Fan showcase: Jazzbaby1

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a fan interview, and so in June I planned to do four. A lot went agley this summer, but I’m ready to start running them now and want to thank all of the interviewees for their patience (including those who are still waiting for a message from me!”

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If you have a lot to say, whether you say it in fic, or art, or in great comments on the blog, eventually you’ll probably get a request for an interview from me. But different people have different ways of speaking. Jazzbaby1 has definitely got a lot to say, and although we’ve never spoken in person, she’s also one of those commentators whose voice has a definite sound for me, maybe because she writes me a message privately as often as she comments on the blog. The first time she wrote, I think, it was to admonish me for making fun of a group of people who didn’t deserve it, but I only realized after reading the message a few times that that was part of what she was communicating, couched in a series of thoughtful observations about what I had written. And that wasn’t the last time I had that experience after reading one of her comments. So although I’ve never heard her speak, in my head, she has a medium alto, but soft, kind voice, and on my screen, she’s often a person with the comment that slices through it all or brings me a perspective that hadn’t occurred to me. I feel strongly that reading what she has had to say about various things I’ve written has made me a more humane writer. As I’ve gotten to know her better, I’ve also realized what a maven of modern popular culture she is, and for every obscure vocabulary word I offer, she’s got a reference to a 1980s band that reminds me of just how much I’ve never really noticed about the world I’ve inhabited for the last four decades. Even more particularly, she’s got a lot to say about the experience of fandom, as she reveals in the interview below. If you find her observations here interesting, check out her blog: she just got her 1,000th hit!

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Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) in one of Jazz’s favorite moments from the proposal scene in North & South, episode 2. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com


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Servetus: What was your first exposure to Richard Armitage?

Jazzbaby1: The proposal scene from North and South showed up in the “suggestions” sidebar while I was watching the 2008 BBC Sense and Sensibility on YouTube. He broke my heart in that scene, but when I looked for more information, his other stuff just didn’t seem like anything I’d be interested in watching. A couple of months later I found the Robin Hood folder at FanFiction.net and I read something Guy-centric that really struck a chord with me, though I don’t remember now what it was. Tall, dark, and broken appeals to me. I read the Guy fic first and then searched for the series online.

S: Is there something special about Armitage’s version of “tall, dark, and broken” that makes it particularly compelling for you?

JB1: Just that he’s so good at what he does. While I don’t sympathize with Guy, I respect the way Armitage chose to play him. He walked a really fine line there, and in the hands of someone less skilled, Guy might have become a cartoon character.

S: What kept you watching / made you a fan?

JB1: What kept me watching Robin Hood was the huge difference in the way Guy was portrayed in fic and the way Armitage portrayed him. I was determined to find the romantic character that the fic writers saw, but I never did. Armitage did an amazing job and he definitely made my skin crawl. I finally broke down and watched North and South eventually, and later, Sparkhouse, and I loved that this guy inhabited three such different characters so completely.

S: Many actors seem to develop a following based on their consistency – people like the Hugh Grant or Colin Firth “type” of role, for example – whereas fans often note that Armitage’s appeal rests at least partially on his flexibility to play vastly different characters convincingly. Is it simply a question of talent, or does our reaction to this point to something about our own issues with identity?

JB1: I can only speak for me, but I think we get excited when he gets excited with something new, you know? His enthusiasm is pretty infectious, at least for me.

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Jazzbaby1’s first choice for a favorite Armitage scene has been a favorite among other fans interviewed in the fan showcase: a clip from ShakespeRE-told: Macbeth:

She notes: “A scene that keeps me watching is the moment when Macduff is told about the loss of his family and his legs just go out from under him. We’ve all seen those moments overacted and cringed in response, but he did it really well. That was a truthful moment.”

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S: I know that you’ve been a fan before your connection with the Armitage fandom. Can you compare your experiences as a fan of Armitage to your earlier ones? What’s similar / different? Why?

JB1: An essay question? You are such a professor.

S: (Laughs.) I’m trying to ditch the identity, but it’s hard.

JB1: My first really intense fan experience was as a teen when I was a Duranie. I say “was,” but since I just wrote a Happy 51st Birthday post to John Taylor, I still am. What’s similar to that one is the squee and also the sense of community with other fans. Despite some ridiculous flame wars over the years, everyone has a chance to speak their piece. One thing that’s slightly different about Armitageworld is that we’re all so afraid of offending each other that sometimes we hold back what we really think. I’m as guilty of that as the next person. Unfortunately, this tendency has been exacerbated on the message boards, particularly, because on the Internet you can’t account for tone. Mods have a thankless job and they shouldn’t have to worry about managing the way adults deal with each other. Someone takes a statement more personally than it was intended and suddenly a dust up occurs over something completely stupid. I was once banned from a Byron list because I argued a point with a friend of the list owner. I was definitely more sarcastic than I should have been, but I didn’t attack her personally. She and I made peace privately and remain friendly, but I was still banned from a forum I’d enjoyed participating in. I’ve run into members of that list elsewhere online and among some of them I have a reputation for being overly emotional based on one incident — when that was never my intent and the person I originally offended has been over it for years. Communities like this can be incredibly unforgiving and I think that’s a shame. Is it really that big of a deal that I think Guy is smarmy? And why does it matter?

S: Your answer points to a fascinating paradox: by trying to circumvent fan disputes and resulting grudges, moderators of Armitage boards and blogs end up perpetuating the very tendency they’re trying to guard against – that of taking everything in a fandom way too seriously. Can mods / bloggers do anything to encourage the tone they’d like to see on their sites without making rules that inevitably constrict what people say? Is there a lighthearted way to remind fans to lighten up?

JB1: I don’t think there’s one solution for everyone. We need to keep in mind that this fandom is a dynamic and constantly changing community. New people are constantly cycling in and they bring with them points of view that have been formed by their own experiences. Some of them are coming in from other fandoms where The Rules are written in stone: we don’t talk about an actor’s personal life, we don’t talk smack about other parts of the fandom, and so on. While I think some of those rules are common sense, this fandom is still pretty freewheeling and it’s getting bigger all the time.

S: On the “why does it matter if I think Guy is smarmy?” question, I suspect that the short answer has something to do with identity – that people, perhaps unconsciously, identify with actors or characters that alter their perspective on what’s serious and what’s merely a matter of taste. Consequently, I wonder whether there’s anyway to avoid the grudge problem, given the way that many people’s fan energies seem tied up with some aspect of identity defense.

JB1: People hold grudges. It’s part of what makes us human. I just happen to think it’s a stupid part of what makes us human. I think it’s possible to over-identify with his characters and that when you (universal you) allow your perception of a fictional character to color the way you see another real human, you maybe need to take a step back.

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Jazzbaby1’s second choice for a favorite Armitage moment turned to Vicar of Dibley:

Jazzbaby1 writes: “On the other end of the spectrum, I loved the scene in Vicar of Dibley where Harry asks Geraldine to go to dinner with that twinkle in his eyes.”

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S: Turning to the lighthearted: Is there something inherently dorky about being a fan of anything? Of Armitage in particular?

JB1: Just so we’re on the same page let’s look at the word, “dork.” I like definition number 6 over at the Urban Dictionary so I’m using that one:

“Dorks are typically more noted for their quirky personality and behavior rather than their interests or IQ which may or may not be on level with traditional geeks or nerds. They tend to be more humorous and extroverted and don’t mind laughing at themselves or with others at themselves, as the case may be.”

Of course it’s dorky. C’mon, look at the cottage industry devoted to some guy who has no idea who any of us are. That’s a little strange, don’t you think?

S: Yes, absolutely. Every day I write I engage in this big discussion with my superego, which is telling how bizarre all this is, and my ego’s only defense is that he has no idea who I am.

JB1: Strange is not necessarily bad, though. I think problems start when we laugh at everyone else without laughing at ourselves, too, or when we’re so intent on defending ourselves that we can’t see someone else’s point of view.

S: Is there a way to be a dignified fan, and should fans be striving for that?

JB1: You’re asking *me* about being dignified? Wow, do I have you snowed! (Laughs.)  Did I mention the whole Weird Al incident? I think that fans should have a good idea of the other side of the coin, though, of what celebrities can go through. When I was a teen I read an interview with Grant Aleksander (Phillip Spaulding on The Guiding Light) where he talked about a picture a fan sent him of his initials carved into her arm. Not written on, not tattooed – carved into with a razor blade. His honesty about how it freaked him out was eye opening for me at that point.

S: I do think most of us do ponder Richard Armitage’s possible reaction to us, as precisely that issue often becomes the fulcrum for fan criticism of other fans on the Internet. I’ve struggled myself with prescription of fan behavior, both as subject and object. But do you see a connection, beyond the object of desire, between the sentiments and activities of “average” fans and those of “extreme” fans who do the sort of thing you mention with regard to Aleksander? Does lighthearted fandom create some kind of breeding ground for the darker shades of celebrity obsession?

JB1: It can be really hard to define terms on this one. Say I get a tattoo of the Yellow Submarine. Am I more or less obsessed if it’s my first tattoo than if it’s my third? If it’s on my ankle or my ass? If I have every Beatles album or have just seen the movie and thought the design was cool? The point where interest becomes obsession is different for each of us. I think the internet has contributed to a more immediate hipster competition among fans, not exclusively this one. “Oh, I was up till 2AM watching the new production video.” “Wimp.  I was up till 3AM and I had to work at 7AM.” Really? Is that a road we want to go down?

S: Just a comment in response. A general theme of your answers in this interview has been the problem of knowing things that we only perceive via a screen. What may be problematic behavior in one context, for one fan, may not be a problem for another fan. It’s when we presume to know things about others (not just an actor, but also fellow fans) that we can’t possibly know based on the limited evidence we have, we run into trouble. I’m going to be thinking about that answer for awhile. But, next question: Since we started this interview, you’ve started blogging yourself, but you’ve resolved not to discuss Richard Armitage. Any reason why not?

JB1: Not writing about Richard Armitage actually started as a joke, but then I kept waiting to come up with a reason to talk about him and I found that anything that I might want to say about him has already been said – and said better – by someone else by the time I get my brain out of the box. He’s just not that interesting to me. Okay, quit snickering. Really, I think more about The Ramones than I do about him. This interview has taken up my quota of Armitage Critical Thinking for the next six months, I think.

S: To each her own in Armitageworld — you don’t have to be crazy to be a fan, after all. (Smiles.) The virtual world of Armitage fandom has been in existence for about seven years now, and with the emergence of about a dozen blogs in the last year, appears to be expanding rapidly. Possibly we should talk about “Armitageworlds,” given the differentiation between the visual orientation of tumblr, the discussion focus of the discussion boards, the information and archiving tasks of the fan sites, the fantasy world of the fanfic venues, and the diary approach of the blogs. With all this material to choose from, is there a place for every fan? Or is something still missing?

JB1: A two hundred-piece kazoo band playing “Meet Me In St. Louis”? We’re probably going to have a huge influx soon and I’m sure some fans will think there’s something missing, and they will then create something new and beautiful and funny to fill that space.  I can’t wait to meet them!

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Jazzbaby1 says of herself: JB1 is bossed around by three kids and a German Shorthaired Pointer; she and her husband are hiding in the basement. Please send Cheetos. She blogs at funkybluedandelion.blogspot.com.

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[Fan showcases are an irregular feature on “me + richard armitage.” The goal of these segments is to highlight the opinions and activities of a cross-segment of the very diverse group of people who have become fans of Richard Armitage. Previous showcases can be found here: bZirk, Eli, LadyKate63, fitzg, Angieklong, khandy. I plan to continue this feature intermittently, so if you are interested in being interviewed, please let me know. My email address is in the sidebar under “About.” — Servetus]

~ by Servetus on September 6, 2011.

26 Responses to “Fan showcase: Jazzbaby1”

  1. Little-known fun facts: jazzbaby1 recommended the song for my most recent fanvideo. She also makes me hungry.

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  2. That was a lovely interview Serv and Jazz! Very perceptive and thought provoking. Jazzy, you’re officially a celebrity now. 😉

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  3. Lovely to read more about JB1. Great questions – fascinating answers. I’m thinking we could easily have quite a long discussion on questions of fan disputes/self-policing and fan behaviour. I’d never been exposed to that concept before entering Armitageworld but I have seen it come up from time to time since. I’m curious to see how this will evolve once TH comes out and his fanbase expands massively.

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    • We could have an RAFandom Summit, lol!

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    • I think (and IMO this is a good thing) that once TH is visible, these fan policing questions will go away because there will be so many fans that there won’t be a tendency (as there is now) for a small group of fans to decide what The Rules are and then enforce that. There may be some negative consequences to that in terms of crazy behavior (s.v. “mailing underwear”) but it will give people a lot more freedom to feel / say what they want. We’re seeing a little of that already, with some venues now having much more relaxed rules than others. It will allow people to find their own level. At least, that’s what I hope will happen.

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  4. Thanks for the interview!! Enjoyed reading it.

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  5. Thanks for the interview. I think we have a certain curiosity about the other fans, who they are, what they think and how they got here!

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    • I agree, and I also think it’s interesting to see how our interests overlap and don’t overlap. I’ve discovered a lot of new to me stuff because of fans who have radically different interests beyond Armitage.

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  6. Yes, I think the issue of fan behaviour/response will never go away! A Fan Summit? FanSum?

    And the video inserts: Armitage Angst… Super interview!

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  7. Just to say, Guy made my skin crawl, too. Fanfic Guy is different, and he’s fun and sexy, but I wouldn’t wish any woman to have suitor like Guy as shown in the series. I was one of the few who thought he had the potential to kill her and thought it was brave that they really let him do it.

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    • At the very beginning of this blog I referred to my reaction to S1 Guy as truly evil, and got a lot of criticism on a fanboard elsewhere for “not really watching the episodes very closely” and that kind of thing. Particularly in the first four episodes of S1 I was really repelled by him.

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  8. great interview, great answers, JB1. love this, Serv, will catch up on other interviews too. This is a great way to know everyone.

    I believe there is nothing right or wrong about fandom as long it doesnt make the subject uncomfortable in any way. What one writes, thinks or talks or even does with regards to a celebrity is harmless if its within that limit.

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    • I’d go further and say that the lines around uncomfortable are hard to determine except in very broad strokes (don’t carve your crush’s initials into your arm), and that active fans can do little / nothing to influence how a crush reacts to his fans. What seems ok to Armitage will be problematic for me or vice versa. It would be helpful if we saw ourselves more in separate spheres than we seem to — it would free everyone.

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  9. Richard Armitage and The RAmones in the one interview, it doesn’t get much better than that! 🙂

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  10. Pardon my ignorance but……uummmmmmmmmmm…..who/what are The Ramones? I’m “ducking for cover”!!!!

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  11. OK, I just looked them up.

    No wonder I didn’t know who they were. In 1974, I was married to a control freak who wouldn’t ALLOW me to tune the radio/television to any popular music show “as only children listen to that cr.p”!!! He wasn’t meaning you…it was simply aimed at me for being such a low-brow in his opinion. So..I missed most of the music that was played from 31 January 1970 (the day I married the creep) until the beginning of the 1980s when our 2 children started watching “Video Hits” every Saturday from 8am to noon. And, yes, I WAS the one who insisted they could do that!

    Now, I’ll have to go onto YouTube to seek out “The Ramones”, won’t I?

    PS…it’s alright….I left the creep in 1982!!!

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  12. […] Armitage. Previous showcases can be found here: bZirk, Eli, LadyKate63, fitzg, Angieklong, khandy, jazzbaby1. I plan to continue this feature intermittently, so if you are interested in being interviewed, […]

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