On the Genesis of Perving: ad quod respondit Servetus — THREE

[Let’s have this image here again since I love it so much. Mmm, left side of the mouth. Mmmmm, slightly more muscular left side of his jaw. Mmmm, smile. Mmmmm, brown-haired Armitage. Mmm, apparent sparkle in his eyes. Serious objectification. Richard Armitage, I have no idea what you were thinking or feeling when this picture of you was taken, but looking at you in it makes me so happy.]

PART ONE IS HERE. On my attempt to disable the argument about the acceptability of ogling based on human evolution, some readers may find this book interesting — note that a few years earlier, the same author made a forceful case for disabling the argument from culture that I made in part one, so I am not presenting this as additional evidence for my case. Part one went on to make the case that vast majority of images of Richard Armitage that are available to fans objectify Armitage for the purpose of marketing. PART TWO IS HERE; its point was to use a historical example to make the case that art, no matter how beautiful, is not free from objectification, so that even if images of Armitage, a living person, can be equated with beautiful art, this comparison does not nullify the objectifications going on in either art or photos of Armitage.

In other words, I do think that what we do, the artistic metaphor notwithstanding, definitely qualities as objectification.

The arguments raised in Judi’s original argument that remain for me to address below:

  • that images only objectify sexually when their purpose is solely or primarily to arouse lust; that images made to appreciate or celebrate beauty are not troubling as objectifications
  • that Richard Armitage’s decision to appear nude or near nude in projects in which he has been involved means that he has exercised agency and is thus not a victim of objectification, even if it is occurring; had he not been willing to experience this outcome, he could / would / should have not disrobed; even if we are objectifying him, his acquiescence to the original depictions means that he acquiesces to objectifications of himself.

[OK, it turns out that although this was supposed to be the last post on this topic, I only got around to the second argument. But tomorrow’s going to be a busy day and I didn’t want to go today without posting. I guess there’ll be a fourth in this series after all. Bear with me.]

Finally, since I’ve gotten some explicit and implicit feedback on this issue that indicates that people understand me to be indicting them for their objectifications or potential objectifications of Richard Armitage, because I’m arguing against Judy, I feel compelled to repeat the following statement, which appeared at the beginning of part one:

I am myself a major objectifier (sexual and analytical) of Richard Armitage, so hopefully nothing I write in this post will make anyone think that I’m pointing fingers at anyone beyond myself. I’ve copped to my fears about objectifying Richard Armitage and the reasons for them, but everything about this blog has turned out to be a journey and my feelings on this topic certainly will go on that journey, as well. Also, I’m not criticizing you if you agree with Judi, or prefer a simpler discussion of these things. Nor do I think less of anyone who just looks at pictures of Richard Armitage and thinks, “beautiful!” “sexy!” “I want him!” or something salacious, and nothing beyond that. I think those things, too. Short of engaging in actual endangerment — and looking at a picture and admiring it, no matter what you think in response, does not directly harm Richard Armitage in any practical way — what you do and think as a fan is your affair.

If this is how you feel, that’s great! Nothing in what I say below seeks to make anyone feel guilty or move them to think or behave any differently than they are. I write here about things that move me to think about them, about problems that concern me — so what I say I am saying only about myself and my observations. It may or may not be of significance to you, but if it holds my attention, I’m going to write about it. I can’t control what you think about that, of course, but if you think that the simple (re-)opening or continuation of the discussion of sexual objectification in the case of Richard Armitage somehow constitutes an indictment, nothing I will ever say on this topic will make you happy. I will say honestly that I think that a clearer discussion of it would defuse some of the apparent anxiety and/or outrage around this issue much better than criticism of the attitudes of other fans. But above all, I say, as I’ve been trying to articulate for months: Let each woman question and follow her own conscience.

***

A potential objectification created for us by the cameraman, which I choose to capture for myself. Lucas North (Richard Armitage) searches a hotel room in Spooks 9.2. My cap, as the one I was aware of on Richard Armitage Central seems to have been removed.

Let’s take the second question first: does Mr. Armitage’s choice to appear in images that have the potential to titillate negate his meaningful capacity to either decry or consider himself harmed by the potential negative consequences of any objectification that occurs as a result?

I’m suspicious of the argument from agency, or rather, I suspect that in the form presented, it’s framed in terms too stark to fit the average person’s experience of work. If I wanted to go Marxist, I’d note that what Richard Armitage does when he works replicates the classic situation of labor’s alienation from the means of production, but I don’t need all the baggage. As one experienced in the practice of doing something similar, I can say it this way: You sign a contract in which you exchange your labor for pay; you get some things, you lose others. You hope that what you’re getting (an artistic project you want to participate in; a teaching job with research responsibilities) is worth more than what you give up (the right to go skiing at any time; the time you otherwise would have spent navel-gazing; complete artistic or professional control over your work and the use of it). You try to control what you can and hope you’ve negotiated for enough pay and that any associated job security won’t be too constricting. The exchange relationship is not mitigated, at least in my opinion, by the fact that some things we contract to do are professional or artistic as opposed to routine or repetitive, or that we like some things we might contract to do (acting; teaching) better than others (publicity; grading). In this sense, acting or professoring are no different from fast food sales — one thing of value is exchanged for another.

On this view, although Armitage is an actor, the assumption that if he takes a role, he acts (in both senses of the word) in accordance with his own will, but that seems slightly too simple to me, or rather, the question of what it is that Armitage wants would have to be examined more closely. No one works in a vacuum; any job done with other people requires a certain sacrifice of individual agency to be completed, but an actor has no choice but to work with others; his profession can’t be practiced alone. He can deliver a great performance and have it edited to shreds, for instance, but one assumes he doesn’t consent to the latter process. Time also plays a role, and so it seems specious to argue that every depiction an actor creates on screen is something that he would have consented to had he been asked in advance. Not only because of contracts, but also because of changing emotions, we might suspect that Mr. Armitage’s will to take the part of Lucas North as it was sold to him in 2007 might have had a different quality than his desire to have his posterior exposed in series 8, or to be forced to destroy that character construction as he was in series 9, before he was written out of the show. Additionally, the whole range of potential contracts is never available to someone who contracts for work, and so people make choices among only the options available to them, and not among an infinite array of possibilities. Richard Armitage might prefer starring in a contemporary play in the West End to Spooks, but he might also prefer Spooks to EastEnders. It seems to me that the only full agency against objectification that Armitage maintains in this context is to say “no” to a job completely. He can will not to take the risk of being objectified if he will accept the negative consequence (lack of exposure; lack of pay) of not taking a role. His statements about his conclusion that acting is the only appropriate career for him tend to balance his desire to act with his incapacity to do other things; so, presumably, he also makes a cost/benefit analysis when he takes a role. He could also refuse to have publicity photos taken, but refusing to promote productions in which he’s involved might also make it difficult to get contracts. This may be the closest he comes to having an agency with regard to his objectification in various roles, but it is a rather weak kind of agency. It says only, “Given certain structural necessities, I am willing to accept certain risks.” Admittedly, objectification is a common risk of becoming a famous actor, so he shouldn’t be surprised by it when it happens. But I don’t think that’s quite the same as saying that he consents to it because of his agency.

Finally, the argument from agency makes two problematic assumptions: the capacity to control a contract in the face of custom, and the ability to control every possible consequence of the contract. In creative careers, while contracts foresee a certain amount of what might happen, they don’t ultimately foresee everything. A contract could never conceivably prevent every possible form of objectification. Film contracts typically specify every form of nudity allowed (or when a double must be provided), but some things are presumably not negotiable. We live in the West where the male torso is a permitted and unremarkable locus of nudity, so it seems to strain credibility, for instance, that Armitage would have much luck — assuming he wanted to — in negotiating a contract in which he could not occasionally be required to remove his shirt. Secondly, we have the issue of controlling interpretation. Armitage may able to control which parts of his body appear nude on screen, but he has absolutely no control over how people interpret those appearances. In other words, objectification inheres not simply in the images that are made, but also in the interpretive act of the viewer. Taking agency to consent to any particular depiction of his body on screen cannot possibly be construed to be the equivalent of consenting to every possible interpretive act that a viewer could use that depiction for. The rear nudity in Spooks 8.4 has been put to very different use in fanvids than it was in the plot of the episode. In that second sense of objectification, Richard Armitage has little to no agency, except, again, in the sense of the nuclear option: he can will not to take a role.

OK, I’m stopping there for tonight because the next chunk — objectification and the beauty of image — is a lot longer and not done yet. Thanks for your patience. Don’t worry; it won’t be heavy all week. I continue to strive to provide variety here.

~ by Servetus on October 17, 2011.

105 Responses to “On the Genesis of Perving: ad quod respondit Servetus — THREE”

  1. That photo of Richard at the cricket match in NZ makes me smile, too – he looks so relaxed and natural. I will have to read all your posts about this subject in more detail a little later as I’ve promised myself I’ll spend less time on the computer today! But I’m sure it’s going to be both interesting and insightful reading. Notice how I didn’t mention the lovely shot of his bottom?

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  2. It is really very simple. If he doesn’t want to be objectified he has to stop being beautiful. Stop working out and start a diet of Hamburgers. The naked body of person who isn’t beautiful sends a totally different message. Beauty is always titillating no matter in which context. Why did they show Lucas’ naked backside when he had to disrobe in 8.4 but not Harry’s in 9.8? And if they show a realistically build/elderly/overweight person naked they get the artistic message across (often vulnerability) without providing an erotic thrill. So problem is not that he appears naked or half naked but that he has a beautiful body and works hard to keep it beautiful.

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    • In “Between the Sheets”, I had to admire Brenda Blethyn and Alun Armstrong for having the courage, as more mature actors, to shed their clothes (but with less exposure than Richard and Julie Graham). I very much doubt they were objectified to anywhere near the extent RA (yep,guilty! 😉 ) and probably JG were.

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      • Recently the BBC did quite a few serious dramas that had a lot of nudity done by perfectly respectable actors that had normal bodies (as opposed to gym fit bodies like RA’s). I perceived that differently, as brutally honest, not as an erotic thrill, even if it is an erotic scene.

        RA says he looks forward to being old and fat and not being asked to take his shirt off any more. He can have that at forty, he just has to neglect himself and allow himself to look like a slightly overweight middle aged man. Perhaps that will do the trick to get character roles. He may say he only works out to be able to cope with the demands of the role respectively create a realistic appearance for the character but the result will always be that he is objectified as long as he’s beautiful.

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        • Human nature being what it is, we are drawn to beauty in all its guises – in nature, music, architecture, art. The human body is no exception.
          Nature gave Richard Armitage blue eyes one can drown in, aquiline nose, strong jaw, broad shoulders and long limbs. He can’t help it if we perceive these features as being beautiful when we look at him, both individually and as a whole (then again, there are many other women who don’t see any beauty in him at all. What the heck is wrong with them ?!! LOL)
          His early dance training required discipline, dancers need to be strong, fit and healthy. He has obviously maintained that discipline through the intervening years, and not, I think, in just working out for certain roles. He doesn’t appear to be a vain person, but his livelihood depends on him being fit and healthy, as he has pursued a punishing work schedule in the past (2010 was a very busy year for example)
          He may say he looks forward to being old and fat, but I can’t see him letting himself go, to the point where his health and wellbeing is compromised. He is aging gracefully. I think he looks forty.
          I believe the character roles will come his way because his amazing talent and commitment to his craft will be recognized, not because he stops working out.

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          • Completely agree with you, Mezz. His training as a dancer is crucial to his whole attitude to his body for me. He is a whole body actor because his dance training has given him a level of control and understanding of his body as a tool which other actors, who come from a different background, may not have. He will always want to preserve this tool and could be quite uncomfortable if his body was out of shape. I suspect his metabolism is such that he is unlikely to end up fat and bloated anyway. With time his body will change but old and fat, no way.

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            • A dancer needs a well developed upper body to lift his partner but these days and in the days of BTS as well the pecs and biceps are the result of weight lifting.

              I’m always thinking of John Simm in Exile as he joins his sick father in the bath. He’s not at all overweight but not gym fit either. He’s a real person in a difficult and intimate situation and seeing him naked in the bath doesn’t provide an erotic trill. Had RA looking as he does acted the same scene with the same skill his attractive body would have been a distraction and taken away some of the truthfulness of the scene.

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              • I think I understand the point you are making Jane, but I don’t believe RA should have to stop working out if that’s what he wants to do in order to feel good.
                There are always going to be those viewers who see the erotic in any nude scene, regardless of the circumstances. Richard is hired for his wonderful talent and detailed acting. Yes, he also looks good, but a strong storyline and script are wasted if those first two elements are missing. As long as he honours the script and does what the director asks of him, at the end of the day he is not responsible for the individual reactions of viewers. (BTW I haven’t seen Exile, so I can’t comment on that particular scene)

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                • Exile may be a bad exmple as I heard it was written specifically for JS but point is, RA doesn’t get roles like that. Instead he is hired at least partly to provide an erotic thrill for the female audience. I never forget that I read a tweet by a woman after SB aired, saying it was rubbish, but RA took his shirt off, so all is well.

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                  • I don’t usually watch boys with toys shows like SB, on paper it didn’t have much going for it. I’m glad RA took his shirt off too! 🙂 But this woman aside, I and countless others appreciated the way Richard gave us a hero we could love, admire and hurt for. RA didn’t like the script either, but it was a challenge for him, and if I recall correctly, it led to his casting in CA. The producers saw the promo pictures of SB and wanted him. The role of Thorin is proof to me that RA is now being recognised for his talent and not his looks.

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                    • Thorin will look a lot more attractive then the character was originally intended to look and I don’t think that is a coincidence.

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                    • Agree. Although not as attractive as they could have made him. And probably not as attractive as Aidan Turner 🙂

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                    • So, again he gets cast at least initially on the basis of a picture — depending on how you see this it could be a real argument to work on maintaining his looks …

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                  • I think Sky was definitely interested in that aspect of it. I imagine that’s why the male actors were even more strongly objectified in SB2 — they saw how well it worked with Armitage.

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                    • For me personally, all that objectifying is tiresome unless there is a strong storyline and interesting script, and/or very good actors who somehow carry the whole thing as RA did in SB1. From what reviews I’ve read, the gratuitous stuff didn’t help SB2 rise above being rubbish, and as much as I enjoyed the first series, I won’t be watching the second. It will be interesting to see if dvd sales are up on the first series because of said gratuitous stuff.
                      RA could have stayed fully clothed in SB1 and I still would have enjoyed it because it gave me a hero to love and admire in John Porter.

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              • But I wonder how / whether it would be possible to dress John Simm up as an erotic object at all. I can imagine I’d find him sexy if I were his girlfriend, i.e., if I loved him, but probably not otherwise. He seemed sweet in that show about the cop who got thrown back in time.

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                • I just happen to have a friend who is a John Simm fan. She thinks he’s cute and sexy. She tried to show some of his nude clips. He didn’t ring my bell. 😉

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                  • I’ve looked up images of him and he doesn’t ring my bell either, judiang! But then, neither does Benedict Cumberbatch, and he seems to have a large following who think he’s yummy. Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder. 🙂

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                    • Yea…a girl after my own heart. Benedict is a great actor and I’m looking forward to seeing him (and Colin Firth – still yummy after all these years, bless him!) in “Tinker, Tailor, etc.” But he doesn’t do it for me, either. John Simm is also a fine actor – I’ve seen him in a few roles but not in “Life on Mars”. I saw the American version with the yummy Jason O’Mara and loved it. Jason is a hunk, John isn’t in my opinion. I just don’t think Richard should be required to downplay his looks in order to be taken seriously. Peter Jackson DID NOT cast him as Thorin because he thought RA was “a pretty boy” – he’s said so. He also didn’t have much of an idea of just how many differing roles Ra has played. Richard had to audition just the way everyone else did and as an almost unknown to the casting crew. Doesn’t that say something about the quality of his audition? And, Servetus is so right – PJ’s interpretation of Thorin is less attractive than Kili and Fili!!

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            • Pam, I am still mesmerised when I see him dancing. He’s controlled and strong, with those long graceful limbs. Just beautiful. Being a dancer certainly adds another dimension to his acting.

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            • I don’t see him getting fat, but I also think as a dancer he probably has a slightly different definition of “fat” than I do.

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          • It’s my impression that he’s working out a lot harder now than he was at the beginning of the century. Lee in Cold Feet might have been supposed to have “a perfect six pack” but he’s not spectacular in the way that Guy, Lucas and John Porter all were. Armitage’s face is also leaner — one suspects he’s watching what he eats more carefully now, too.

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      • Re JG: there was an article in the Sunday Times which has unfortunately disappeared now in which she discussed her tendency to get cast in roles where she undressed. It wasn’t a problem for her until she had kids, if I remember correctly.

        This comparison might be a good example of what Jane is talking about: Brenda Blethyn is really beautiful when she undresses –we see her from the rear. But she’s not a source of sexual objectification. (I don’t think.)

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    • Part of the reason it took me so long to respond to this post was the quality of this exchange. Great starting place, Jane.

      I find myself wondering if part of it is just structural. John Simm is short, slight, and a little funny looking. Richard Armitage is tall, not slight no matter how thing he gets, and has striking features. If he thinks he’s going to get cast according to type, then it can’t possibly pay for him to “let himself go.” He needs the beautiful body. John Simm would never have been cast as Lucas North in a million years. He may get roles with more “normal” features just because he is a more average looking guy to start with.

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      • It would be interesting to know in the light of what is being discussed here, just what kind of roles RA has been offered in the past few years as his career has taken off.

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      • Then he needs to go for roles against type. It did work in Sparkhouse. While JS certainly was a big strong guy he wasn’t sexy in the way later characters were. He needs a JS role again. Not necessarily cripplingly shy, but ordinary.

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        • I was thinking of the roles he has been offered by production houses(and turned down), perhaps for sexy action hero/dark and brooding period character, as opposed to those he and his agent have been actively seeking. I would imagine that the latter roles would be more along the lines of Sparkhouse. Certainly his agent was very smart putting his name up for an audition for the Hobbit.

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          • Everyone did audition for the Hobbit, nothing smart about that. 🙂

            He has to make the transition to middle aged character actor at some point and he knows it. Not only for the sake of the artistic merit of his work but because otherwise he will be out of work when he’s getting old and fat.

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            • Granted, there would have been a great many auditioning for TH. Even more kudos then to RA for actually landing the Thorin role against such enormous competition. What I was getting at was that he and his agent don’t appear to be settling for the typecast roles. RA didn’t HAVE to audition for TH, but it certainly proves that he’s “going against type” in the kind of work he’s seeking.

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              • I actually think with Thorin he is NOT going against type, quite the contrary. I remember many fans saying they are certain he can pull it off because he has portrayed similar characters before.

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                • So, what exactly is your point?

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                  • He’s still getting typecast. Getting typecast and relying too much on his looks are his big problems.

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                    • Ok..he’s still getting typecast and he’s relying on his looks…….

                      so (1) directors/producers/casting crews are type-casting Richard????

                      and (2) Richard’s relying on his looks……
                      to get parts??????

                      As for (1) how is that Richard’s fault if he’s perceived a certain way by these people in?

                      As for (2) you thinkhe relies on his looks because…. he has no talent?.

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                    • I’m just trying to get it straight

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                    • or are you saying that:

                      Richard should audition for only those roles where his looks are totally downplayed (almost like he’s in disguise?)?

                      or

                      he should give up any thought of continuing his fitness regime that’s been ongoing for years?

                      or

                      he should dye his hair grey and purposefully develop more wrinkles?

                      My son is 5 months older than Richard – he has fewer wrinkles than Richard and no grey in his hair. Matthew has always played sport and been very fit. He also eats healthily most of the time.

                      So why should Richard be expected to deliberately look old before his time?

                      Are you going to write to Richard to tell him what he should do to satisfy your idea of how he’s supposed to make it in showbusiness as a mature man?

                      I think he looks 40

                      But then….40’s NOT old

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                    • Jane, I agree with you, and it’s an interesting point because it’s not a completely obvious one. In many ways Thorin is strongly conformative to his previous roles.

                      I suspect he has a lot to balance in making career decisions. I had wondered if The Hobbit was going to be the money role, and that he’d disappear from the big screen afterwards to act only on London stages.

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                • That’s interesting, Jane. I’m still pondering the elements nearly two years later. Pretty sure that he is talented. Roles as Standring and even Paul Andrews suggest that. And Lucas in general. The “micro-expressions” are often so recognizable, but vary according to the role. (Not an SB fan – though it was a good production) On the other hand, I don’t think it has been type-casting, as much as producers recognizing a reliable talent, and yes, exploiting the physical elements. There are many English actors who never become internationally known, but who have solid credentials in British TV and stage – WORKING ACTORS”! Jason Isaacs comes to mind, and he could become much much better known in N.A. for the current Masterpiece Mystery series. Well, we’ll see what transpires after The Hobbit. Fingers (and toes) crossed.

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                • Some characteristics of Thorin as described by those who are more familiar with him from the book than I am: strong, fearless, a revered leader, obstinate, wilful, proud, quick to anger, holds grudges forever, greedy/weak for gold, pompous, formal. I would say a complex character, and one that will give RA plenty to work with. Add the makeup, prosthetics, hair, beard and up to 20kg (can’t remember where I read that) of costume/armour, and I would say Thorin is nothing like anything Richard has done before. 🙂

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                  • Exactly, mezz.

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                  • Thorin is dark and brooding and some kind of action hero, which is exactly what RA is famous for. As a leader and a warrior and someone who has lost his lands and status he also has elements of John Thornton and Guy. I’m still happier with Thorin then I would be with the more obvious choice, Bard or an elf, but had really hoped he would be older and less recognizable.

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                    • but why do you want Richard to be unrecognizable?

                      I simply can’t understand why you’re not thrilled that he’s playing Thorin.

                      What if PJ had cast Brad Pitt (now there’s a pretty boy for you)?

                      I don’t notice Mr Pitt getting to play “against type” too often and he’s older than Richard

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                    • Kathryn – giggle. I think we are all not talking from opposing views, so much as trying to work through our individual reactions to “Why RA?). PITT!!! As Thorin Or anything in a PJ film. (my bilingual keyboard has just switched to French letters, no more É -er Q-marks) BP was outacted by Ken Watanabe in The Last Samurai, and by Christian in Inglourius Bastards. But I think the debate is just helping, as you mentioned, clarification.

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                    • “I’m still happier with Thorin THAN I would be, etc.”

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                    • I’m glad you realized I was “having a go”, fitzg, when I threw in Brad Pitt’s name! I was trying to think of a famous guy in his forties.. but older than Richard.. and a “pretty boy”!!! His was the 1st name that popped into my head.

                      Ah ha…….why PJ chose RA to play Thorin, you mean?

                      I am so flippin’ thick sometimes, I amaze myself!

                      I thought Jane was complaining that RA was too well-preserved for his age (he’s not – there are plenty of English men of 40 with fewer wrinkles) and that he had to stop looking so good or soon he’d be passed over for roles. Like he’d just go from pretty boy roles to oblivion or something!!!

                      I also thought she thought Richard was in some way personally complicit in Thorin’s being interpreted as younger than Tolkien described him.

                      See….I knew I should have gone to bed at least 90 mins.ago – THEN (note the correct usage of that word here, please) I might not have asked such stupid questions and made such stupid comments.

                      I do apologize.

                      “night, night”, ladies (it’s almost 1am at my place)

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                    • Oh, I am thrilled with the role of Thorin. But the idea that he wants to uglify himself, shave his head, play an Elephant man role etc. really comes from RA himself. In order to take the element of being sexually appealing away and let his acting, and only his acting, shine.

                      I thought a dwarf might be that role, but given that Thorin is not geriatric, that he has the appeal of a kingly, powerful warrior (not exactly a pretty boy, but still appealing to women) and looks decidedly human, he might not be.

                      As to BP, whatever one thinks of him, the days of the pretty boy with the golden hair are long gone and he gets lots of heavyweight and acclaimed stuff. RA may or may not be the better actor, he yet has to get there.

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                    • I would say, also, in terms of the pattern: archetype, archetype, archetype. You seem to be pulling for roles that fall outside the box.

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  3. I’m really enjoying your posts on this topic servetus. My first thought on reading this is that I would love to know what Richard’s response would be. Does it frustrate him, detailed and talented actor that he is, that nudity such as the one in Spooks 8.4, which was fraught with so much meaning in the context of the storyline, is relegated to just a gratuitous bum pic in fanfids? Or does he just shrug it off as a downside to his work that he has no control over, once that work is out in the public arena? I have a lump in my throat every time I see Lucas’s vulnerability and pain in his relationship with Darshavin, but at the same time I don’t stop appreciating what a fine figure of a man he is in that state of undress. 😉 I can’t help myself, the sight of him, any which way, makes me happy, and makes my tummy do flip-flops.
    I love that first pic too! Unfortunately, candid shots like this have been scarce this year.

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    • With regard to nudity and Spooks, it is interesting to note that this final series has been nudity free. Perhaps because it is only six episodes long and the focus is on Harry but the writers didn’t have Dimitri overly exposed when he was a honey trap. What does this say? No-one can compare to RA (well we know that!), no-one is as willing as RA, no-one has so large an audience for bit of flesh as RA. Not sure. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts.

      By the way Spooks 10 is well worth watching. Truly you forget there used to be that tall bloke on the Grid and become engrossed in the story of Harry’s final demise (?). Give it a go ladies.

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      • Thanks for that Pam. Spooks 10 won’t be aired until early next year here in Australia, but I’ll probably watch it given it’s the final season. Hopefully I won’t feel so raw about Lucas’s death by then. I will definitely NOT be watching SB2, knowing JP’s fate, even though it has Aussie Sullivan Stapleton in a lead role.

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      • I’m going to watch it eventually, I assume. Maybe over Christmas. Right now to see it I’d have to watch it illegally and it’s not worth it for me for that — then I’d feel a compulsion to buy it on DVD when it comes out and I’m thinking I likely won’t want to do that.

        Interesting point about the lack of nudity in S10 of Spooks. I wonder what role the “people pleaser” element of Armitage’s personality plays in all of this, too.

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        • I think that was mostly because in this series the focus was not on the “handsome male lead” but on Harry. The was also no serious love interest for anyone. But in earlier series RPJ definetely had a large audience for a bit of flesh. 😉

          With MM as Tom, we didn’t get that much but then he is more the “real looking type” like John Simms mentioned above, not the pin up type like RPJ and RA.

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          • Spoiler Spooks 6, in case anybody hasn’t yet seen it.

            In Spooks 6 Adam Carter has an affair with an asset, who tries to kill him, by drugging him and drowning him in the bath. Ros saves him. This whole scene, which runs for several minutes, is done with RPJ completely nude, including a fleeting full frontal. He staggers and falls, is dragged, heaved and rolled. It is very intense, and his nudity serves to heighten his vulnerability immensely. Gratuitous? I don’t think so, Adam is fighting for his life. Certainly not erotic, for all RPJ’s good looks. Yet he is more physically exposed in those few minutes than Lucas was in three series. Context is certainly everything, but in the end, the actor still has no control over how he/she is perceived by the viewer.

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    • he’s said different things in the press. He’s definitely aware of the general problem, having made comments about “gratuitous torso shots,” for example.

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      • I doubt there’ll be “gratuitous torso shots” in TH, so he doesn’t have to worry on that score, and hopefully it will keep the “body beautiful” typecasting at bay for a while.

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        • In one of the production diaries I saw pics of naked dwarves on the wall of the designer’s office! So who knows…They definitely have an idea how they look under all the layers of cloths. And then there is a scene in the book with them bathing in a river and drying in the sun afterwards.

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  4. SQUEEE!! 🙂

    Have a strong sense that he knows -oh yes!- what he´s doing in the shot, and more importantly, gets the freedom and the trust from directors (Spooks springs to mind) to plug his ideas. Read also the Max Brown´s answer on question #5 http://www.indielondon.co.uk/TV-Review/spooks-max-brown-interview

    Don´t rule out the huge feedback he gets on his roles. Partially objectified, but he does gets it (in more than one way).

    For the rest, I´m old fashioned and therefore hopeless at Armitage Studies!

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    • Yeah, I wasn’t arguing that he doesn’t participate in his own objectification. Just that I disagree with the claim that the fact of his agency means that he’s responsible for any objectification that occurs, or at least has given up the right to object to it, or that we don’t have to worry about objectification because he can have assumed to have consented to it.

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  5. I spoke of RA’s agency in the context of being nude for a purposefully erotic scene. In that context like in BtS, the script clearly stated what was expected of him. He can opt accept the role or not based on that information. The Spooks episode was intended to portray his vulnerability. I suspect he doesn’t care if a segment of his audience manages to objectify that clip because he cannot control them; he has done what the script intended. Even if he was aware of the titillation factor, he’s aware part of his selling factor is his looks and body; it’s something he’s had to accept to move ahead in his career.

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    • It’s interesting that the interview he did about that said that he hadn’t realized the role involved nudity until he had accepted it. I thought that had to be bogus. You can’t really say you want to be seen like that; it would militate both against general social mores (he’d be saying he was an exhibitionist) and against his modesty guise.

      But back to the agency issue. Doesn’t your point that he takes roles to move ahead in his career mitigate the total agency you attribute to him?

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  6. Beeing an actor does inherit exposure per se and also having a certain kind of extroversion. You need that explicit urge to go on stage or in front of a camera. Whatever you do, act or create there, assumes an independent existence and is beyond your further control regarding the audience. Actors are aware or at least should be aware of this fact. Working at a theatre for a really long time, this never seemed to be a substantial issue. Even then there are differences: some actors (like our beloved RA) are wielding this matter of display otherwise in public and therefore always appear to be more modest.
    I keep on asking me lately (after my providential, life-changing encounter with Mr. Armitage/John Thornton exactly a year ago!!), why I never felt that urge/necessity to go on stage myself.
    Like Sevetus wrote, whenever you step out in such as open forums (or onstage), whatever kind of opinion you hold or whatever you try to put across, you will receive reactions. And sometimes not only the nicest ones. Everybody who watches a perfomance (play or film) or reads blogs reacts and understands totally different, according to their varying live experiences. Objectification is part of this profession, it can´t be avoided and is at times partially intended.(Puff is part of the trade!! A really common saying in theatreworld!!). I´m not talking of really nasty excesses, like stalking and other inappropriate behaviour on the side of the viewers. This is always the utter negative moiety of this topic.

    Before I forget, I love that candid pic and (I have to confess :-)) especially that potential objectification created for us by the cameraman and brought to us by servetus………

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    • This is what always provokes me when I read interviews with him that say he’s an introvert or shy. Yes, ok, but it must be a specific kind of shyness. (Then again, I always test as an introvert on Meyers Briggs and most people who know me think that’s crazy.) I think you have to accept that people are going to look at you.

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      • I always come up as an extrovert…but I’m shy! I can understand exactly why Richard says he’s shy because I can see it in his interviews. You know that almost “cringing” when Lorraine Kelly called him “a beautiful boy” or when John Rhys Griffiths says that women will be chasing the dwarves down the street? It’s very fleeting but it’s there. Or it’s there if you (the viewer) are shy yourself! I’m not explaining this very well – wish I could actually speak to you about this in personl – I might have a better chance of getting my point across. Richard has had to learn to put his shyness aside so that he can operate in showbusiness. That may sound contradictory but it isn’t, believe me.

        If I could give you a personal example, please? My family moved around quite a bit when I was young so my father (an unskilled man) could find work. By the time I was 14, I was on my 16th school! Sometimes, I’d be at a school for only 3 months.

        It was horrible! I was this shy plain little kid who was relatively good at lessons but hopeless at sport. But i learned to “push myself” to make friends. Most people simply laugh when I say I’m shy because I don’t ACT it

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        • I’ve never been tested, but I’m considered an extrovert with family and friends, people I know and am comfortable with. However, I AM shy, and find it difficult to meet new people. I really have to push myself to get out there in unfamiliar settings. Like you kathryn, I moved around a bit as a child, nowhere near as much as you though. Instead of making me more adept at socializing, I found it became harder as I got older to settle in at a new school. As a teacher I found it easier to stand up in front of a school assembly of 300+ students and staff and talk, than it is to walk into a party/gathering where I don’t know anybody. Because it was part of my job. Just as being an actor means putting yourself out there. Being shy doesn’t need to be a stumbling block to becoming an actor, perhaps because one is taking on other characters altogether. Richard has often said he loses himself in a character. Even interviews can involve role-playing to a degree, but I think he has simply become better and more assured at handling that side of his career.

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          • Yeah, I still find it really difficult to go out and meet people. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now…..instead of being holed-up in my little house with my trusty computer! I know I have to do it..and soon…but, gee, I wish I didn’t have to. Believe it or not, I was in some school plays and in 1 or 2 local community ones in my late teens. It was nerve-racking but you do “lose yourself” in the part. But, as I don’t really want to be a total loser, I need to leave my house in order to make some new friends. I don’t have a social life at all, apart from my visits to see my son and my darling grandbabies. As I’ve been out of work for a very long time, I’ve lost contact with so many people over the years; a distinct lack of funds doesn’t help much either. But I’ve done it before on a very tight budget and I know I can do it again – it’s just getting started that’s the hard part! OK, I’m off to phone U3A to get a current prospectus – there just might be an odd class or 2 I can get into before the close of the school year. But, wait, I’ll just watch “Sparkhouse” again – need an Armitage fix first!

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            • Kathryn, if I have day where I don’t have to go out AT ALL, I love it! I’m perfectly happy with my own company, just pottering around the house and garden. I’ve been out this morning, but have found myself sitting at my laptop ever since I returned home. This blog has me hooked. Are you there, servetus? It’s your fault my ironing and sewing isn’t getting done!! LOL 🙂

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        • I think it makes a huge difference whether one appears in character or as oneself in front of an audience. I’m not shy in my job because I’m playing a role I feel safe in and I’m even wearing a kind of costume that sets me apart from my private self. I think this is the case with many people that work with people. When you’re in character your real self is protected. Even if like in BTS the character is naked and pretends to have sex.

          I met a woman who attended the theatre gala last year and her impression of RA was very shy (and his character obviously wasn’t). She said at the curtain call he did hide behind all the other actors, like he sometimes does in pics, whereas some of the others appeared every comfortable and extroverted as themselves. She even thinks that his shyness may prevent him from returning to the stage.

          Or to bring up John Simm again, he is apparently very shy, to the degree that he doesn’t come across well when appearing in public. He also said he was a singer in a band but that was too much exposure as himself on a stage, so he had to give it up.

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          • agree that the role helps a lot. I’m practiced at being Professor Servetus but she’s a version of me created for a lecture hall.

            Not contesting the shyness impression — but he may have the habit of going to the back also just as being a tall person. But interesting the note about the shyness and the stage.

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        • I should have clarified that MB would distinguish introversion from shyness (I wrote introvert or shy, but that probably wasn’t enough of a headsup). I was a shy kid, but my parents socialized me out of that rather forcefully. I’m not shy any more. But I’ll always be an introvert.

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      • In Myers Briggs, the terms Introvert and Extrovert are not defined in the same terms as we use them normally, hence the fact, as others have commented, that you can be an E and still be shy. I did a ‘guess the MB type’ on RA a few months ago and I recall I thought he would be a borderline I.

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        • Hi, I’ve actually been out for a while! (Just to go to the chemist and supermarket and then have a quick bite to eat, I must admit!). Pam, I guess I should have said that I’m borderline on the Myers/Briggs test, too. Sorry I didn’t make that clear. Mezz, I quite like being on my own, too, but because I’m a chatterbox (as you may have guessed!!), most people think that I must be depressed or somesuch if I’m home alone most of the time. I have many acquaintances but only one close friend who’s also been “off-colour” quite a bit lately as I have. She also lives over an hour from Canberra so I need a companion nearby to come to the movies, go for a walk or for a coffee with me or even watch a DVD. But never fear, I’ll survive until I do! “The cock-eyed optimist” is my middle name.

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        • Pam, interesting. How far into I did you estimate him being?

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  7. I think that the scenes in BTS between Paul and Alona were purposely erotic – objectified to emphasize the complete mental and emotional distance between them.

    The actor has referred wryly to “taking the kit off”. I don’t have the impression that he is ashamed of it, or that it he feels it gratuitous in the context of the work he’s done. Or will do. (Thorin is probably safe, though!) 😀

    Are servetus and judiang debating two sides of the same coin? I’m not sure, but thoroughly enjoying the debate. Does Richard Armitage allow an exploitation of his body to sell his work? And himself to get the role? Or has he perceived the scripts as having merit? What we, the audience do with the visual -um- overload, is within our domain. And he rightly maintains dignified distance from that.

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    • yeah, I think a lot of the whole point of Alona’s frustration was to show that she really wasn’t treating him like a person — just as someone who could provide sex for her.

      I suspect that anyone who’s been dancing professionally since he was 17 and acting since his mid-20s has a strongly different relationship with his body than I can really conceive. He must inter alia also have a really different response to being touched, since he’s constantly being measured, made up, adjusted, directed, moved by others. “The gimp,” as he says. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to think about this / write about it, but haven’t come up with one yet.

      I don’t think that Judi and I disagree so much as we set different emphases on what we see. Maybe it’s that I see objectification as a slightly broader phenomenon, and thus, a larger problem, than Judi did in her original post. I’ve got one more to go on this topic, we’ll see if I get it done tonight.

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      • Re “different response to being touched”: Obviously actors have to touch their screen partners a lot. I may be wrong but I always think doing a love scene is in the end no different from doing a choreographed dance or fight scene. Just like being touched by a doctor or a hair dresser is not at all the same as being touched by a person one is close to. It is strictly professional. And naked skin is just another costume.

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        • Well put Jane.
          There was an Australian pay tv series called Satisfaction, which ran for three seasons. It was based on the women (and one man) who were sex workers/escorts at a high-end brothel, and dealt with not only their professional lives, but their personal ones as well. Very explicit, but in light of the subject matter, sex scenes were always going to be part and parcel of the whole deal. However, they weren’t the most important. Personalities, relationships, and rivalries were all dealt with in depth. The cast included many experienced and well respected actors, both as regulars and guests. What I found most interesting was the behind the scenes feature on one of the dvds, where they showed how a sex scene is set up. The whole scene is choreographed to the smallest detail. The actors run through it fully clothed first, then in underwear/robe, then nude if the scene requires it. Lighting, camera angles etc are all fine tuned. To see and hear the actors move and talk their way through it was fascinating, they were very matter-of-fact and respectful. I would say this aspect of their work is part of their professional training, as it probably would have been for RA at LAMDA.

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          • Sorry, should have proof read properly. After the clothed etc run throughs, only then is the scene actually filmed in the nude. I think I gave the impression the actors have to hang around in the nude while the tech stuff is adjusted! 🙂

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        • I do think that it is a learned behavior like any other (supposedly acting schools have classes on how to act in the nude). I just think that that’s different from my reaction to being touched. For instance, I find the worst part of the dentist office the fact that people are so close to my face. This is an unnatural reaction, insofar as it was created through a series of bad years with an optometrist, but if you were an actor, you couldn’t afford that. You have to let people touch you all the time.

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      • a bit OT: can we imagine how it feels like to get dressed in no small number of heavy looking layers of costume, made up for hours and getting finally adjusted?? Not only for weeks, but for more than a year, almost every day! And all this by a great many of different hands all over you (re beeing touched) ?? Uhhh. This must be incredibly (epic!) strenuous. I´m recently ponderung about this quite a lot.

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        • yeah, I find contemplating that really awful. If it were a condition of my work that before every lecture I had to be dressed, combed, madeup, lit, and arranged by a small team of people I’d find another career.

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  8. OK…I’m feeling a little dozy…..but here goes:

    Jane, I don’t quite understand what your last comment means.

    I have a 2005 unabridged audiobook of “The Hobbit” which I’ve listened to 4 times in recent months and, from memory, Tolkien doesn’t actually give a detailed description of how Thorin looks.

    Do you think that the makeup people haven’t made Richard look dwarfish enough or..?

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  9. I will apologize in advance……I certainly didn’t mean to offend in any way, Just curious.

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  10. Of all the comments I have read since Thorin was revealed, there may have been only one or two complaints that he looked too attractive. Too young? Not grey enough? Yes, but Peter Jackson has said Thorin is in good hands with RA, and I think he was very smart with his casting in LOTR. Fili and Kili I think are the ones who will wear the “sexy dwarf” label.

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    • He IS one of the less dwarfish looking dwarves and looks younger then some of the others, not quite what one would expect of the eldest dwarf. I’m not saying how Thorin looks is totally against the book but I think it is no coincidence that PJ choose this interpretation and did not downplay RA’s looks more. He has to please an audience after all.

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      • They need women to come to those films, too.

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        • Personally I think I see the attractiveness/sexy dwarf in Thorin because I am so familiar with RA’s looks under the makeup and prosthetics, and there is no escaping his beautiful eyes. Perhaps those of us caught up in Armitagemania see him differently to people who are not familiar with him at all.

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  11. In terms of contibuting to his own objectification, no doubt actors, male or female, feel the need to capitalize on every asset they possess. (have to have a giggle here – Masterpiece is on in the background. I didn’t catch the title of the mystery, but Keith Allen is sitting topless at a table, standing and walking around with open trousers at hip level…Sheriff in the bathtub??? Not sure his bare chest is a BIG asset 😀 )

    What was I trying to say? Just rabbiting on about agency…the fact that Armitage is a rather good character actor can’t prevent producers etc. exploiting the other assets, nor the actor from taking some modest pride in his looks and maintaining them.

    (Ah – it’s the Kate Atkinson mystery series, Jackson Brody.)

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    • Keith Allen LOVES walking around naked or half naked. Reportedly he did it on the RH set all the time, not just on screen, and I also remember seeing more of him then I wished to in Case Histories.

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  12. Yes yes, what Fitz said! Thanks Fitzg 😉

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  13. Of course, “modest pride” is relative…:D )

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  14. okay, but that means he’s not free. He can’t just decide yes or no; or it’s not realistic to say that he does. If he has no real power to say no except the nuclear option (to say “not at all”) that doesn’t seem like a very strong agency to me.

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  15. What is meant by freedom, exactly, in the context of this debate? An absolute? Or a relative power? Does anyone have extensive power in terms of career path? What compromises or sacrifices are faced?

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    • For me, “lack of agency” means that the structural situation indicates that there is no way for the actor to get the optimal situation simply through his own choices. He requires the cooperation of myriad others. And for every additional person required to achieve his optimal outcome, he surrenders a bit more for his agency. That’s why I find it troubling to say, “well, he’s an adult, he could predict what happened, no one made him do this.” I think that overstates his control.

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  16. I don’t believe that most actors would have enough say (in how a role is played) to be able to dictate too many “I won’t do……” or “…….”, do you? It’s not as if Richard is one of the Hollywood A-list actors. I think most of the Hollywood B-listers, etc., would have to accept compromise to some degree, if they want to remain in the business longterm. I’m afraid I can’t see that (apart from BTS, perhaps) RA has in way “exploited” himself or been hypocritical of his beliefs. Can we really know his belief system anyway, seeing none of us knows him personally? We can only assume we know.

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    • No, we don’t know, but I’m not arguing in the post that we do know what he wants or doesn’t want, only saying that in the career situations in which he finds himself, he lacks the power to decide independently and thus can’t be attributed the entire responsibility for the fact that objectification occurs. It’s also different to say, “this is the outcome I wanted” than to say, “I can accept this outcome.” I suspect that the latter position is closer to what he would say if we were able to ask him than the former. And I suspect that at least on that, Judi would agree.

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      • Oh, now I see (I think?). I agree with you that it would be more the case of “I can accept this outcome”- he can’t control how viewers perceive him in any given role. Also agree that, with so many people involved in the process from an actor’s auditioning for a part to his actually playing the part on screen, he’s not totally responsible for how the character is portrayed

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  17. […] Image: me+richard […]

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  18. […] Image: me+richard […]

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  19. […] Image: me+richard […]

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