mind. Not asking the subject of the blog to consent mirrors my own frequent feelings of non-consent about writing it. Though I think it’s clear from the dark tone of these stories that I also feel no little guilt about this relationship.

John Porter (Richard Armitage), bound to get him to admit that he’s an MI-6 operative, in Strike Back 1.6. An image I haven’t been able to bring myself to talk about yet. Source: Richard Armitage Net

Don’t get me wrong. All in all, blogging Armitage has been beyond good, as I expressed in my anniversary post; it’s been a lifesaver and I think it’s also been beneficial to me in other ways that I haven’t had time to write about yet — in ways that people in my real life who know about this blog often mention to me. To feel compelled to write is always, always better than feeling compelled to silence, a much more frequent experience of mine in the last few years. To be fair, it’s also absolutely correct that the “too good to be true” factor plays a role in capacitating and sustaining this feeling of captivity, but since I’d been writing a post on that topic — “Richard Armitage and the Fantasy of the Virtuous Man” — after the video with the powhiri footage that I still want to finish, I’m going to bracket that out for right now. Because of that this post may eventually end up reading as more conflicted than I really feel about blogging and Armitage and his roles at the moment.

Martin Freeman and the cast of The Hobbit, with Richard Armitage in the far back of the photo, second from right. The virtuous, modest man hangs back — and by withdrawing, attracts our gaze yet again. Source: Richard Armitage Net

Nonetheless, on the captivity theme, there’s a further sense in which I feel captured by these pictures — that is, in the sense in which I feel like my ability to speak about this topic as I might is strongly limited. Now, I’m sure there are readers who regularly feel that I am saying too much, and that some, perhaps many, things I do write would be better left unsaid. I’ve been told that directly on a few occasions. But while I can say relatively freely how I feel about or react to John Porter, the situation with regard to Mr. Armitage is much more constrained. The role / actor distinction, for example, is hugely problematic, and I wonder frequently how much my deployment of it as an analytical tool is really simply a not-very-opaque attempt at saving face. This blog ends up being my one excess, but the notion that it’s honest may be my own crowning delusion.

Because yeah, there’s a whole list of things I can’t say about myself in regard to Richard Armitage. They make me look crazy, and I don’t want to admit them to either myself or anyone else, least of all Mr. Armitage. Or even admitting that in some alternate universe I would want these things to happen is somehow damaging to Mr. Armitage. (I struggle with this a fair amount, as I do think there are fan behaviors that are not only damaging to him, but — more troublingly — also counter-productive in that they’re scary.) But I don’t think writing in this way quite gets there. So here are some things that I may not be allowed to say about myself in regard to him.

Armitage bound again, this time in the guise of Lucas North at the hands of an attacker in Spooks 9.5. Source: Richard Armitage Net

Mr Armitage: I don’t want to meet you at a stage door, or on the street anywhere; I don’t want to have my photo snapped with you. I don’t want your autograph; I don’t want to write you a fan letter. (No offense to anyone who wants those things, they’re just not on my list.) Laying aside the question of whether this blog or anything said on it or any other blog might be an attempt to coerce you, or whether it constitutes some kind of stalking, something that I worried about a lot last summer, in the end I have ever lesser interest in any kind of conventional fan encounter that involves you, which is all I’d ever be able to permit myself to have in real life. Yeah, I’d go see you perform in a theater; I’d even fly transatlantically to do that, and despite the objections of critics, not think that was crazy, and confine it to the aesthetic and the intellectual, although the horizon of that possibility seems to be receding rapidly in light of both your and my career choices: you’re getting more prominent, and I’m getting unemployed.

But: I’d like to prune trees with you. Or spend an afternoon walking through a museum and not talking about what we see (I think of you as someone who could do that — it’s hard for most men, who seem to need to impress) until we’ve seen it at length. I sometimes sit in faculty meetings, as this afternoon, and wonder what you’d think if you could observe this nonsense. What you’d think of my friends. What I’d think of yours. I’d like to argue with you about something vital. I’d like to discuss with you how you build a character sometime when you’re actually in the process of building one. I’d like to drive cross country with you in the U.S. and feud in friendly fashion over who controls the radio. I’d like to know what you think of The Great Gatsby. I’d like to make you some sweet corn and sit out on the back porch and then compete to see who can throw more cobs accurately into the compost from a distance, and have my dad yell at us both for making a mess and attracting mosquitoes into the house. I’d like to you fix the cabinet hinge in my kitchen that’s always sticking. I’d like to test the quality of your reflexes. I’d like you to whisper my name in my ear to wake me up some morning. I’d like to drink a pot of tea with you while reading the newspapers. I’d like you to come to my lecture on Gaskell and the Industrial Revolution and tell me what you think. I’d like to throw a fluffy snowball and hit you smack in the nose and then pay the price you exact afterward. As you see, Mr. Armitage, my fantasies about myself in regard to you are both smaller — and so much larger — than my reactions to any of the characters you’ve played.

I’m not allowed to write these things because I’m not supposed to think them. There’s another weird paradox there that has something to do with their danger and that I don’t completely understand. That is, it’s dangerous to admit to these things — inappropriate? obsessive? stalkerish? — but it is also quite frankly dangerous to lie to myself and say those thoughts have never occurred to me. As if somehow not admitting all this could make it not real! The not thinking them is not working — so that when these images of a bound, tortured Porter push my buttons, my fantasies involve teasing and motions in the direction of rape because I frankly felt and feel out of control with regard to you. I want to leave John Porter tied up in my mind as payback for the fact that I will never have any of these things — so little in my fantasies as in my reality.

[Photo: Bernini, Pluto and Persephone, 1621/2]

The question, I suppose, is why not. For readers weak on Greek mythology, here’s a recap of the Persephone myth. She has to keep going back to the underworld because of the pomegranate seeds she eats while she’s there before she’s rescued. For me this was the uncanniest part of the comment. Can Hades have Persephone? Only if he traps her. In the end Persephone would always be away, in the colorful living part of Earth, if she weren’t compelled to stay in the underworld for part of the year. His very attempt to grasp her is what puts her beyond his reach in any meaningful — in the sense of non-compelled — way. His insistence on having the object of his desires within his reach is that he will never really touch her completely. So yes, it makes sense that this sort of fantasy is a way of dealing with the fact that Richard Armitage is an unattainable object for me. But — and more importantly for me: no, I cannot write a fantasy in which Porter stays with me. The point for me in the Persephone story has always been not the sorrow or barrenness or necessity or anxiety of her seasonal incarceration in the underworld, but her apparent compulsion to return to her other life. Hades loves her, but she won’t be moved by that. Eating the pomegranates did not make her want to stay with Pluto — it just forced her to. But what was so bad about Hades? Besides the fact that he lived in the underworld?

One of my fundamental convictions is that people don’t really change. A fantasy in which Porter wanted to prioritize a relationship over his calling requires a personality change of the sort that I don’t ultimately believe in for the purposes of my own fantasies. But the other piece of that is that I am not very sentimental; my capacity for that, if I ever had one, has been leeched out of me over the years by experience. And that’s the more traditional reading of the Persephone story. It’s not called a rape for nothing — Hades compels her, and she submits. But she doesn’t want to. Part of the fantasies I’m writing is that, on the whole, I let Porter go either before he can reject me — and the signs of his rejection are obvious in every single fantasy. I don’t know what’s so bad about me. Aside from the fact that I spent most of my time in the underworld.

If I believe that people don’t really change, it’s perhaps because I am the best example. Writing and performing Servetus are, inter alia, attempts on my part to be someone else as a means of changing myself, but perhaps these fantasies of bondage don’t rewrite desire as much as they confirm what I’ve always known about myself. If Servetus could write a fantasy in which Porter fell in love with her and stayed with her, perhaps that would be a sign of the sort of redemption I’m looking for by writing. If I could free Porter and he would stay, maybe I would free myself from my own underworld.

Can stories change the world? Can we change ourselves by writing different stories about ourselves? It’s worth thinking about.

~ by Servetus on April 28, 2011.

38 Responses to “I’ve been seen through”

  1. What I’ve always found interesting about the John Porter crucifixion pose is indeed that he didn’t put himself in it. Can anyone successfully crucify himself? Maybe someone could get one hand nailed but how to nail the other? And it’s always about atonement. We’re all continually aware of the need for atonement or saying to hell with atonement. There is no middle ground.

    Part of me wants to comfort you. Actually, a great part of me wants to do that. But don’t construe that as pity. Please. I just do feel your pain, and I wish I could do something about it. But I can only tell you how I’ve dealt with mine.


    • Thanks. It’s not always pain, you know. I just needed to be honest about it. It started to get on my nerves, the sort of condescension involved in pretending I didn’t have certain feelings.

      Must write about atonement soon.


  2. I should also tell you that your description of how you would spend time with Richard Armitage was absolutely beautiful.


  3. That’s the wonder of Armitagemania! We cannot delineate what it is.. but it’s there. It’s around us, in our midst, in our head. It’s a pigment of our imagination. Wow … a lesson of another Greek Mythology. Thanks

    It made me chuckle in the middle of the night about your line … “he’s getting prominent & you’re getting un…” Love your fantasies, big and small, don’t we have all. LOL


    • It’s been interesting to me how quotidian many fantasies around Mr. Armitage are. Someone wrote awhile back that she wanted him to get up in the morning on a cold winter day and start her car for her. My dad does that for my mom.


  4. I admire your bravery. It took me 2 days to work up the courage to read your Porter fantasy post, I can’t imagine how it felt to hit publish. This post hits squarely on the squimish feelings I sometimes have reading fanfic or even indulging in my own thoughts, that hovering right beyond the character is a real man. I really wish I had
    just taken everyone’s word for what a nice person he is and never watched any of his interviews. Lacking written eloquence I really can’t express much more but suffice it to say immensely enjoy your analysis of the Armitage phenomenon.


    • Thanks very much for the comment, Pamela, and welcome to the blog.

      I think it’s interesting, the reaction that we wish we didn’t know all this stuff about the real person. Points out the extent to which we are looking for that “good man” in real life, too, and how attractive just plain virtue can be. I wish men understood this more.


  5. I admire your honesty, with yourself and your readers. I’ve been thinking about related issues lately… ‘Ça mijote’ – like we say here in French-Canada. So, when it’s ready I’ll probably write about it. Not sure how far I’ll be able to go yet. Perhaps it will be in stages. So, hats off to you. And I’m glad that through this blog and the connections you are making with your readers, you are getting ever closer to understanding your own Armitagemania and what Mr. A means to you and is helping you work through. I for one am learning a lot about myself, and that is in no small part due to you and your honesty, your ability to put it out there bravely, and to look at yourself and your reactions fully, without shrinking from them. Some may not agree (I read the comments you linked) but it really isn’t about them. It’s about you, and your healing process and your personal learning. How can that be wrong? Yes, it’s not always comfortable – to examine ourselves that deeply, to read others thoughts and reactions and see what springs in us from that. But I think that’s when we are getting closer to understanding the complexities of human mind and heart – rather than walk around in a dream, just focussing on mundane tasks, work, ‘acceptable behaviour’.


    • Well, I’ve written about it… You know where to go if you’re curious…I’m sure I’ll keep thinking about this some more and exploring it some more, but for now that’s what is coming up….


      • So now who’s the courageous one? 🙂

        I don’t think I’ll get anywhere in thinking about this anymore if I don’t admit to things that are not so nice about myself.


  6. I agree. There he is on the other side of the world, we will never meet him and he will never meet us. I am not a fanGIRL but a fading fanOLDWOMAN. Therefore, although he may PORTRAY the perfect 10 MAN, he is, nevertheless just an actory playing the perfect 10. By contrast there are nearly perfect REAL MEN in the world. I met one last week.

    My closest neighbor who lives two miles downriver and on the other side of the river comes over pretty often with stuff for me (mushrooms, elk antlers, beets, old hurricaine lamps, etc). He is an old logger (in his 50s) and decrepit with many logging accident injuries. Well, last week he brought me another gift in the shape of a Sir Guy look-alike with brown hair. I was just coming in from evening feeding of the Highlands and Shep went crazy as a deisel truck was growling up the lane. Out of the passenger side comes the neighbor and out of the drivers side comes PROMETHEUS BRINGING FIRE. Prometheus turned out to be a 37 year old “topper.’ A topper is the man who runs up the highest tree in a grove, saws off the TOP and attaches the chain holding the engine and chokers. The topper then jumps down the tree and runs up another. Very compactly built (not quite as tall as RA and not at all awkward), very flexible, very strong and very, very drunk Promethius staggered into my house with a gift of salad bowls made from Big Leaf Maple burels. I always keep a supply of beer for the neighbor’s visits and got out a couple cans. As I was making myself the usual G&T, Prometheus comes over to help. He staggered into me and my reaction to the feel of molten steel that hit me made me turn away to hide my face. They want me to go dancing with them. These men are real trouble, really dangerous Sir Guy types without the fake acting. Question to you ladies: should I go dancing with them?


    • Be brave…it’s only dancing afterall you’re a mature woman who can handle men. Take care !


      • Thanks, Tedgirl. I love to dance and think I will take them up on it. I’ll drive my own car by myself so as not to get trapped. I’ll let you know what it’s like to dance with a dangerous Sir Guy look-alike who may feel like dancing with a tree. I remeber the scene where Guy burns down Marian’s house.


  7. Thank you for your eloquent and thought provoking blog, especially this commentary. While the details of my own Armitagmania are somewhat different, I identify with a great deal of what you are saying. So thank you for having the courage and the words to express this.

    What I have to say may not fit other people’s experience–and I also think I am being too personal for my first time post here.

    But I have had a hard year or two and now this. I find it fascinating and attractive and an awakening of old parts of myself that I had let go of.

    But,while I am in the midst of this cascade of emotion and desire about a figment of my imagination, I am troubled about it. Is there soemthing about the life of women in these times that feeds it? And is it also disillusion with the real world on some level? Because I feel that–I want politically to withdraw from the disilusion and negativity of it all.

    Mr. Armitage seems to provide a space for idealism as well as passion and love.

    I am just trying to understand what it is about his image that compels me so much.

    Thanks again for your own compelling words that have become part of my experience.


    • Thanks for the comment, rachaele, and welcome.

      Sometimes I think there’s a perfect storm going on — the world is so unpleasant at the moment, and fantasy seems so seductive, but Mr. Armitage isn’t only a fantasy, as you say. He is also a screen for idealism.


  8. Once again Servetus, you get down to the nitty gritty of this whole subject and I love when you analyze these things. I just wish I had that kind of mind, so no doubt that is why I appreciate what you do. I felt as though I’d been exposed for all the world to see as you seem to put in writing the kind of things that go through my head and I scarcely wish to admit to – even to myself. I admit that I am totally captivated by this man in a way no other has been able to do while at the same time absolutely conscious of the fact that there is probably not the slightest chance of meeting him in RL. The SANE part of me acknowledges all that but there is another part that still likes to dream a little. At my age I don’t tend to have fantasies about him – I just have to look in the mirror to realize how unrealistic and unnerving such thoughts would be – but I still find him totally enthralling. I can’t see that changing in the foreseeable future. I just want to hold on to my dreams as, lets face it, that is all I will ever have.

    @marylou WOW!! You must be sorely tempted if he is “a Sir Guy look-alike”!! IF dancing is all they have in mind then you should be okay but personally I would be very wary of them. They sound like a couple of rascals! You know the saying, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” or words to that effect!!


    • Thanks, Teuchter. Dancing is definitely not all they have in mind. My conflict is that is dancing all I have in mind. I wonder if they have STD of some sort. At my age it would be fatal.


      • Being a “fanOLDWOMAN” myself, I have to say you make me laugh!! Dancing would be the ONLY thing I would have in mind and because I don’t drive myself I wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting an invitation from guys like that – even if one of them DID look like Guy – if it meant I would have to get into a vehicle with them!! I would have to know a person really well before I did that!

        To me, Richard will always be “my” perfect 10, even though I know that no-one is perfect. I do, however, believe that he is, by all accounts, a really nice guy. So even knowing that there is no chance of ever meeting him, I am content with enjoying him from afar!


        • Dear Teuchter, after mature reflection and your posts, I think I give these dangerous fellows a pass.


          • Well, marylou, not sure if I am the best person to give you advice. As my granddaughter’s wedding reception was drawing to a close one guest told me I was “a bit of a party animal”!! As I had never been so described in my whole life, I wasn’t sure if I should accept that as a compliment or worry that this old girl had made a fool of herself on the dance floor! But as one of my daughters said, “If you can’t have fun at a wedding when can you?”

            One of these days I’m sure that your neighbour will arrive with someone Shep will not feel the need to take a bite of and as the song goes, “I hope you dance”!!!!


  9. Goodness, like you, dear Doctor, I can’t even begin to describe what that picture of tied up Porter does to me. Suffice it to say that I think his skin is perfect…


    • Yeah. Although it must be covered with like an inch of sunscreen 🙂


      • Hands up those who would love to help apply it!! Only being honest here as everyone else seems to be doing!


        • 😉
          Teucher is not just dancing today, …

          We would be sorry if this beautiful skin was ruined.
          On the other hand, taking care of a bad sun burn might be appealing: needing gentle touch and lots of attention.


  10. Dear Servetus,

    I decided not to read your fantasy about John Porter.
    I feel like I would be disrespectful to become aware of your intimacy.

    From outside the loop, the John Porter fantasy to me is double layered: or in other words, fantasy about a fantasy. John Porter is nothing else that the conjunction of construction between an actor and the watchers of that performance.
    So this fantasy might be considered to be aimed to Servetus, the fantasy girl, allowing herself to think and act about John Porter in a way she wouldn’t in real life.

    This next part is only my interpretation of your fantasies about Mr; Armitage, the human being, and it might be completely out of the loop. But this is what they make me think of, and it did help me get a clearer view of some of mine, which are quite similar to yours, not in their scenarii, but in their meaning.
    Those fantasies are about recognition of Servetus by Mr A, the real human being. Even if Mr A is still kind of a fantasy, since we don’t know him truly, and that his profession and our position puts him on a pedestal.
    Still those fantasies induce Servetus to be recognized by Mr Armitage; Servetus the natural self, the social self, the professional self, the intellectual self, the emotional self, the familial self, …
    This recognition is coming from the male figure, which might either be father figure, lover figure, or authority figure.
    Those might be fantasies of the real life you dream to live with the real man you dream to have by your side. Projecting yourself into it, allows you to become whom you whish to be, even if on an analytical level you know that the

    Once again, this might be just totally out of the loop, and I don’t want to offend you in anyway with this comment.


    • Zibeline, I wouldn’t have put it there if I weren’t willing to have it examined / discussed — but I also didn’t write every fantasy I had down there. So no worries about respect / disrespect. I say what I am willing to have known about myself.

      The desire for recognition definitely underlines this blog — at some point I wrote a post saying that that’s the main purpose of doing any fan-related activity. The question about who I want to recognize me is interesting — I think it includes Mr. Armitage and potentially various male figures who might inhabit my life, but I don’t think that’s the most important part. I think we get distracted by Mr. Armitage’s beauty sometimes and so tend to see him as a symbol for the other. I’m starting to think that in my fantasy life Richard Armitage is (also) a transitive object / other.


      • I am convinced you were well aware of what you were doing by posting this. And this is most courageous of you. It is just that I couldn’t let myself know about this part of you. Weird? Or meaning that I have a HUGE introspection job to do on myself? Maybe so, …

        About Mr. A as a transitive object, I beleive you mentioned that your friend brought this up during one of your discussions. Tihs would be an interesting post as well.


  11. This requires thought (and I’m not a quick thinker). It encompasses the issues of fandom; why RA; personal fantasies and just how does an English actor stir the fantasies; in what way? What does it say about each of us personally? What blowback, if any, do our ruminations reflect on the hapless actor?

    All discussion here is good. It stretches us both intellectually and of course, emotionally.


  12. I have been thinking about this post for the last few days. I am currently mired in my own crap, so I have been having difficulty articulating a response to this post.


  13. Sorry to have been so unsettling, but what I enjoy about your blog is the smart analysis and reflection, and this post is no exception.

    I tend to agree with you that people change habits but don’t really change cores, but stories and dreams are another matter–not sure if the stories really change the landscape of reality or the other way around, but I do believe the stories and dreams are one way of coping, processing, and struggling to make sense of things, and when things change the stories and dreams gradually do too. At least that’s been my experience.

    FWIW, I think your “life with Armitage” dreams are lovely–and not only because they don’t require heightened security at dwarf camp 😉 –lovely, and not especially Armitage specific, but really just an interesting and kind man who cares–nothing wrong with that.


    • ETA, what I mean is nothing wrong ith wanting that kind of companionship or thinking things in your mind–to try and grasp it against will like Hades is clearly wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be what you’re saying here.

      My daughter sometimes plays she’s a poor orphan–if she wants that in reality, and even more if she tries to make it happen (!), then we have trouble, but I think in her case it has a lot more to do with thinking through ideas associated with independence, etc. and wanting to play at the challenges because it’s fun. And nothing to do with wanting me gone.


      • Yeah, I don’t think that my fantasies (or really the fantasies of the vast majority of fans, more about this anon, I really had an insight about this last night while chatting with another fan) constitute Hades grabbing Persephone against her will. That’s clearly wrong. The question I have is why Persephone didn’t love Hades (apart from the kidnapping), or rather, that’s the thing I come back to again and again. The story says something powerful about how those of us who guard dark secrets understand ourselves to be perceived by others.


    • Not at all, Lina. I like to think. I was just a bit surprised to be seen through that quickly. It was helpful, though!


  14. […] week I admitted that I had some questionable fantasies about John Porter, and then I admitted that I had developed a certain kind of fantasy life around Richard Armitage himself. So did a sister […]


  15. […] Back viral video first appeared in the RA fan community. At the time of the discussions, Servetus shared a few ‘fantasies’ that had been sparked in her viewing of these photographs. And I […]


  16. […] there a way, is it time, to find a way to make the desires stay? To let them win? I was wondering this eleven months ago: If Servetus could write a fantasy in which Porter fell in love with her and stayed with her, […]


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