Armitage leads with the feelings: Career implications?

[ETA: comments are now closed. Please do not write to me about it off blog. Thank you. — Servetus]
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Cast member Richard Armitage attends the Japan premiere of the movie 'The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey' in TokyoSlightly sheepish delight? A picture I love. Richard Armitage, Tokyo premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, December 1, 2012. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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In what follows, I’m trying to pick up my exploration of Armitage’s intellect in relationship to his artistry from here. This discussion started initially as a response to a statement Mr. Armitage made in an interview with Richard Crouse. Perhaps it’s also intriguing in light of the interview excerpts posted by WSJ — yay Seb, who got his question answered! — in which Armitage was asked what he wants to do in the future, and said, essentially, that he hopes to do something that contrasts to his previous work. What roles is Armitage likely to choose in the future?

But before I go there, though, I want to refocus on on the question we’re asking and the answers we developed. Otherfan was kibitzing and pointed out that some of the central original points of both the post and our conversation were completely drowned in the discussion. She wrote the following to me afterwards:

When we originally exchanged that correspondence, the pressing question in my mind was … “can an actor of sufficient ability perform any role convincingly?” I don’t think so, and it’s interesting to me to consider what irreducible qualities an actor brings to his roles.

She had elaborated upon that as follows, and I’m bolding moments of her remarks that I find significant:

The principals [of Sherlock] were so well cast, it has made me […] wonder if there are characteristics so innate that they’re impervious to craft. For example, Sherlock Holmes. He can’t be just an assortment of twitchy mannerisms, he also has to have a believably analytical mind. If a character requires that, do you need an essentially cerebral actor for the role? Could a gifted but not especially bright actor convincingly replicate that quality? Tom Hiddleston once remarked that he couldn’t turn off his intelligence. The press pilloried him for being an ass, but I think he’s getting at something real. It’s not difficult to recognize people who lead with their brains, but there’s no particular behavior that identifies them. It’s more like a certain intensity of attention, a way of consuming and processing information. I’m not sure I have ever seen this quality effectively suppressed by someone who has it, nor imitated by someone who doesn’t. For this reason I doubt Richard Armitage would be any more credible as a mastermind than Hiddleston would be as a mindless thug, and it’s not really anything to do with skill.

I agree with this assessment. (I have an interesting OT demonstration of this point to offer sometime, if it ever slows down around here, involving the contrast between David Suchet and Patrick Stewart playing Shylock.) And I responded to OtherFan by stating:

[Being cerebral gives off] a vibe. […] And Armitage doesn’t give it off. At all. In any case, after reading what you said a lot of things about my Armitage attraction became a lot clearer to me and even if I can’t write about them I’m grateful to you for lending me the insight.

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mb_071Physical-emotional response, and a scene that interviewees cite consistently as a most memorable moment in Armitage’s oeuvre: Peter Macduff (Richard Armitage) reacts to the news that his wife and children have been murdered, in ShakespeaRE-told: Macbeth. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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Next, I want to get at an answer. One thing I wonder, in the atmosphere of Armitage’s self-description of himself as an actor and where his energy comes from in that realm, is what irreducible qualities he might bring to his roles on that basis.

In exploring that question, I want to redirect our attention to the following points as a foundation for thinking about the emotionality question and how it plays out in Armitage’s work. To do that, I’m going to reinsert Richard Armitage’s quote in the Richard Crouse interview — bolded this time to emphasize stuff that I think is important for the continuation below:

“I do think that I’m a visual actor, like I see things rather than hear them, so, if I read a line, I’ll see an image, I won’t have a cerebral understanding of it. So it means I can be quite stupid as a person, I can be thick, and [tone of voice rises, perhaps as if in amusement? hard to interpret without seeing his face as he said it] still enjoy the process of acting. ‘Cause for me it’s an emotional-physical response rather than anything else.”

This self-description fits well with an assessment of his career. For instance, it essentially squares with two things I wrote about him in the second piece of my interpretive biography, which I published two weeks ahead of that interview. There, on the basis of considering steps in his early career, I described Armitage as possessing “a physical and intellectual openness to unfamiliar experiences that corresponds to his experiential / somatic learning style” and wrote, “it is perhaps easiest in comparisons of Armitage’s earliest roles to see a brisk movement in the refinement of acting style from job to job that was occurring with lightning speed in this period — clearly underlining a later self-assessment that he is a ‘quick learner’ when, indeed, he is given the opportunity to undertake the experiential learning most comfortable and effective for him.” The point I took away from Armitage’s remark in the Crouse interview was thus one I had been coming to for some time already by examining the sources available to someone like me for writing his biography, and which was related to the one I got from the conversation with Otherfan: that Armitage “leads with his feelings.”

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ep6_208Another moment where the character’s state of mind is not only signaled, but also justified by, a response that prioritizes the physical-emotional over rationality, calculation, interest, cerebrality: After receiving confirmation of the truth about his fellow soldier’s death, John Porter (Richard Armitage) responds with mercy to Hugh Collinson (Andrew Lincoln) in Strike Back 1.6. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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If it is true that Armitage’s first responses are somatic or emotional, it explains a number of his more noticeable features as an interviewee. At and from the beginning of his career, Armitage’s most intriguing remarks have not usually concerned either his own self-descriptions or discussions of his biography. He painted himself as an average person with an oft-thwarted desire to work, particularly at the beginning, and he consistently described himself in such terms. Hence, remarks in interviews about his “boring” qualities that typically follow a statement about focus or industry — and then a nice dose of self-deprecation should the interlocutor or audience feel inclined to believe his aspirations inappropriate. Nor do Armitage’s most interesting remarks usually have to do with the historical or literary or political contexts of the pieces in which he has appeared. These statements are always competent, and occasionally have their moving moments, but are not unusually penetrating or analytically insightful. Rather, in my opinion, Armitage’s most interesting moments in interviews primarily occur when they touch upon his feelings — and these moments most often occur in conjunction with his descriptions of his characters, with whom he appears heavily personally and emotionally involved. We could cite many examples of this effect — from admissions that he was dreaming that he was John Porter involved in a jailbreak, to his comment that he felt Thorin could be humiliated if Armitage appeared on set in less than full costume, or his statement that he drove around in his car doing Maori chants. Because these comments are so interesting, the reference to emotional or cognitive states often awakens a secondary moment of fascination in the listener, which has to do with his processes for creating them. (A friend has commented to me recently that she thinks this tendency — Armitage’s ongoing discussion of process — is the reason for the effect that the most intense Armitage fans are often stirred to creative acts of their own.)

This quality of experiential / somatic learning, which Armitage termed “an emotional-physical response,” I have termed “leading with the feelings,” as opposed to what OtherFan called “leading with the brain” and associated with Tom Hiddleston in our earlier conversation. I see “leading with the feelings” as a quality of intellect that, in combination with certain features of his personal style, notably a reserve that often makes him a responder rather than a natural leader, leads Armitage to make certain kinds of choices that have become visibly identifiable patterns in his work. I’m thinking here of the dynamic that is so consistently visible in his portrayal of Guy of Gisborne — where we are are asking ourselves for most of the first two seasons exactly what Guy knows and how alert he really is to what’s happening around him. I’m going to try to be talking a lot about this theme this year as I pick scenes from Armitage’s work to analyze. However, I want first to discuss some of the implications of this style for Armitage’s career.

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SH3_025An ideal role, and not just because of the northern connection — an emotional-physical actor playing the role of someone who chooses against all his reason: John Standring (Richard Armitage) joyfully embraces Carol Bolton (Sarah Smart) after agreeing to a marriage of convenience in episode 3 of Sparkhouse. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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In no particular order:

I. Regarding Armitage’s career beginnings

To me, this insight potentially explains a great deal about the slow development of Armitage’s career in its first decade — despite what seems like a strong talent (of which we now have evidence going back to 1999). I propose that his attraction to the classical stage came from an emotional connection to its themes, not from a cerebral one or a cultural motivation about the value of art for the sake of art. Statements about experimentality (small venues, Pinter) have to be understood as relating to emotional risk-taking or a fascination with atmospheric edginess rather than an inherent preference for the avant-garde as such or in itself. This attitude allows Armitage to embrace the idea of playing both Beorn and Bourne. It is possible that Armitage identifies strongly, on a perhaps visceral level, given his statements about his physical responses to lines, with the imperative of classical theater to provide emotional release for its audiences in the context of learning various things (about the self, others, society). Additionally, it is likely, given an early statement, that he sees himself as an actor as involved in this project personally as well. He has stated, in a much-maligned interview: “I finally hit something real inside me in one of those classes …. From that moment on I was kind of fearless because I knew I had it in me…. It was like, ‘I want to know what that feels like again because I can’t do that in my real life. I can’t cry like that because it’s not civilised.’ That’s when I thought it was really worth it” (Daily Mail interview, September 9, 2006). Later in the same article, he noted that one doesn’t have the opportunity to experience truly big emotions in real life all that often, and that being able to do in work was a reason to put other aspects of his life on hold. It is not simply a task for him, to provide this experience for others; rather, he too engages in the task as a matter of performing. It is a central reason why he performs.

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Video8-26Richard Armitage speaks about the role of Thorin, in vlog #8 for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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Seen from this perspective, the stories of classical theater — the tales of Shakespeare to which he comes back again and again in his comments about preparing for the role of Thorin Oakenshield, of kings and their victories and failures and inner lives and contradictions — these roles, and classical acting in general (by which I mean the traditional stage — not only Greek tragedy) may have attracted him precisely because of an emotional connection to their components. It’s interesting that Armitage’s references to Shakespearean kings with regard to Thorin all mention the emotional states of the kings and their personal conflicts — not their historical contexts, or their cultural significance. Is it too far, then, to suggest an implicit interest in mythic structure, given all Armitage’s comments over the years about the nature of heroes? When, while playing Guy of Gisborne, he stated that he’d love to be in a remake of Throne of Blood, his criteria for picking it were that it qualified as something “epic, dramatic, and atmospheric” — and as I’ve pointed out, his acting style squares well with the themes of such works, allowing him to move emotively and physically through a series of reactions that complexify and deepen characters that are on the surface relatively simple. At the same time, however, the kind of acting style and process that Armitage describes, for me, square poorly with current performance trends in classical theater, which demand an irony and a cerebral quality and perhaps even a high cultural mien that I don’t see as part of his natural repertoire as an actor. (I’m not discounting his own personal sense of irony here and clear awareness of the absurd — but if acting has the vital and serious relevance to his life path and personal style that it appears to have, acting is not a place where irony is going to show up easily or regularly. He can present meta-emotions easily, as when he shows Lucas North not so much emoting as reacting to his emotions — but a visible critique of both of these processes doesn’t really show up in his earlier work, and as Thorin he seems even less inclined to move in this direction.)

I do believe his statements about wanting to get back on stage — because he knows roles like these are there. (And I can imagine other reasons to add to this one.) At the same time, however, I think we have been wrong to read Armitage as interested in classical theater for the sake of great art. Rather, he must have been interested in it because of the kind of stories it was telling, because of the kind of emotions it permitted him to experience and express, and also, in the end, to communicate to his audience. Going out on a limb — I suspect, based on at least two press reports — that we need to take his statement about why he picked acting as a profession a lot more seriously than we have tended to do in the past. What he appreciated about Adrian Noble’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream was that the company and the audience were enjoying each other. At least two indices from the press suggest that one important takeaway from his Royal Shakespeare Company period was a desire not to torture the audience with roles that prevented them from enjoying themselves. This didn’t mean, I think, that everything he did had to be purely entertaining — but he did want the audience to enjoy its experience on some level, perhaps so that they could profit from the same experience of emotionality that he was hoping to have and provide, even when he is playing a character he wants the audience to see as mostly unlikeable.

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use_me_as_your_cardigan_4Richard Armitage as Jez in a theater still from Use Me as Your Cardigan (2002). Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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II. Why Thorin is a great role for Armitage on all levels, despite the potential risks of commodification

Seen from that light, I think his statement in the Crouse interview that what he most wants from the role is for people to go to the theater with their families and enjoy themselves is not just modesty, but a real statement of one of his actual goals. Armitage has also described himself as a people-pleaser. What a jackpot this film could be for him, apart from professional recognition that could help him in Hollywood — a role based on emotionality rooted in the sort of archetypes common in the classical theatrical canon, a quasi-mythic hero with tragic flaws and decisive contradictions, presented in a way that’s almost guaranteed to please the audience and thus make him feel like he’s fulfilled a key purpose in performance. I take some of what he said about the significance of The Hobbit in his childhood with a grain of salt as a historical report — it would be interesting to know if he’d ever mentioned Tolkien before the Vulpes Libres interview, at which point one suspects he’d already been cast; he’s refashioning, self-defining, repurposing his understanding of his life right here before our eyes — but as a description that relates to his emotional state at the moment, it’s priceless and accurate. In his own personal epic, the epic that is the life of Richard Armitage, this is the role he’s been preparing to play all his life.

As a side note, too — he’s going to get a lot of hugs from kids, something he really appreciates, perhaps because of the own portions of his emotional profile that still draw while acting on an open, more childlike emotionality that is more accessible to those who share it chronologically. I’m not saying Armitage lacks complex emotions — on the contrary — just that he’s still able to access earlier emotional states without too much difficulty, and that this capacity will draw not only adults, but also children, to his work.

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RA-BlackSky-10Sept12Richard Armitage as Gary Morris Fuller in a picture from the set of Black Sky Into the Storm. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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III. The past and the future: Role opportunities and role choices

This quality — leading with the feelings — explains a lot, I think, about roles he has appeared in up until now. While we don’t know what he’s been offered, I suspect that anyone who offers him a role has to be aware of this quality in his acting. One suspects that a criminal mastermind played by Armitage would be moved more by the passions than the interests, even if Armitage is certainly able to comprehend the interests as well. It’s why Guy, with his at times open, if nonetheless bitter emotion, serves as such an effective foil to the Sheriff, who can never feel anything purely or directly, even his own evil impulses. It’s why Lucas North can’t understand his exclusion from the grid upon his return, and why his connection to his colleagues repeatedly seems so thwarted and tenuous; why he can’t bear a night in jail — and why Bateman (as awful as that storyline was) ultimately is something that Armitage can make sense of, in the scheme of grand emotions, for the viewer. Leading with the feelings has to do something to explain his willingness to take on the role of Porter, a role that Armitage clearly played a major role in deepening. These contexts, along with The Hobbit, explain why I have almost no fear that, his attractiveness and capacity to arouse desire notwithstanding, that Armitage will be imprisoned in superficial romantic roles just because he’s physically beautiful. First of all, he hasn’t ever really had a role like that. All of the roles in which he also served as “eye candy” (and which his appearance might have played a role in getting him cast) had a larger, more emotional, more mythical purpose for him to which his beauty was largely subsidiary or even incidental. (And it wouldn’t have necessarily important in most of these roles for him to be good-looking except in the sense that all casting agents these days seem to prefer to cast the beautiful rather than the ordinary.) But even so, I can’t see Armitage actually taking more than one role in this genre if it did not have these characteristics of grand conflict, grand emotion, big stories — which motivate him as an actor and make it worth it for him. If he did take a role like that — it would because he was leading with his feelings.

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CaptainAmerica-068Heinz Kruger (Richard Armitage) shoots at Captain America (Chris Evans) in Captain America: The First Avenger. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com

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For the future — while it will be interesting to see the performance, this tendency also plays a partial role in explaining why, apart from the convenience of the role or the interest in the scriptwriters or filmmakers involved or any desire to take the money and run or to keep his hand in during the Hobbit hiatus and or keep his face before audiences or even deal with issues related to taxex in the UK or residency in the U.S., Armitage would pick a film like Black Sky, a choice that many of us found puzzling. He has said that the first reading of a script allows him to have emotions he may never have again and is important for that reason. He may have found those emotions, that heroism, those archetypes, those mythic elements in that script.

And for the future, as well: where are the mythic roles today that draw on these classic emotional themes? Who is writing scripts that are based on such themes? Comic book and fantasy franchises. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see Armitage in more of these roles, at least potentially.

But we also shouldn’t be afraid of them, either.

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This theme of making the choice to lead with the emotions has about 2,500 words of implications for me, too, but I’ll cut that off for now.

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[A note in conclusion: Let me ask politely at this point that after having read this far, anyone who still can’t get away from the idea that I’m insulting Richard Armitage here (or being snobby about his education, or calling him thick as a plank, or not taking him seriously as a thinker) just close this window and read somewhere else today for their Armitage fix. This theme is actually extremely important to me on a personal level, as it goes to why I’m still so besotted and getting more so by the day; I’m not writing this frivolously or with the intent of arousing anger or an APM flare; and I’m hoping for a a somewhat more nuanced discussion based on things I’m actually saying as opposed to attributions to me of things I’m not. In that vein, I welcome serious comments. But I’m not taking any more abuse on the basis of tendentious misreadings.]

~ by Servetus on January 13, 2013.

23 Responses to “Armitage leads with the feelings: Career implications?”

  1. Haven’t even finished reading, just wanted to comment on remarks about his love for Tolkien early on (original from the BBC press office 2006 when RH first aired): http://theuktvguide.blogspot.de/2008/01/richard-armitage-on-robin-hood.html

    “A lthough in his youth Richard admits to being more into The Lord Of The Rings books than the Robin Hood story,…”

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    • Aha, Good. Thanks so much for that. I will eventually edit this. It just struck me that the mythmaking about the Hobbit grew exponentially over the last year or so. I know that the statement about the role has been in his bio forever.

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      • It was a great way to market him and endear him to Tolkien fans. I’m not sure if he had already been cast or in talks in 2009 when he did the VL interview, I was under the impression that only happened 2010, but who knows. Some fans that had hoped he could be cast as Bard clearly took the mention of Tolkien as a hint but I always refused to believe that. 😉

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        • Summer 2009 would have fit well with the end of the filming of Spooks 8 (which was aired in Fall 2009, no? just before I became a fan) and the stunts for the final episode which involved Lucas being thrown back from an explosion, which could have been painful. 2008 would probably have been too early. He refers to a long time period between being cast and the film being greenlit, so Spring 2010 was probably too late. That’s my calculation anyway.

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  2. I’ll have to go back and read this again before I’m ready to formulate a comment, serious or otherwise, but can I just say “wow!” – I love this. 🙂

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  3. Can’t discern “insulting” to the actor in this. It seems both an intensely personal and analytical reaction to a question: Why does this particular actor interest you? Or a growing cadre of us?

    There are too many elements of this post to analyse at once. Or summarize. I suspect that there are so many ways in which an individual perceives and processes information, that it is pointless to speculate about “cerebral” or “feeling”. Except than as a happy meeting of both. And it is the individual who must find the appropriate manner in which to react. Or act.

    This actor has over years, found his stride, and has grown more confident in his interpretation of his environment, his profession, his aspirations.

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    • I want to emphasize, since I’ve now gotten some flak off blog, that this post does not dichotomize between reason and emotion. It discusses a prioritization of one in certain situations based on Armitage’s personal style.

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  4. What a great analysis, Servetus.
    Where I perhaps in my perception of people go into another direction is, with dividing between cerebral and emotional. I met completely ‘cerebral’ perceived people, who described, e.g. their experience/ability with numbers or the way they have a photographic memory, with emotions, sensations, flowing through their system and enabling them to remember or do their extraordinary thinking. I think only an emotional connection to what we learn/experience/do, enables us to remember, not a ‘cerebral’ per se knowledge accumulation. Exceptional musicians (which is a cross knowledge with mathematics) describing their ability as a taste or a colour, an astro-physicist/matematician his measuring and calculating the form of the universe as sexual awareness,…
    I understand what you mean with your theatre critique, as especially classic German theatre suffers greatly from those developments (and resulting loss of audience and the so common audience-insulting is no solution here in my view). Still, it is rather the reduction to thinking while not getting their motives through to the audience and speaking with an abstract image language which no longer can be understood (or in my opinion even is so highly exposed and separated from the play itself, that it never could have been understood without explanation) by the audience, which I see as the problem. My critique regarding most current plays here in Germany is, that they put high-strung modern interpretations on top, which have nothing to do with the play and at best are just one of many options of interpretation and not in any way mandatory to lead their audience along. Why do they not commission a new play and give some current playwright work, to write them a piece which really has the motives they want to show, when the classic play just did not say what they want to show? Just because it is cool to do a new “Faust” which nobody understands or play Shakespeare and putting actors in modern uniforms, covering the audience with water from a fire extinguisher for no discernible reason, just to show their disregard of the audience, which only was drawn in because of the name of Shakespeare and not because of their sub-par performance and interpretation (or the colourful fruit syrup they sprinkled and wasted on stage).
    What I want to get to with my points is, that I think only a brain where the possessor found the emotional triggers to start it going and to actively work with it, can be used to its full extent and to extreme abilities, like RA does in his acting.
    Triggers for individuals as always are magnifold, so I saw people motivated by regret, loss, fear, sorrow, admiration, encouragement, comfort, curiosity, but mostly by triggers far beyond the subject itself.

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    • Sorry, Servetus, for plastering my opinion here on your post.
      You know I disagree with you in that small aspect, though we come to the same conclusion in the end of perceivable emotional performance and extraordinary connection to the audience, RA reaches with his acting.

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    • Again, I’m not saying it’s either / or. “Leading’ is a metaphor that comes from social dancing, I believe, or from boxing. If you lead with your left foot, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a right one or won’t step on it at the appropriate time. If you lead with with a left hook, that doesn’t mean you can’t throw a haymaker.

      I tried to redefine it in the post, but if I had to write it in two sentences, I would say that what I am describing in his acting is this — a certain kind of reaction to things that is not primarily or initially cerebral is combined with a learning style that takes physical and emotional experience as its tools rather than analysis, calculation, examination. Reading is a means of uptake of information, but rather than learning from verbal instruction and the search for information, Armitage learns from how he reacts to information he uptakes in that setting. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the other things or that they play no role, simply that his gut reaction is to prioritize one over the other.

      We agree regarding Regie-theater or Regisseur Theater or whatever it’s called.

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  5. First of all, I think your term “leads with the feelings” is probably right and to me, not a bad thing at all. And I prefer the term “cerebral” to “not very smart” — I see the first term as addressing the issue of existing solely in one’s head, taking joy primarily in intellectual as opposed to emotional/somatic experiences, but the second term just doesn’t seem right.
    Second, I’m very glad that you don’t think Mr. Armitage will find himself trapped in superficial romantic roles just because of his physical beauty. I think a lot of people would prefer to see him in those roles, but it would be really boring. I imagine that his role as Thorin will be a ticket to whatever artistic projects he desires (or at least many new and potentially satisfying opportunities), so it’s not a real danger IMHO.
    Third, I was thinking today about how his characters seem to have a strong moral center. Even the ones who do wrong, know what they are doing is wrong and do it anyway. I don’t think he’s ever played a character without a moral center like Paul Newman did in Cool Hand Luke, or one who was as devoid of moral sensibility as Keith Allen’s Sheriff of Nottingham or Toby Stephens’ King John. This makes me wonder what will happen with Thorin in the later installments of The Hobbit (sorry if that’s spoilery!).

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    • I’m going to split my response.

      re: “not very smart” — it’s been an ongoing process for me in understanding how fandom works to learn that the extreme APM symptoms emerge not when Armitage is *actually* being attacked, but rather when people feel like their identification with him is being attacked. (This is true for me as well, I just have different triggers than a lot of people — mine function on the autonomy question, which is why I resonate to people who defend his autonomy, adulthood, and agency.) This tendency proceeds on two or three related but distinct tracks. First, we are worried, because fandom sometimes feels like a mania and fans are described by others as crazy, that the object of our affections will be unmasked as not deserving of our energies and we will be embarrassed. This, I think is the primary dynamic that underlies a lot of the tension around the thing that many, many Armitage fans worry about most with regard to Armitage. (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.) Hence, describing the object in any way that might be perceived by some as unworthy turns into a problem. This dynamic is extreme in our fandom. Second, because of the identification between fan and actor, when someone actually articulates a fear, the fan feels personally attacked. Hence the people who reacted viscerally when I said, “my secret fear is that he’s not very smart,” with the implication that I was saying, “oh, I’m afraid you’re all not very smart.” To some extent this is a dynamic I deal with on a day to day basis as soon as people find out I’m a professor, but it’s also extreme here for reasons i don’t understand given the general educational level of this fandom. Maybe highly educated people have greater anxiety about their intellect than the average person. Finally, there’s the question of what it means for someone to admit something that’s (a) a cause of fear and (b) not especially flattering to oneself and (c) then not take the necessary step in the U.S., anyway, which is to vow to change the sentiment. This is a general issue that’s been with this blog from the very beginning — when I make an admission about how I genuinely feel, without apologies or vows to change my attitude, some people get really angry. I can’t explain this either — except to say that part of blogging here is to learn how to know what I feel and to be able to express it and defend it, to stop letting myself be deligitimized by various forces that have that goal.

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      • i.e., it’s interesting that when I go so far as to confess a fear, to the extent of noting that it’s been occupying me to an inordinate amount, that instead of receiving comfort for the fear I get attacked for admitting and then for having it. Anxiety much?

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        • Well, I don’t mean to attack you, servetus! I am saying that the “cerebral vibes” that you get from Tom Hiddleston is only one kind of being smart. I think when you say “very smart” you’re talking about a particular way of being, a certain kind of intelligence that works with abstract ideas rather than emotions. If you’re saying that Armitage is not smart in that way, it’s like saying he’s chocolate instead of vanilla — just a different flavor of human expression, not a lack of an essential quality. And I’m saying that this “different flavor of smart” is a viewpoint that I can accept.

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          • attack: I didn’t mean you; I meant the responses to the last post, and two messages I’ve gotten off blog already today. I probably just need to quit talking about this in public. I had hoped it would be helpful to someone, but it clearly isn’t.

            re: flavors of intelligence — I was trying pretty hard *not* to say that — you are this way and I am that way and that’s just fine.

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    • re: the “in the box” discussion — honestly, let him play a sort of traditional Colin Firth / Hugh Grant romcom lead role once before we decide he shouldn’t do it, lol! None of his roles heretofore have been that way — even Thornton. I have a secret suspicion of why he’d never be cast as Darcy, or that if he were, it wouldn’t be his best role, and it has a lot to do with why he finds a character like Raskolnikov fascinating (and he called “Crime & Punishment” an intellectually aspirational read, let’s not forget). We all need to watch Macbeth a few dozen times now. I don’t think the beauty of Thorin (all the tumblr squee not withstanding) substantially changes the fact that his roles so far have been chosen on a far different basis and the fact that he was beautiful was a subsidiary benefit.

      The anxiety of fans over the whole beauty / talent dichotomy (yes, he’s beautiful but I really love him for his acting) also plays into negative responses to my line of thinking here, I fear.

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    • re: the moral center: YES. And I would describe that reaction — not just the whole insistence on dualism in portrayals of heroes, anti-heroes, or villains — as one that he cultivates emotionally. It’s not that he doesn’t complicate it, but the point is that he starts from the point of emotional allegiance to moral position and then complicates it by means of the experience of the character, rather than starting out with ironic assumptions about the character built in. This is why, I think, Guy of Gisborne seems so unable to let go of certain ideas he has about the path to Marian’s heart and why we, in turn, hurt so badly for Guy when he finally realizes not just subconsciously but with the evidence before his eyes that Marian has been leading him a dance.

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  6. Thanks to everyone who left a comment here. I’m closing comments now.

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  7. […] In a week where it was really hard to respect my own emotions, when I would have preferred to pretend I didn’t have any, it was unbelievably fortuitous to have the reminder of my crush revealing himself as leading with the feelings. […]

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  8. […] It is something about the actor who’s choosing the roles, his tendency to pick up on archetypes and his emotional visualizations. […]

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  9. […] of a long engagement with John Porter, whose story has meant so much to me — as hero or heroic archetype, as shamed failure, as figure of the search for vindication, as worker-out of trauma, as […]

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  10. […] by Richard Armitage’s work as an actor, but not much by Richard Armitage. It was well beyond the problem I’d feared most over the years: it was that inside this very sensitive actor lived a moralistic, often thoughtless jerk. […]

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