Servetus unashamed, or: Many fewer than 95 Theses on Armitagemania

Richard Armitage as Richard Armitage, photographed at the Strike Back premiere, April 15, 2010. The straight-on, appraising gaze. One of my absolute favorite pictures of the man himself. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

Last 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 blogger.

I got a fair amount of off-blog mail about those posts, either expressing concern about my sanity, or admonishing me for my inappropriate action in writing about this stuff (or writing about it and not labeling it as fiction).

That notwithstanding, I say to all of you, I feel so much better now. Because not admitting it did not make all that stuff not real. And since that is a classic coping strategy of my mother (pretending that real things aren’t real in hopes of making them not real), I should have realized by now both what I was doing and why it was creating problems.

As John Porter (Richard Armitage) warns Hugh of all of the things he is likely to suffer when the truth about the Bratton extraction comes out, we see him remembering all the pain inflicted on him as a result of the distrust he received from his family and the regiment, in Strike Back 1.6. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com.

All of which realizations prompt me to try to express a few things that have been percolating a few weeks and since the last time I addressed the issue of what constitutes “appropriate” behavior for fans in general and for me in specific. As in the past, this is probably at least partially a work in progress.

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Richard Armitage and a fan after he hugged her, in the publicity buildup to the Spooks 9.1 premiere. Interview on Radio 1, September 17, 2010. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

1. If you have Armitagemania, pretending you don’t have fantasies won’t work as a means of getting rid of them. Writing about them will also not necessarily help you get rid of them, although it will force you to look at both yourself and your fantasies. Writing may also calm you, however, and you may find friends to sympathize.

2. If you have Armitagemania, admitting that you have fantasies — or even writing about them in detail — will not make you into a “crazy” fan who does “inappropriate” things. (Unless, of course, you are already one of those, in which case see [2] below.) I’ve experienced no impulses to mail Mr. Armitage my underwear or a photo of myself in a bikini with my cell phone number scrawled on it, and not even the faintest desire to move to Wellington and follow him around town, either before making these admissions or since. Why not? Because I am not the kind of person who does those things. Admitting to a fantasy — no matter how “crazy” or “inappropriate” it may be — is not a step on the path to criminal behavior. Without evidence, that’s a slippery slope argument.

3. Writing about your Armitagemania will not cause someone else who’s been “on the cusp” to turn into a “crazy” fan who does “inappropriate” things, either. Why not? Because people who do those things decide to take those steps all by themselves. They were “crazy” people with a tendency to do “inappropriate” things before Armitagemania, and they have a likelihood of being that way afterward as well. People like that are hiding in plain sight by masquerading as “normal” fans, not waiting, susceptible, to be fertilized into crazies by the fantasies of other “normal” fans. Writing about my fantasies does not facilitate the questionable behaviors of other people; they do that all on their own, without assistance from me. My fantasies are a vehicle, I suppose you could argue, but not a cause.

Richard Armitage as Alex Track in The Golden Hour. Putting this here because it pains me to take it off the top of the blog when I publish this post. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com.

4. Conversely, I have come to believe, writing about “inappropriate” behavior and why it is bad will never stop people who behave “inappropriately” from doing so. My disapproval of the action of any other fan will never be a sufficient barrier to her decision to do something she has decided is acceptable. I know this because such statements would be unlikely to stop me. If I claim that it’s okay to trust myself as a rational actor who can make decisions according to a conscience derived from what I find to be a thoughtful moral calculus, I have to assume that others can also make such claims and that they are legitimate, at least on their own terms. Just as I am the only one who can change myself, I cannot protect Mr. Armitage from the “crazy” behavior of anyone else but myself. In that sense, the only way in which I can make prescriptions about appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior is by following my own conscience. Presumably, each of us has her own and doesn’t need to be burdened with the strictures of those of others. You’ve noticed that I never broach certain topics here that are discussed with some regularity elsewhere. That needs to be my decision for me — not for everyone else in the fandom.

5. I want to apologize for steps in the direction of prescription of others’ behavior that I have made in the past, because I really don’t know better than others how they should behave. I believe that on some level this discussion of appropriate fan behavior is a necessary step in the development of any fan’s consciousness, and a way of thinking through a problem that uses other fans as a measure, but I think we have to keep in mind that this is an identity development problem for the fan herself, not an essential statement about the essential appropriateness / inappropriateness of others’ behavior. That is, by looking at others’ “crazy” behavior, we develop our own personal sense(s) of the boundaries of “normal.” I think it’s not surprising that such statements sometimes occur early in the unfolding of a blog insofar as writing in a single authorial voice for the public about the role Mr. Armitage and his work play in one’s life can be read as “too much.” Once one has engaged in the act of speaking about one’s fascination, such statements become part of the process of deciding “how far I will go” or “how far is too far.” At the same time, however, I have grown to believe that to some extent such statements reflect our own guilt, not about our actual or likely behavior, but about our feelings. We see a behavior (for me it was lewd comments on youtube videos) and recognize the emotion or reaction that underlies it in ourselves. It’s not enough to say (for instance), “I will never make crude comments about Richard Armitage’s posterior on youtube”; instead, we use prescriptions we make to others to reassure ourselves that we are not “inappropriate” fans. Let’s recognize that in this case, saying “she shouldn’t do that” is, in many cases, really a statement that says, “I wouldn’t do that, but part of me wishes I could.”

6. Given that prescriptions we make to others are really about our own identities as fans, it’s time for us to abandon the frequent justification that we’re prescribing behaviors to others because we are trying to protect either them (a sentiment I regularly heard in my comments for awhile) or, more commonly, that we are trying to protect Mr. Armitage. Mr. Armitage does not need protection from his “normal” fans; indeed, he needs support from them and they are important to his career. He potentially needs protection from “crazy” fans (or, perhaps, from rude ones), but this is not something that we can give him from our position as writers. Our forays into Armitage protectiveness mode are really all about us. Honestly, I hardly think that people who are doing the sort of things he occasionally reports he doesn’t like are members of our community. So let’s ease up on each other in this regard. We risk making each other into shrews, I fear, and all over something that we have no control over, anyway. Let’s prescribe not to prescribe, or rather, that if we do prescribe, it’s that each of us uses her conscience.

Next one in the series. Repeated for the same reason as specified above. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com.

7. Why is this important? For two reasons. The first is that I sometimes think that insofar as there’s tension with this fandom, it has to do with precisely the issue of what it’s okay to say one thinks about Mr. Armitage. (And in rare cases, how should one behave if one meets him — but very, very few of us have that opportunity, so it’s a relatively smaller issue.) This tendency relates not only to disagreements over concrete issues (would Armitage prefer his fans keep their distance, or is he essentially fan-friendly?), but even to what it’s acceptable to discuss (can we talk about his personal life ever?). The reason I think this mutual policing of each other is unfortunate relates to the second reason, which is that every second I spend prescribing behavior for someone else is a second that I’ve wasted in terms of self-expression.

8. Here I am potentially burying a central assumption of this argument in a disadvantageous position, but I’ll write more about this eventually, too — that is, while I think Armitagemania is about many things, in a different mix for different individuals — about appreciation of artistry, about the perception and critique of identity, about fantasy, about desire, about thinking about partners, and certainly *also* about sexual attraction — I am starting to think that its central feature is the facilitation of expression. Armitagemania helps people find a voice — whether an artistic one, a verbal one, a visual one, an analytical one, a personal one. How else to explain the many blogs that have sprung up in the last year? The numerous drawings and paintings of characters he’s played? The unbelievable industry of fanvidders? And all the stories of people who’ve been moved to try something new that they’d never have contemplated without the Armitage example? The number of voices moved to express is impressive. And I remain clear that the plurality of voices is a strength, not a weakness. The more, the better.

9. Every second I spend thinking about what I am not allowed to say for reasons that have nothing to do with my own conscience is a waste of energy and a betrayal of self. Armitagemania happened to free me from the waste and self-betrayal I’ve experienced as a professional for the last decade. No more rules for me except those self-imposed: to follow my conscience, to be forthright, to be honest, to say things the best way I can. Not to waste energy, and not ever to betray my voice, even though it’s only developing now.

~ by Servetus on May 3, 2011.

213 Responses to “Servetus unashamed, or: Many fewer than 95 Theses on Armitagemania”

  1. Could have put this off-blog; but the h with it. Don’t give a second thought about

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  2. Bravo, my dear Servetus. Well said.

    I see Richard as an extraordinary catalyst in my life, an amazing muse who has inspired me in so many ways and has helped me through some very dark days. I like him, I admire him, I respect him–and yeah, I think he’s absolutely gorgeous and very, very sexy.

    But even if I am “larger than life” as Frenzy says, I would NEVER send him undies or photos of me in compromising positions or start stalking him. Even if I was 20 years younger and never mind how many pounds lighter. Because I DO like and respect and admire him. And you don’t treat people you consider special in such a thoughtless manner, do you?

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  3. The laptop bounced. May I finish, WordPress? Thank you. Watching election returns. Multi-tasking isn’t always a Good Thing. having the odd fantasy about the actor himself. Hardly unnatural or indication of insanity. Who doesn’t have such fantasies? Our fantasies might not take all take a similar form. Who cares?

    There’s so much respect for Mr. Armitage within this blog and among the commenters. There is also no doubting that an enormous part of the actor’s appeal is sexual. Please express yourselves, servetus and everyone else. Publish and be….

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  4. @Angie πŸ˜€ you interrupted me – giggle πŸ˜€ and hugs.

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    • Oops, fitzg, Sorry!! I wanted to add, “Servetus, you have nothing to be ashamed about.” Mr. A is who he is, and he is one enormously appealing man on a number of levels. I agree, the occasional fantasy is not something anyone should beat themselves up over (or berate anyone else over). We’re human; he’s, well–Richard Armitage!! πŸ˜€ I rest my case.

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  5. I should perhaps clarify, if it’s not clear from the post, that one of the issues in my mind was the question of whether my expression of my fantasies endangers others. That’s most of what I am claiming to have resolved here for myself πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the encouragement!

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    • That’s the point of course Servetus. You don’t claim them as anything but fantasies.
      You don’t write about doing anything inappropriate with Mr A and you give him the respect he very much deserves.

      Nothing dangerous there that I can see.

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  6. I’m taking a bow.

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  7. Endanger others? If we’re not adults on this blog, then we don’t have to be here. Don’t feel like an endangered species myself. πŸ˜€

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    • That smacks of censorship and Big Brother for me when people start talking about “endangering others” — let’s take this book off the shelf, close down this blog . . . NO ONE is holding a gun to anyone’s head (well, as far as I know) makiing them read this or any blog. It’s your choice as an grown-up individual, isn’t it?

      You guys should be able to speak your mind in your own blog as your conscience guides you.

      Also, considering recent events, people endlessly quibbling over things that are really not of earth-shattering importance kind of irritates me. That and the fact I have “those” cramps for the first time in well over a year. *sigh*

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    • No endangered species here either Servetus. I may not be the sharpest knife in the block, I may be be eccentric and I admit to having treatment for a mental illness ( ie depression ); what I’m not is unable to tell fantasy from real life.

      I’m also able to appreciate a highly talented, intelligent, hard working, modest, polite and charming actor who I happen to find incredibly attractive; and keep it at a distance and be respectful both to him and fellow fans.

      I’ve certainly never read anything (and since 2006 I shudder to think how many words that amounts to ) that would ‘endanger’ that.

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  8. The problem, Fitz, is that everything you see on this blog is not everything to be seen.

    Servetus, I think you know I needed this post. Thanks. There are times I get so close to really letting go, well, I may do it any day, and Damn! I know it will be good even if it pisses everyone around me off.

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