Armitage branded

[Comments closed, but if you want to discuss this news article you can do so at Frenz‘s. I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days about where I want to take this blog in the next phase of its existence and one consequence of that is that I will publish proportionally more comments-closed posts. You can read what I write today as a sort of allegory about that decision. As always, if comments are closed but you just have to say something, you can email me — the address is in the sidebar behind “blog and blogger.”]

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This post is intentionally cryptic, and as usual, about way more than Richard Armitage. See title of blog.

So, Richard Armitage is now being “branded.” Sounds painful. Or sold as a brand? The Richard Armitage brand? (Not to be salacious, but if there’s ever a logo for the RA brand, I can imagine a segment of fans will definitely want to mark their bodies with it!) I guess it had to happen, and clearly plenty of people are happy that it will be happening as it might get him better roles. Undoubtedly the furious discussion that now ensues will delineate whether it’s being done adequately, with U.S. fans who are used to a different marketing atmosphere than Europeans likely to think that it’s not being done competently enough if the desired result is market saturation (which is what it always is in the U.S., I guess). I thought Scarratt’s later comments about the differing quality of advertising in New Zealand interesting in this light.

As always: my hope is that Richard Armitage is able to define what he wants to make himself happy, communicate that desire to people who can best help him obtain it, and that he gets what he wants in ways that he can live with. If that’s the result, I’m thrilled. Market away, marketers. In the end, I don’t think there’s one right way to market as I don’t think there’s one right way to be an artist — the strategy has to be chosen to achieve the goal, and goals vary strongly according to context.

I’m thinking about something slightly different today, though — something more along the lines of the issues that arise around being talked about. One of the things that marketers seek to accelerate is buzz — and this is why social media should be of such attraction to them. The fact that people talk does matter in all kinds of ways. Certain kinds of careers simply necessitate accepting that one is going to be talked about. Some people are more comfortable with entertaining the possibility that their work — or they — are being discussed than others. Some people have an emotional need to be talked about, while others fear it, but no one can escape it. Some people need emotionally to have more control over this than others, although the possibility that one can control this effect in any meaningful way is illusory. So if you have a career like this, you essentially have to surrender most control over what is said. You can no longer meaningfully manage your own reputation except in the sense of trying to put out stuff that you’re not ashamed of, and of not getting caught in public with your pants down in some irretrievably embarrassing way that gets you photographed (literally or metaphorically).

If you’ve been no one and been talked about and been someone and been talked about, or vice versa, you develop a certain kind of skepticism about the talk — or you should. As one of the people who “knows and loves” the work of Richard Armitage, I was bemused when I read, at RichardArmitageNet.com,  this now widely quoted report from movie.com, with the excerpt, written to sound prophetic:

If you’re Richard Armitage, hopefully you don’t read this sort of thing, but if you do, what do you think when you read it? If you spent all last fall reading (or hearing — if you stopped reading the press about you, or at least said repeatedly that you had) about how you were “wooden,” or too hot to be a dwarf? Do you think: I am the same artist now that I was then? Do you wish people would just shut up until the movie comes out, even as you know that if the movie is to be successful, an army of folks has to make sure that people keep talking about you in the interval? Do you worry about not living up to the hype? Do you secretly wish for the possibility of being able to work without the hype? If you know that you can’t work without the audience, how to get the audience you want? The audience you need? One of the hardest things to accept is that you need the people to be talking — whatever it is they’re saying — but that you can’t believe anything of what is being said. Even as you can’t help but hear it. Because people tell it to you under the assumption that you need to know it or that you’ll be interested, or that you’ll want to know the positive things that are being said (which, from my perspective, are just as hard or harder to hear than the negative ones) or just sort of over your shoulder, as you’re standing somewhere, doing something else entirely different.

I think in the end, the decisive issue is that you’re really not working for these other people who are talking, even if they make your work possible, or even if they are paying you — you’re working for you — and whether you’re wooden or too hot or about to become a household name, it’s about the work and the joy that you get from the work. It’s about what you get to accomplish and experience and learn because you are working, not just for others who enjoy the work, but for yourself, so that you can keep working and keep on loving the work and learning and experiencing. It’s about loving what you do. And trying not to let other things get too mixed up in that love. Trying to love purely, and without confusion over everything else around it. That can be a lot harder than it seems.

May Richard Armitage always find a way to love and feel good about what he’s doing, no matter what anyone — including the marketing machine — says.

~ by Servetus on January 11, 2012.

7 Responses to “Armitage branded”

  1. […] I’ve also written about several aspects of this question before. For example, I’ve already written about the question of his career trajectory in many different forms: as a comment on the importance of projects with a higher culture component (part 1 and part 2) and also as comment on whether he should appear at fan convention events (so I am glad that the way he’s quoted in Total Film suggests that he’s taking this prospect with good humor, even if I suspect he’s clueless about Hobbit fanboys). I commented favorably on his openness about his conclusion, some time ago, that he needs not to worry about what his fans think. In response to the sudden Internet appearance of a marketer at UA, I’ve talked about my hopes that he focuses on what’s important to him, and tries to ignore the branding issue. […]

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  2. […] The other, not unrelated, problem is what the heck I am doing to get wherever the heck it is I’m going. OK, so let’s say what I’m going for is the flow in the vlog picture, Richard Armitage playing Thorin with total concentration. I know how to do this as a professor. (In terms of work. Obviously I’ve had flow experiences as a musician and in religious settings and while writing.) From 1998 to 2011 it felt like a bad marriage; or rather, three of them in sequence as I searched for better relationships and then people believed that my marriage was so good that I’d never leave it. I was finally forced out of the marital estate. I attribute the chain of events that led to that as a consequence of conflict I experienced between the desire for flow and the problems around the consequences of it — and more importantly, my own ability to resolve that dilemma, and to keep all the crap out of my ears and concentrate. […]

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  3. […] role. If he does get Batman, of course, we’ll all have been part of the hype, something that used to drive me crazy but to which I’ve learned to turn a blind eye or occasionally be amused by in the meantime. […]

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  4. […] of the dilemma in that regard, because I am one of the people looking for that information and, however reluctantly, one of the people creating the buzz effect via rippling. I don’t scour the web aggressively […]

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  5. […] relationship with his family. The nature of his intellect. Whether he feels people are always watching him or telling him what to do. Are any of those themes you see in my life? You’ve been reading for years, and some people […]

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  6. […] I have written this many times (here and here and here, at the least), aus gegebenem Anlaß, I will say it […]

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  7. […] or less since Richard Armitage has been in a position to be professionally marketed — this is the first post about this topic that I remember writing, approaching four years ago. Very early on this blog, I stated my emphatic position that the crush […]

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