Stay away from Armitage! The “C” reading and conclusion

The “B” reading was here. (Note that this is a series starting with the “A” reading — so if you’re seeing this post at the top of the blog, start with the beginning of the argument, two posts down. Thanks.)

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Doesn’t he look a little sheepish? Not the behavior that we expect from a headliner. Richard Armitage, being interviewed at the Strike Back premiere, London, April 15th, 2010. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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It’s time for the “C” reading — finally, after only 4,500 words! Hopefully, you’re still with me.

The “C” reading shares with “B” its capacity to absorb the interpreter’s application of textual context(s), linguistic conventions, verbal and non-verbal cues, and common-sense experiences of interpreting conversations with everyday interlocutors, but it moves away from “B” in that it takes a more suspicious stance toward the unproblematic attribution of untarnished good faith to the interview subject. “C” readings acknowledge that everyone speaks for a reason, and that persuasion is a chief end of most speech. In particular, “C” incorporates the matter of audience. Affirmative statements, whether truthful or not, are never targeted at all possible spectators in all times and places — they are made for a particular group of interpreters at a particular time and place. In the case of this text snippet, this interpretive level is so overwhelming in its potential conditioning of Armitage’s statements that if I were willing to grant that this interview is a source about Armitage, and surrender my philosophical and generic convictions about the primacy of the “D” reading (the piece as the interviewer’s picture of Armitage), I would find it almost definitive.

So, first: where is the information being presented to us? Who is its audience?

The interview appeared in the print edition of The Stage — the primary print publication in the UK covering the theater scene (and some television, although apparently less than in the past). It has a circulation of about 34,000, and its primary readership is composed of people who work in the theater industry. This is not a publication for fans or audiences of television stars, but rather for readers seeking information about what’s happening on stage in the UK. It is read by people looking for work in theater — for whom it is considered a professional must-read — and similarly offers people who work in the theater or wish to do so an opportunity to present themselves to potential employers. One also imagines that people who really love theater but are not employed in it read it — especially avid theater audience members. The primary audience for this interview: directors, financers, actors, stage crews. Thus, we must assume that whatever Armitage is saying in this interview, he’s not saying it to fans or even people who will watch him act, but to readers interested in the theater scene, including especially people who might employ him or work with him in future. The “C” reading demands that question number one, with regard to our text snippet, should be: why would he tell an audience of theater insiders that he doesn’t like the recognition/attention that comes with television work, and he’s “not one for” signing autographs in the street? What is that statement intended to mean to them?

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John Porter: the role that got him Heinz Kruger and not Willmore. Promotional image for series 1 of Strike Back as it appeared all over London, May 2010. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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And second: when did the interview appear?

It appeared in early May, 2010, just as Strike Back was premiering, and one anticipates the interview took place slightly earlier, as it’s a weekly publication. That this interview appeared in the venue described above at just that time is fascinating, and can hardly be seen as coincidental. Why would a periodical devoted mostly to insider theater news relevant to working professionals suddenly rush to cover the opinions of an actor who hadn’t been on a live stage in something approaching eight years at that point, who was a virtual unknown to stage employers and audiences even when he had been on stage, and who had most recently appeared in a pay television, shoot-’em-up spectacle with great production value but little sophistication — a piece that promised very little of interest to traditional practitioners and fans of theater at all?

In short: Everything about this interview screams “publicity op,” not necessarily for the sole purpose of promoting Strike Back, which we can assume to be of relatively low interest to the print readers of The Stage (although perhaps of greater interest to consumers of its TV blog — but this form of the interview ran in the print edition). At least as probable as a reason for the appearance of this interview in this place at this time is that someone (agent, publicist, friend) was hoping to help Armitage get something from the potential readership of the publication, and thus it’s reasonable to assume that Armitage is speaking on message here to communicate something to a particular group of people and persuade them of something. The question is what.

So the third question, which is essential to uncovering the substance of any “C” reading? Cui bono? Who benefits if we believe what Armitage is saying in this interview?

Answer: Quite obviously — Richard Armitage.

On the “C” reading, everything in this interview says, “Hire me for your stage production!” In a particularly charming way, of course, following British rules about putting yourself forward. In fact: nothing in it’s about what he thinks of fans. If we read the piece as an index of what he thinks about fans, as I did above, and we can see from my reading it’s hard to parse; if we read it as an argument for why Armitage should be treading the London boards regularly, it makes perfect sense — all the elements fall into place. Frankly, I suspect that Armitage would be surprised to hear that any fan would conclude from it that he wanted her to avoid him at all costs should she see him either accidentally or in a place where he might be expected to appear that was not an arranged setting. Because that wasn’t what he was saying. Not at all.

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One of his more recent stage appearances: Richard Armitage with Imogen Butler-Cole in Use Me As Your Cardigan (2003). Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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Seen from the perspective of the “C” reading, it’s a curious text, striking precisely because it doesn’t present us with all the promotional points that most of the other publicity did: “like three small feature film,” “experienced directors,” “great production values,” “beautiful panoramic shots,” “realistic,” “drawn directly from life via the writing of the authority, Chris Ryan,” “gripping stories about life and death.” Refresh your memory as to the first half of the piece if you need to; this interview doesn’t hit any of those talking points. Now, the promotion of Strike Back that is our first context for understanding Armitage’s statements definitely occurs, but it’s all directed to understanding that production as serious in the sense that theatrical work is supposed to be. Within this framework, Armitage is described as someone who actually doesn’t “belong” in this kind of production and / or resisted its popular, low-art demands. The interview depicts him as a pacifist playing an SAS operative, an artist seeking novelty in a conventional role by stretching the boundaries of the character with unanticipated complexity, playing a soldier who he’s working hard to make unsoldierly.

Once all Armitage’s creative attitudes toward participating in Strike Back are established, the piece then turns to Armitage’s preparation — first the physical toil he went through to create John Porter’s body, but then, and I think, significantly, for reasons that will become clearer in a moment, his emphasis on the creation of a character biography. The interview spends something like a quarter of its space on his creation of the John Porter character, concluding with a section that emphasizes how fully immersed in that identity he became. It continues by giving us a retrospective of his work in musical theater, his training at LAMDA, and his experience with the RSC and on professional stages in respected productions. Then, and only then, does it turn to his fan base and the text snippet cited as evidence of his dislike for spontaneous fan meetings.

A consistent message of Armitage’s interviews throughout 2010 from the Strike Back publicity blitz to the Spooks 9 publicity blitz and even after the announcement of his casting as Thorin Oakenshield, with the tweeting of his participation in a read-through for The Rover, was his desire to get back on UK stages; it appeared in at least three pieces I can think of offhand with varying justifications offered. Because of the clarity of that message here, and in light of this interview’s context, the usual audience of the publication it appeared in, the timing of its publication, and the rhetorical structure described above, this is what I understand Armitage to be implying or downright saying in and via this interview — to industry insiders such as people who might cast him in a play: “I’ve just appeared in a big budget pay television action project that you may be inclined to think is of doubtful cultural value. Although this professional choice might make you conclude that I’m just a hacker, in fact I’m a creative artist who’s trying to bring something new to a genre that many theater people might look down upon if they didn’t realize what a subtle, thoughtful individual I am. Richard Armitage may play John Porter, but that’s not my identity at all. Even if I am playing the lead in a major series that attracts millions of viewers every week, I’m not just a run-of-the-mill television actor cast because he looks good. I work really, really hard, and just like all of you, I find the creation of a character biography essential to doing my job, which I work on so intensely that I sometimes can forget my real identity. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again; I’m interested in professional variety. I have the necessary experience for a theater role, not just training in musical theater, but LAMDA and RSC training, as well experience in important productions in supporting roles. I’m interested in taking a role in a play that I’m already extremely familiar with, so I would be good at it.”

And then comes the discussion of fans, followed by the snippet in question. Re-read:

For me, the “C” reading tends to suggest that this quotation should be understood as a rhetorical defense against potential counter-arguments made by the speaker’s anticipated audience, usually accomplished via concession and rebuttal. What we don’t see here is the concession, either because the interviewer either assumes it, it was not articulated at the time, or Armitage didn’t offer it — but this statement reads to me as a clear rebuttal to an objection. In short form, the counter-argument in question is presented in the paragraph where the interviewer makes inferences about Armitage’s fans attitudes, and would be, “What about your fans?” In longer form, it might go something like this: “Sure, you maybe have the training for dramatic leads on the stage, but stage work is poorly paid and uncertain. Plus, you have an energetic group of fans, and theater actors tend not to receive the effusive fan love given to television actors, or at least not in the same quantities. It might even be a pain for the crew in a production to deal with swarms of fangirls running after you.” In response to this potential objection of his audience in The Stage, then, rather than saying he doesn’t like to meet fans spontaneously, I suspect Armitage is saying the following: “I know I get a lot of attention and fan recognition on television, but that’s the part I like least about the work. It’s not important to me; I feel no need for it. I am happiest when I am pursuing and concentrating on the work I have agreed to do, and I’m not one of those actors who looks forward to standing outside after a performance, signing autographs and receiving praise.” Implication of the statement: Not, I want fans to stay away, but rather — I’m wash-and-wear; I’m not going to encourage drama or create hassle or spend more time on feeding my ego by interacting with fans than on doing my actual work. It’s an ethical statement made for the purposes of selling himself as a good employee, not the expression of a preference.

Note the advantages of this reading from a purely syntactical standpoint. Via its recognition of the interview’s rhetorical structure, the “C” reading completely eliminates all confusion about the meaning of both the pronoun “it,” which Armitage “do[es]n’t really like,” and its referent, “recognition and attention.” We no longer need to scrape through the previous paragraph to try to elucidate what “recognition and attention” mean, because they are not related to an unintelligible implication about (potential) fan behaviors, but rather to the consequence of having fans, which is the heightened public awareness that might make a television actor feel important and which theater professionals are less likely to harvest — this being personified in the Internet presence of Armitage’s fans. Moreover, following the “C” reading, the ending of the interview makes Armitage seem very open to serious considerations from his audiences — exactly the self-image that many theater fans have of themselves — because he takes the time to respond to them, because his ethics (see data in optimistic “B” reading in previous post) require it. Finally, the ending makes a strong statement to a potential director. “Because I am polite” is both a rebuttal of possible aspersions (“Although I am more well known than many stage actors, I don’t have a big ego that you’ll have to caress; I am aware there are other people in the world and I consider their viewpoints”) and a statement of identity and work ethic (“I believe that it is important to display manners in all my dealings, even those that may make me feel uncomfortable”).

[As an aside that I’m just dropping here for now, primarily because I know at least one reader is thinking it — if it’s indeed true that there’s a huge class divide on British stages, as some critics have alleged , and as I’ve wondered in the past in a Legenda that I am not finding, and most of the more successful actors come from a higher class or cultural background than Armitage’s family, asserting that one is polite may also involve making an implication about one’s capacity as a child of the middle classes to “fit in” among the (stage) patricians. I’ve been collecting data on this point for awhile, and this is not the place to discuss it, because this piece is getting long and I think I’ve made my case, but I’m bookmarking it here because it seems an obvious point to consider as an aspect of the “C” reading, not least because the whole piece in The Stage presents an argument about Armitage’s deserved status as a beneficiary of the meritocracy of the industrious.]

Another point to be noted about the way this text works: If we return to my explanation at the very beginning about how meanings of a text work together, we can see easily how the “A” reading, the more optimistic “B” reading, and the “C” reading work together. The mere data points of the “A” reading (“attention / recognition,” “getting on with the job,” “signing autographs in the street”) fit together into a picture about work, modesty, and performance as features of  Armitage’s character (the “B” reading I prefer), and in turn, Armitage’s statements about his character are transformed into an argument made via the interview about why he’d be a desirable actor to cast in your next stage production (the “C” reading). Indeed, it is the original “B” reading that alleges itself as an “A” reading (“When I am not at an official function to meet fans, please leave me alone”) that turns out to not to coincide with any of the other levels of the text without significant assumptions, contextual extrapolation, and twisting of internal referents, to make it fit.

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Richard Armitage at an official autograph signing opportunity, ComicCon, San Diego, July 14, 2012. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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As I see it, this piece doesn’t have much to say about fans and what they should or shouldn’t do — it’s an interview about working in the theater, of which the presence of fans is a collateral point primarily intended to demonstrate that Armitage is not in his career for the fame he achieves thereby. Now, I stress again, because, like Armitage, I expect I’ll be misunderstood and imagine I’ll even start dreading not being misunderstood soon: taken together as I have explained, the “A”, “optimistic B,” and “C” readings here do not constitute an argument that Armitage does not dislike meeting fans unexpectedly. He might still feel that way. I am not arguing that he just loves meeting fans spontaneously. The evidence doesn’t sustain that view, either. Neither — emphatically! — do I argue all fans should run after Armitage in the street or at any other time they see him; I make no normative prescription as the consequence of my analysis. This analysis simply reveals that a snippet read out of context within an interview as if it were totally reliable as an independent aphorism — and, as a consequence, offered some moral principle equivalent to the Decalogue — does not constitute evidence for the standpoint articulated in the argument. If you, like me, disagree with it, you’re not dangerous, you’re not a sinner, you’re not reprehensible. Any shaming of anyone’s behavior that stems from any interpretation should not be accepted unless the arguments made can be credited and reproduced on an independent, textual basis that makes all the evidence — or at least as much as possible, because evidence rarely all points in one direction–, fit.

Am I riding off into the sunset here? Maybe. Still, this is important: We’re not children. We’re not in this to be made afraid of our own normal tendencies or scared that if we express some squee that someone else doesn’t appreciate, we’ll be hassled on the web or worse. No one who only reads what we write on the web understands our own intentions better than we do ourselves. This is true of you, me — and Richard Armitage. So let Richard Armitage deal with Richard Armitage’s problems. He’s a big boy; if he doesn’t want to be bothered by fans — he can say no! Meanwhile, I’m focusing on my problems, needs, joys, concerns. We’re in the Richard Armitage fandom to enjoy, laugh, smile, think, learn, and live out our creativity within the bounds of our own reasonable interpretations of the world around us — and we’re not all obliged to believe the same things, especially not about something so ultimately trivial in the cosmic sense. You may believe the argument I’m refuting is stronger and thus not accept my analysis — that’s okay. The fact that you disagree with my interpretation doesn’t force you to behave any differently than you might have otherwise. Nor should this interpretation be seen as legitimating anyone’s actions who hasn’t gone through the issues on her own, for herself, which is what everyone should do anyway. Even if you accept my reading, there still may be plenty of reasons not to approach Richard Armitage in the unlikely event that you encounter him spontaneously — it may not be the right moment, you may not be comfortable doing it, he may be standing at a urinal, you may be convinced out of your own convictions that this is not something you should do. This analysis still leaves you free to believe that and act on it by avoiding him.

Let every fan think for herself; let every fan have her own conscience. And most importantly: let us agree to let each and every other fan have her own conscience, as well.

~ by Servetus on August 8, 2012.

74 Responses to “Stay away from Armitage! The “C” reading and conclusion”

  1. I read to the end this time before I started waving my hand. 🙂

    Excellent analysis. One of the rising problems in society today is the disdain for critical thinking, for contextual analysis, in the desire to bend facts to conform to a set conclusion. Your post illustrates in detail, what happens when critical thinking is ignored.

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    • You can wave your hand whenever you want. I can always say, “just a minute.” 🙂

      I think another aspect of the problem is the insistence that everything be transmissible in a few words or sentences. This wasn’t an easy series to compose, despite how quickly it went, and it isn’t the easiest to read. If you want the simple mesage — I am not it. 🙂

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    • Judiang,
      I had some students who were certainly not unintelligent, but really didn’t know how to use critical thinking skills. They just wanted to memorize so that they could regurgitate for the test. 😦
      We need to know how to think for ourselves and to evaluate information and ideas so that we can make intelligent, informed decisions.

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      • Growing up in communist Hungary, we were never encouraged to develop our critical thinking skills at school- we were trained to believe everything we were told. I was lucky to have parents who taught me to think for myself and ask questions…

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  2. I know of a fan who recently had the opportunity to go over and talk to him. However, it was at the end of a long day at a public event and he was headed back to his hotel room. This fan didn’t feel it was the right place or time. So she didn’t approach him. That’s not to say she wouldn’t talk to him or have a photo taken with him in a different situation. She simply followed her conscience and she felt to approach him at that time would not have been an thoughtful, considerate act.

    That last paragraph you wrote sums things up nicely, Serv. Would that everyone would follow it.

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    • I think context is really key. I can imagine situations where he’s there to be signing autographs where I might feel uncomfortable speaking to him — or situations where he’s sitting in an airport lounge, staring into space, where I might. (Well, actually, I think I always would feel extremely uncomfortable approaching him or meeting him under any pretext at all, official or unofficial.) But the point is — most adults are capable of determining context for themselves. 99.5% of all fans I’ve interacted with are lovely, considerate people and responsible moral agents int heir own regard.

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      • It is very much key. As my cousin that toured with Willie Nelson said, it’s not signing autographs at the concerts that were a problem, it was the man not being able to go to the bathroom at a restaurant to do a number two without someone hanging over the stall wall asking for his signature that was just too much. Time and place, people, time and place.

        And you are exactly right. Just as Richard is a grown up, intelligent person who can basically fend for himself and doesn’t need self-appointed guardians to do so, most fans are perfectly nice, reasonable individuals who simply have fun in the fandom and who pose no threat to the person they admire.

        And for the record, no matter what has claimed about me in emails and on the internet, I am not a fraud/ out-of-control fan who wants to stalk Richard Armitage (or anybody else for that matter). I have too much self-respect and too much respect for my husband and family and for the man himself to engage in that sort of behavior. Just as this person does not “know” RA, in the manner in which she firmly believes she does, she obviously does not know me, either.

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  3. Thanks for these. I find the idea that he doesn’t want people to ever approach him highly unlikely. I was also thinking that he is going to get approached much more now by people who are not RA fans as such but Hobbit movie fans, and have an interest in him primarily because of that. I think such people would find the suggestion that he should not be approached totally ridiculous.

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    • Can I just add – there is another reason for talking about fan enthusiasm in an interview directed primarily at an industry audience including potential employers – and that is “bums on seats” – he’ll bring an audience with him, well beyond regular theatre-goers, even if your production is sponsored or supported by lottery money, it’s gratifying to have lots of people want to see it.

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      • This is a good point and I wondered about it (see the point someone makes below about a theater readership thinking poorly about actors with huge groups of fans — that’s my impression, too). Maybe a way to qualify it to make it more subtle is that the interviewer raises the point of fans — look at all those fans who will pay to see this guy, night after night — and they’re well organized, too, so they will get the word out and pack your theaters — and Armitage also knows about the prejudices of theater audiences and so backs off from it. I think the point is, Armitage can’t be read as saying here, yeah, my fans love me and they’ll be in the theatres every night to give you a return on your investment. That’s an inference we can draw, but not something he’s quoted as pushing.

        Something I’d wonder about (I did, back in the day), is if you’re a less well known actor, how do you feel about playing to Armitage’s audience night after night? If you know lots of people are in the audience to see Armitage as opposed to because they love theater or the work beingperformed or whatever, how does that affect your relationship to the headliner? His stance could also be a prophylactic, yes, people will come to see me, but I’m an average guy, a working actor, and it’s unimportant to me and I hope you see it that way, too.

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        • When the RSC announced David Tennant was to play Hamlet a few years ago, a theater critic wrote a now infamous article in which he savaged DT as a television actor over-reaching himself, bringing an unwashed ignorant lot to fill the theaters. What he didn’t bother to learn was that DT was also a very respected stage actor in lead roles both with and without the RSC, and had been nominated for an Olivier Award. The critic was savaged in turn, and no more was said over the issue of popular actors bringing their fans into the theaters, at least, not DT. Hamlet went on to break box office records, pouring much needed money into the RSC, enabling it to finish rebuilding their theater in Stratford, and helping in revitalizing the sagging West End season. A trade magazine named DT as one of the top influential actors in the UK (read: power). When he did Much Ado last year, nobody said a single word about those fans spending their lovely money. (Also don’t forget the non-UK fans who traveled to see him, pouring money into the tourist industry).

          I imagine DT bent over backwards letting his cast mates know he saw himself as only another working actor, just like themselves, despite all the fans they knew were there to see him. Once, DT arrived late for a Hamlet cast Q & A. One of other actors in the middle attempted to give DT his chair, but DT waved him off, opting to sit on the floor at the end of the group. It made me wonder of the other gestures he’d made to put his colleagues at ease.

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          • it’s true that when you come with a big reputation, you have to work extra hard to overcome people’s assumptions about you.

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        • I think that less well known actors are just happy to have the work, actually!

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          • I imagine there are all kinds of reactions. I know my own feelings about being considered not mission-central to the main task at work have varied over the years.

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    • I’m really looking forward to the moment — not far off — when the less core elements of that fandom (the core parts are already aware, I think) starts noticing Armitage. Not just because it will change the dynamics of our little world for the better, but also because I think it will substantially alter Armitage’s experience of what it is to meet a fan spontaneously. Obviously there are always a few bad apples, but I can imagine for him that it could be fun to be immersed in that geekdom (since it mirrors his own attention to the role) and also neat to meat fans whose primary message is “you did such a great job of playing this character I’d always had in my mind,” which is probably slightly different than what he hears from his current spontaneous fan encounters. In particular, I would guess, he’ll be more often approached by teens and kids who aren’t dealing with a burden of shame that adult women sometimes impose on themselves and which must bleed through into some of his encounters so far.

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  4. Great post. Never forget the intended audience of the piece and the intention of the interviewee, apart from any twisting by the interviewer. I think especially when it comes to fans it is important to remember that in the eyes of a more sophisticated audience, like Stage readers and regular theatre goers, the fan thing is likely to diminish RA as an actor. Fully embracing the fans also doesn’t go with the self styled image of modesty and shyness. I think it is worth looking to which degree words and actions match. If he had been so eager to go back to stage and do the Rover, why is he in Detroit filming a tornado flick right now and not in the UK rehearsing?

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    • well, a lot can change in two years, too. We don’t know what exactly his unstated motivations for wanting to be on the stage in London were (aside from his stated ones, which also varied slightly).

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      • Sure. Now may not be the right time in his career when he has a chance to conquer the US market. And the theatre company he had plans with probably moved on as well. But I have always thought that the repeated mention of his wish to do stage work did more originate from the attempt to paint a certain picture of himself than the intent to actually do. After all, other actors don’t just mention plans, they do it.

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        • I friended the ETT homepage when that was under discussion. I think there’d be problems for him now if he did that — they seem, for example, to post photos of their rehearsals on their FB page. I can’t imagine how he’d feel about that. Given their infrastructure I’d suspect they’d be overwhelmed by the flood of interest in any production he’d be in.

          To be fair — maybe he still thinks of himself as a stage actor at heart. Or wishes to be one even though the ship has sailed. Our own pictures of ourselves don’t always square with how others see us.

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          • I don’t think the ship has sailed for good- he might very well get back on stage at some later point in his career. I very much hope he will. Like David Tennant, he’d definitely put lots of bums on the seats. When I was living in London, I was absolutely revelling in going to see well-known film and TV actors/actresses on stage. I can tell you, the theatres were always, always full! 😀

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            • well, the greater his reputation, the greater his attractiveness to a theater company, one supposes. I imagine he has some concern about making sure he does a good job, so he might not want to start off with Hamlet. Although he’s a bit old to play Hamlet now, anyway.

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  5. BTW on a side note, James McAvoy is from a quite a humble background.

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    • correct me if I’m wrong, but he hasn’t done a lot of stage work and his reputation rests primarily on his film work? The point is complicated in the UK, I’m sure, by the fact that almost every actor gets his / her start on stage and has at least a short stage resume (something that would definitely not be true in the U.S.)

      McAvoy is an anomaly in other ways, too — a Scottish Catholic.

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      • I’m not really familiar with his career, but apparently he went to RADA and caught the eye of several famous director early in his stage career.

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  6. Masterfully done, Servetus. The medium IS the message ;-). And since it appears it’s my evening for cliches: live and let live. Thanks for posting, really enjoyed reading.

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  7. However much I admire RA I don’t see him as a theatre performer, his style is more suited to the screen where it can be replayed and disected to see his sutle facial expressions. Those lucky enough to see him on the set of ‘the vicar of dibley’ said he was nervous and the ‘old vic’ seemed to consist of him ‘taking the micky’ out of his Lucas North character( which he did( probably) in good spirit).
    I believe he is ‘striking while the iron is hot’ staying in the US to make films, if he becomes better known he will be able ‘step away’ and do more TV etc. Last evening I saw ‘the dark knight rises”and was amused to see Burn Gorman (In Divine proportion) in a 6 line part…………all the Brits do it!

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    • I don’t have enough data to make a judgment, but whether he should or shouldn’t work in theatre, this interview seems to make the point that he wants to, as did several other pieces in 2010.

      I agree that you have to take opportunities that are presented to you when they come. He also said, when asked in 2010 about Hollywood, that he’d be eager to go and didn’t see any reason not to.

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  8. Wonderful post, concerning the current argument in the fandom and furthermore for a considerate approach to news / interviews and just the information surrounding us.
    The appearance of information can so easily shift, when we know more about the background and intentions behind them.
    Absolutely great analysis, Servetus !!!

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  9. Great analysis. Too often I just consume without applying a critical thinking approach. It really is important to take context, and even intent into consideration when consuming all this information in the public domain.

    I also think that whatever RA thinks about being a celebrity and fandom in general, may change over time and may be influenced by the amount of exposure and experience he will encounter over the length of his career.

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  10. It might be tempting to examine any interview with a performer to be a definitive statement of said actor’s philosophy and ambitions. Obviously, it’s not as simple as that. Interviews are of their time and of their place, and as with job interviews, reflect the particular time and place and context of the interview – speaking to a specific audience of potential influence on one’s career. One can question Armitage speaking more than once about the desire to return to stage work, while continuing in screen work. (I could be critical of the also more than once mentioned desire to promote a realistic Richard III production – which might, or might not be any closer to reality – I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in funders’, funds, viability.) When a body of a number of years’ interviews are under the microscope – yes, if analysing, analysis seems more a matter of coalescing what individually appear disparate impressions. There has been consistency in many aspects of Armitage interview responses over the years since N&S – they have been noted within this AW group.

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    • and some transformations as well, I think. I guess part of my point with this piece is that we have to be really careful in seeing where stuff comes from before we simply pronounce on “what Armitage thinks.”

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  11. Hi Servetus

    I love your blog, have been lurking for some time. This is my first time making a comment, and with your kind permission it is in response to Sapphire’s comment.

    Hi Sapphire I disagree with your opinion regarding RA and theatre performance. I saw him at the Old Vic and his stage presence in my opinion is quite impressive, considering the amount of stage work he has done. My interpretation of the play was not him taking the mickey out of Lucas North, but more him doing a parody of himself. This was done in humour, as it partly formed the basis of the story. As for the Vicar Of Dibley he would have been nervous as most actors are before going on stage. However I agree with the last part of your comment he is striking while the iron is hot, to make the most of the opportunities that the Hobbit will hopefully give him.

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  12. Thank you very much for your welcome. I will try my best to comment more often.

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    • no pressure. I love lurkers and commentators alike — I just know the commentators better 🙂

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    • Hi June,

      I’m also deeply envious that you have seen RA on stage. Your thoughtful post made me consider that i’m not really in a position to comment on RA on stage versus screen as i haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him live on stage. But i’m going to comment anyway! It’s clear to me that he is an extremely accomplished actor in both spheres – i can’t imagine the RSC would have employed him if he wasn’t talented. I also agree that his reported nerves on the set of VOD mean nothing – some of the finest stage actors say they regularly vomit due to nerves before a performance. But i find myself agreeing more with Sapphire – i think this man shines most brightly on the screen. For me it is those fleeting micro expressions that make him so good – and i feel those would be largely lost on stage. When i think of the RA moments that have most moved me they have usually involved the tiniest of facial expressions and the most subtle of body language. Whatever the message RA was intending with that Stage interview, the bottom line for me is that John is so much more than a bloke with a gun because of the way RA portrayed him.

      cheers,

      bolly x

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      • I think we have to keep in mind that he’s been paring his emotionality down for years for the tv screen. he said something about that early on — that you add layers for the stage and take them away for tv. I’m torn. I love the microexpressions which would be totally lost on stage, I agree — but I also think that he has such striking features; such big, dramatic eyes; such an amazing physicality; his is a talent that in some ways is too big for tv and would be shown to advantage on stage, where it could take up more space without overwhelming the viewer. My real reservation about stage work is mostly that I wouldn’t see it 😦

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  13. When I was visiting here earlier today I barely skimmed over this post, but knew right away it was something I wanted to put aside until I had time to savior every word. I thought the first two pieces were hilarious and the third was like the pieces of the puzzle coming together. I’m always wondering what you’ll come up with next.
    I never considered the “A” reading as a possibility and instinctively went with the “B” reading. I don’t think RA dislikes meeting/greeting fans, but feel he’s more embarrassed than anything else due to modesty. It’ll be interesting to see how or if his reactions change as he becomes better known and acquires more fans.
    What you wrote about manners in the US vs the UK was interesting because my brothers and I were raised to believe that good manners were the foundation of good character. My father would literally drill us on our manners. He was always saying “Would it break your jaw to say Yes Sir?” Now that I’m older, I consider good manners not only the foundation of good character but the foundation of civilization. And I’ve always been attracted to a gentleman (or as we say here — a southern gentleman). It’s one of the characteristics I like best about RA. It’s also one of the qualities that make him seem like a throwback which I also find appealing.

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    • meant to say savor every word — not savior. It’s always something.

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    • Sloan, I am a southern girl myself and I was brought up to believe good manners were important. That anyone, no matter what their income or station in life, could “own” good manners.

      When I took a small group of students to Europe back in ’99, the flight attendant on our return flight from Paris commented on how polite and well-mannered my students were. I was so proud of my kids–who had been brought up by their parents to behave that way. They weren’t pretending by saying “yes ma’am” and “No, ma’am” they were just being their small town southern selves.

      My husband is a true southern gentleman and yes, that is one of the things I most admire about RA. He seems to have that same thoughtful gentlemanly nature.

      Oh, and I remember my daddy saying, “Not yes, it’s yes, sir.” 😉

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    • Thanks, sloan. That’s a huge compliment to me — an analysis should show exactly and clearly how it puts it pieces together. Nothing should be hidden from the reader. So if this does that, I’m pleased.

      I will clarify that I’m not saying Americans don’t care about manners. Just that it’s my impression that statement “[I do it] because I am polite” has a culturally different meaning to speakers and audiences in the UK than it would in the US.

      And speaking now from two decades of Judaism — I would say manners can change your life. Doing something because you have to or think you should is not a testimony to your falseness, but a way of changing your attitude toward it.

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  14. I’ve gotten the impression that the casting for The Hobbit was completed for some time prior to the official casting announcement in October 2010. You’ll recall that production of The Hobbit was stalled by labor disputes, etc. and for a time it appeared it might not be made. I always thought the plans to do The Rover was a project chosen when it suddenly appeared RA might have unplanned time on his hands when he had already turned down other projects to make room for a two year shoot in NZ. He may have seen an opportunity to get back to the stage, and his apparent withdrawal from that project was prompted by The Hobbit finally getting a green light, not any cold feet on his part or a decision by the company not to produce the play.

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    • I think that’s true, Northern Gal. I’d have to track down the first incidence of “I want to get back on stage” in order to say anything else — which I didn’t do for this post. I know it was a big theme early in 2010 because that was when I was starting to blog. I do know, however, that the read-through that ETT tweeted about was a good month or so after the announcement of his casting in the Hobbit.

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      • I think you are right. He started mentioning the Rover during the SB publicity. Everyone got excited and were ready to book tickets and flights and hotel rooms. I’m sorry for sounding smug, but my reaction was that I refused to believe it because Richard Armitage never does a play. Not as long as he has other offers. I have seen him making those announcement and people taking them seriously for many years. But I have only ever seen other actors (many who did comparable TV work) treading the stage.

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        • Hmmm; the case for timing is a solid one, but I’m chafing a bit at your description of fans as if they were overly gullible. I remember those discussions, and I don’t think it was all about Armitage’s career. At least for me, the discussion about possibly attending a play was really important mostly because it was a theme about the extent of my then-emerging fandom. Was this something I would do? If so, how would I justify it? If I went, would I be stalking? and so on. Thinking about those things would have been important for me whether or not he had actually done a play. For me, anyway, thinking about Richard Armitage’s stage career wasn’t so much about the progress of his career — it was an effort at placemaking for myself within my own emotional and growing fan world.

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        • I was thinking about this more last night and realized something that really surprised me — Jane, you have totally moved to the “D” reading! In essence, you’re essentially saying “Richard Armitage saying he wants to do theatre says nothing about Richard Armitage.” My head is spinning.

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          • It may say something about how he wishes to be seen by his audience and by the powers that be. I think he knows that a reputable actor should have stage work in his resume and he also knows what an impression stuff like SB gives, but instead of choosing a play over SB he does some kind of damage control. It may also say something about what he would do in an ideal world were money doesn’t matter.

            But what he says about the projects he would like to do says nothing about what he is actually offered and chooses to accept. I haven’t seen him doing RIII, a comedy of some kind or “something about love” either. I judge him by what he actually does and the pattern is pretty obvious, with the tornado movie being totally in line with previous choices. Something like this was more or less what I expected. Stage work is paid very badly and so is I suppose a part in a low budget independent movie. Whereas a pay TV channel like Sky probably is able to offer more than the BBC and almost any work in the US is much better paid than work in the UK. That is why British actors try to get (small) movies roles and parts in American TV series. Someone even suggested that he may be paid more for the tornado movie than for the Hobbit.

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            • I hope that it is not being implied that a man who puts as much effort and artistry into his performances is basically just in it for the money because he hasn’t yet done a play or a small independent film.

              Let’s see, the man has pretty much been independent since he was 17. No trust fund to fall back on. He went through a lot of lean years where he was struggling and doing pretty much anything to try to keep the bills paid. He probably learned to make do and to stretch what he had. And I am quite sure he doesn’t want to go back to those lean days. Would you?

              Now, if money alone was of such colossal importance to the man, he’d have gotten out of actng a long time ago IMHO. He is obviously an intelligent, gifted individual. It’s not as if standing in front of a camera and looking handsome is all the man is capable of doing. Other career choices are a lot more secure and better paying.

              However, Richard has stuck with it, even though he’s had moments of doubt. And while some of us don’t like some of his choices, I have to say I have seen him in everything he’s done, unlike some people who comment here, and I believe he continues and will continue to evolve as a performer.

              Even as much as I despise Spooks 9, he was extraordinary.

              It’s been a long time coming but big things are finally happening for him and it’s richly deserved.

              I think we should try to be accepting of the fact he isn’t going to always please all of us. Be aware we don’t know every audition he’s been on, the outcome of them, and what scripts he has been offered. I am pretty sure none of us are omniscient.

              I also think people have a right to change their minds and change directions in life.

              While I hope he does get to return to the stage one day IF that is something he desires (and I would love to see him on stage in a live performance) I certainly don’t think he should be dismissed as a legitimate actor or seen as some sort of sell out if he instead works only in films/television. I want him to be satisfied and fulfilled in his career choices. I want him to be happy. Period.

              The truth is it is unfair to stand in judgment of anyone, period. But it is especially true if you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes.

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              • I’m not saying he did choose his profession for money, but almost every single role. He always makes the save and sensible choice, based on the pay and a long-running contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tornado movie is part of some deal he made with New Line/WB.

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                • and if he did choose the profession for money? (I mean, that would have been poor thinking on his part, but presumably most people make career choices with potential remuneration as one of the options).

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              • One of the impressions that I *didn’t* want to leave with my argument, however, is that anything about how we read him can take refuge in “either / or” argumentation. Either he wants to be on stage or he doesn’t; either he is smiling truthfully at fans or he is acting; either he takes the artistic choice or the safe choice. Humans and their motivations are complex. As are the choices they are offered. I am sure every reader here understands that.

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            • Well, RIII would be something he’d have to put together and sell himself — so it’s a bit different than simply trying to get added to a production that’s already planned (and I guess he doesn’t want to do Shakespeare’s R3).

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  15. This was such a great series, Servetus! I had read the interview before, but didn’t think much of it. Even without your detailed analysis, the “C” reading is more in line with how I read the quote. As you say, context makes a huge difference in how we interpret what is said, and that is clearly an issue here.

    His own behavior towards fans, more recently even than this article, makes a literal reading seem ridiculous. Or I suppose he could be an even better actor than I thought. 😉

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    • I didnt raise this in the post, but it’s been interesting to me that this particular commentator used, frequently, to make the argument that by saying we can know little to nothing about Armitage based on his statements to the press, and that there are tropes in his appearances such that Armitage seems to be a character that Armitage plays, that I was saying he was being untruthful. It strikes me that it cannot be simultaneously true that Armitage is truthful in his public appearances and that he wants fans to stay away from him. If he wants fans to stay away, then his pleasant reaction to them in all kinds of settings is untruthful. If his pleasant reaction is truthful, than it can’t be the case that he wants fans to stay away.

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  16. Thank you very much ,Servetus!
    I may take off my shiny armour, thanks to June.;) A P M-disarmed!

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    • yes, whenever you feel APM symptoms, take a deep breath and look at your favorite picture of the man and say, does he need me to defend him, or to ogle him? 🙂

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  17. 🙂 Yes,I know…..but I really like him!

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  18. As a relative newcomer to RA fandom, or indeed any fandom, I am perplexed by the ongoing theme that we should be apologetic – and thank you Servetus for resisting that proposition. For a variety of reasons apparently: for being too old, too well educated, too devoted etc.

    I query whether other fandoms are exposed to such scrutiny. Is it accepted as a societal norm that young women can be enthusiastic in their admirations of performing artists, but older women may not?

    Unless there has been some unfortunate incident, I do not believe that a respectful approach to RA to express an appreciation of his work could be unwelcome. After all every performer needs an audience.

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    • I heard an interview with Richard Chamberlain the other day in which he said, “audiences are everything to a performer, and fans are a particularly industrious, devoted segment of an audience.” It seems like a gimme. I’ve been talking about this problem with fellow fans behind the blog for some time, off and on, and we have come up with two answers. There may well be more.

      The first is that the Armitage is fandom is the *first* fandom for many of us. We really don’t know how to behave as fans because we haven’t had this experience before, and so we are potentially susceptible to people warning us about our behavior than more experienced fans would be. I have a lot of off blog conversations with people who say, “why are these questions even being raised?” and I suppose the answer is because many of us haven’t asked them before.

      The other, that a friend has raised, indeed relates to age — as slightly older fans, and mostly women, we have two characteristics that younger fans don’t have — a more highly developed sense of shame and embarrassment, based on life experiences, and greater a willingness to incorporate ourselves into a hierarchy. When some emerges to tell us that our behavior is shameful, we’re more likely to accept it (especially if we have secret fears in this direction ourselves — see point one) and also more likely to accept quasi-authoritative voices telling us things.

      So far the theory.

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    • NZfanofRA,

      For some reason, your question about fan behavior actually reminds me of an interview I once saw with Josh Groban, where he explained that a lot of his fan encounters have been mother / daughter combinations and how badly he feels for those awkward daughters, dragged forth by their over-enthusiastic mothers.

      I forget where I saw it, but he described the interaction as usually the mother coming forward to gush about how much she loves his music and then suddenly thrusting her embarrassed teen daughter in front of him (looking mortified) while apologetically telling him, “Hi, I really do like your music and think you’re great.”

      http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/w0008656.html

      I don’t know why, but I find this story both appalling and endearing at the same time. It’s probably because I can relate to the awkward mortification of that daughter dragged there against her will. 😉

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  19. I’ve always been a “C” believer, there are elements of truth in what he says, the question however is what part is true and what isn’t? Not to mention, like any other person out there, somewhere along the way he may have changed his mind, and that too is his prerogative.

    Whatever he says, no mere observer can truly know him based on his words alone in interviews or his public actions. It takes more than that to claim to know him. And as it stands, none of us can.

    Hell, the same could be said about some colleague. Just because you’ve worked together for years, does not necessarily mean you know the person.

    Oh well, I still like him anyway. Unless some horrible stuff emerges, then I might have to rethink things. 😉

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  20. Ha ha ha. Okay – in tangentially related matters of fandoms and other ‘armies’. I meandered over to Hiddleston’s tweet page today and saw him thanking his army of fans for a UNICEF UK fundraiser drive he’s discovered is being run on his behalf.

    It was funny to see how alarmed his fans were as they’d meant it to be a surprise!! I just gotta say, I do love this part of fandoms. All the fun and surprise planning for the good of others. 🙂

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  21. […] instance, the “Stay Away from Armitage!” series from this summer, parts 1 and 2 and 3). In that sense, I don’t have the same trust in the fandom that I have in my classroom, that […]

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