me + Richard Armitage + Lee Pace, or: The ship that dare not speak its name [introduction]

I’ve thought about this topic for a long time. I regularly link to RPF and ‘ship fanfic in Legenda, but I’ve never thought it was necessary to say more about it than that I enjoy it.

This is a post about why I like shipping and how it became a useful, indeed redeeming, pleasure that improves  my life better. It’s an affirmative defense of shipping based on how it makes me feel. I’m not saying you should like it. Just that I like it. A lot.

I want to make clear that I’m writing this for me. These sentiments are mine alone. At the same time I want to apologize to friends who told me they felt marginalized by my 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 ships looks an awful lot like homophobia. I offer as an explanation but not an excuse: I needed time to figure out how to address my shame over liking this stuff. To those friends, this post is for only for me. But I hope it cheers you to know that there’s at least one reader who enjoys what you do.

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Please be aware of the comments policy stated at the end of the post.

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tumblr_mgy0c40Y3R1qj7r9ko1_1280

tumblr_mittapUa6J1rvjyz7o1_1280Source.

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Shipping? A preface

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, shipping is the fandom practice, especially in fanfics or graphics, of putting two persons (characters or real people or both) in a romantic relationship of some kind that is counter-factual to reality, not manifested explicitly in the canon of a story, or based on indeterminate assertions or evidence.  (‘Ship is short for relationship.) Shipping can present a close relationship, UST (unresolved sexual tension), or actual sexual encounters.

Fans often tag ships with a mashup of the involved names in order to make their discussions easier to find (for example, “Aidean” for a ship involving Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner). The two most common tags for a ship involving Richard Armitage and Lee Pace are “Richlee” or “Armipace.” In this post, I’ll be discussing “Richlee.”

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time but have feared the possible resulting controversy. However, I’ve felt lately like I don’t write about things I want to discuss and then get pushed into responding in a way that makes me angry. Change requires conflict, I guess, but I see the practice of fandom as a joyful moment of growth, and so by grasping the initiative here I hope I can communicate some joy. Moreover, I started out writing here wanting just to come clean about a bunch of stuff and figure it out, and if I am not doing that, I’m wasting my writing time and just participating in the support of a marketing machine that annoys me whenever I succumb to it.

As dooce said recently:

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 7.05.18 PM

So.

Crimes are crimes. They do not require denunciation from me. Shipping, even RPF shipping, does not break the law. It is not libel or slander. I ship quietly and intensely in my fantasies, where I also ship me + Richard Armitage, which should have been clear for some time. I enjoy shipping the way I do it. I also enjoy observing the shipping of people who write or draw or make manips. I don’t happen to enjoy blatantly counterfactual gossip, but in fact, all gossip involves spreading rumors, and to me, shipping gossip is more or less the same thing as shipping fantasy; it differs primarily by genre and perhaps by tone or intent of the speaker (which is not an argument against it — an argument is valid or invalid on its terms, regardless of the one who makes it) but not substantially.

If you ship, too, or enjoy it, I hope you enjoy this post. However.

First, if you are absolutely opposed to shipping of any kind, please simply click this window shut. You are not in my intended audience today. It will only make you angry.

Second, I do not believe that people who disagree with me are dumb (something I’ve heard lately) or uncool (something I used to hear). Like / don’t like; read / don’t read. One could say that liking an actor and his work so much that one writes over 2,000 blogposts about him over a timespan approaching four years is both dumb and uncool. I live in a glass house on both of those scores, and, I would argue — so do all of us.

Third, this post was not intended as an invitation to a referendum on the legitimacy of shipping as a practice in our or any other fandom — although to be fair, I’ll have to allow discussion on that point. I’ve already decided my own stance. I’ll limit myself to stating that thinking or writing something or believing something is not the same it being real; and that I do not believe “slippery slope” arguments in which obsessive counterfactual fantasy is made responsible for stalking (to me, stalking is a manifestation of mental illness which may also manifest itself in fantasy; at any rate, it’s a crime on its own). Below, I draw on my personal reactions to shipping; yours may differ. In case there was any doubt: your feelings are still yours! Feel free to discuss your disagreements in the comments, but I probably won’t respond to those comments unless I see an argument that I haven’t already considered.

Fourth, although I also can’t forbid it, this post is not an invitation to assert or refute the alleged real existence of any ship discussed in this post or elsewhere.  Presumably every reader who has come this far knows where to go to participate in vigorous debates about the reality of these ships. The main ship I talk about here seems to me to be an unlikely possibility; arguments that Armitage + Pace must necessarily be real rely, in my opinion, on errors of cognition and/or reasoning. While human thought patterns are fascinating to observe, my point here is not to trace and substantiate or undermine every relevant datapoint. I’m sure I’m not even aware of all of them! Rather, I want to discuss what I noticed as I saw it, and describe how a particular notion makes me feel, not refute a picture based on isolated data and the treatment of rumors that give them a disproportionate meaning. Those rumors are often set in motion by people with no tangible identities, who have never offered any proof that they are in any position to know what they assert to be true. What they say is neither deductively valid (the available data do not lead to a necessary/inevitable conclusion) nor yet inductively falsifiable (available data cannot absolutely refute the conclusion — although some critics of shippers might say that the belief in the existence of the ship is so firm that its adherents would not accept data that did falsify it).

Finally, I don’t really want to have a discussion about the real-life sexual orientations of any actor discussed in this post. Again, I suppose we can go there, but that’s not the point. This isn’t a post about reality. It’s a post about how I feel about a fantasy and why I like it.

Finally, please be aware that the usual rule about avoiding ad hominem attack is in force — let’s talk about the topic, not about each other. NOT OK: “those crazy people who believe this ship is real” or “people who refuse to accept reality and deny the ship is real …”

As always, first time commentators are subject to moderation. No homophobic remarks!

I hope we have the boundaries for an interesting and honest discussion that makes space for the people who usually get marginalized to speak in favor of their pleasures.

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tumblr_mn38o0daSy1r7lftco1_500Dworin, my Hobbit OTP. Source.

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Admittedly, Armitage + Pace is not my favorite ship or OTP — “one true pairing” — the relationship I prefer to all others in a particular context. My OTP is any combination of Armitage + Graham McTavish or any of their characters. Even in contradiction to McTavish’s attitude toward shipping, which seems to be to either pretend that he doesn’t know what it is (I find this implausible, especially since seeing the TH:AUJ extended edition extras, but as a rhetorical strategy, it’s fine — it’s one I’ve often used if someone asks me something unreasonable) or make jokes about it. After months of witnessing the fantasy in my mind, I can explain why Armitage + McTavish is my OTP, and before this blog is over, I’ll describe how I got there, and why. Meanwhile I’ll continuing enjoying that one in private, for now.

Fans have presented it this way:

Screen shot 2013-10-03 at 7.21.05 PMMy Hobbit OTP, extending into other universes. Source.

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Or in some fanfics I’ve enjoyed. (Some but not all have previously been linked in Legenda.) Read all disclaimers before continuing. And, in the spirit of understanding displayed in this post, don’t use their comment sections for an anti-RPF or anti-slash or anti-ship moral crusade. Some fics I like have already been disappeared for this reason. A03 is supposed to be a safe place for all kinds of fantasy.

  • Keep Night from Coming,” by coloursflyaway. Richard Armitage has a secret admirer. Roses.
  • Rewriting the Rules,” by St_Germaine. A wealthy Graham McTavish buys Armitage’s services at a charity auction. Romantic. Sequel: “Delayed Gratification.”
  • Also by St_Germaine, “Sword of Damocles.” Graham McTavish tracks down a dying Richard Armitage. Incredibly romantic.
  • A Study in Contrasts,” by foreverdistracted. Dominant Graham McTavish teaches Richard Armitage something about submission. Fascinating power dynamic and almost entirely porn.
  • What is Essential,” by St_Germaine. Graham McTavish and Richard Armitage meet again on the set of The Hobbit after a friendship cut off for three decades.
  • Distrust Everything, If You Have To,” by redandglenda. Graham McTavish discovers a painful moment in Richard Armitage’s past.
  • One, Two, Three,” by St_Germaine. It’s Richard Armitage’s first time, and Graham McTavish has to learn to be patient.
  • Gently, wordlessly,” by noalinnea. Graham McTavish takes care of an injured Richard Armitage.

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tumblr_mucr3oDg0O1sns9vwo1_500Source: Thorin Oakenshield Confessions

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Rereading the fics I linked above was sheer pleasure; I reinvigorated my crush on St_Germaine. Leaving that by the side for the moment, I hope that my slight distance from Armitage + Pace as a ship makes it easier for me to write about it and also makes it easier for this post to be understood.

Onward.

[to next part.]

~ by Servetus on November 21, 2013.

37 Responses to “me + Richard Armitage + Lee Pace, or: The ship that dare not speak its name [introduction]”

  1. I don’t have arguments or disagreements, just questions. I know you are only speaking for yourself, but perhaps you have some theories regarding shipping in general. It seems to me shipping in predominated by M/M pairings, not M/F. For instance, Bilbo/Thorin seems to be number one in Hobbit fan fic. I thought because at least as far as THAUJ is concerned, the only M/F pairing possible would be Thorin with Galadriel. Therefore if you want to write a romantic fanfic featuring Thorin, you have many more choices with assorted dwarves or a hobbit. Can you speculate on a reason for the dominance of Bilbo/Thorin fic? I haven’t gotten into RPF very much, I don’t know how the numbers shake out there, mostly M/M or not? I prefer my erotic fantasies to be heterosexual, but I don’t care what others enjoy. I find it easier to insert myself in a fantasy as a female character. I feel more like a participant than a watcher. I am not using the word “voyeur” because I want to use a neutral word. No judging here. Being perfectly honest, I have read some erotic M/M that is extremely arousing. I ask myself, “what would that feel like, or oh, that sounds interesting.” I think I have learned more about male sexuality since reading fan fic than in my entire life. And that’s a good thing.

    Like

    • Thanks for taking the first step into these admittedly choppy waters!

      I don’t know enough about all fanfic to say that in general shipping is same sex. Probably insofar as shipping goes against canon, it might be more likely to be same sex because canon tends heterosexual.

      You’re right that there aren’t a lot of heterosexual pairings available for Thorin with characters in canon. It’s my impression that Bagginshield is the most popular ship as well — and I’ve seen a lot of stories with fem!Bilbo, so there may be something there in a Hobbit as a sort of substitute for a woman? Don’t know, though. I love the manips, though, of Thorin hugging Bilbo as if it’s the prelude to more.

      Most Armitage RPF that I have found is M/M. I’ve been joking with some of my favorite fanfic authors off and on that Armitage really needs a wonderful heterosexual RPF romance! There have been a few tries, but none that I’ve found particularly convincing — and I think your point about how it’s easier just to ship yourself + Armitage is germane here. If the author writes herself as the OFC, there’s a potential tendency toward jealousy or dislike; most of the heterosexual Armitage RPF I have read is “reader insert,” that is the female character is supposed to be the reader.

      I don’t especially like heterosexual fanfic (I don’t dislike it), but I much prefer male same-sex pairings (“slash”). Scholars have noticed this — most of that stuff is written by women and most of its readership seems to be women — and have speculated on why … I get to that a little in the next post. But I think it has something to do with certain thoughts that are safer for me to think in same-sex settings. It also has to do with my own identification with the Richard Armitage characters in a lot of these stories.

      I think in general one learns a lot from sexy fanfic, although some of it should be marked with a “do not try this at home” label (e.g., do not put a popsicle in your anus, which isn’t designed to handle that sugar on its surface, it will irritate you and make you itch).

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      • And, really, that’s good advice no matter whay you’re doing.

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        • *what. Have I said %&*# this phone yet today?Because more yes than you can imagine.

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          • I’m not sure what the second comment means.

            But, for example, fanfic seems to know some things that I only learned by doing — i.e., there are some pretty decent fellatio tips on fanfic that I had to learn all on my own (not that that was bad, though). It probably has something to do with the pornification of the mainstream — these things are more widely known now. I also think that the stories have an important function in that sense — they make certain things seem more “normal.” I suppose some people would see that as a bad thing.

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      • Damnit, I’ll never look at another Popsicle the same again.

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      • Snorting with laughter 😀

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    • But I wonder how much we really *do* learn about male sexuality in this kind of fanfic, since it’s mostly written by women. Is it more a feminine projection of the perfect (or at least desirable) sexual partner/encounter? I can’t get into M/M fanfic because I always have a niggling feeling that it’s nothing like the real thing. Of course, M/F fanfic is often nothing like the real thing either, lol.

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      • There is a little bit of slash written by men, and you’re right that it’s quite different. I want to say a little about my perceptions of slash sex as it plays out in Richlee later, but the general point is an interesting one. Why do we like (or not like) reading about a particular sort of sexual encounter, and what is the role of verisimilitude in something that is a fantasy on every perceptible level?

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    • Hi Kathy,
      The genders in the pairings really depend on the universe in which the author is writing. Back in the the heydey of XF fandom, the most prevalent ship fanfic was MSR since there was this very interesting female character in the XF universe to pair with Mulder. But same sex pairings are indeed very popular such as Mulder/Krychek. I think the reason for the prevalance of Thorin/another male is due to the lack of female characters in the Tolkien universe.

      Like

  2. Darn, too late. I feel an itch coming on.

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    • LMAO!

      And I think that’s part of the assumption that fanfic authors make — they are fantasizing about things that in part one is unlikely to do in real life.

      Like

  3. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a reading assignment more! What was the question?

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  4. Am really interested to hear your’s and other’s thoughts about slash fanfic. RPF and slash aren’t really my cup of tea but I’m intrigued by the fact that most of the slash fic are written by women. Roll on the discussion!

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    • I would love that, too, but I think we have to be prepared for the possibility that there aren’t going to be a lot of comments here — this being a sort of touchy topic. In any case, I’m ready.

      Like

    • Quickly, a very dear friend of mine writes slash for the Supernatural fandom. In RL she’s a lesbian. There’s something about the dynamic in the onscreen relationship between the characters that speaks to her. For her the genetalia is secondary to the characterization.

      Like

  5. […] part 1. If you’re opposed to shipping, please close this window […]

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  6. If Graham McTavish doesn’t know what shipping is, I wouldn’t be surprised, considering my very internet-savvy husband had never heard of it until last night (!), and then only because he came across a parody song on YouTube. I quickly got him up to speed. But yeah, if a thirtysomething computer geek who you’d think WOULD know had no idea, a fiftysomething actor not knowing sounds quite likely. He’s probably too busy acting! 🙂

    On the subject of shipping … if it’s done well, with believable relationships, it can be nice. If it’s about pairings that make no sense whatsoever because it goes against who the characters fundamentally are in canon, then no. (Harry/Snape? REALLY??!) And that would be why I generally don’t read fanfic …

    Interesting post, looking forward to reading the rest. 🙂

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    • Traxy, the actors including Armitage are captured joking about it on the extended edition of the AUj DVDs.

      I love Harry / Snape, though I don’t read a lot of Potter fanfic — but when I do that’s a prime destination. For me the faithfulness to canon doesn’t really play a role.

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  7. What the immersion and participation in this fandom has taught me, is that it is ok to fantasise – because fantasising does not mean acting on or wanting something in RL. However, slash – which I only discovered last year *despite* being an internet-savvy person with regular news gigs on SM (eh – that is SM as in Social Media, *not* SadoMaso!!!! *coughsandclarifies*) – did initially make me feel uncomfortable, as did RPF with slash scenarios. I quickly learnt to interpret it otherwise *ahem*. The attraction for me in M/M pairing is that I personally do not feel jealous – which I am prone to do – and I find myself less critical of the other character’s (=the one that isn’t Armitage or one of his characters) emotional expression, actions and character development. Because they are male, I can say to myself “I wouldn’t do that, a woman wouldn’t do that, because HE’s a man, and what do I know about being a man…”

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    • My impression is that plays a role for a lot of readers — not having to be annoyed at the OFC. Although a bigger problem in most Armitage RPF het for me than the OFC are version of Armitages that I find unrealistic.

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      • Maybe that is because it is easier to suspend one’s disbelief when you go the whole hog, i.e. slash, M/M RPF? I mean, “allowing” that is already quite a suspension of disbelief, so that any added contradictory (to our own interpretation) version of RA’s behaviour is minor.
        I also find that generally the roles of two male characters are more balanced. Even if set in a D/s scenario, there is often an undercurrent of equality that a lot of F/M porn lacks. There is a power struggle between two equals – who is wielding power over whom – which I find very attractive.

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        • hmmmm … the equality theory has been advanced by a few scholars, too. Yes and no. I have mixed feelings. A lot of the fic I like has really unequal power dynamics which I might not accept in het fanfic.

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  8. I have to confess I´ve always seen “shipping” as costs in my accounts. Suppose I´ll be giggling when it comes to book it at work the next time 🙂

    Very intriguing post, like slash fiction, still don´t know if I like RPF, have to dive deeper into the subject matter.

    Could you please tell me what OFC stands for? Couldn´t find it via google, German Wikipedia explained it as “Offenbacher Fussball Club”, I don´t think that´s meant 🙂 Seriously, I´m hopelessly clueless…

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    • OFC=original female character, i.e., a woman paired with the Armitage character who is a creation of the author. Often, but not always, a Mary Sue.

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  9. […] case, the position is possible. I am a Richlee shipper who believes that the realist position is an “unlikely possibility” that I can’t refute absolutely but for which the evidence on its own is not that […]

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  10. I’m loving these posts & discussions. I have read slash in the past mostly in the BBC Robin Hood universe and enjoyed it immensely. For me it worked for those characters, I think I imagined myself as an observer. I haven’t gotten into it for the hobbit or RPF it could possibly be related to having shifted into the Tom Hiddleston fandom though there I find myself attracted mostly to M/F when there’s also a huge body of M/M work.
    BTW there’s a bedroom scene in the movie The kids are alright where the lesbian couple (played by Annette Benning & Julianne Moore) were watching gay porn during sex. If I’m to believe my husband, it’s a popular lesbian turn on. That was news to me, thought it might be relevant to you mentioning the lesbian author.
    I’ve enjoyed shipping since I first came across it in fanvideos, gotta love the creative minds of the fandom.

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    • Thanks for commenting, Fanny.

      My impression is that there’s way less RPF in the Armitage fandom period, both het and slash, because the public disapproval level among big name fans is so high and vocal. It’s a real brake on creativity.

      I did not know that lesbians look at gay male porn, but I’ve never talked sex with the lesbians I know, either. I knew that some heterosexuals do. 🙂

      Like

  11. […] read carefully and consider the previously stated caveats and the comments policy in the sidebar before commenting. I continue to believe that rational […]

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  12. […] held. When it started to be important to me to discuss the more actual aspects of the question, I tried to write about it as a serious of speculations that I had based on information of dubious re…. There was nothing I could say about the topic that was not heavily objectionable to someone […]

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