Atlas Armitage

[Atlas, who held the world on his shoulders]

A lot of people have told me lately they think that much of my analytical writing about Richard Armitage involves an act of distancing. For example: I write three separate posts (one, two, three) about his wardrobe, but it takes me over a year to say what I really think about it.

I’m not sure what I think of this diagnosis; on one level it’s surely true that I use close readings to distance myself from things. But I also do them because I love things. And it’s not like it’s either / or. I can look closely and analyze and also love.

So what do I love today?

Richard Armitage, I love your shoulders.

I love their very architecture, the fascinating combination of undulating curve and firm corner. Usually I’d use this as an excuse for an anatomy post, and I’ll maybe still get to that, but today I want to talk about all the stories you tell with them.

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood 2.3. Source:

I love how you use your shouldes in your characterizations. Your characters, like, Atlas, so often bear the weight of their worlds on their shoulders.

Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in episode 4 of North & South. Source:

You use your shoulders to tell us stories about tension, stories so vivid we understand them even when we see nothing but your back turned toward us.

Richard Armitage as Lucas North in Spooks 7.2. Source:

But your shoulders also tell us stories of laughter, relaxation, happiness.

Dawn French as Geraldine Granger and Richard Armitage as Harry Kennedy in Vicar of Dibley: The Handsome Stranger. Source:

Your shoulders make you bold …

Richard Armitage as John Porter and Shelly Conn as Danni Prendiville in Strike Back 1.3. Source:

… but they also tell us about suffering, pain, resignation, humiliation.

Richard Armitage as John Standring and Sarah Smart as Carol Bolton in episode 3 of Sparkhouse. My cap.

Your shoulders make your characters powerful …

Richard Armitage as John Porter and Sibulele Gclitshana as Sr. Bernadette in Strike Back 1.4. Source:

… but they also make your characters vulnerable.

Richard Armitage as John Porter and Shelly Conn as Danni Prendiville in Strike Back 1.1. Source:

I love it when you take your shirt off, Mr. Armitage. Not just for how your shoulders look, however, but also for what they are going to tell me each time.

~ by Servetus on May 11, 2012.

35 Responses to “Atlas Armitage”

  1. Whilst I would be lying if I said I didn’t love to stare at his naked body…this post I found especially touching. He is one of the most expressive actors I’ve ever seen…especially when he says nothing and has his face turned away from the camera. If being expressive means taking his clothes off then of course I won’t complain! And I love his shoulders too ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. I like it when Richard Armitage characters take off their shirts too but perhaps not for the same reasons. ๐Ÿ˜‰


    • I agree Bccmee. I like too when Richard’s characters take of their shirts too, but I don’t watch his movies only for that. For example, John Thornton is my favourite character (with Gisborne ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and Richard keeps his clothes on in “North and South”. ๐Ÿ˜‰


    • As I said, “not just … but also.” ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. LOVE this post – I too enjoy RA’s shoulders and your post describes so many of the reasons why.
    Now if we could find a nice shot of him in eyeglasses AND bare shoulders….THUD!


  4. The shoulders had me from day one. The long lean Gisborne – a breadth of shoulders. Emaciated Lucas – shoulders. It is a very interesting physical structure. And yes, the shoulders act, as well!

    With Thornton, it is the Doric column of neck…


  5. His performances have me spellbound, but I often don’t know why until you put it into words for me, servetus. This is one of those times, so thanks.


  6. Were there words to this post? Sorry, I was busy looking at those magnificent shoulders. I would not think any less of him if there was a shirtless scene in every one of his future movies.


  7. I don’t know if you can capture stills from youtube but if its possible you should include one from the cats rehearsal his shoulders in the blue singlet are sublime…….the long arms hung perfectly from his elegant shoulders………wow……..I would be bereft if those clips ever get taken down.


    • You can download them.

      I’m about to get on the road but will look again at those pics tomorrow.


      • Have you passed Armitage Avenue, yet? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        It’s actually quite the trendy street shop in Chicago! I’ll be back there on Tuesday. Oooh, I can’t wait to wade through the 50 lbs of mail that awaits my return every 6 months (40lbs of which is usually some combination of Lands End and Restoration Hardware)!


  8. I love the scene in N&S at Margaret’s mother’s funeral service, she turns to smiles at Higgins and his daughter, but never acknowledges Mr. Thornton. He watches her across the aisle, turning to see who she is looking back at, and I love his body language as he realizes it is Higgins. It is so telling. His shoulders drop, you can almost feel the air escape his lungs. I think he so much wants to be the one to comfort Margaret.


    • I agree that’s a pretty cool scene, very well played by Armitage.

      I’m always a bit distracted by the mechanics of the ‘focus pull’ whenever I see it in a movie. It’s always meant to look effortless (focus pull between Thornton and Margaret), but I often become stressed out wondering how much metering and prep they had to do to get that scene to look just right! ๐Ÿ˜‰


  9. As much as I love the shirtless scenes, I also must admit, that I find RA’s shoulder positions in all his roles (even hidden beneath cloths) quite telling. I immediately know, if he is Mr. Standring or Lucas North or …, not because I see his face, which would definitely reveal it, but by seeing how he holds his shoulders and neck. That explains, how much self esteem he wants to give a person / role. [Perhaps that is also my problem with the Spooks 9 development. I think, while filming, they kept RA too long in the dark about his own ambiguous development, so that it just does not ring entirely true to me.]


  10. This post sent me reading your linked posts. Haven’t found them by myself and I just adore them. I think the analytical viewpoint provides distance and yet allows so much feeling and immersion. It points out the reasons for fangirling and that it’s not just some silly random hobby.
    Thanks for the shoulder collection :).


    • Thanks for the kind words!

      I do think analytical thinking helps me to process stuff. And your point that it shows that fangirling isn’t just silly: that’s really the whole purpose of this blog. I was a lot more defensive about that at the beginning than I am now.


  11. Immersion, yet distance. Helps us keep our heads on the one hand, without losing sensibility and connection. Interesting observation about Spooks 9. Great performance. But without the immediacy of understanding/relating. A lack of fluid character development? Something too abrupt about it…


  12. Hi Serv,
    A lovely post!
    You are so right about how Richard Armitage’s physicality for a particular role helps define the emotions of that character. His shoulders are, indeed, indicative of what his carriage conveys–strong/Porter, proud/Guy, weary/Thornton, distressed/Standring, and ambivalent/ Lucas, etc. Then, of course, his face and voice and gestures all complement each other to complete the effect.

    His characters are so distinct in their physicality that I’ve often said that I don’t recognize “him” from one character to the next–because he so totally immerses himself in his character portrayals. He is a master storyteller in that regard.
    Cheers! Grati ;->
    P.S. And, oh yeah, the man has the most beautiful shoulders on the planet. Sighhhh!


  13. Mmmm…love those expressive shoulders!! ๐Ÿ˜‰


  14. I love strong, broad shoulders. I also like how you see so much that I don’t pay attention to.


  15. I think this picture just belongs to this post:


  16. I was always struck by the use of shoulders with John Standring, especially in the scene where he asks Carol out for a drink. It looks like he is literally trying to make himself look smaller, less conspicuous. Or conversely like he is preparing for rejection by physically hunching over, waiting for the blow. Such a contrast to Porter and his ramrod straight posture. I love that attention to detail.

    And he has the best shoulders ever.


    • make himself smaller = yes. That would be a good post topic, there are a few other places where he does that, too.


  17. I felt rather than noticed how important the way he moved his shoulders was in his acting. I truly noticed it with Lucas, never gave much thoughts about other RA characters. And now, thanks to you, I realize each character has his own shoulder body language ๐Ÿ™‚


  18. So true! Excellent screen caps btw especially of Standring and Porter!


  19. Thanks for all the shoulder musings!


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