Losing Armitage? or, Thorin aches and pains, part 4

I can’t believe this was originally only supposed to be two posts. But this is definitely the last one on this topic! And it is much shorter. If you missed them, here are links to parts one and two and three.


Before I get to the main event — a Richard Armitage euphoria trigger for us all!

Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in a publicity photo for North & South. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

Feeling euphoric now?


In previous posts, I articulated my hope that fans of longer duration than me will enjoy their memories of a past with closer, more current contact with Richard Armitage, as well as my own sentiments about the problems I’ve perceived in the years I’ve been a fan, and the ways in which I fear that I have contributed to them. Now it’s time for recommendations for all of us, for me, too, and it’s a good time for them, because signs suggest that things are going to change in pure numeric terms. And as our demographic context changes, we have a chance to change ourselves, as well — if we want to.

And I want us to. I’ve been hoping desperately for the expansion of this fandom for at least a year, but no more intensely than I have in the months since the eruption within our ranks during the San Diego ComicCon and my response to it. The reason I am most optimistic about the possibilities for this change is that I am convinced — perhaps in contrast to the folks who like the small, tight-knit group of fans, or appreciate the “our little secret” quality of much of Richard Armitage appreciation as it’s been conducted heretofore — that our fandom is just too small.


Another euphoria pic.

Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) and Margaret (Daniela Denby-Ashe) in the final scene of episode 4 of North & South. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

Feeling euphoric?


Richard Armitage does not have enough fans.

I don’t mean that in the sense that I don’t love or am ungrateful for the closeness I feel to my fan friends — I do.

I don’t mean that in the sense that I think Richard Armitage deserves more fans, although it is also certainly true that the quality of his work merits more attention from wider audiences.

I don’t mean it in the sense that I think Richard Armitage wants more fans, either, as he appears to struggle to reconcile his personal modesty with the experience of unabashed adoration from us, and though he doesn’t express worry about related externalities, he seems to be neutral to negative on the increased notoriety that comes with having fans.

And, finally: No, I’m not trying to be difficult or oppositional. I think Armitage does not have enough fans because I think that many of our problems relate to our small size as a fandom. If Armitage had more fans, I theorize, the consequences of small size that regularly plague us could finally be alleviated.


Some more euphoria:

Richard Armitage in CBeebies. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

A grown man converses with a stuffed animal. Sweet enough for you? Are your cheeks red yet?


I’ve talked in previous posts about my feelings that certain decisions I’ve made seemed inevitable to me if I were to grow as a blogger, if I were to fulfill the tasks I’ve set for myself here. And yet, I was aware that those decisions would separate me from others. Although I remain sympathetic to the countervailing tendency — that as a fandom we are always better off when we stick together — philosophically, my practical faith in this possibility remains low. Not everyone is going to be able to suppress their needs in order to maintain the peace, a problem that I’ve had my own issues with. Nonetheless, historically speaking, I would hypothesize that it’s been important for Armitage fans to stick together simply because there are so few of us. It doesn’t make sense to have multiple centers of dedicated fandom when only so many people have been available to participate in discussions. By “dedicated fan,” I mean not so much people who know who Richard Armitage is and like to read about him from time to time, but people who really have him on their minds and want information or contact that relates to him very frequently — one or more times a week.

I don’t know what the numbers of fans who might meet that description are, specifically, though I could guess. For instance, the data I have suggest that this blog attracts something like a hundred devoted readers who are here every day, perhaps multiple times a day, who often or occasionally leave comments; another three hundred who come at regular intervals, but not every day, and occasionally or never leave comments; and another six hundred occasional vistors who come when they think of it, but have never left a comment. I’m also certain that some Armitage fans never come here and / or are completely unaware of this blog. And I’m completely in the dark about the membership size of the boards, or the regularity with which participants there leave comments or talk to each other.

I can’t speculate on what the exact proportions of “critical mass” for sustaining new venues in our fandom might be, although quality typically attracts attention. Nonetheless, n=1,000 is a useful number because it casts light on just how small the dedicated Richard Armitage fandom might be. Let’s say that the number of people who never come here is roughly equivalent to the number who have come here — even then it’s only 2,000 fans, total — or even if it’s three times that, it’s still only 3,000. If we take as a rule of thumb that only five to ten percent of any group will leave a comment or participate regularly in a conversation, at the large end of that spectrum, we’re talking something like 300 people to talk to. Let’s be generous and say it’s 500. Or, let’s be crazy and cite a figure that in my opinion is totally off the map — 10,000 dedicated fans, which would imply 1,000 people willing to be open about it on the web in any given week. That’s still not many people to sustain a fan universe that includes three major discussion boards in English plus a handful in other languages (such as German, Russian, French, Chinese, Spanish — another important caveat, because while many fans have mastered a second language, not all of us can talk to each other), another two major fansites without boards, about fifty blogs, I suspect at least as many tumblrs, and probably a dozen FB groups.


Another euphoria pic:

John Standring (Richard Armitage) comforts Carol (Sarah Smart) after their wedding in episode 3 of Sparkhouse. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

Are you glowing yet?


Looking at these numbers explains not only why people can be tense when a new venue opens — it cuts into the audience for one’s own projects (many fewer long comment conversations take place here now than two years ago, for instance) — but also why people get so angry when a fan with a blog or a tumblr pushes at the margins of the envelope a little. The numbers makes the vehemence of the battles a lot more intelligible, because there just aren’t many of us. A single, powerful, dissident voice has a lot more power because diverse groups capable of espousing strongly differing opinions and still sustain themselves simply can’t populate themselves. A small disagreement gets a lot of attention and people line up to take sides. So if there are only three hundred people in a conversation, you have to have strong rules to keep those people together — not only to sustain the activity itself, but also to keep people from splintering off, because every disgruntled fan who leaves the fandom constitutes a significant loss.

And people in smaller groups, I would argue, are also potentially more likely to get disgruntled than people in larger ones, because the perception of being “tarred with the wrong brush” — whether accurate or not — is potentially greater. I am sure that some of the fans of longer duration, who have a picture of themselves that involves being in close contact with Richard Armitage, have asked themselves, “If Richard Armitage knows about this, what does he think? Does he think I endorse [that activity or style of conversation that I find disrespectful]?” Those are questions with which I have not much occupied myself, as I haven’t ever felt that blogging brings me closer to the real Richard Armitage, as tantalizing as that thought might be.

But even if Armitage isn’t listening or watching, there’s still the question of perception from outside. To put it from that perspective — what happens when you say, especially outside of the UK, that you’re a fan of Richard Armitage? Up till now, he’s been such a specialty taste that the likelihood any interlocutor would know what you’re talking about is relatively low. But if there are only “a few” other fans, then the possibility that one of them could embrace an attitude you can’t tolerate, that you would be made responsible for by an outsider who happened to be aware of it, is much greater and much more frightening than if there are hundreds and thousands of fans. In a small fandom, feeling close ties to others is important and that means to all or most other fans. In a large fandom, I would hypothesize, it becomes easier to shrug off behavior you’re troubled by because both you and the people around you who observe your fandom are likely to be aware that the fandom is large and involves large groups of differing constituencies. “I’m a Star Trek fan,” you might say, “but not like one of those fans.”

So, while it makes sense that a small fandom would cultivate a narrower notion of identity for both practical and identity-related reasons, the battles that come out of constituting it are vicious because the stakes are high and energy resources are scarce, and because everyone knows everyone else and every loss is incredibly painful. Because the fandom is small, too, there aren’t so many other places for people to go if they do differ. And, if a particular dynamic of fan policing takes form repeatedly in a particular setting, it’s also difficult to oppose it because the dissidents always leave, never to be heard from again. So the people who perpetuate the dynamic gain power.


Some more euphoria for many readers, I hope:

Harry Kennedy (Richard Armitage) tells Geraldine about his favorite books in Vicar of Dibley: The Handsome Stranger. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

Are you suffused with happiness yet?


So what am I dreaming of? A situation where those battles don’t happen. A fandom where this blog (or others that take on problematic positions) doesn’t become the lightning rod for negative sentiment — because no single voice or tiny group of voices can be potent enough, in a vast sea of fans, to create such intense dissent within an influential small group. A situation where it is not possible for me to read the majority of what dedicated fans write about Armitage during a week and catalog my favorites, so that many people have to be involved in these activities, so that everyone is saying what their favorite blog post is this week. A situation where the world of fans of Richard Armitage is a sea that is impossible for any of us to grasp. And it seems likely that a step in the direction of this situation could be just around the corner. While it is understandable that people with a big investment in something feel a certain amount of frustration when others who don’t comprehend the extent of that investment start getting involved with it and doing their own thing, if the number of new fans is sufficient, the previously invested will not be able to enforce those concerns so easily any longer.

New fans will be coming to fan venues for Richard Armitage — not for us. Recognizing our prior investment or reproducing or conforming to our fan culture will not be among their first concerns. Indeed, only if we befriend them are they likely to develop any interest in our fan culture at all. If they find welcoming attitudes and venues, they may stay — or they may not. They may have different needs and form their own venues. And if we want to reduce the number of struggles in our own ranks, we should both be extremely welcoming to them, and also encourage them to constitute their own groups. Because the things that they do only create more options, and the potential for less tension.


More euphoria:

Lucas North (Richard Armitage) reveals his delight in his fake fiancée, played by fellow agent Ros Myers (Hermione Norris) in Spooks 7.5. Soure: RichardArmitageNet.com


Why do I keep interspersing these “good feeling” pictures? As a reminder.

As we meet new fans, I think we have to keep our eyes on one main thing:

The cause of the euphoria.

Not: “respect for Richard Armitage,” whatever that means to each of us. Not: enforcing codes of behavior or rules of discourse on each other. Not: maintaining group identity against newcomers, or opening it to newcomers who are willing to accept our rules and adopt our culture.

What should we keep our eyes on? The thing that brought us here, whenever that happened. The thing that brings out our best qualities — our capacity to rejoice with those who are rejoicing (and the sympathy that that permits, which in turn allows us to mourn with those who are mourning in that season).

What brought us here? Enjoyment of Richard Armitage and his work. That is the main thing that unites all of us, even if we define that enjoyment in very diverse ways. And if we keep thinking about it as our paramount concern, reveling in that feeling of instantly activated love can make our world a better place. Because even if we disagree about all kinds of things — about what it is okay to say or do or think — we can agree that our motivation for speaking or doing or thinking is the immense amount of joy brought to us by this beautiful, talented, considerate, thoughtful guy.

I’ve been asking people for a year not to police each other, but I’m changing my question now, and this is my fan resolution for the next year:

The next time I feel some kind of irritation with fan behavior that leads me to feel the urge to police or disapprove, I am going to ask myself: even if I don’t happen to like this particular thing, what do I share with this fan? Why do I care about this person’s behavior in the first place? And the answer is going to be: I care because we both love Richard Armitage. That doesn’t mean that I have to approve innerly — but it does mean that I have to stop thinking about the outcome and start thinking about shared motivation. And I am going to remind myself of the euphoria I get from watching his work, looking at pictures of him, hearing what he says. And I am going to say — having the opportunity to share this euphoria is more than enough. I can easily grant that joy to someone else — even if I don’t like or even understand the specific thing she is doing. I have the joy, and she has the joy — and neither of us really needs anything more than that.

I’m not perfect and G-d knows I’m going to fail repeatedly. But I am going to ask myself that question; I’m going to tape it to my computer screen. I am going to remind myself of the love that Richard Armitage makes me feel — and what I share with other fans. And what we can build together out of that feeling of euphoria.

A flood of fans who are excited about Thorin Oakenshield should bring us a flood of new euphoria to enjoy, to share, to pass around, to multiply, to share with the world. It should allow us to see Richard Armitage through new eyes. Perhaps I’m too optimistic, but I still think that this expansion can do nothing but help us — if we remind ourselves why we are are here, if we remain open to the possibilities for diversity that can only increase the happiness we feel in the future.

~ by Servetus on October 31, 2012.

42 Responses to “Losing Armitage? or, Thorin aches and pains, part 4”

  1. Hi, Servetus. I’ve been lurking for a while. 🙂 Even I quickly got the feeling this summer that a lot of admirers were torn between euphoria over RA finally getting recognized for his abilities and by losing that intimacy either perceived or real as part of the small but fiercely loyal fandom. Even having just “found” the man, I understand. The double-edged sword is a dilemma, but inevitable given the man’s talent.

    You said it best, which is simply that we all come to this place over our love/admiration/passion for this actor. If we respect him and ourselves, then it shouldn’t be hard, not really. He’s his own man and he’ll make his own choices, which should now involve a lot more options than five years ago. I am reminded of one Viggo Mortensen who had somewhat the same trajectory at about the same age with the same number of showings in three of the biggest movies of all time. And he is still his own man but has since been able to make fascinating choices and live fairly privately.

    I may wistfully hope, however, that RA will send his usual Christmas greeting to everyone like he has every year for so long. First, because they are quite sweet to read. But to me, it also would send a pretty loud message in so many ways.

    Thanks for your thoughtfulness, S. I’ve been enjoying your blog and your passion to dig so deep into examining what this man does to you. (I confess, you’ve got me doing it, just not on a blog.)

    Peace. ~janine


    • Hear hear Janine! 🙂


    • Thanks for the comment, Janine, and welcome. If I shooed a few lurkers out of the corner, this has definitely been worth it.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mixed feelings. I just hope we can be very proactive about examining them.

      I hope he continues w/the Xmas msgs, too.


  2. “..all comers all welcome here in the bosoms of our bosoms” right? 😉 😀


  3. Succinctly, what the heck are you trying to say??????


    • Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog.

      Hmm, and I thought this post was so much less complex than what I usually write. Each section has a main point under the picture.

      1) Richard Armitage does not have enough fans
      2) Delineation of small size of fandom
      3) Small fandom makes intra-fandom battles both more vehement and harder to tolerate
      4) my wish is for a fandom big enough that these squabbles don’t hit every corner of it
      5) It would help if fans would try to keep in mind what brings us together as opposed to what separates us.


  4. I left commenting until now, and thus find myself not knowing where to start, there’s so much to take in. Suffice to say that these posts have made fascinating reading.
    My favourite bit? Our motivation for speaking or doing or thinking is the immense amount of joy brought to us by this beautiful, talented, considerate, thoughtful guy.
    Oh…and ditto Joanna’s comment! 😀


    • I think it’s easy to forget that — we get involved in the transactional part of fandom as opposed to the motivational part.


    • Is it okay if I just “ditto” both Mezz’s and Joanna’s comments? I’ll just add that I’ve been a fan since N&S days and my feelings have only grown in intensity rather than waning and how many admirers/”fans” he has will not impact me in any way. I’m just happy to be part of “the community” no matter how many it may contain. We should always be able to make others welcome so they can experience the same joy that he has brought us. Even if in future he is unable to communicate with his fans like he has done in the past, how I feel about him is unlikely to change.


  5. Hear, hear!


  6. Thanks for pointing out the changes we will possibly experience, come December. The only way of meeting change is actually to embrace it. Resistance is futile. I hope the fandom will read this and take it to heart, Servetus.


    • I’d say — the only one has of affecting the course of changes is to participate (as opposed to stonewalling), esp in a situation like this.


  7. Beautifully said!!! A lovely post, thank you so much and ditto the other comments!


  8. Re the pics, yeah, I’m glowing and smiling! And I just adore that bit of “double chin” on the Spooks picture, I don’t know why.


  9. I smiled about your expectation of only female new fans, because my expectation is e.g. a Thorin battle techniques group of The Hobbit fans (boys). Not my kind of stuff in two (or three?) central aspects, but I am looking forward to them ;o)


    • I don’t know that’s so much my expectation as that I think the cultural and logistical obstacles will mean that we don’t have much contact with teenage boys. I mean, I honestly can’t imagine this blog would have any appeal to a fourteen year old male. I don’t think we’ll have to be nice to them because I don’t think they will seek us out. So I am more concerned about new female fans and especially late adolescents. I tried to be vague also because I really wish we could have more contact with adult male fans of Armitage.


  10. Yes. “we can agree that our motivation for speaking or doing or thinking is the immense amount of joy brought to us by this beautiful, talented, considerate, thoughtful guy.” The pictures have induced euphoria, as they generally do. I want those who admire Richard Armitage to become legion. His work is so amazing, I want to tell the world, “See, that’s quality, that’s what it’s all about.” If they happen to become addicts, as I have, well and good. Richard not only induces euphoria, but he spurs creativity and thought in a way I would not have thought possible, and he models thoughtful, considerate, generous, and gracious behaviour in a way I hope others will emulate and point out as worthy.


    • All you said! The quality of his work is spellbinding. I honestly can’t think of any actors right now who are even close to his ability. I keep telling people you have to watch him work. Just watch.


      • You’re an evangelist already, Janine 🙂


        • I know! Funny what life throws at us and when. I wasn’t expecting RA, for who would have believed such a creature existed? Certainly not me, after (mumble, mumble) years on the planet. With each new role I watch, I am further enamored/enthralled/awestruck. Crazy. Good.


          • The same thing happened to me about 10 months ago Janine. I wasn’t expecting it/him, but boy did it come at the right time!


            • March 2012. North and South. Although it was the DVD interview where I went finally went ker-thlunk. (Funny, two years prior I had seen him in a bit part, but it wasn’t the right timing – or role.)


  11. Taking a line from “Ghost” … Ditto. 😉
    (Must be the euphoria making my mind mush. *chuckle*)


  12. This has been interesting reading, Serv. I have a few thoughts of my own but don’t want to blogjack you, so draft something for my blog.


    • I think I’m over RA. I still think he’s a gorgeous man with lots of un-mined talents, but one of the things that was so captivating about RA was the fact that he was “our little secret” Now with all the media blitz going on for The Hobbit he’s no longer “our little secret” which was part of his mystic. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still my new favorite actor and I look forward to seeing lots more of his work which I believe will have the potential to mesmerize the entire universe. And I still think his mere presence has the ability to comfort and heal — but for whatever reason I’m not nearly as obsessed with him as I used to be. Things are kind of mellowing out for me. Who knows though what will happen when I see The Hobbit. I know one thing for sure — the kids are gonna love him. The other day I was looking at a picture of Thorin on the internet and my 4-year old saw it and had to double back for another look. He wanted to know what that was — he was really excited. I’m hoping The Hobbit will be something we can watch and enjoy together. And I’m all for diversity, so bring it on — it’ll be interesting to see what the newbies have to say about RA.


      • I also very much have the feeling that my fandom has changed. I wouldn’t say I’m over RA in any sense, but things are very different now than they were for two years ago. But these trajectories are different for different people.

        When RANet.com does its surveys, they consistently show that only about 20 percent of survey respondents have been fans since the N&S days. That means a lot of people go away anyway, and not out of anger, just out of fading interest.

        I’m glad your kids will be interested. Gives you a good reason to keep watching, so I’ll still see you around from time to time, I hope.


        • Oh, I’m not going anywhere. I admit I’ve been absent recently, but I enjoy the atmosphere here too much to stay away for long. And yes, the kids’ interest will be an additional reason to keep watching. The kids are a inspiration to carry on in so many ways. I remember when my Dad was dying…and the specific moment I looked at my daughter and found comfort because it made me realize that life goes on even when you lose someone — especially a parent.


        • Fans go away not just because of “fading interest”; we are mortal, you know.


    • Hey, anything that makes you write! As you know, b/c we’ve talked about this many times, I don’t disagree with what you wrote, but I chose not to put that in this post for a very specific reason. Will reply on your blog once I get through answering comments.


  13. […] finished a four-part series answering a sentiment expressed by the confession on the left.  I also felt the confessor’s […]


  14. Ha! recognized myself in there, as I used to comment a lot, what … two years ago?

    I suspect the fandom will become so big & diversified (dwarf fiction??!!) that controlling it will become impossible.

    I’m actually more curious to see how fame will affect RA public persona and fervently hope he gets some interesting script choices.

    As always thanks for the introspection. It’s more about what we have in common than what not!

    Also I concur w Janine & Joanna


    • That’s exactly what I’m expressing my hope for here. In effect, the fandom is already uncontrollable. However, the size of it makes it seem like maybe it is, and so some people have attempted to exercise control in ways that are damaging. Once it’s totally apparent that the fandom is huge, I’m hoping, those control attempts will go away too.


  15. Hi Serv,
    Well said. Gals, I’m at that time of life when “the change” is supposed to happen. Husbands are warned to stand back, put on a suit of armor, and just hunker down and get through it, until “their” wives return.

    Now either “the change” in me happened in so miniscule a way that neither he nor my hubby noticed, or my physiology is off kilter. More likely the latter, but that is another story.

    Instead of hot flashes, no sex, screaming fits, and chubbing up, etc., my hubby got the “hot” and sexy wife who wants “him” to warm her up, who knows how to pout cutely so he will capitulate or acquiesce, and who is dieting down. I can’t explain it, neither can he–but we’re enjoying it.

    My point is with this analogy that change will happen amongst we ladies in RA’s fan base (past, present, and future) in ways we may not expect. But as Serv points out, it is best to embrace it. Because ultimately, Richard Armitage as the hardest working actor/filmmaker on the planet is such a gift of his artistic expression to all of us.
    And oh yeah, I love gifts!

    Cheers! Grati ;->


  16. […] I’ve never spoken to you directly on this blog except in jest, or even when I got gooey or sexy, outside of the firm belief that you would never read what I wrote. I’ve never seriously thought you were reading — I’ve always thought you knew more or less what was said, that maybe someone was reading stuff casually on your behalf and passing on amusing bits or general impressions, but that you personally were not reading. A few things you’ve said in the last few days, however, have undermined my unshakable conviction that most of ArmitageWorld was not on your radar. If that’s true, I hate it both for me and for you, but your career is changing, and my own fears about being who I am are abating, too. Panta rhei — it is what it is. Very soon, if you ever did read here or care what bloggers wrote, you will occupy a position where nothing that we say matters hugely anyway, and I take immense comfo…. […]


  17. […] be continued. How did this get so long? The last part is much […]


  18. […] What should we keep our eyes on? The thing that brought us here, whenever that happened. The thing t… […]


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