Are Richard Armitage’s ears getting pointier?

[ETA: If you’re one of the over 200 people who came to this post after 3/23/2013 from imdb, welcome! If you thought this was funny, I hope you’ll take a moment to look around the blog and judge it for yourself.]

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Dateline: New York City (RAeuters Magazine Operations)

Recent pictures of actor Richard Armitage that show the new international star of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey with unusually pointy ears are confounding fans and experts alike.

740947726[Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, and James Nesbitt pantomiming tweeting, London, March 6, 2013. Source: @TheHobbitMovie]

These images surfaced beginning with a picture tweeted from the Warner Bros. outfit in London, where although they were seen from a distance, Armitage’s ears appeared so prominent that in combination with his forehead and eyebrows, they almost appeared to protrude like small tusks and prompted at least one fan to express concern so severe that she felt she had to comment about it publicly on a blog. Luckily for her and for Armitage, almost no one noticed. Because if she had raised the question more publicly, she would have been stormed with all kinds of opinions, as I have been this week.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 9.40.39 PM[Right: Richard Armitage as photographed by Roger Ascroft. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com]

Large segments of the public have revealed themselves invested in this vital question of the day: Why the pointy ears for Armitage? And why now?

For some observers, these images confirmed what they saw as a broader trend since the late Fall of 2012 — an increasing tendency to for photographers show very pointy pictures of Armitage’s ears, even in fashion shots.

“It’s clear,” one fan remarked, “that they are doing something to his ears, and if they don’t stop soon, he’s going to have huge triangular protrusions on the ends of them!”

As always in the Armitage fandom, dissent over the issue was visible. Belle Oreille, chief proponent of #POINTY_RA_EARZ, denied influencing the development, but expressed her enthusiasm nonetheless by tweeting in response to our queries, “OMG ❤ ❤ ❤ #EArz!!!!” Unfortunately we were unable to ascertain more, as a rival fan group began tweeting with the hashtag #ReArz and the timeline became overloaded.

If it’s not a terrorist fan faction like the beard clippers arraigned last summer for storming Armitage’s hotel room, however, it was not immediately clear who would want to transform the actor’s adorable ears so drastically. New Scotland Yard were reportedly investigating emailed threats to warp Armitage’s ears made by actors who didn’t get to play Thorin Oakenshield, but refused an update as to the current status of their inquiries. “If there’s anything to that,” I was told, off the record, “we’ll have Elizabeth George make Inspector Lynley deny it in a news conference about it in her next novel.”

spock_quinto-thumb-500x375_7066Admittedly, pointy ears can be bankable. “Pointy ears enhance an actor’s emotionality,” noted Shayna Ohren of Pinneal Management 24/7, Ltd. “Especially when an artist is trying for a look of confusion or consternation, pointy ears are like scare quotes calling attention to the wrinkled eyebrows and dramatic expression on the face. Truly pointy ears could up Armitage’s fee as much as $200,000 US per big-screen outing.” Asked whether she thought Armitage needed to look more confused or emotional, Ohren hedged her bets, saying, “Well, that’s the sort of thing we advise our clients on, especially our ear models.”

Ohren nonetheless stressed the role that pointy ears could play in bringing Armitage to the attention of wider audiences — even though he had lost the chance to cast as an elf in The Hobbit, a circumstance that Ohren characterized as a missed opportunity, given the way that the pointy ear forever engraves the image of an actor in the minds of audience members. “Leonard Nimoy’s career was never again the same after being cast as Mr. Spock in the pilot for the original series of Star Trek,” she said proudly. “Historically, Nimoy was a true pathbreaker in terms of monetizing the potential of truly striking ears.” Ohren speculated that the effect of pointy ears on Nimoy’s career was probably a motivating reason for Zach Pinto to take on the role of the young Spock in the Star Trek reboot.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 10.56.29 PM[Right: Ohren’s screensaver photo. Source]

Fans who have wondered actively about Armitage’s next project after the two Hobbit sequels and Black Sky would like to know if Armitage is considering ear model work, but Ohren was cagey. When asked directly, she declined comment on whether Armitage was a client of Pinneal Management, although she did have a picture of the actor’s ear as a screen saver on her smart phone. In closing, she underlined her message that the acquisition of truly pointy ears can decisively alter an actor’s trajectory.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 10.51.03 PM[Left: Richard Armitage as photographed by Robert Ascroft, Fall 2012. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com]

Given Ohren’s claims about the apparent career bonus to actors with pointy ears, one might find it surprising that more actors haven’t followed in Nimoy’s footsteps. Surgeon Oreja Orejones of Boston’s Sinai Center for Auricular Hygiene and Lobular Aesthetics, however, pointed out that Nimoy’s “pointy” ears were prostheses, and this fact limited their utility. “People who watched Star Trek closely,” Dr. Orejones noted, “noticed that Mr. Spock’s ears always wobbled just a little, especially in the fight scenes. And then there’s the whole question, even if prosthetic ears are better stabilized these days, of possible allergies to the adhesive used to keep them on. It’s really much better, if an actor wants to exploit pointy ears for success, to have plastic surgery.”

And even everyday people with no theatrical ambitions are now pursuing such (irreversible) surgeries, according to a recent ABC news report. New York surgeon Dr. Lajos Nagy, who developed the procedure, also mentions on his website that reshaping the pinna improves the experience of listening to music. The trend was said to be particularly likely to become popular in eastern Europe as vampire tourism takes off.

4-Cats-1995[Right: Richard Armitage in program photo for Cats (1995). Source: RichardArmitageNet.com]

At least one expert on the history of Armitage’s career, however, doubts that Armitage would require the services of a plastic surgeon, asserting that his ears have never fulfilled the classical round ear ideal of the Western tradition. Agzy M, Ph.D., a postdoctoral scholar in cultural studies, drew my attention to early photos of Richard Armitage from his days in Cats. In publicity shots from this period, Armitage actually appears to be shielding his ears from attention on purpose by growing long, floppy hair to cover them. “Pointy ears are sometimes considered evidence of prematurity, or perhaps difficulties in fetal kidney development,” the academic noted, “but Armitage’s ears have always been just close enough to normal that fans have not been concerned about his health. Some of them even think they are cute.”

When asked whether Armitage would have been playing with his ear shape for career advancement in 1995, the scholar was skeptical. “It’s not clear why he would have done this, necessarily,” said M, “especially since cats themselves are well known to have kind of pointy ears.”

8-StarWarsAutographPic-2000[Left: Richard Armitage, about the time of his appearance in Star Wars. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com]

“At the same time,” the academic continued, “the fact that he had something to hide in that regard is clear from slightly later publicity photos from the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace phase of his career, where the pointy ears are out in full force, almost over the top.”

This choice to reveal the ears may have been no accident. Fandom experts at TVTropes.org note that the quickest way to make any actor look inhuman or at least alien is to give him or her pointy ears. Dr. M informed us that Armitage’s ears have often added to his vaguely devilish or dangerous appearance in situations where his moral orientation was no longer absolutely clear. For instance, she said, the shape of Armitage’s ears as Lucas North in series 9 of Spooks, and particularly the fact that they suddenly appeared translucent during a key interrogation, caused some fans of the series to conclude that the true reason behind the largely inexplicable story line involving John Bateman was that Lucas North had become the host body for an alien with extremely pointy ears. The effect was so noticeable that it prompted one blogger to use the word “translucent” to describe Armitage’s ears, the only time she ultimately used that word in three entire years and hundreds of thousands of words of blogging.

vlcsnap-2010-09-28-00h56m10s247[Right: Richard Armitage as Lucas North in Spooks 9.2]

The final piece of evidence for some definitive pointiness enhancement in Armitage’s ears is the recent appearance of publicity photos that suggest he may be trying to play the game both ways. A startling recent photo of Armitage that has made the rounds of the fangirls showed an entirely earless Armitage. The photo raised speculations in all directions: That Armitage has undertaken surgical alterations to his ears that he’s not ready to show off just yet, or that fans are secretly being test marketed to see whether they’d prefer an entirely ear-free Armitage. Ohren, called for comment, noted that going earless would probably end Armitage’s changes to obtain romantic lead roles in the over-forty segment of his audience. “Mature women like to think about chewing on the lobe,” she said, “when they see an actor on the big screen. So amputating his ears is probably not wise. On the other hand, younger girls really like that supernatural look, which Armitage already has in spades with his ethereal, ghostly complexion. If no ears made him look even more otherworldly — well, who knows? If anyone could spin it, it would be Armitage. The man has mad skillz as an actor.”

noears[Can you spot the error in labeling this photo? Grr. But I don’t have time to fix it right now. Richard Armitage as photographed by Robert Ascroft. Source]

As per usual with my requests for comment, Armitage did not respond to requests for comment. His agent communicated that he was busy attempting to put together financing for his long-delayed aspirations to realize a Richard III project. Industry insiders shared gossip that suggested that after at least two attempts to find financing that ended in frustration when untenable script changes were required of him, Armitage was considering an offer that involved playing the late medieval English king as an elf, vampire, demon, or other evil creature, to draw on the recent craze for vampires among younger and more lucrative demographics. Called for comment, Richard III scriptwriter Philippa Langley and reputed creative cooperator of Armitage denied this possibility. “Are you crazy?” she said. “Richard seeks to put a serious artistic and historical endeavor on the table, and he is considering only offers that fulfill those criteria. Richard III was no vampire — no matter what Thomas More wrote in that nasty history of his life!”

As should be obvious from this piece, the shape of Armitage’s ears continues to be a matter of huge concern, not only to fans, but also to industry professionals in numerous locations. The shape of Richard Armitage’s ears can drive all kinds of markets, as I learned when news I was writing this article leaked out at a meeting of professional hairdressers in the UK. I was flood with tweets, emails, and diagrammed graphics claiming that Armitage’s ears weren’t any pointier than they had ever been — the sides of his haircut were simply shorter than customary and the combination of thin face and short hair made his ears stand out a bit more.

I am a good journalist, but this explanation seemed blatantly ridiculous to me and I mention it only in the interest of making sure all parties’ opinions are represented. I’m pretty sure this was just an attempt by hairdressers and barbers to take credit to their own advantage. I’m sure it’s just that they hope to get men to have more haircuts so that their ears will look as sexy and pointy as Richard Armitage’s have recently.

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If you hated this post and you need someone to blame it on: The train of thought this post went down was initially inspired by Jane.

~ by Servetus on March 17, 2013.

25 Responses to “Are Richard Armitage’s ears getting pointier?”

  1. Hahahahaha! There are so many wonderful things about this post but I cannot fail to mention Surgeon Oreja Orejones (love it!) and – most especially – the distinguished scholar Agzy M., Ph.D.

    Ah, yes, I almost forgot…Elizabeth George is one of my favorite writers. I am currently reading her latest Inspector Lynley Mystery Novel, Believing The Lie, and want to read her new young adult novel, The Edge of Nowhere.

    Thank you for sharing your fantastic sense of humor! I needed to smile.

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    • I’m sure some people will think it’s pronounced Ordja Ordjones, but we know better 🙂

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      • jajajaja … Sí. Me encantaría que Richard aprendiera a hablar español, pero no creo que le interesa para nada.

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        • Siempre he pensado que la razón para aprender una lengua extranjera es para communicarse con personas interesantes que no hablan la lengua propria (y leer libros en la lengua del autor). La pregunta es (siempre): ¿cuál sería la motivación?

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          • Para mí la motivación primaria siempre ha sido el poder conocer y comprender a otras personas y aprender de ellas al pasar tiempo juntos. En cuanto a la literatura, en realidad no hay nada como leer una obra en el idioma en que fue escrita. Las traducciones nunca podrán transmitir las sutilezas de la lengua materna; siempre se pierde algo. Gracias.

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  2. Love this. And the ears, of course (but that goes without saying, really…)

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  3. OH, Serv, you are on a roll with this stuff. I, for one, love those not-classical ears. Add to his unique beauty. Shoot ’em from any angle you wish, photogs. 😉

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  4. I have an unhealthy obsession with pointy ears. I keep watching documentaries about desert foxes to satisfy my desires for even pointier ears. Wonder if I am objectifying the poor, innocent animals?

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    • Geez, Jane, you *gotta* stop this (Servetus writes down another blog post idea).

      I was stunned when I googled pointy ears and discovered that people actually have had this surgery … I can’t bring myself to believe that it’s many people, though.

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  5. Who would have believed you could objectify the humble, rather useful orifice? Do pointy ears promote better hearing? Do they act as antennae? “The better to hear you with, my dear.” Is there a script for Armitage as Wolverine II, III, IV, whatever?

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  6. I love this post and I love his ears in any form. Thanks Jane (& Servetus).

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  7. When I heard RA was going to be in The Hobbit, my first thought was: Well he’s definitely got the ears for it. At the time I didn’t know the difference between a hobbit, a dwarf and and an elf. I’ve come along way since then.

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    • I thought that, too, in fact I thought he’d been cast as a dwarf, sloan 🙂 right there with you on coming a long way.

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  8. I am cracking up. In more than one sense of the expression. At first I thought this was serious, and then I cracked up laughing. Oh, those luscious ears, lasciviously lobbing under his locks. Love it. And am seriously impressed with Dr M’s expertise in this field.

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  9. Ha ha ha Thanks 😀

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  10. […] Are Richard Armitage’s ears getting pointier? March 17, 2013. The first genuine spoof to make it to a top ten list, labeled as spoof, although […]

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  11. […] Are Richard Armitage’s ears getting pointier? An imdb.com discussion considered whether or not this post was “too […]

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  12. RA’s ears, like everything else about him, are perfect anyway he likes to sport them. 😀

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