me + milk and cheese + Richard Armitage + fandom identity battles, part 2

From part 1.

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imageSource: RASnarktastic.

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What does this have to do with anything related to Richard Armitage?

I laughed when I saw this graphic, because it was a “trigger” for memories of years of tussles about milk. It made me think of the identity battles of my childhood — and what my grandparents would have said if anyone had ever told them s/he were lactose intolerant. And yet, for the lactose intolerant, knowing where lactose is in one’s food is a plausibly vital issue. I can even potentially see why one might want to go to great lengths to avoid confrontation with reminders of lactose or bouts of pain after consuming it.

It’s also neat because it’s so nicely hyperbolic. No lactose-intolerant individual I’ve ever met has told me that I can’t drink milk in his or her presence. So no one has to feel attacked by it. Unless they choose to feel that way, which is the point the submitter is trying to make, I think, about all identity battles. No one else’s identity expression has to make me so angry that I have to react to it by trying to end it (either rhetorically, or concretely) unless I choose that issue as the hill on which to stake my own identity flag.. Thus, metaphorically, too, the graphic seemed to say so much about stuff that’s been around the fandom for years.

Before Armitage started showing his chest hair so freely, some people insisted he had none and fought hefty verbal battles over it — probably something only legacy fans remember. There’s the whole smoking thing (did he? does he? can I stand it if he does? what if he still does and I like it?), which has been going on for years, such that anyone who still wants to say anything about it apart from the common consensus needs her head examined. A while back on Richard Armitage Confessions some hurt feelings surface over whether it’s okay to say one’s afraid he might get fat, and if that statement doesn’t trigger the eating disorders of other fans. Dare I write Armitage-related RPF or slash or mention that I enjoy them or publish my sexual fantasies? That was a big one we fought out right here in the spring of 2012. Last spring there was a sustained episode of wikipedia entry sabotage, a battle inter alia and from one side a humorous one over how to talk about Richard Armitage. The other side was, of course, at first wounded and then resigned.

There have been a lot of rather fierce squabbles again recently. I’m referring to them rather than linking, because lately I’m not confident that we can talk about these things without a dustup, and I don’t want to restart one inadvertently. I want to comment on the phenomenon, not refight the battles. Such as: “Cat vs. dog” a few weeks ago. Last week: “what was Armitage really like at the fan event?” which has developed into “can an actor really be an introvert?” (Yes, as we’ve been saying here for years.) There’s the question of counterfactual photo manipulations that put him with objects or fellow actors or clothes that people like or don’t like or develop moral or ethical objections to. I touched a nerve, too, last week, when I wrote a post that ventured onto the territory of “who is he really?” even though I said explicitly that it was my picture I was describing. This storm was a problem, because that is one of my main questions — it has been from the very beginning of this blog. I write regularly from a number of different perspectives, analytical, personal, poetic, impressionistic, about who evidence suggests Richard Armitage is.

Which gets us to the question of why we engage in these battles, to the point that they’re considered a normal, if distasteful, aspect of fandom. I have thought for a long time, and behind the scene discussions tend to confirm, that these battles don’t really concern Richard Armitage. (Sorry, Armitage.) (That was a joke, I’m sure he’ll be relieved to hear that.) (That was a joke.) They are battles about us. This is why the topics are often so relatively minor from the perspective of people whose identities are not engaged by them. I’m not an animal lover or hater, nor do I have a firm preference for cats or dogs, but a lot of people do and some of them were fundamentally exercised by what was a flippant statement. Since I have no chance of sleeping with him, I don’t care who Armitage’s romantic partners are, particularly, so I don’t care if I see people of either gender photoshopped into pictures with him. (Except me. I’d love to see a manip of me photoshopped into a picture with him. With much better clothes than the ones I typically wear.) (That was a joke.) (Can I make a true statement ironic by putting an emoticon behind it?) (What do you think?) (If I say something mean, is it funny with the right emoticon?) But I do care about the (in the sense of the MBTI) introversion question. Because I’m one and I recognize pieces of myself in him. That’s key — I recognize pieces of me in him. That recognition serves to bolster my own self-awareness and the legitimacy of being an introvert — particularly in an extroverted world where that quality is sometimes an embattled one. The fact that I call my crush an introvert thus makes it okay for me to be one. He’s a stronger version of myself, then, something I admire, and that relationship means I can use what I say about him to make myself stronger.

Thus the point here isn’t preference (beard or no beard, introvert or extravert, did he look tired or rather bored?), per se. Nor is it, in my opinion, the actual facticity of any statement he makes or the reasonability of any conclusion we draw from any statement he makes or thing he does or doesn’t do. It’s that we need him to be a certain way because our own self-images are drawn into question if he contradicts (or other fans contradict) our idea of him. If his introversion makes mine okay, if it makes me feel a kinship with him, if he’s not an introvert after I’ve expressed that impression and provided evidence for it, the legitimacy of my own introversion falls into jeopardy. We embrace patterns of Armitage behaviors based on our impressions and our identities — indeed, the reason why we’re fans is that something about him or what he does speaks to us deeply. And things we attribute to him make our feelings okay — whether that’s virtue, or high culture desires — because if he’s really a good person, or really cares about theater, or really serious, then it’s okay that our own emotions feel so ridiculously overwhelming. But if we need him to be a high-minded fan of literature, what happens when he describes himself in Sydney as someone who laughs about juvenile party trick? Can our picture accommodate that? And if he manifests differently than we expect him to, in subtle or radical ways, to what can that divergence be attributed?

My impression is that we refuse to say it’s Armitage or his choices that challenge 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 to exploit our potential for all kinds of things, can’t be mistaken because that would lead to shame. It’s embarrassing to love badly or undeservedly. So our devotion can only be shaken by some dealbreaker so prejudicial that it borders on incredibility (like incontrovertible proof of spousal abuse, hypothetically, or racist soccer hooliganism), in which case we’d then abandon him immediately and on principle. His failure to be what we want him to be can’t come down to us — we can’t be the ones who didn’t see everything or misinterpreted or loved a man who turned out to be cat-averse or something much more objectionable from our perspective. How can we have been so wrong?

So we have to find another explanation. We have to make someone else responsible. This, incidentally, is my theory about why Armitage’s agent gets blamed for every career step of his we don’t like. If we can’t find someone else to blame for a conceptual picture of Richard Armitage that contests our identity (smoker, drinker, cat-averse, or whatever it is), we’ll blame the people who created it. We’re unlikely to look at our list of preferences and conclude that we are the ones who are making the list. It’s always someone else who’s tampering with our picture of Armitage. The “false friend” who leaked a candid photo or video of him from twenty years ago (who also, in my opinion, does that as a piece of an identity construction — “I am someone who remembers a past shared, however briefly, with Richard Armitage”). The press. He can’t possibly be saying those things; he must be being misquoted. Who would ask a question so likely to generate controversy? Or the interviewer tricked him into opening up to her — something I used to hear a lot from legacy fans. Maybe it was an autograph hound — the person who pushed him into having a (ridiculous, rumpled, unsmiling) candid photo made so that his autograph could be sold. Or a fellow fan is made responsible (who by the way is also sharing a picture because part of the identity construction of many fans is getting to meet the crush or be pictured with him and putting that on display). The making fellow fans responsible, which isn’t new — I was told within the first months of writing this blog that I was “twisting his words” — has been a particularly evident strategy lately. This strategy is particularly safe when we can box those “other fans” into a category as “crazy” or “malicious” or motivated by some impulse we can disapprove of because our disapproval of it (I’m thinking of shipping here) and their status as “not like us” bolsters our own identity: “I — as opposed to those people — am not someone who would entertain inaccurate thoughts about Armitage, or speak about counter-factual fantasies” or “I — as opposed to those people — am not someone who pries into the private lives of others, especially not people I claim to respect.”

Now, I’m on record as believing that none of our hands are clean, and that the specific manifestations of our praxis are much less important than our similarities of attitude — in other words, that those other people are us. Just like any cat lover or shipper, I’m fighting an identity battle on this blog, as well, in case you haven’t noticed, and I can tell you what some of the sore spots are. I’ve even told you why. I write about his identity because I’m trying to figure out mine — and I have particular needs. The two that are most acute are for him to be happy, and for him to keep working. I can even tell you why those are needs of mine, and I have. The things I want for him are the things I want for myself. There are other sticky moments, and they’ve changed and developed over the years as I become aware of them and work through those battles for myself. A possible struggle with punctuation — and the jokes I made about it right afterwards and a year later). Or smoking (though it means something different to me than it means to most fans.) Armitage’s relationship with his family. The nature of his intellect. Whether he feels people are always watching him or telling him what to do. Are any of those themes you see in my life? You’ve been reading for years, and some people write to say they like what I write about myself more than what I say about Armitage.

The fact of an identity struggle means, in essence, that there isn’t, per se, an identity construction for Armitage written or graphicked by a fan that’s really wrong. We’re all creating a picture. We can talk about data like his birthday, but beyond that, there’s little to say. There are as many of those bigger constructions of Richard Armitage as there are of us. One reason I like RPF is all of the different Armitages I discover in them — even when they’re not consistent with my Armitage. I like knowing how other people read him. It will also surprise no one to learn that I tend to be very interested in evidence and its interpretation — if you assert something that I think is off based on stuff I’ve read, I’m going to ask what your evidence is and how you interpret it — because that’s something I teach for a living. And also, because it’s something I want to know. Because you might affect my view.

To mix the milk metaphor I developed previously intertextually, we’ve all got our sacred cows (a term proposed to me by a fellow Wisconsinite of our mutual acquaintance). I’ve listed some of my struggles above, so I am included in this. The identity battles aren’t going to go away. Please — we should battle away, on any question that interests us. I like to argue about the meaning of the things I perceive in Armitageworld as much or more as the next fan. I just wish we could stop pretending that these battles are either about Armitage as he is, or that they are not primarily about us and our needs. I suppose the discussion about respect will inevitably creep in, because “being respectful” is an important part of some of our identities and each of us draws that line differently, both personally and culturally. Since the voyeuristic element of fangirling probably challenges people’s definitions of their own respectfulness of others, it’s possibly a natural discussion. Still, I think most people — including the people who do things I don’t like — try pretty hard to follow their consciences and don’t need to be taught. I don’t believe that anything I’ve written here is disrespectful — I have a conscience and I don’t need you to regulate it for me. Which is a second point — those things are not going away simply because we rail against them. In fact, they may become even more pronounced. I try to walk away from these fights when I see they’re not going anywhere interesting — just not comment or press the window closed. I’ve been less successful at that lately, I think because my own identity issues are coming to a head. Sometimes I’m already in a conversation and someone starts an identity battle, and I need to get better at just leaving those if they’re unproductive.

As a side note, it used to be that the bloggers as a group had more shared experience of a fandom that restricted certain kinds of speech about Armitage (the “no personal discussions” rule that still prevails on the boards) and because in part, we started the blogs in order to have more discursive freedom, we were more conscious of the freedoms of others to speak as they pleased. This generation of bloggers have mostly never participated in the Armitage boards and thus doesn’t share that experience. The blogs used to be a free speech space, one that we needed, and one that seems called into question now. I stand behind that. We need more space for expression, not less.

So that’s my history, so while I won’t go looking for it, one thing that I will oppose when it runs across me or appears in a space I’ve already started to participate in is the kind of identity expression that says that fandom expressions that reflect others’ non-criminal searches for identity should be foreclosed because they are false, plausibly counterfactual, or disrespectful. Crimes are crimes on their own merit and they don’t need me to denounce them. I may not like what others say (I think we all have those things — I know that once upon a time the whole “peaches” thing drove me crazy), but I don’t see any justification for telling others that that they may not say them. It runs against all my free speech inclinations, for one. Some fans shouldn’t say something because others’ principles are offended by their speech? I’ve never seen anything any Armitage fan has done that remotely approaches shouting fire in a crowded theater. I should not speak about how I feel because your identity could be harmed? What about my identity? Because the second reason for not foreclosing others statements, manips, jokes, and gossip is something I realized in the summer of 2012 in the context of an OT discussion in the fandom that I won’t link to here, again to avoid inadvertently restarting a fire. The second I start barring other people from exploring their identities — however they wish to do that — I start making my own search impossible. If fandom does involve identity, if Armitage is important to us because we see pieces ourselves in him, when we start forbidding others from doing that, we’re hampering our own self-awareness and ability to explore our needs. This not about disagreement about content or substances. Everyone disagrees. But we don’t try to stop each other from speaking. If I tell you not to manip, not to gossip, not to fantasize, not to use words I don’t like, to leave topics alone — I make it impossible for me to do that.

If you’re going to say: Armitage is harmed by fans, I say, ceterum censeo, prove it.

If you’re going to say: Smoking endangers health, I say: we already agree about that. If you’re going to say, because it endangers health, it must be condemned at all times, I say: my appreciation of his smoking is not about the health consequences of using tobacco, it’s about its symbolic value. If you don’t get that, your comment will be OT.

I’ve mentioned recently that I’ve started to feel like I can’t assert anything anymore, even in my own space, without generating an unpleasant storm around me. It’s possible that the blog is getting too big — or that it’s too small for what I need to write eventually, and that the car I’ve driving for so long is breaking down. Someone who really dislikes me once tweeted an insult at me and called me “the mighty Servetus,” and maybe it’s the case that my own assertions of identity here via the different kinds of pictures of Armitage I draw are becoming threatening to some readers. In any case, the hassle makes blogging not fun. Some other stuff happened today that made me think the future of amateur fan-blogging about entertainment and actors more generally is fairly bleak.

This is not a request for strokes — I’m happy if you enjoy the blog and right now, anyway, I don’t need tons of encouragement to keep on. I’m very motivated, I’ve got lots to say, more energy to say it than I’ve had in well over a year, and you may have noticed that I’m writing and publishing more lately. (Note: five thousand words today, AND I saw fifteen students while I was writing. Where is this energy coming from?) But the thing is: There’ll be more open identity discussion here in the future rather than less, I imagine, not least because of my own sense of time being short. I’ve been told the blog is no longer a “safe place.” I think it can be. I’ll try not to blow off the handle but I also ask readers not to do that either — to realize that we’re all engaged in identity definitions and that no one’s is illegitimate — except the person who intervenes to say we shouldn’t be doing it.

[I realize that this post is so controversial that all hell might break loose, but I’m leaving comments open for now. I’d appreciate a discussion of identity battles as a phenomenon of fandom generally and of this fandom and of strategies for having thoughtful discussions about things that interest us — not the re-engagement of recent identity battles. Meanwhile, since writing something like this is an act of identity, I’m going to go drink a beer and wait to look at the comments section until I’ve detached from the text a bit. It’s usually my practice to respond to every comment if I can think of a response, but in interest of not driving myself crazy, I reserve the right not to do that here. So if you leave a comment to get a rise out of me, if my resolution is working, don’t expect a response. Usual comments policy — see sidebar — is in force.]

~ by Servetus on November 13, 2013.

53 Responses to “me + milk and cheese + Richard Armitage + fandom identity battles, part 2”

  1. […] to Part 2. […]

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  2. #1 – It’s your blog. Live free and blog your heart. If anyone doesn’t like it, screw ’em.

    #2 – As for the ‘Confessor’ – as I stated earlier elsewhere, in a more tongue-in-cheek manner – if we all didn’t do something because we MIGHT offend someone, or because someone is allergic to something, we’d be boring and have nothing to do and we’d starve to death. For the record, my aging tootsies can no longer tolerate high heels, therefore, according to the Confessor, high heels offend me, therefore they should be banned.

    #3 – Damn. What WAS #3???? I forget. Oh well…

    nyah.

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  3. I have a blog where I can say anything I want so I say here, I enjoyed reading your blog, Now I’m going to take my dog on his last walk of the night and I’m going to bed. I hope you enjoyed your beer. xoxoxoxo No reply needed….

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    • The beer was great. It’s going to be sad when I move out of this neighborhood. Then again I’m sure there are benefits to not trying every single beer they put on tap.

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  4. I think our admiration and desire for Richard Armitage is very much about self-definition, or at least I recognize that in mine. I want to want someone who reflects what I like about myself. When you wrote, “The two that are most acute are for him to be happy, and for him to keep working. I can even tell you why those are needs of mine, and I have. The things I want for him are the things I want for myself.”, this rang so very true for me. I hope you will continue to write here, honestly and bravely, what you think, because you make me think. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen?

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  5. Yes, sometimes even emoticon didn’t help…I think I got used to those “better” fans *laughs* 😉 ..still it’s highly surprising and kinda funny.

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    • yeah — this has been a pet peeve of mine lately. Write something you know is objectionable but put an emoticon on everything and that’s supposed to make it okay 🙂 or ):

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  6. I saw that on Tumblr and I’m pretty sure it was meant to be ironic, or a dig about others who police others on Tumblr and DeviantArt.

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  7. So much, oh so much in this. The fandom is not PC anymore, it is PF (prescriptve fangirling :-D) I wish I could write now, but I am subscribing to this as a reminder to write later.

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  8. This comment goes to the portion of the post explaining why we need Richard Amitage to be a certain way. It doesn’t address the portion concerning how we, as a fans, react to challenges to our beliefs or needs, nor to the view ( which I endorse) that there is no right way for fan expression. There may be some readers who, like me, think, ” I don’t see any of myself in Richard Armitage and I don’t need him to be like me or embody the same traits and beliefs,” so the thoughts here about needing Richard Armitage to be a certain way don’t apply to me. But to them I would say that there’s another light with which to look at the issue- reflective light. I don’t need him to be like me, but I may need him/want him to have the qualities, traits and experience – to be the kind of person that someone like me would associate with, be friends with, admire, love. It’s still my self-image that drives this. And there, right there, is the identity question. If, for example, my self image is of a person who attracts and is attracted to people who have leadership qualities, if I value leadership qualities greatly, if leadership is my sacred cow, then I need him to be that, or to be on his way to that. It doesn’t mean that I, myself have that quality. In exploring why I need those qualities in my peeps, I engage in the identity question because how he is still helps define me.

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    • Yes, I don’t disagree. The reason I made the “I need him to be like me” claim is that that’s what I see in most of the recent squabbles (or the variation, I need him to be who I need him to be for me and if he’s not, or portrayed as not being that, it’s not his fault, or my fault, it’s someone else’s fault=the fan who pushes that POV). But as you point out there are many forms of identity definition.

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  9. Forgot to click for notices.

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  10. Dude, my brain us already exhausted and you spring this on me? Lol. I think that when we enter these communities — and a fandom is a community — there’s a certain amount of of jockeying for position and there’s tension between how the individual wants to express him or herself and how the community actually functions. In this community I’m mostly a joker but that’s not my sole online identity.

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    • Fair enough, but for me the problem is really that there’s a segment of the community that wants their picture to be the only picture, a part of the community that wants to function by refusing to accept how others express themselves.

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  11. You have put into words what being a fan of an actor essentially is – it is not the superficial desire to be close to/kiss/have sex with that particular person (that would be nice but is unrealistic. And however immature the critics of fangirling may perceive us to be – most if not all of us do understand that there is a difference between reality and dream. If you don’t then click to this handy illustration for clarification 😀 http://www.tedstees.com/media/catalog/product/cache/1/image/500×500/9df78eab33525d08d6e5fb8d27136e95/t/e/tedstee0009.jpg) Rather, being a fan is another expression of the search for self, manifested in the devotion to an idealised version of a human, preferably a sexually attractive specimen of the gender one prefers (for sexual activities, that is), with all the qualities that one admires and wishes for oneself. We – I – search for those qualities in them. Everytime they are refuted, we – I- doubt my own interpretation and my own values. We – I – use our star as a benchmark for our own behaviour – it is essential for that that he be idealised, an infallible demi-God. Cos if he wasn’t, then how could I strive for his qualities? And how could he be worthy of my admiration?
    Where some people follow the example of a religious leader, others choose a more tangible model, an existing human being. But in the absence of any real contact with him, we must fall back on our interpretation skills and disect the bits and pieces that are thrown to us. With our own life-experiences and values behind us, we come to different conclusions – conclusions that help us individually to deal with our own exploration of self. Those could have the opposite effect on others – but is that reason enough to forbid others from voicing them?
    All of the above is pretty logical and self-explanatory and hardly controversial. The fact that all this is done in public – the exploration of self via the chronicling and interpreting of Armitage – is what makes the issue thorny, because it (seems to) blur the lines between reality and interpretation. The easy accessibility of blogs is what makes them so successful as a platform for interactive fangirling. It allows for a choice between anonymous passive consumption and active participation. And it enables the blog owner to exercise own rules that benefit her own goals for her blogging journey. However, if the self-exploration via blogging is disrupted by deliberate or accidental interference, then it becomes a distraction (if not a pain) – diametrically opposed to what it is meant to be. Solutions? Censorship. Either of self or of others. Or a restrictive policy of access on individual posts or the whole blog. The latter may also be a solution to another issue that is/could be threatening fan-blogging. It might change the (inter)face of fangirling/fandom participation temporarily – but then again, panta rhei.
    Usual disclaimer at the end – no idea if I went off on the wrong tangent. But that’s my response… Sorry for being so wordy.

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    • The other issue you’re talking about is really serious and I hadn’t thought of a private blog as the solution to that, but of course it would be. Sigh.

      I agree with this in essence, but I would add about the issue of blogging in public is that if the blog is an identity project (as this one is) it gives the additional possibility that I can say something and ask, “will this stand up in public” before I have to try it on in real life? In this case there’s not a one to one relationship (the point of my identity struggles isn’t to be able to come out to all and sundry in my life as an Armitage fan, but to be able to know who I am and come out as that). In that sense a blog is more valuable to me than a private journal although I also journal.

      But yeah, I think we’re moving in the censorship direction — I never used to do that, because honeslty I felt that with very rare exceptions people who stood in the way of the journey were doing it accidentally. I don’t believe that anymore of the people who have created the biggest problems.

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      • Oh, I know. The idea of censorship is unsavoury. But then again, maybe I shouldn’t have used that word. Think of it as “moderating” – that works even literally, as in “calming the discourse” by excluding certain modes of talking, guiding the commentors and readers along.

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        • If you write it on a blog, we will comment about it, whether you like it or not. LOL

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          • I don’t understand what you mean by this Arky. If comments are moderated so they don’t get published, then we can’t comment on the blog regardless. Notice, I didn’t say “what did you mean by that?” which I consider a triggering statement- but I really want to know what you’re getting at. I don’t think it’s meant to be snarky- just asking for clarification because as a blogger myself, I want to know. 😕 ( this is supposed to be a new emoticon)

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  12. Servetus, and other commenters, all I can say is: I’m not worthy. Y’all could start a MOOC on fangirling, just saying. I’ll just sit here in the corner doodling….

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  13. Thanks for another thoughtful, interesting post, Servetus. So here are my three somewhat unrelated observations on the subject:
    1. My own appreciation of Richard Armitage is different from what it was when I first saw him in North & South in September 2011. I don’t know if that is because my feelings have changed or because they are just clearer now. I was completely enraptured then, amazed that an actor could speak to me so profoundly. Now I watch his work, and I think, “What a brilliant storyteller – he makes the character so real.” But I don’t believe I ever looked at him and thought, “I look into his face and see a reflection of my soul.” I don’t know if that means that I am less intense than other people, or what, exactly. Maybe I’ll go back to that early state of amazement after The Desolation of Smaug comes out.
    2. Sometimes I wonder if the reason people need an actor to be who they think he is, is because interpreting another person’s performance is a human survival skill. We need to be able to correctly assess what someone else is thinking, what their motivations are, from the little clues they give us in expressions and gestures. And we try to see beyond the art of their performance to the real human reactions, so we can say, “Aha! This is the truth, this is the human being behind the mask, which I can see because of my special connection to the person.” So when it appears that we’ve put the little clues together wrong somehow, it’s a big problem.
    3. In this fanfiction I’ve been reading recently (Sansukh, which is excellent BTW), there’s a point at which one character says about another, “She’s not in love with him, she wants to be him.” And I think that’s often true.

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    • yeah — it doesn’t have to be the same way for everyone, and I don’t disagree that the plain entrancement with someone’s performance and resulting admiration is something fundamentally different from what I am talking about here. I said in comments a few weeks ago on another post that I thimk there’s a difference between (say) liking film and being a fan of Armitage. You could do both but they are not necessarily contiguous (think how oftne people say to me here, “have you seen …” and I think, “no, and I’m not interested. I’m really only in this for Armitage.”). I’m specifically discussing people who think it’s worthwhile to legislate what others can or can’t do. I don’t think admiration of a performance or performances or the actor who gives them is exactly the same thing — I’m talking about an identification with an actor or something else so severe that one feels compromised when others speak differently about him than one would like.

      agree with 2 — smart observation — and 3.

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  14. I don’t know how you can have a blog attracting so many people with all their identity issues leading in different directions without conflict. Things are said, someone gets aggressive, someone gets defensive and sometimes someone gets boring, one of the worst sins in fandom, I imagine. There will be identity battles as long as we have identifies. So now what? A little censorship might help before tensions escalate. “You’ve delighted us long enough” type approach. Open communication between us is a lovely gift a majority seem to handle quite well, and if we don’t, you might have to intervene, much as you don’t want to. I see only two choices, stop specific discourse of the offending topic or person, or let it die a natural death and move on to next thing. You have excellent guidelines (no politics comes to mind),but they can’t prevent people from going off the reservation and starting a battle if that’s where they want to go. Maybe you could insert a “safe” word like Orchrist or peaches (a favorite?) to let the commentor know she is iapproaching the last stop on the road to censorship. None of us want to go there, but it seems unavoidable sometimes, like the dentist.

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  15. I don’t know how completely I’ve articulated the connection between my identity and my fandom desires. I do know that there are things is “see” in Richard Armitage that say much more about me than they do about him.

    On the secondary topic? A little qoute from Voltaire comes to mind:

    “I do (may) not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

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    • which is usually the case with judgments, I think, whether they are so clearly articulated as in this case, or put forth by their authors as something else.

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  16. Fascinating post about identity and projection. Discussion of these issues on blogs are what drew me into the RA world and keeps me here. Oh yeah, and Richard’s performances!

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    • Oh, yeah, Armitage 🙂 that guy.

      I have a draft about projection that someone asked me to write like two years ago … time to get on that.

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  17. I guess I’m mellowing out too much in my old age because I can’t get worked up over my fandom, nor do I discern much in the way of identity issues in my fangirling. I’ve reached the happy stage where I yam what I yam. My interest in Armitage is half admiration of his talent and character, and half sexual attraction. While I jokingly admit to being a fangirl to friends and family, I do hide the extent of my feelings since most people find it icky that “old” ladies have crushes on celebrities nearly two decades younger (and I also don’t what to make my husband feel inadequate, lol.) Like Richard, I feel half my age in my head.

    What makes me uncomfortable is all this angsty possessiveness and occasional bitchiness in the fandom. I love the humor, the gossip, the speculation about chest hair or personality traits, and especially the acute intelligence and wide culture that many fans exhibit. I have learned a great deal from Servetus’ analysis of his craft and Guylty’s dissection of his photographs. But the raw nerves, backbiting and self-righteousness of some fans drives me nuts. Life’s too short to waste on that kind of unproductive emotion, and I’m one of the fuddy-duddies that believes that anonymous social media encourages it. On the whole, however, the opportunity to follow lively discussions about a common passion outweighs the nit-picking, and I hope that the Blogitage continues to roar.

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    • yeah, not all fandom is the same. I think that people who engage in this kind of battle, however, are after more than “just” enjoyment. (There’s nothing to criticize in enjoyment, btw.) They / we are looking for something further.

      I think you’re right that social media support unhappiness-causing behaviors; otoh how would we have met each other otherwise, esp since many of us don’t feel like we can admit this thing publicly? 🙂

      I also remember the beginning of email and how people had to learn to use it and develop an etiquette for it (as people used to say, “netiquette”). I assume it was the same with the phone, and I hope that we will eventually all learn social media manners.

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  18. […] the first interpretation. This is where this image meets Servetus’ assertion (?) from her post a couple of days ago that we, the fans, imbue Armitage with the qualities we *want* him to have […]

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  19. […] response to the fan who said this was a textbook example of what I was talking about this week, here’s a link to that post at her recommendation. Yes, indeed, we can already see what I was talking about playing out in the […]

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  20. […] failure to state this more openly, and who thought my previous defenses (that it’s harmless, that it’s a free speech issue, that all fans act exploitatively) were not positive enough in the face of criticism that the vehement opposition to a few particular […]

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  21. […] been trying hard to understand. And what I want to understand is not so much the content of the identity battle itself, or who did or said what, but rather what a German would call the Streitgründe, but the […]

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  22. […] to fight an identity battle with just myself and no collateral damage? What part of identity development requires the presence […]

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  23. […] Fan B’s identity issues are consciously or unconsciously triggered by Fan A’s remark. And Richard Armi…. […]

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  24. […] When we watch Richard Armitage and he turns out to be exactly who we thought he was, or who we want to believe he is — are we gratified and re-rooted in our own identities? […]

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  25. […] on my own blog that I started in full awareness of what could happen that qualified as an identity battle for me (which isn’t to say there’s never been controversy here, but most of the time I […]

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  26. […] something about him”? I think fans engaged in these behaviors are not protecting him, but rather their own identities, but since Armitage fans who police or bully do so ostensibly for his sake, does that say “a […]

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  27. […] APM is also but one kind of manifestation of this tendency. I’ve termed this sort of squabble an identity battle, because the centrality of identity was the only thing that explained to me the energy and […]

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  28. […] might be gleaned, which turned out to be even more of a problem for some readers. As I learned, the question of defending identity via the fandom crush is the source of vicious battles, which makes the whole enterprise of saying “who Richard Armitage is” among fans highly […]

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  29. […] I wrote at great length about these “fandom identity battles,” noting that it was not typically possible for the fan to criticize or disagree with Armitage (and at that time, he didn’t have public social media, either), because he had the status of the crush. If something were wrong with the picture, it couldn’t be the person who generated the picture who had the problem, and it certainly couldn’t be one’s own picture that was the problem — the anger got displaced onto other fans who disrupted the picture instead. Hence the many flames. Observing all this (like Jas Rangoon linked below — make sure you check out that link if you haven’t read that piece), I was essentially of the viewpoint that these fights were generated by difficulties we were experiencing in accommodating new statements Armitage made to our picture of him. […]

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