Armitage fumans, or: why Servetus loves Armitage when he smolders

[This post is not politically correct. A friendly warning: If you can’t tolerate any neutral, accepting, or even positive statements about tobacco smoke, smoking, or smokers, now would be a good time to close this window.]

***

I pause for a brief public service announcement. Smoking is harmful to your health.

***

So, having preached the obligatory sermon, let me say what I really think.

Heresy number one: I think smoking is beautiful. Sexy, even. I’m not the only one: witness this blog of beautiful pictures of people smoking, with a photo of Tolkien currently on the top.

Heresy number two: I especially love watching smoking when Richard Armitage smokes.

***

First, I love it when he does it for roles.

I love when Ricky Deeming does it. I love watching the ritual of a smoker rolling his own. I love the industry of Ricky’s careful attention to rolling his own. I love people who roll their own.

Ricky Deeming (Richard Armitage) under interrogation in George Gently: Gently Go Man. My cap.

I love the thumbshot I get while he’s preparing to roll it, from the nervous motion he makes with his right hand:

Ricky Deeming (Richard Armitage) prepares to roll a cigarette during his police interrogation in George Gently: Gently Go Man. My cap.

I love that I get to see his tongue when he seals the cigarette paper:

Ricky Deeming (Richard Armitage) seals his cigarette after rolling it, in George Gently: Gently Go Man. My cap.

I love how he raises his hand to his mouth:

Ricky Deeming (Richard Armitage) smokes a cigarette during his interrogation in George Gently: Gently Go Man. My cap.

And the cool way he puffs it, and what he does with his lips at the same time:

The same. My cap.

Moving on to another smoking role, I love it when Percy Courtenay smokes. I love the obvious enjoyment it reveals on his face:

Percy Courtenay (Richard Armitage) in Miss Marie Lloyd. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

I love the way that it signals simultaneously something about both his tendency toward infidelity, and about the way that he puts himself together to engage engage in it. Look at the way he pulls down the corner of his nostrils. It functions as a wonderful sign of the just the kind of inner ambivalence and contradiction that Richard Armitage loves to give his characters — the mean man who is also weak. The way Armitage makes Percy Courtenay smoke lets us see all this.

Percy Courtenay (Richard Armitage) in Miss Marie Lloyd. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

In the character of Percy Courtenay, smoking relays both concentration, control, and an air of sovereignty …

Richard Armitage as Percy Courtenay in Miss Marie Lloyd. My cap.

… and its opposite,  the temporary ecstasy and loss of care that motivates people to engage in whatever their society constitutes as absolute debauchery:

Percy Courtenay (Richard Armitage) engages in an orgy in Miss Marie Lloyd. My cap.

I love it when Claude Monet does it, too:

Richard Armitage as Claude Monet in episode 3 of The Impressionists. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

I love how smoking becomes the expression of a contemplative, convivial male homosociality in several scenes of The Impressionists. Also, it seriously adds to the architecture of his face somehow.

But: best of all, I love that Thorin Oakenshield has a pipe:

Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) in the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

I love it because if you’ve ever seen anyone who knows how to blow smoke rings do it, it’s fun to watch. I love it because the scene at the dinner party where Gandalf and Thorin blow fanciful shapes with their pipes was tremendously memorable to me as a child, and still warms me as an adult reader of the book. I love it because I know there’d be a temptation to edit this bit out of the script in order to influence the rating of the film (as apparently the last trailer has been edited in order to allow it to be shown during G-rated film screenings; oh wait, this just in from people who have seen it: only slight modifications to the smoking parts). I love it because as a historian I am troubled by attempts to disinfect the past when it doesn’t fit our conceptions of it.

***

OK, you say, he can do it for roles, but I don’t want him to do it personally. I, however, also am fine with saying that I am happy if Richard Armitage the person smokes, too. Not least because I suspect that the fact that he has actually smoked in real life makes it a lot easier for him to do it convincingly while acting. But also because it’s just beautiful. I only have two pictures of Richard Armitage the person smoking, and I suspect you know them already.

In this one, I wouldn’t even have noticed it if it hadn’t been mentioned by someone else.

Behind the scenes photo, filming of North & South: Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret. Source: I can’t find the facebook page where I downloaded this, but I believe it was bccmee who uploaded it.

Then there’s this one, more widely available. In this particular sequence of behind-the-scenes shots, almost every other person is smoking. I can understand that, given the reasons that many smokers give for doing it: it occupies the hands, it helps one maintain one’s concentration, it is a way of dealing with boredom. There must be a lot of hurry up and wait on a television set.

Behind the scenes filming for episode 2 of North & South. At left, Richard Armitage, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Jo Joyner. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

But I honestly love how he delicately he holds his hands around the cigarette. That photo can be hugely enlarged. I love the articulation of each finger, the elevation of his thumb. Surely, if Thornton smoked cigarettes (he doesn’t smoke, in the scene in from episode 1 of North & South where the masters are dining at Marlborough Mills), isn’t this how he’d hold his hands? And I’d love to see what it looks like when he exhales.

It’s just beautiful. Mr. Armitage, I would watch you smoke, just for the pleasure of it. You don’t have to smoke, I don’t require it of you, I understand if you have stopped for any of the multitude of reasons that might be cited in favor of making that decision. I just want you to know: I’d watch you smoke, any day. And if you still smoke, and it makes you happy, I’d probably buy you some cigarettes.

 ***

You’re welcome to find smoking ugly, of course. I just … don’t. Myself.

***

From time to time my students — who, in the last five years or so, seem to have been charged by the media with being more promiscuous and drug-friendly than their predecessors — ask me about my own youthful drug usage. I laugh, though I’m secretly flattered that they think I could ever have been so wild. A good Lutheran girl, only allowed to go out with other youth from her own church, growing up off the beaten path, a Girl Scout during the Reagan years (“Just Say No!”), active in both band, playing a wind instrument, and singing in chorus? My virtue was both externally imposed and overdetermined. Messages about the negative consequences of illegal drugs and smoking were so omnipresent that I never even tried to smoke. No, not one puff (an experience that I share with Didion, despite her different socialization). Let alone “harder” stuff — although the physicist, who is seven years older and grew up in a more permissive atmosphere about recreational drugs, once tried unsuccessfully to get me to agree to taste a marijuana brownie.

I wasn’t virtuous. But was I lucky? No. For cultural reasons the drug of choice in rural Wisconsin was and remains alcohol, which is arbitrarily legal for certain users. But I had an alcoholic father, and I didn’t drink anything but wine during the Lord’s Supper until I well after I was of legal age. I wasn’t around it much apart from at home, because of the kids I was allowed to socialize with, and what I saw at home wasn’t exactly enticing. I waited until I had pursued the typical Servetus solution to anxiety: writing a research paper. Evaluation of then-current thinking about the genetic transmissibility of alcoholism when I was a junior in college reassured me that a single swallow wasn’t likely to suck me irretrievably into the bottle. I’m pretty sure I was twenty-two before I tried it, though. During the internship I had the summer after college, I made a game of asking coworkers what cocktail they thought suited me. They picked the vodka tonic, and that’s still my go to drink in a pinch. I’m no goody-two-shoes: as readers of this blog know, I love alcohol, especially beer. I love how it affects me. Occasionally I’m frightened by how much I love it. Why is my father an alcoholic, and why am I not? I don’t know and I don’t think anyone can explain it satisfactorily. The explanations that have been offered are all unsatisfactory because unconvincing.

Am I playing with fire? Probably.

But at least four things plausibly present a greater danger of addiction for me than alcohol. Caffeine (molecular structure at left). Internet. Food. Sex. Five things: I probably should put Richard Armitage on that list, since I spend way more time writing this blog than I do drinking. I don’t want to say, it’s all relative, but some of it is certainly arbitrary. Marijuana is illegal but booze is okay, which mostly makes me want to remark frivolously that it’s okay to endanger your liver but not your lungs. No one really disapproves heavily of caffeine — that popular Seattle coffee franchise will sell you sixteen shots — 1400 mg of cafffeine — at once, if you like, even if you’re doing it to test out their rewards program and don’t drink it — though nicotine in any amount, no matter how small, is currently demonized. (And let’s not get started on how much sugar one is not only allowed, but encouraged, to consume at one sitting.) If no dependency is harmless, then I’ve been really fortunate that the things I can’t live without are mostly legal. Don’t comfort me with Armitage addiction having no ill effects, because as everyone who’s read this blog for very long knows, I have certainly engaged in illegal activity as a consequence of Armitagemania, even if most people would consider my crimes minor.

I say all this about my own “drug history” to contextualize my remarks about smoking above and below, because I know some people will read this post as intentionally contrarian. Which it isn’t. I tend to be a “there but for the grace of G-d” person and I believe I could have ended up an alcoholic under different circumstances. We don’t know anything about the reasons why Richard Armitaged smoked or smokes. What I write above and below reports on my actual reactions to this question. I know my views are not in the mainstream but / and I don’t want people to think I have everything figured out. I just don’t see it as a dealbreaker. Or a reason to issue moral condemnations.

***

So I’ll continue with the heresy — two more reasons why I have, and can, love a smoker who is still smoking and unrepentant:

First, I have at least as many positive as negative associations with smoking. I’ve experienced enough settings where smoking is a periodic pleasure that I don’t believe the customary claim that every occasional smoker is at risk of becoming a chain-smoking addict. I think of the dangerous look on the face of the guy I went out with in México when he had a cigarette between his lips and looked at me mischievously, in the breaks between literature classes. I think back in pleasure to nights in Guadalajara, where, after the consumption of dinner, the youngest child would sometimes be sent to a kiosk to buy a pack of cigarettes, and the adults in my host family smoked companionably in a relaxed atmosphere, one cigarette apiece. I think of transgressive smoking by Russian émigrés outside of synagogues everywhere, and the cloud of smoke that goes up with the excited conversation when people light up even though you’re not supposed to make fire on the Sabbath. I think of my ex-SO smoking on vacations — an occasional smoker, he only did it then — and enjoying both the way he held his cigarette, the way he pursed his lips, the cloud of smoke, and the look of satisfaction on his face afterwards. It made him so happy that I occasionally offered to buy him a pack. Rauchen regt die Verdauung an. I think of intense conversations in German cafés punctuated by the percussive, demonstrative extinguishing of a cigarette. I think of long nights in my friend Josephine’s garden, grilling, drinking, smoking. It’s not my particular pleasure, but I think it is possible for people to smoke responsibly, and with pleasure.

Did some of those people suffer health problems because of their smoking? No doubt. Does ingesting second-hand smoke have negative health outcomes? Certainly. I don’t think anyone would argue, anymore, that tobacco smoking is good for humans (although they did once). But my own legal addictions aren’t exactly all salubrious, either. Does smoking have public health costs? Yes, of course (although so do sketchy foreign wars, and I’m expected to pay for the rehabilitation of wounded veterans when if it were up to me, I’d keep them all home, safe in bed. I mean, if we could just trick out grenades with stickers that say things like “getting hit by one of these may cause serious, irreparable injury,” possibly with pictures of wounds, I’m sure that would stop people from throwing them). Bodies are frail. But I’m also — second reason — troubled by the way that we in the West have demonized not only smoking, but smokers. I feel this way particularly after living in a city where, during the last decade, smokers were pushed out of restaurants and then out of bars and music venues and are now in danger of being pushed out of public spaces completely — already being forbidden from smoking in the open air in certain parts of the city (by which I don’t mean, within however many yards of public buildings — I mean, in open air). I’m troubled that this seems to be a personal liberty that no one has any problem curtailing, while smokers are increasingly marginalized as if that’s what they deserve. I can’t help asking myself whose body is next up for social disapprobation and exclusion?

Or maybe it’s that my own experiences tend to put me in the category of feeling that we’re becoming disturbingly moralistic about this issue on the basis of fairly dubious reasoning, and wishing we could all be less so. Who knows?

***

[DISCUSSION RULES:

I know this is controversial. I’m extremely ambivalent about leaving comments open because I fear strongly the possibility that a flame will erupt. But I’m also tired of avoiding controversial topics out of fear that readers can’t handle them. I could close comments. But I continue to believe that most readers will be responsible. So I make the following requests.

This post was not meant as the opportunity to argue for an informal referendum on anti-smoking measures; it was conceived simply as my own personal reflection on my reactions to Mr. Armitage as a past or potential smoker and why I feel the way I do. In that light, please assume that I certainly already agree that smoking is bad for your health, that second-hand smoke is also dangerous, and that some people cannot, for reasons of health, take the risk of encountering any tobacco smoke at all. We all agree on these things, as we do that no one should be harmed unnecessarily by the smoking of others. No one, including me, needs to be convinced. Please don’t infer anything about my opinions on the topic that I didn’t state — for instance, I happen to support the ban on smoking in and around public buildings, though that was not the topic here — but ask a question if you really want to know. I may or may not answer, depending on whether I feel it’s germane to the discussion. If you feel yourself tempted to write a sermon or a long personal anecdote on one of these things, please refrain.

Also, and THIS IS PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT TO ME, do not leave a comment that demonizes either smoking or smokers or hints, even vaguely, that smokers are reprehensible people engaged in moral evil or that people who refuse to condemn smoking or smokers are in the same position. My fuse is really short on this issue. If you feel compelled to say that, please take this occasion to be silent about it, because for the purposes of this post that will be considered anathema and the comment will be deleted. The usual rules about ad hominem also apply — do not attack me or any other commentator personally over his or her statements about smoking. I’m not going to be around every minute for the next few days, but I will edit or delete comments that I determine to be troublesome at my own discretion, and if we can’t handle it, I will simply close comments.

Thanks for your understanding.]

~ by Servetus on June 23, 2012.

78 Responses to “Armitage fumans, or: why Servetus loves Armitage when he smolders”

  1. I would say something, but I might break the rules. 😉

    Like

    • 🙂

      I just don’t want to get into a fight about something stupid.

      Like

      • I’m teasing you. I think it’s sad you even had to put up the disclaimer. People are silly who get so up in arms they can’t have a civil discussion.

        Like

        • I thought about leaving some of this off and just prompting a discussion about why smoking is pretty but I realized that was dangerous terrain to step out on. Not that I think explaining why I feel the way that I do really helps. But this blog is supposed to be fun 🙂

          Like

  2. I wouldn’t even dream of arguing with you 😉 but am I allowed to say I don’t agree with you? 🙂 But then, you know that already!

    As I said elsewhere recently – it’s your blog so you say what you like

    Like

  3. For me it’s about his hands. I’m fascinated by his hands, whatever they may be doing.

    Like

  4. Hey, Serv. Thank you of this. I think you know I am also of the “there but for the grace of God” school of thought.

    I’ve never smoked, never had any desire to, and am in fact, allergic to cigarette smoke along with about a million other things.
    I feel as if I am going to choke to death if in a confirmed space where smoking is taking place. So, naturally, I avoid places and situations where I know it will be a problem.

    HOWEVER–I do not think my problem with cigarette smoke gives me or anyone else a right to, as you say, demonize smokers. They are fellow human beings, after all. Who am I to judge them? I’ve got plenty of shortcomings of my own, habits that I am sure annoy others.

    I’m overweight, even more so since the car accident caused the limited activity for so long. Where do we draw the line? Will I be asked to leave a place one day because I’m too fat? I eat meat and wear leather. Does this make an evil person? Well, some would think so.
    I love chocolate. Haven’t had any in a while and I can feel the withdrawal pains. If chocolate was made illegal–hmmm, well, that’s a quandary.

    There are people whom I love and have loved who smoke. I may not care for their habit, but I don’t love them any less, any more than they love me less because of my excess weight.

    I am sure they are concerned for me in terms of my health and wellbeing, but they don’t reject me or demonize me for the excess baggage.

    Again, thank you.

    Like

    • I find it very important to stay aware of larger context of those medical/legal hypes: they all reveal problematic stand towards difference and tolerance, mobilizing hate and heightened emotions inappropriately. Risking to sound too harsh, I see it as a sort of fascism, aiming at one type of perfection, as well as a segregation and apartheid based on it. As many of 20th century dystopias remind us of.

      Like

      • Yes — if I’d been feeling heavily theoretical last night I could have tried to make a point about the body in relationship to the nation-state, and how the nation-state thinks it can / desires to mobilize your body. But I agree emphatically. The human body needs to be healthy and sober at all times, except when the state says it shouldn’t be. The question is: healthy and sober for what?

        Like

  5. Drinking, smoking and talking are still alowed in my country,luckily!. 😉

    Like

  6. Just to say that it is absolutely ridiculous if the trailer is not considered child-appropriate because of someone smoking. You can’t shelter kids from everything, they will discover it nonetheless. I assume that Mr. Armitage started smoking as a teenager, like most people. Not because it gives you a kick or helps to relax but because it was cool and grown-up and forbidden. It was a rite of passage and without smoking a teenager had little chance to mix with older and cooler people and ultimately get a girlfriend or boyfriend. At least that was how it was at my school. And you had to start before it was officially allowed on the school yard at sixteen! (I didn’t start smoking because I knew it would never make me cool, but many others did and I don’t blame anyone.)

    Like

    • It was the same when I was growing up, Jane, although I myself never felt the need to smoke in order to be cool or be part of the “in” crowd.

      For previous generations though it seems it was simply a part of life.
      My father was in the Australian army during World War II, and the soldiers were issued with cigarettes. I don’t know if the tobacco companies were behind the initiative, but supposedly smoking was a source of comfort, helping the soldiers to relax and reduce the stress of combat, to the point where cigarettes became currency on the battlefield.

      Like

      • Tobacco has been a pronounced feature of every modern war, even before big tobacco — this is actually something I wonder about now, with so many battle veterans coming back to the U.S. How will they cope?

        Like

      • I think one has to keep that in mind when judging a smoker. When he started it was just a socially accepted custom and has been for decades and centuries (even in places like Middle Earth!). It was nothing frowned upon, let alone something illegal. Later that changed and quitting is not easy. If he did manage, all the better.

        Like

        • I agree: good for him, personally, if he has succeeded in quitting. Which is a separate issue from thinking he looks great when he smokes.

          Like

    • Add to your explanation: there are a lot of smokers in theatre situations.

      And I agree, it would be ridiculous to cut it out of the trailer although apparently that is part of what happened for the G-rated trailer (slight cuts so you can see the pipe but not the smoke). I was even more worried they would cut it out of the script.

      Like

      • Speaking of ridiculous, this reminds me of what happened in Chicago with the first run of ‘Jersey Boys’.

        For authenticity, the play had cast members smoking while depicting social scenes between Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Unfortunately, someone complained that it was in violation of the city-wide smoking ban in public spaces, so the Chicago police had no choice but to issue a warning to the production company (who re-wrote the stage directions to exclude smoking).

        http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/the_theater_loop/2008/07/chicago-jersey.html

        Personally, I thought this was a load of bollocks (this coming from someone who avoids smoke, as it can trigger my asthma attacks). I’m not sure if this is a ‘Midwest’ thing (seeing as how ‘Jersey Boys’ in NYC and London still kept cast members smoking) – but, well, this IS the same city that issued an unsuccessful ban on restaurants serving ‘foie-gras’ for a few years. 😉

        Like

  7. Mmmmmmmmm…… *CAFFEINE* 😉

    I’m sorry. Did you say something else? 😀

    Like

  8. This post is sooo tempting, in sooo many ways!
    I am an occasional smoker, (ex-regular smoker, now occasionally enjoying enchanting spectrum of ritual gestures and postures, movements and poses, taste and feeling of smoking a cigarette) living in a small European country that obeys smoke ban lows, but on a soft side – restaurants are, by the large majority, divided into smokers/non-smokers sections, open air is smoker-free area, an so on. But, the real difference is that smoking is not demonized, just legislated: you are not allowed to smoke everywhere, similarly as you are not allowed to phone while driving or sell alcohol to a minor. So, those myriads of precaution measures and disclaimer steps aiming at possibly insulted a maddened righteous reader looks quite Monty-Python-like from my point of view: affinity to observe smoking sounds morally unsuitable as if you proposed delight in watching a paedophile. This is not pointed at you, Servetus, by any means: you made a point concerning other legal addictive health risks that pass without cultural flagellum (all the more, with a certain corporative and propaganda stimulus); it obviously points out the cultural context of USA concerning smoking – and that is what your post has to deal with, and that is what once again reveals your resolve to sincerity. And, not to be misunderstood, I fully support smoking ban at a workplace, public spaces where non-smokers cannot choose, etc.
    All of the above is, nevertheless, irrelevant to the aesthetic point you make and I bodily consent and sympathize with: some people smoking can be irresistible to look at. Mr. Armitage certainly among them. I remember Marlene Dietrich, the most seductive smoker that silver screen ever had, and Alain Delon in various films noir (always wandering why he lights a cigarette, draws just a couple of smokes, and drops it down to trample over, then another, never finishing any of them), just to start with (Clint Eastwood needn’t be mentioned).

    Like

    • re: disclaimers — to some extent I may be oversensitive, although I think at least some other RA bloggers, not just me, have gotten slammed on this issue before. I do think it’s fair to say that there is a morality connected to aesthetics (or vice versa), but I also think it’s fair to talk about aesthetics apart from that.

      He just looks so pleased when he’s smoking, and maybe there’s also something there about the mobility of the cigarette as a way of giving clues to mood?

      Like

      • Oh, I know both sides of it – how that tiny burning aromatic stick can be pleasurable, as well as how it can talk in one’s hands and lips and be read from one’s hands and lips. That would be three sides:)

        Like

        • although I’ve not smoked, I know what it’s like to look forward to a beer, to watch the barkeeper pour it, to watch the foam settle, and then take that amazing first sip. Almost nothing can compete.

          Like

  9. Smoking and drinking to excess are scientifically proven to be detrimental to your health. Period. Fine.
    However, they are not illegal and, unless you give in to the whinings of whichever Nanny State you happen to reside in (Britain, in my case), the decision to introduce legal chemicals into your system is entirely your own. End of.
    Rant over.
    Turning to the aesthetic aspect of smoking… Would you agree, Servetus, that it is not the act of inhaling from a white roll of paper that is appealing but how the act of smoking highlights other things? As you say, drawing attention to hands (particularly beautiful ones!); or how cigarette smoke can shroud the face and create an aura of mystery? The way the cigarette is held to the mouth can have erotic connotations, etc etc…
    I had a great uncle (born in the 1880s and long dead) who, in his time was a stage actor. I have inherited an original publicity photo taken of him sitting in profile in the act of lighting a cigarette. He’s no longer young and has a rather austere countenance (he became famous for playing van Helsing in Dracula) but I have it hanging in my hall because not only is it a beautifully staged image, but I find it romantic as hell and I want everybody that comes in to my house to see it.
    Belizec’s comment about Alain Delon struck a chord (another heart-stoppingly beautifull man with dark, dark hair and blue, blue eyes): take away Delon’s omnipresent ciggy and he would be emasculated!
    I suppose I’m saying that I see the cigarette as a prop that can enhance a person’s/actor’s attributes. And I most certainly do not have a problem with that!

    Like

    • Imagining black&white (little sepia, perhaps?) photo of Wydville’s great uncle reminds me of dramatic possibilities the act of lighting the cigarette, smoking it and putting it off can bear – countless ways to do that and relate it to characterization or portraying of psychical state of the character. Than, play of light can be more then expressive on screen. It would be interesting to imagine scenarios for RA lighting a cigarette in dim light or darkness, dancing shadows on his facial bones, eyes and hands…

      Like

    • Love the story about your uncle. Yes — the smoking enhances other things, the hands — and also the facial muscles. It forces a particular combination of facial muscles, esp sucking and blowing, that we don’t see in a lot of other situations.

      Like

  10. My own appreciation for watching people smoke is even more a conundrum than yours — I went through a particularly panicky period when, during primary school, they emphasized so strongly that smoking would kill you that I became terrified my parents (both smokers at the time) would die. They really didn’t hear the end of it for a while. There was just no question whether I’d ever light one up myself. (Until a brief moment during grad school when someone explained how much it facilitated concentration.)

    And yet the way a person smokes can be such a tell, can’t it? If the cigarette is held dooby-like between thumb and forefinger, or deep in the crevice of the fingers, or delicately at the last joint of the fingers. Does he pull deeply on the cigarette, or hastily?

    And how beautiful are those curls of smoke that fog a person’s visage? How effortlessly does the cigarette allow someone to pause, without “ums” or “uhs,” between thoughts. How beautifully it draws your attention to his pursed lips, that slight sucking of air. Ahhh.

    Like

    • I remember being told we should put pressure on our parents to quit. Since my parents didn’t smoke it wasn’t at issue for me. But there was a girl in my Sunday School class whose parents both smoked, and i know she was on the rampage for awhile about it.

      the cupping of the hands around the face to shield the flame as the cigarette is lit, the glance of the eyes over the hands …

      Like

      • I just watched an early ’40s melodrama with Bette Davis and Paul Henreid called “Now, Voyager” (very melo indeed) in which Henreid punctuates their most romantic moment by taking two cigarettes into his mouth, lighting them both, and handing one to her. Just to confirm, he then does this move three more times in the course of the film. Apparently lady audiences swooned for this suave move. I still think perhaps 4 times is too many.

        Like

        • Didion,
          I was just thinking of this very movie when your comment came in. Apparently a lot of men started doing the little cigarette ritual with their sweethearts after seeing this film.

          Something else I thought of–and I think Servetus has read these books–Carole Nelson Douglas’s Irene Adler novels. Irene smokes in the novels–a very daring thing for a Victorian lady to do, but then Irene doesn’t mind breaking the rules–and the descriptive passages of the smoke wreathing her head as she ponders some puzzle are very evocative.

          Like

        • Goodness, yes Didion, you’re right! Read the book not so long ago and virtually every other page is punctuated with the lighting of cigarettes – especially for each other. It becomes a representation of their intimacy. Hah! there you go, another way in which cigs are used as a prop.

          Like

        • There is another very interesting literary use of cigarette smoke in E.A.Poe’s Purloined Letter – where detective August Dupin, poet and mathematician, exhales whirling and vortical wreaths of smoke, while his inferior concurrent, rational police prefect, blows linear puffs. It almost invisibly marks differences of their approaches to mystery, as well as different epistemological positions.

          Like

          • You guys are awesome! This makes me think I need to write something myself about the beauty of smoking again. Those cigarettes of Henreid’s serve as such an enigmatic shorthand to understanding his relationship with Davis in that film.

            Like

        • I always heard that smoking was a euphemism for sex in old movies.

          Like

  11. OMG!!! Apropos everything above, I just ran an image search for said great-uncle and found this: http://www.autographauctions.co.uk/bidcat/detail.asp?SaleRef=0014&LotRef=183. In this one he’s smoking a pipe!!! (even older and looking very sinister!!) Did I mention that I lurrrve pipes? The whole process of filling, tamping down, lighting, inhaling… the smell. Oh my. Images of RA in his 60s with a pipe. *gulp*

    Like

  12. “(And let’s not get started on how much sugar one is not only allowed, but encouraged, to consume at one sitting.)”

    Servetus, I think you’ll find that while smoking is the first, it will by no means be the last to be subject to legislation, and sugar is no exception.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/09/bloomberg-soda-ban-wins-few-fans-but-fat-tax-may-fare-better.html

    Apparently, growing diabetes and obesity are exacting a cost on the medical system that will soon join smoking as indicative measure for long term health costs.

    Like

    • yeah, I’ve been watching this, too, along with the laws proposed in the Deep South that would allow restaurants to refuse service to people they considered too fat.

      Like

  13. I don’t like cigarette smoke (it makes my eyes water and it makes me cough) but I love pipe smoke, I think has a lovely, aromatic smell! And I’ve always associated pipe-smoking with cleverness. 🙂 Good point about alcohol being readily available to kill yourself with, Servetus! I lost my brother to alcohol (he was 34)… He totally destroyed his system with it. I can’t stand the smell of beer to this day (he only drank beer- but consumed large amounts of it daily). There has been no history of alcoholism in my family. My mum was a smoker and boy did I use to give her a hard time over it! We had blazing rows about it…I’m not proud of that. I know she smoked to calm her nerves. God knows she needed it, poor darling. It offered her comfort.

    Like

    • I think if you’re close to someone in that position, you often (not always, of course) develop an ambivalent position. I despite my father’s alcoholism and yet I can’t bring myself to condemn him for it anymore — the condemnation is about me, not about him. Just like the moralistic warnings about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packages. I mean — if smoking is that dangerous, why not just eradicate tobacco from the earth? Why put it in people’s paths, and then moralize about it? (not that alcohol prohibition worked that well in the U.S.)

      Like

  14. Whoa…what a radical post. I’ll probably have something else to say later, but just passing through for now.

    Like

  15. Yes…smoking can be terribly sexy…for me it was sexiest sitting on a beach in Tunisia, in the middle of the night with no light except the moon and stars, and a gorgeous Tunisian man by my side…both of us smoking companionably rather nice Tunisian cigarettes, the brand named after their Independence Day 🙂

    I have long since stopped…having never been a serious smoker, finding it unaffordable, and finding that I no longer liked the taste.

    I have to say that I had never considered whether or not RA smoked…and given that I have made a decision that, because I can no longer tolerate the smell of others smoking, I would never date a smoker again, I shall have to ensure that in my fantasies, he’s definitely given up! Either that, or learn to love it again…because for him I’m sure I could 😉

    Like

  16. so what? 😉

    Like

  17. Now that I have to be a responsible adult I don’t drink or smoke or get toked up. When the kids are out of the house this may change. If marijuana is ever legallized in the US for recreational purposes it will definitely change.

    Like

    • I think there’s something to be said for kids seeing responsible alcohol use, but the emphasis there falls on *responsible*.

      Like

      • My teetotaling for now also has to do with DH’s Type 1 diabetes. If his blood sugar crashes I need to be able to deal with him and the kids and I’d rather have my wits about me. I agree with you, though, and when there’s another adult around (my in-laws, for example) I’ll loosen up about it but if it’s just us there’s too much potentially that could go wrong.

        Like

        • I would also never say that children seeing responsible alcohol use is so important it should trump other concerns. And I certainly agree that having your wits about you is an important thing, for all kinds of reasons 🙂

          Like

  18. [Edited for content — S.]

    I find the act itself ugly … I’d rather [Richard Armitage] didn’t do it in his roles.

    Like

  19. Love your caps of Richard smoking. You don’t see those very often 😉

    Like

  20. Hello Servetus.

    [edited.]

    Like

  21. Richard would look sexy with broccoli in his teeth :), so it’s absurd that he could look sexier by smoking.

    Like

  22. […] it’s impossible to capture the sensuality of the way O’Gorman smokes in this film. My opinions on this are […]

    Like

  23. […] A Richard Armitage character smokes! You know how I feel about that! Here it’s done in a scene that makes a true statement about the character, so it’s not […]

    Like

  24. I’ve had my own fears about inherited dependencies, that seems to be baggage a lot of us have carried around, although I seem (like many of us) to have set it down upon realizing I’m unlikely to turn into an alcoholic, chain smoker, “dope fiend” (as it was called at the time lol), whatever.

    Separate from that, I agree with you on the sensuality of smoking. I have always enjoyed the tactile qualities of a good smoke in the movies: the curls of smoke wreathing the head of the smoker, the way the hands cradle and fidget with the cigarette, the way the smoker pulls a wayward piece of tobacco off the tongue or picks at stray bits on the fingers… all so – sensual. All a visual and sensual attack on my ability to imagine myself into the shoes of the actor or actress. I’ve always said if anything could make me a cigarette smoker, it’s film noir and independent film.

    And on the merits of taking a lover who smokes: I have asthma and have trouble spending too much time around smokers in enclosed environments — cigars, particularly, make me feel very nauseous as well as panicky about air — but when I smell cigarette smoke on an attractive man, I will admit to a wee frisson of awareness from my past moments with lovers who smoked. Sigh.

    Oh!! And I almost forgot! There is a very lively smoking subculture in which I *have* taken part, and it relates to your experiences, Serv. I speak of the Middle East & Arab world’s love of the shisha (hookah, narghile, whatever name you’d like to use). The “tobacco” they use is mostly fruit paste and only about 7% actual tobacco (it says on the box), and I have smoked that without coughing or wheezing. It’s an important social ritual, especially among older men and young people, and it’s extremely convivial. I’ve had many enjoyable hours in Egypt & Morocco and here at home, sharing a date flavored hookah with 6 or 7 friends while we eat hummus, baba ghanoush, and share hot sweet tea and then desserts. Or sometimes you’ll play a fierce game of backgammon while smoking a mint/lemon hookah… or share an apple flavored one and watch the world go by your cafe. It’s relaxing and oh, so civilized. But if you’re negotiating business, count all your fingers and toes before you leave the table. 😉 Some fierce business deals go down over a 3-hour hookah.

    Man, I miss Egypt. 😦 What’s going on over there breaks my heart.

    Like

    • thanks for the thoughtful comment — what it points out is that context always triumphs over ideology. There’s a time and a place for certain things to be beautiful.

      Like

  25. […] it if he does? what if he still does and I like it?), which has been going on for years, such that anyone who still wants to say anything about it apart from the common consensus needs her head exami…. A while back on Richard Armitage Confessions some hurt feelings surface over whether it’s […]

    Like

  26. […] in a person (for instance, two big issues I’ve broached here are my responses to Richard Armitage’s personal history of smoking and/or smoking on screen, and my responses to sources in which he mentioned that he was a […]

    Like

  27. […] The first, which I think will be easier to work on, is — and you were thinking this all along — beer. There are beer bars around here with multiple taps and taplists that update online, a key feature that I loved about TBBOTP. Indeed — one of the managers at TBBOTP asked me sort of subtly whether there was a bar up here that I loved as they wanted to give me a tab at a new bar as a parting gift. On some level I needed TBBOTP as a vent. The easiest way to get rid of all the emotions roiling around in my head at the end of the day was to drink some good beer. The idea of pursuing beer tasting as a hobby was not only an excuse — I actually am interested in how beer is made and how it tastes — but it was also an excuse. As longterm readers know, to some extent, I’m playing with fire. […]

    Like

  28. […] with ease, and I saw behind-the scenes shots where he was smoking (oh the horror!). (Check out this post at Me + Richard Armitage about RA smoking in and out of character.) I mean, I expected him to be […]

    Like

  29. […] Was he documenting an occasion or something routine? Is this just cigarette to keep him occupied, as we’ve seen before? Is this a signal of bravado before an early performance? Made up and ready to go, is Armitage […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

 
%d bloggers like this: