me + Richard Armitage fandom: An answer to a reader query and a confession

Query [typos corrected]:

Servetus, I hope you don’t mind me posting this. I have a few things I have been pondering on and was hoping you could offer some insight or maybe even some advice. I am doing so here as I think it may be something others ponder too. I sincerely hope you don’t take any of this the wrong way. I am *not* judging – who am I to do so? This post is more born of fear I guess. I have been ‘following’ Armitage for about 6 months. So far I have been one of those ‘lurkers’. I don’t blog and never read them. No one knows of my RA admiration and I would be simply mortified if they did. Indeed, I think they would be worried for me. You are one of the few RA blogs I read – you are interesting and timely. Although, I must admit your cerebral approach sometimes exhausts me. My questions largely pertain to my conflict over RA fandom and how one lives with it. Indeed, if one should live with it. Ok here goes. Sometimes I wonder about you – how you find the time to write so much and with so much forensic analysis. I know you have a full-time job. So do I, full-time and then some. You are astoundingly productive! I doubt any of the academics I know would be able to produce what you do. I don’t think any of them would want to, whether it be your devotion to writing or the time you spend thinking about RA. Which brings me to my next point. As my RA ‘thing’ continues, I do find myself asking (myself) ‘what am I doing’ with a considerable degree of self-loathing. I feel ridiculous and ashamed that I am doing things which I last did as a 14 yr old over a very undeserving soccer player. I also feel that the object of all our affections certainly isn’t spending hours every day obsessing over someone they don’t know and will never meet. And I’m pretty certain he has never done that – high probability he leads a balanced and fulfilled life. Yes, I am implying what we do precludes this or is an indicator of its absence. Frankly, if RA had indulged in what we do he would not be in the position he is now. I cannot comment on your situation, nor would I presume to speculate on the details of your life, but I do wonder how you reconcile it all. However, this post is admittedly largely selfish in nature! My question is how do I reconcile it all? I really can’t imagine that I would have done the things in my life that I have done if I had had this experience earlier, and this leads me to wonder about what I am sacrificing now… Unknowns? A life that will remain undiscovered, uncharted and, ultimately real? As I said, any insight and advice would be appreciated.

I decided to answer this in a post (rather than in a comment) both because it will take a little work, and also because it’s been a while since I addressed this question, and it gets the heart of the reason I keep blogging (despite aggravations that have been a little too apparent for my comfort lately).

***

Dear fellow fan of Richard Armitage,

Thanks for asking what feels to me like an honest question and one that affects your life. I’ll answer as honestly and sincerely as I can. The answer is a bit long but I wanted you to know I took you seriously. Let me say: if any post here is too cerebral — including this one — just click it away. Life is too short to spend it reading things one doesn’t have to read if they are not intriguing or interesting.

In my experience, most people who worry about their sanity are sane, but I also don’t want to discount the worried and negative moments in this message. If you’re concerned about your fandom in ways that you can’t deal with in the fandom, then it’s time to talk to someone about it (and not just me or other fans — here are some of their answers to your question). I use this blog as therapy, as many fans use the fandom, but if you’re so seriously troubled or disturbed that your self-loathing is pervasive or that bad feelings overshadow your joy more often than not, I urge you, please, to turn off your computer and seek professional help. I’m going to write as if your problem is not quite that severe and assume that fangirling Armitage mostly gives you a lot of pleasure and you experience the bad feelings mostly as a sobering or rationalizing intrusion — in other words, I’m going to assume that you feel sometimes “mortifying” embassment about the extent of your preoccupation and pleasure but that preoccupation and pleasure still take the upper hand.

In your letter, you ask a lot of questions about me as a way to asking question about you. I think you are the most important person in your query, and the question you ask, indeed the decisive one is the one you place at the end, so I will start there. You write

I really can’t imagine that I would have done the things in my life that I have done if I had had this experience earlier, and this leads me to wonder about what I am sacrificing now… Unknowns? A life that will remain undiscovered, uncharted and, ultimately real?

I don’t know what questions in your life you are referencing specifically, or what you might have done differently. Still, I think your life will remain “real” no matter what you do, because it will have been the result of your history and experiences and to the extent that you feel you have agency, your choices. Whatever you do in reality is real — whether it’s a job you like or one you don’t like, whether you are fulfilled in your relationships with the people who surround you or not. Choosing to spend a lot of time enjoying a fantasy does not make your life as you live it from day to day less “real” or a life that is prophylactically cleared of unattainable fantasies “ultimately real” (nor vice versa). In other words, I don’t really think anyone can lead her life in a way that will make it less or more real — as if (just to give an example that’s commonly thrown at me; I am not suggesting this is your conflict specifically) any truly unsatisfactory lover would make one’s real life better than a fantasy about Richard Armitage simply because the lover is physically present and Armitage is not. A fantasy about Armitage is preferable to some really-existing lovers and inferior to others, and only the person on the ground confronted with the options can know that, or indeed if a life without a partner and without a fantasy is the best choice. You are the only person who can decide if or how you are happy! People’s decisions are complex and those who look at them from outside (including me, when I’m the outsider) always miss some of the picture. We lead our lives as best we can given what we know at the time.

I do think fantasy — even allegedly obsessive fantasy — alerts us to things, though, which is why I focus on your question about what “I would have done” otherwise and “what I am sacrificing now,” a vital one for me. I’m particularly sensitive to it because of my mother’s recent death at 71, and because my first cousin, Architect, who held my hand all the way through my mother’s decline, recently got a breast cancer diagnosis. I’m 44 and Architect’s almost 40. Her mother (my aunt) died when she was 59. My grandfather (their father) died at 67. I haven’t had any serious, acute health problems at all in my life, but neither did any of them. And when it hit, it hit bad and hard and lethally. My mother was killed by her sixth (unrelated) cancer and she and her sister each had about seven weeks between the terminal diagnosis and their burials. So the question constantly coursing through my mind at the moment is, “what would you do this second if you knew you only had fifteen years left?” Because that’s my impending event horizon.

I think the answer is: I would do what’s necessary and I wouldn’t waste any time starting to do it. So that’s what I recommend to everyone who asks me — don’t shirk your obligations to other people lightly, don’t jettison your commitments and your history in any crazy hurry, take time to think. Don’t abandon anyone who truly needs you, don’t rush, take things at your own pace, but don’t waste any time, either. Figure out what your questions are and confront them and if you are not doing the thing you think you need to do, figure out how to do that thing. You don’t have to be great at it, the world’s best at it, you don’t even have to be good at it (although that often helps one’s enjoyment), you just have to need to and want to do it. Find that place where love and need are one, as Frost said in writing about work that’s play for mortal stakes. If you don’t ask yourself about it because you don’t think it’s sane or realistic, you’re losing an opportunity — even if what you end up deciding is that your life should stay the way it is. At least you will know why you are in the place you’re in.

The bigger theme of your question gets to the problem of whether Armitage fandom is a waste of time and “if one should live with it.” I’m going to answer slightly elliptically.

You say that you’re sure Armitage’s life is not like ours:

I also feel that the object of all our affections certainly isn’t spending hours every day obsessing over someone they don’t know and will never meet. And I’m pretty certain he has never done that – high probability he leads a balanced and fulfilled life.

For what it’s worth: I don’t know that balanced and fulfilled are really a pair, or if both are truly things that should be desired by everyone, or even if they really apply to Armitage. One could legitimately question whether the decision to move for two years, far away from family and friends, to work fourteen hours a day in a heavy costume and prosthetics and almost get drowned and temporarily alter one’s voice and one’s personality can be described with the adjective, “balanced.” Many great artists’ lives are not what we’d call balanced, and in particular, his apparent choice to live without a romantic partner (assuming that his representations that he’s single are true) could be read by some people in this very fandom as a sign of imbalance. I bet it was tremendously fulfilling to do that, though. The stuff of dreams, the kind of crazy dreams he had when they were filming LOTR and as he’s said, he couldn’t get himself seen to try out for even the most minor of roles. I’m not implying Richard Armitage is an attainable dream for any of us; my point is rather that this kind of life means “balance” for him. He’s the only one who knows. Just as you are the only who knows if your interest in Armitage is a sign of imbalance in your life.

No, I don’t imagine that Richard Armitage engages in immoderate devotion to an unattainable person. I don’t venture to say what he might have done as a teen. He’s admitted to a Wham! poster and a fascination with Michael Jackson that involved learning his dance moves and getting the hat and glove. Is it immoderate, if you’re a child who wants to be a professional dancer, to spend a lot of time looking at the most famous one in the world and copying him? (Context is everything for answering a question like that.) People with big dreams often started off with small steps and I am sure onlookers made fun of their ambitions. This comment on the blog made that very clear to me, and I wasn’t sufficiently grateful to the author who left it at the time.

Still, it’s my impression that Richard Armitage also has sustaining fantasies, though I can only guess at them and thus have no idea whether they are realistic. First, because humans tend to have them, and because ambitious humans in particular tend to have them. Second, because the detail with which he works (to the point of writing down what his characters dream or what they might be doing in the future, after the story ends) suggests that he creates such fantasies for his characters. Third, because anyone who pursues a goal with as much attention and persistence as he has over two decades could certainly have relentless pictures in his mind about things he would like to do in future — however unrealistic — that pull him forward. And finally, because living out a fantasy — a reality that he imagined for himself and worked to make real — is what Richard Armitage is doing: the thing he most loves and needs to do. That fantasy is not without its wrinkles, things like promotional tours and deep water mishaps, but I suspect that like many actors who have become successful, he’d have continued to try to find ways to do it even if he hadn’t achieved the notice for it that he has. It’s not so much that I am recommending Armitage to anyone as a role model. It’s more that I know, even from my own life before Armitagemania, that certain kinds of fantasies alert us to our needs and pull us forward along our paths. They make it worthwhile to do things that would otherwise seem pointless — like devoting huge amounts of time to practicing for elocution tests, engaging in dance rehearsals, or pondering the motivation for a role in which one’s essentially an extra. Or like writing extensively about something that fascinates one.

So is a persistent unattainable fantasy about Richard Armitage a problem? I don’t know. I would say the answer lies in what you choose to do with it. And you are the only one who has the capacity to decide what’s okay for you. If it leads you to commit crimes, I’d say it’s not okay with the law, but it’s hard for me to go much further than that, mostly because I can see now what fandom gives to a lot of people’s lives in ways great or small. There’s something about the electricity of the energy that goes into that devotion. I think fandom tells us that we are — or could be — powerful. I think the experience of an immoderate love teaches us that our love makes us strong, stronger than we realized (incidentally, that link also broaches the topic you verge on, the lack of reciprocation from the object).

I find I can’t really differentiate the great and the small when I’m talking about the effects of fandom. For instance, I have talked to Richard Armitage fans who’ve been spurred by their fandom to become successfully published novelists with mainstream presses or by self-publishing and earn a living from writing, to start small businesses (a soap factory, a film production company, to name two), and to develop technical skills at a level that they could use them as their means of support. I’ve talked to a former foster child who carried the series 3 Robin Hood discs around with her at all times because her identification with Guy of Gisborne got her through her impossible life and she couldn’t risk losing the discs in an unexpected move; because Guy comforted her in her time of trouble, she’s studying to be a nurse. I know someone who lost 100 pounds and kept it off for three years with the help of diet, exercise, and a picture of Armitage on her refrigerator. I know many more people whom Armitagemania helped to accept their bodies as they were. Armitage thoughts helped a young fan come out of the closet. I know someone who was on the fence about getting divorced and did it because of the self-esteem she was able to piece together from the feelings she got by watching Armitage, just as I know someone who was on the fence about telling a man she was attracted to him and did it because of Armitage-inspired courage. A mug on my desk that says “Mrs. Richard Armitage” and the Thorin figure that sits next to it have started at least three conversations with students whom I was able to listen to or even help because of the trust that sign inspired, because it made them think I was a human. I know dozens of people who started writing or drawing or designing or sewing for the first time, or for the first time in years. I know people who got through their relatives’ terminal illnesses by watching North & South on infinite loop. I know people who were inspired to take acting or dancing lessons and discovered entirely new sides to themselves. I know people who asked themselves “What would John Thornton do?” in difficult situations to help themselves make the right decisions. I know people who made friends. I know people who took journeys they’d never have taken otherwise, to meet new friends or to see places that Armitage’s roles inspired them to see. I know women who use Armitage’s voice to keep them awake on long car drives and others who use it to help them relax, so they can fall asleep.

You write that you feel that “what we do precludes [a balanced and fulfilled life] or is an indicator of its absence.” My own experience, and that of many other fans, suggests that intense and sudden fandom is often — though not always — a wake-up call about something. As these examples show, however, many of the fellow fans I know enjoy and have exploited the energy and inspiration they’ve gotten from their fantasies in many ways not thought of by anyone who dismisses the pursuit or enjoyment of fantasy on the somewhat obvious basis that it’s unreal. It’s not that they couldn’t have done these things on their own; but something about the energy of preoccupation with Armitage revealed something to them about their own power and capability that they hadn’t realized before. But even for those who don’t “use their obsession productively,” I’m not convinced that fandom is an illegitimate lifestyle per se. If it gives people pleasure, and they believe they have their priorities in order, is that wrong?

As to the self-loathing; uch, and you have my sympathies. I can’t say that I ever felt the depth of negativity about my preoccupation with Armitage that that word expresses to me. But I know what it is to hate oneself deeply, mostly because I’d spent so much time hating myself before that the rush from Armitagemania, the sheer feeling of relief from pain and then the experience of desiring something again came as a relief in many senses. I’m truly familiar with the question, why the heck am I doing this, why can I not stop myself? (I described that experience, from the vantage point of a year later, here.) Should I not be trying to stop myself? What would my friends think if they knew? Should I not be ashamed? Gradually, I concluded that suppressing the fantasies was not effective in trying to lose the shame.

Every second I spend thinking about what I am not allowed to say for reasons that have nothing to do with my own conscience is a waste of energy and a betrayal of self. Armitagemania happened to free me from the waste and self-betrayal I’ve experienced as a professional for the last decade. No more rules for me except those self-imposed: to follow my conscience, to be forthright, to be honest, to say things the best way I can. Not to waste energy, and not ever to betray my voice, even though it’s only developing now.

If I was going to have the fantasies anyway, I reasoned, I might as well ditch the shame, especially since the only person the shame hurt was me.

And that gets to me — the person you asked all the questions about (smile). You write:

Sometimes I wonder about you – how you find the time to write so much and with so much forensic analysis. I know you have a full-time job. … You are astoundingly productive! I doubt any of the academics I know would be able to produce what you do. I don’t think any of them would want to, whether it be your devotion to writing or the time you spend thinking about RA. … I cannot comment on your situation, nor would I presume to speculate on the details of your life, but I do wonder how you reconcile it all.

I don’t think the exhaustive focus on a small matter among academics is all that unusual. My grad school boyfriend, the physicist, spent his doctoral research discussing how very rare gas atoms bonded to even rarer metals at temperatures almost never found in nature, and he didn’t study it experimentally but wrote a computer program to describe it. He chose the problem because it had no known military applications. That kind of thing makes my dissertation, which covered twenty years, and my book manuscript, which covers fifty, look amazingly general. Similarly, I don’t think my level of focus is unusual for an academic. Someone wrote last spring to tell me I must have Asperger’s Syndrome, but honestly, in my world, every second person fits the generalized description of the symptoms. All I can say if you think I’m an Aspie is “wait till you meet an actual Aspie.”

Still, I was an unusual academic in many ways, and one of them was my “devotion to writing.” I taught at a major research university for a decade and I published a lot in that time (although not enough, it turns out, to be tenured), until, in the wake of the denial, I gradually became completely unable to write. I’ve explained what Armitagemania gave me in that space, but really, the biggest thing it gave me back was my capacity to write. I don’t want ever to give that up again. In fact, I won’t.

What did I get from Armitagemania? How do I reconcile what I do?

Because of Armitagemania, when I left that job, I replaced it with one with lower pay and less obligation; I started working fifty hours a week instead of seventy; I learned what it was like to get a full night’s sleep again and not to cringe in the hallways. Because of Armitagemania, I started writing again every day, here, on my academic articles, and on other topics. Because of Armitagemania, I started recognizing myself again. And finally, because I was able to write and communicate with others again, when my mother took ill, I’d found friends to hold me up with their thoughts, prayers and comments. My “scare quotes” friends turned out to be real, too and they proved it over and over again.

So I reconcile it because it’s simply necessary. It’s not really optional anymore. Writing here is not only something I love to do (because I love to write and I love Armitage), it’s a physical exercise like stretching before jogging, or a devotional exercise like praying before facing the day. Doing this is my sign to myself that I can trust myself enough to be courageous and to feel my feelings and say what I think and that I won’t let anything, a job or a person or my own shame and bad feelings, silence me again.

Will Armitagemania last forever? I assume not. I assume that as my other writing takes off other paths for the daily practice of writing will open themselves up to me. But for right now, I reconcile doing what I do here as an investment in my self-esteem, a building of a writerly persona, and most of all, an act of faith in myself, my desires, and my dreams. If I only have fifteen years left, the thing I want most to do in that time is not to betray myself.

Don’t hesitate to write again if I haven’t answered your questions or if you’re dissatisfied with this answer, or if I misunderstood you in some decisive way.

In closing, it turns out that I have been able to tell about six “real life” friends, and they were not dismissive — I suppose, as with anything, it depends on which friends you tell. You may be surprised by your friends. I was.

Best wishes,

Servetus

~ by Servetus on November 11, 2013.

60 Responses to “me + Richard Armitage fandom: An answer to a reader query and a confession”

  1. Great post. I have to be honest, I have worried about the sanity thing myself simply because I DID have an uncle who ended up in the state sanitarium, and my poor dad and uncle had some issues . . . but Armitage mania has helped me through a lot of rough patches, physically, mentally and emotionally. Hey, people obsess over sports (look at all the football maniacs here in my home state) and reality show stars; am I am “crazier” than they are?! And may you live to be 100, Serv, if you wish it. I have about 30 years myself and I can’t outlive you, darling!!

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    • I don’t know how long I’ll live but I definitely have the feeling that I’m swinging into the second half, if not necessarily the third third, of my life. It’s okay. I’ve known this information for a long time, although my cousin’s diagnosis really took me aback.

      I really think it lies in how you learn to look at it. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of frustration or worry about oneself — as Richard Armitage Confessions reveals regularly.

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  2. I don’t know what to do but applaud, and say thank you. What a frank and uplifting answer, and to such a potentially uncomfortable question.

    I am so grateful for you, Servetus. For the things you say and the way you say them, but also for you. For the fact that you are.

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  3. Ditto. Thank you Servetus. I am digesting your reply with a cup of tea 🙂

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    • I’m reading curled up in my favorite chair with a cup of coffee (I just knew that this post will require my most beautiful coffee cup 🙂 )
      It was pleasure,Serv…as always.

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    • I hope it’s useful. I realize now rereading it that it’s a bit triumphalistic — I had plenty of moments of thinking, wtf am I doing? They are mostly recorded in the first year of this blog.

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  4. Once more a interesting, true, moving post – thanks again for this Serv!!!

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  5. As always Serv, you are very thorough. And also very kind to be so for the enquirer’s sake, although it may be more for yours – and generously shared for ours – but I think they may find this post as helpful as I. (For me, at least in terms of affirmations)

    For the sake of your enquirer, or anyone else who wants to know, I can offer this, which may not be much help:

    About the “thing” – it’s something that has never happened to me over someone I did not personally know, ever. As a teen I did have a crush for that long, but it was over a boy at school, so he was known to me and we were friends.

    When in it, it is impossible to see how one can possibly stop. It is both pleasant, which for me is most of the time, and not – which is when some amounts of self-pity, pain, and overwhelming lack of understanding settle in and take hold. (How? Why me? Why him?)

    The fandom aspect, in terms of community, is something I would not want to stop. It both has to do with Richard, and yet has nothing to do with Richard.

    In terms of damage to one’s life, or inhibiting it’s growth, I can only offer this about mine –

    Yes, there is probably other things I could have done, or would have been productive, especially while in the initial thick of if (months of full immersion). Some may call that the honeymoon stage, but mine is still not over. It’s been 2 1/2 years since my first viewing of North & South.

    Yes, on occasion, I have dropped the ball on some responsibilities, then recognized, checked it, and then continued mostly in the same fashion that I have for about two and a half years now. I’ve managed to pay my bills and feed myself. But I admit there has been some neglect, especially in my most depressive states.

    Yes, it has kept me from even seeking other relationships and making me essentially celibate. The choice being that while I am personally in this “thing”, I feel it would not be fair to someone else, even for a simple date. I don’t think they would really appreciate Richard as the third wheel, as he is proverbially “always there”, so….

    But, there has been growth. I began writing more. I have been since and can call myself, with firmness of belief where once it did not exist, that I am a writer and a journalist and that no one can say otherwise. I can now call it my profession, even outside the writing in my fandom, where once that possibility did not exist. I pursued that profession, while in this thing and because of this thing. I don’t think it would have happened without this “thing” – this admiration, appreciation, and unending passion for Richard Armitage, which includes supporting his career choices.

    So, I can count myself now as one of many on Servetus’ list of those whose lives have grown through Richard’s unknowing influence.

    I’ll stop here.

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    • Thanks for this really brave, sincere response.

      I considered saying something about the boyfriend issue as it affects me, but I took it out of my original draft because it got away from an answer to the OP. I want to write about that more. I don’t think that Armitagemania has significantly affected my romantic / sexual choices, which were well onto the path of where they are now by 2006, three years before this hit, but it has made me more aware about the choices I make.

      Like you this is my only crush ever of this intensity and right now it’s not going away, although there are pieces of it that are more comfortable at different times.

      I also think the whole question you raise about whether it negatively affects the logistics of your real life is interesting. Up until about a month ago, I’d have said, if it keeps you from doing your work, it’s a problem. Then I heard a fascinating story about a fan doing something that I think would cross almost everyone’s personal life in that regard — but it turned out well. The key is context. Are the things you’re dropping hurting you so badly you can’t recover from them? To me this is in line with the whole virtual friends question. “Real” friends aren’t better simply because they’re in your physical presence.

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      • This exactly. I love this comment, Serv, thank you.

        The things I let slide were certainly fixable at the time. And at least as far as I can tell have had no lasting damages. So they where minor things to me in the big picture. I am more attentive to that not.

        The boyfriend thing – it was a conscious choice and one that is most certainly not hurting me. You already know that there are others reasons for that, which I commented in posts of my own. But basically if Richard is/was a catalyst in preventing me from entering in more damaging relationships – ones I consistently find myself in – then that is certainly a very positive thing.

        I think I should have said that first.

        In terms of friendships in my real life, I made changes there too. Not because of Richard, but because I started to see some things more clearly over time. (Actually much of that was over the breakup with an old boyfriend, and really has nothing to do with Richard)

        But my expectations are higher. I expect more from a friendship than I ever did, I think, in terms of mutual give and take. I reject the takers, for the most part, or push back more and sooner.

        Online friends – I have made quite a few. I have never met them personally. Some reveal to me their identities and some do not. Some accept that I won’t and some still want to know more – it’s human nature to want mystery revealed.

        If we have true and deep conversations with meaningful outcomes and growth, they are real friends. If you have arguments with them that you resolve together and move on and still have love, or at least mutual respect, then they are real friends.

        I can count them on my hands and a few toes, and I think that is a lot.

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  6. Ditto what everyone said. I’m sitting here surrounded by all my Richard memorabilia, drinking British tea out of my handmade Thorin Oakenshield 15 oz mug, laughing because Orcrist just asked me if I wanted to watch The Hobbit…duh…even he feeds my fangurlism, because he knows when I need to be in the real world, I can put Richard back on the shelf, next to all his DVDs, CDs, pictures, action figures, Legos, tee shirts, well you get the idea…

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  7. This is a question that I fully admit I don’t entirely understand but that comes from my being attached to other fandoms in my life. I think those of us who have that experience either don’t question it at all or don’t question it in the same way. That said, the thing I hold dearest from this fandom, like with the others I’ve been in, is the friendships I’ve made. There are people I’ve met here that I would never have met if I hadn’t stepped out.

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    • I think if this happens to you for the first time when you’re a teen, yes, you see it really differently. I don’t know for sure but I’ve found evidence that would support that in a lot of places.

      There’s something about the tempestuous emotions of the teen in all of this, which is, I think, part of why some people scorn it.

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      • Additionally I think the medium has something to do with it. In a music fandom you bond around or have your primary response to the music. When I listened to “Daughter” by Pearl Jam obsessively in my twenties it was because I was working through grief for my father and grandfather and putting childhood monsters to bed. Being moved in that way didn’t mean I was going to crush on Eddie Vedder it just meant that he captured something I found difficult to express.

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        • I agree. I think the possibility of a crush being a person (as opposed to a medium, let’s say) complicates things for a lot of people. Hence the ongoing debate over “I really respect his acting, his looks / virtues are a plus” vs “I really think he’s hot.” I think these things fit all together but the presence of a person as an attraction (as opposed to just a vessel for delivery) complicates things.

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  8. I wanted to thank the poster and thank Sev for this article. I am getting a bit emotional reading it. I can testify that I owe a great deal to my fangirling. It gave me courage. Courage to pursue a life long dream that I am now reaping crazy amounts of rewards for. Not trophies per se, but I am doing what I love everyday.

    I have fully embraced the 13 year old girl that lives inside me, and by doing so, it has made me a more rounded person. I am a lot more fun to be around, most days. Just ask my 7 yr old, who BTW HATES my Thorin cut out that resides in my home office. 🙂

    As for Mr. Armitage, I feel like all the positive energy we send his way does help on some small or maybe big scale. I think it brings him some amount of comfort to know that we are all pulling for him and are happy to see his success. I’ve been around since 2005 or so.

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    • there’s something about the way the emotion flows out of one, is the closest I can get, that makes one brave.

      Someone wrote something in a fanfic once, about the sexual bravery that could only be lived out by a woman who knew she was loved and in love, that resonated with me — there’s something parallel here.

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  9. One more thing, by all accounts Mr. Armitage just seems like a good egg. He’s thoughtful, hardworking, very supportive of his fellow actors. So I think all in all, we have excellent taste in our choice.

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    • this was another thing that I had in an initial draft and took out b/c it was getting too long — a response to the OP’s note that her previous crush had been on someone who didn’t deserve it.

      I go back and forth on this — because the possibility that Armitage merits admiration in ways that go beyond his acting is a really solid Armitageworld dogma, I don’t talk about it much or the response I have to that idea. Mainly, I’m not sure that a crush has to be admirable unless you believe he has to be. He just has to embody some quality that’s inspiring for you.

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  10. What a truly uplifting and honest post. I found some answers myself in that and I agree we definitely need you around for more than those 15 yrs Serv. Thank you.

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  11. I think this is a very honest answer to several questions I also ask myself on a regular basis, especially since I am a new fan. I must confess I started writing this summer, inspired by Richard Armitage and there are hundreds of pages waiting to be revised and transformed into… I don’t know what.. All I know is that in this year of great changes for me, this man, this very special person brought me not only inspiration and solace but such joy that I plunged totally into his films (I cannot remember how many times I have watched North and South), audiobooks, interviews – some of which, like the Q&A from Sydney, my favourite, I almost know by heart. It is pleasure and sometimes pain, because this is a dream and the person is faraway from me, but, at the same time, he is so friendly and open and fun, I think of him as a friend (maybe some other things, too). So thank you for creating this blog and having us as guests and telling us so many things about acting and photography and many others. I am a teacher, too, and also a learner and I enjoy learning and here I can do that and I do not feel confused, nor rejected.

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  12. The problem with Servetus’ posts like this one is they are so expressive, beautiful, emotionally honest, and thorough that so little is left for me to say except “me to”. Just speaking for myself, my”thing” is like being given a electric shock to bring you back to life when you didn’t realize needed it. My “thing” is joyful , nonjudgmental of myself or others. It is something that makes me very happy in all its manifestations. It is not a secret to those close to me. No one is suffering because of it, nor is it preventing me from coping with RL. I love the positive energy that pours out of the people on this site, and I hope I can consider them friends.

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    • it’s interesting the way this experience has affected my willingness to judge people. it’s complex, because I’ve become allergic to certain kinds of judgmentality, but this fanning has really humbled me in terms of things I thought I was susceptible to (or not) or things I’d have said I’d never do and made fun of others for doing.

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  13. Exactly Kathy. That is my feeling as well. To me this is a bonus to RL really and so much more.

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  14. These are the questions – and answers – that we all seek and do not dare to ask/answer. At least not publicly. And yet half of my fangirling revolves around it. Is this [fangirling] appropriate? Is it appropriate to my mature age? Is it appropriate for my relationship status? Is it appropriate for my function as a mother/photographer/working woman? I think of that a lot. And then I say “feck it! It makes me happy. And if it makes me a happier person, surely that is good for anyone around me, not just me”.
    I think the older we get, the more facets we develop – the various stages of our life reflected in our personality. Some of the facets have become a bit tarnished over time – like our “enthusiastic, teenage self” facet. Mine has recently been polished with a RAg 😉 and is shiny and sparkly again, as is the “artist” facet, and even the “sexy woman” facet. Together they make up the “me” as it is now. Some facets will dull over time again – but others will continue to shine or new ones will be polished. It’s all part of the flow. I embrace it – it’s exciting and surprising.

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    • This is a really perceptive comment and it gets also to the point of what this experience could mean at different points in one’s life (something Jazz broached above) and also that there’s no sort of absolute definition of what’s okay or what one should be trying to achieve in life. I think one thing I’ve learned from fandom is I *have* to let go of other people’s definitions of the good and finally come up with and present and live out my own.

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  15. Ahhhhh…I really enjoyed this query and response post!

    Thanks, Servetus, for calling into question and then addressing the “balanced and fulfilling life” pair – with subsequent evidence provided. My life hardly resembles any sort of (sleep loving) balance to most people, and yet – I absolutely thrive on the travel & chaos (sometimes it can get to be a tiny bit too much) – but in general, I find my job energizing and stimulating and very fulfilling! 😉

    For me, fantasy (its appearance and cultivation) is all a part of living a life of interior examination for me. Fantasies are always a topics of extreme interest to me when they show up as they give me clues for my own journey and help me to remember parts of self I may have forgotten otherwise. 😉

    I think fandoms perform a service by broadcasting and amplifying-at-large on a signal. This projected signal of many voices – resonant on a theme of Armitage in this case – can very much help its target audience (lurkers, readers, and commenters alike) to make sense of and ‘own up to’ previously unconscious desires of / for self (your examples of creative productions give a very nice by-product listing in this fandom). So really, within the bounds you described above, I say it’s all good.

    But dude – who really asks WWJTD? 😉

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  16. Posts like this one are the reason I was really drawn to this blog. First, I realized I wasn’t alone in sometimes thinking I’d gone off the deep end, then I learned a lot of things about myself that I couldn’t have put words to without help, and finally I had this tiny rebellious thought…..Why can’t I love it if it makes me happy? And then all hell broke loose and I took back the reigns to MY life and though I am, at times, terrified, I will not let go again. Thanks for the reminder, Serv and (sorry, didn’t catch the name) bravely curious asker!

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    • I think the next step of this blog is going to be harder and indeed, perhaps terrifying, because I am going to have to start telling other people things based on the self-recognitions I have achieved. I’ve seen some of that the last few days both in fandom and IRL. To me the next step is, can I use this self I’ve been building to do something in the world? Am I brave enough? Whenever you tell people that they’ve been making false assumptions about you, it’s difficult.

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  17. I first read this post because I am trying to figure out why all my blogs I read are going to spam in the past couple days, grrr. I was not going to take the time to read at this time, to much to do, but well I got sucked in. Servetus you write a great post as always.

    You write very meaningful and thought prevoking post, part of the reason I keep coming back to read more. It also helps the Wisconsin connection we have.

    The more I read and lurked around I found that I was among friends who would not find my love of british things weird. So one day I got brave and left a comment on your blog. Yes Richard is what brought me here, but the friends I have made keep me coming back.

    When we need a friend the friends here are here for us. I am sure Servetus can agree with this. When life is crazy one can get away from it in the fandom. Thank you to all and a big Thank You Servetus!!

    Now to figure out why all the Armitage blogs are going to spam. Well really at this time I don’t really have the time to.

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    • yeah, love of British things is not weird here. You’re an expert on that, actually. Glad you’re here Katie and an extra hug.

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  18. Wow. First I need to thank both the reader who asked all these questions and you for your response. The reader is absolutely asking a lot of questions I have thought of recently for myself but never really wanted to confront. Because sometimes I think it’s fun to fantasize about RA and other times I think I’m turning into a maniac. It’s especially weird because I’ve never been a fan of a celebrity this way, not even when I was a teen. I’m glad you took the time to address this person’s concerns and in turn helped me out a bit too. You’re absolutely right that it’s up to each of us to determine what to do with this admiration/fangirling/fantasizing/whatever it is.

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    • Thanks for the comment, gimmesherlock.

      I just don’t want anyone to feel unnecessary shame. (Is any shame necessary?) I’m confronting how much shame I feel right now and how much it has held me back from everything I want.

      I suppose that to be fair we need to have a post from someone who argues that fandom is a time and money suck that doesn’t give one anything or causes even worse problems. I just haven’t met those fans. Even people who are not “going somewhere” are using it for legitimate purposes — one of which is escapism. I don’t think any of us are in danger and so we might as well enjoy ourselves, at the very least.

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  19. I was a lurker for a long time and then I started making “safe” comments. Today I decided I wanted to say more but in order to do that I needed to change my name. So if you wonder why this is my first day you know why.

    I was married to a man who was mentally ill and very abusive. It was bad enough that my son (early twenties) made a serious suicide attempt. He felt he could not live and leave me alone with my ex but he couldn’t stay and live either. Five years ago this month I walked away from my house and marriage. For a very long time I was virtually shut down. The only thing I cared about was helping my son to get healthy.

    I have an autoimmune disease and am on permanent disability (you’ll never convince me it wasn’t brought on by massive stress.) My first online relationships were with people who shared my disease. After about a year of reading only about illness I was becoming more depressed. I spent some time gaming online as a distraction.

    I apologize if this is too much information but I wanted to give a little background. What I have found with the fans of Richard has been the most positive experience I’ve had in many years. It is not going too far (in my opinion) to say that it has begun an awakening of feelings. For me it is a safe way to feel pleasure, enjoy conversation and watch hours of endless hours of RA beauty on TV. I am currently re-watching Spooks and I find I am enjoying it even more this time.

    So yes, I would say I use it for escapism but it feels like it is doing more than that for me. My son has an idea of my fan status and has been surprisingly quiet about it. When I was immersed in illness or escaping with games he had a lot to say. My point is that I think I am healthier doing this than many other things I’ve done in my life. I am trying to live without shame or regret which is a lofty goal for me.

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  20. Servetus:

    I am stunned. By the questioner’s well-articulated anxiety and by your generous reply.

    I have no problems explaining fandom involvement to myself. Your post demonstrates why I’m here: because there are people like you who write such lovely, thoughtful answers to others who are troubled.

    Do you realize how special this is? Do you realize what a good teacher you are?

    Are you brave enough to do whatever it is you think you need to do next? Absolutely. You’ve already shown your bravery. This whole blog is your bravery! You’re already “there,” and you will reveal more when you’re ready.

    Don’t stress over that. Just keep plodding. We will all be here reading and cheering you on.

    I would love to meet you. It will happen one day. The fandom delivers. I believe in the fandom.

    Armitagebesotted

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  21. Beautifully said, Servetus! And hugs about your cousin’s health diagnosis. And double hugs again about your grieving your mother’s passing. I will keep you and your cousin in my thoughts and prayers.

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  22. […] the picture, because he is the person we admire and focus our devotion on. The love we feel, that same thing that gives us energy as fans, that makes us feel so good, that gives us the capacity…, can’t be mistaken because that would lead to shame. It’s embarrassing to love badly or […]

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  23. […] in regard to the comment below, received from MCQ yesterday. (For those who don’t remember, MCQ asked this question a few weeks ago.) I’ve excerpted it slightly but the full comment is […]

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  24. […] and needed to separate themselves from Armitage. I used to get a question about that from time to time. Or someone would leave with the explanation that her partner couldn’t handle her involvement […]

    Like

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