me + Richard Armitage + Lee Pace, or: The ship that dare not speak its name, part 1

From part 1. If you’re opposed to shipping, please close this window now.

Assume with all fiction linked in this post that it involves RPF / slash / sex. Do not read or click on it unless you are prepared for that. Also, please do not harass the authors. Thanks.

***

In principio

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 5.47.30 PM***

June 11, 2012. I was still chatting a lot back then with a small group of fellow fans, and I remember this coming up.

“Who’s Lee Pace?” I asked.

“Thranduil,” someone said.

“Who’s Thranduil?” I asked.

Cue (virtual) laughter.

I remember saying to someone, “The rumormongers will have a field day with this” and getting lots of agreement and laughter.

***

I had to look Lee Pace up, but the information in the entry meant nothing to me.

“Who’s Lee Pace?” I asked a friend, an amateur film critic, a few days later.

“You don’t know who Lee Pace is?” she asked, a little surprised.

“You know, I live under a mushroom.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I’ve known you for years. [Laughing.] He’s this incredibly talented, very cute actor. He played a pie-maker in a series called Pushing Daisies that everyone loves.”

“Oh, okay,” I said. “A pie-maker?”

“He brings dead things back to life.”

“Oh,” I said. “Huh.”

“He’s in the new Daniel Day-Lewis film,” she said, laughing.

Indeed, he was: Lincoln, which was to premiere later that year.

How essentially unoccupied with this matter I was at this point is probably underlined by the fact that I hadn’t realized that Armitage and Pace stood close to each other at the Wellington theater benefit Ian McKellen in June 2012. I was more pleased that Armitage had his beard on. That was the last night that I ever thought mom was even temporarily cancer-free.

***

Screen shot 2012-06-23 at 9.48.45 AMThey’re both at the far right rear of the image. My cap.

***

Right after that, my world erupted in the convergence of mom’s full conventional hysterectomy, my dad’s eye surgery, and the wake of ComicCon 2012, about all of which the least said is probably best.

I didn’t think about it again until approximately a month after the tweet, when someone suggested to me that I read what was being said on the topic at Datalounge. I wasn’t surprised by the discussion and I never especially like the tone of the conversations that occur there (oh, the misogyny — but I’m not in the audience for that stuff anyway). What surprised me then and is still noticeable to me now is the vehemence with which faceless speakers could insist on the accuracy of their perceptions.

***

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 8.20.53 PM ***

Is it easier to have an identity — to insist on it — if you’re faceless?

It was a theme, those couple of weeks, when an apparent sockpuppet was plaguing Armitageworld. I don’t like things said anonymously, which is why I have a pseudonym, but nonetheless, I probably should be able to reason my way to some kind of sympathy with that position.

A few weeks later, the question made it to one of the blogs.

That blog exchange — in which I didn’t even comment on the central question, in which I wasn’t that interested and hadn’t thought much about, but got slimed anyway — made me realize: No matter what you think, it’s only the done thing say a few things about this topic under your name or your pseudonym. Everything else has to be said in secret. Whispered to your trusted friends. Written anonymously. Orthodoxy may not be questioned — APM here or there, this is a front on which no one is moving. I filed away that thought, too.

***

vlcsnap-2013-11-20-21h21m53s108Thranduil (Lee Pace) before the throne of Erebor, in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. My cap.

***

I saw the Thranduil reveal at the end of August 2012, but I didn’t think about Lee Pace again until I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and while I thought he was strikingly, indeed ethereally beautiful, and did a great job showing us the injured mien of Thranduil, I wondered what all the fuss was over what was essentially a bit part. Yeah, I couldn’t or didn’t make myself reread the book before the film, which was just as well, so I still didn’t know who Thranduil was, and I hadn’t look up any of Pace’s work, either.

But other people who knew something about the story or the actors were watching and sticking data together. Another rumor at Datalounge about Armitage’s appearance in NYC. Then an appearance of both men in the same venue: a post at Awkward Celebrity Encounters about an Armitage sighting at a play Lee Pace was in.

At some point in all of this, I read my first Richlee fanfic. I can’t find again the fic that first attracted my attention, which appeared at some point between the end of the summer and January. (It looks the author of one of them disappeared his/her stories — whenever you see something you particularly like, make sure to make a copy of it immediately.) However, I can more or less describe the story, because it moved me so much — the title was a line from a poem by ee cummings (one of my favorite twentieth-century U.S. poets), and it started off by describing how Armitage liked to look at Pace’s back in the morning after a night spent in bed together.

***

vlcsnap-2013-11-21-01h57m38s179Lucas North (Richard Armitage) as he gives up Oleg Darshavin (Emil Hostina), the man who knows his mind inside and out, in Spooks 8.4. My cap.

***

I’d always liked slash but I’d never bothered to think about it. There was a fair amount of Armitage character slash that I’d seen before the fall of 2012, especially in the Robin Hood and Spooks fandoms (Aegri Somnia, a story that a lot of people I know have been stunned by — warning, violent noncon), and there was one very isolated RPF (Out of the Shower — warning, threesome, sex toys) that I’d liked. Aegri Somnia, I thought was a very good reading and elaboration on things that were plausibly, if not necessarily, going on in the subtext of Lucas’ and Oleg’s exchanges in Spooks 8.4. I just thought Out of the Shower was hot — and that was before I had any idea who Hugh Jackman was or how he even looked.

Slash, fine. Character exploration, fine. But this Pace / Armitage / ee cummings story? That story made me stop in my tracks. “I’m not a romantic,” I thought. “Why should I like this stuff? I wouldn’t read more than five lines of a heterosexual romance with this much loveydovitude in it. I’d puke. Why is this okay? What makes this okay? More than anything else, it’s just plain gooey.” That wasn’t how I saw myself reading fanfic, frankly. It wasn’t for the romance. I’ve talked before about what I call the “iconic moment” as the reason that I read fanfic — that phrase or picture that echoes in my ears and mind and stays with me when I’m done reading. Every fic I’ll mention in this series had one of those — and it’s something unique about fanfic to me, because it seems to me that fanfic achieves this effect for me more regularly than “real” fiction (which can also do it, but not anywhere near so easily.)

In any case, in mid January or so, Richlee began to appear on A03, my preferred centralized source for Richard Armitage stories generally and slash specifically. The stories trickled, particularly in comparison to the really popular Hobbit ship, Aidean. (I got in the habit of reading Aidean just because there was so much of it.) At this point, the Armitage RPF available was still rare and fairly general, but I stumbled across a story that moved me, immensely, in exactly the same way as the cummings-ish piece: St_Germaine’s Tonight.

The pieces frames Armitage waiting, blindfolded, in his production lot trailer for an unknown person who periodically notifies him that he’ll be there. Intimate encounter ensues. You’ll notice this story is tagged “Richard Armitage / ?” and at the time of this story, the other character’s identity is not known. In a later episode of the story, however, St_Germaine revealed “?” as Lee Pace, so I’m mentioning it here because it depicts a Richard Armitage and a style of having sex and a potential sexual partner that the author felt fitted the Richlee ship. What the eventual reveal on this story thus told me was that one initial reason that I started enjoying Richlee was that it constituted an Armitage that I found believable. Not in the sense that I thought the real Richard Armitage was open to encounters like this one — I read the real Richard Armitage as much more personally cautious, and this scenario would demand a level of sexual adventurousness that relatively few people in their 40s with established careers can afford. Rather, I found it credible in the sense that I thought the personality of the character was very consistent with one of the Richard Armitages I like to imagine in my own fantasies.

Which one? In particular, the person who requested the story described a”‘Richard Armitage: naked, vulnerable and trusting’ kink,” as its basis, and that aspect of the story is tremendously compelling. There’s a way in which Richard Armitage builds that vulnerable moment into so many of his characters, first of all, and then there are still moments of the “shy, gentle” Armitage whom we see in interviews that hint at a strong capacity for personal vulnerability.

***

ns4-325Mr. Thornton (Richard Armitage) moves to kiss Margaret in episode 4 of North & South. My cap.

***

Armitage the actor makes that vulnerability work for him in intimate scenes. Obviously the example that leaps to mind is the growing openness of his face as Mr. Thornton moves to kiss Margaret in episode 4 of North & South, but it’s a prominent feature of other characters as well. No matter how manipulative his character is being (and neither Paul Andrews, Guy of Gisborne, Lucas North, or John Bateman, to name a few, have any hesitance to manipulate their partners if it suits them), there’s always a moment at which Armitage’s face shows a second of true vulnerability, a sign that the character underneath is truly, if only very briefly, at risk.

***

vlcsnap-2013-11-21-02h12m10s201Paul Andrews (Richard Armitage), apparently responding to fellation, in episode 6 of Between the Sheets. My cap.

***

Richlee tends to show Armitage in these moments sexually, but with a kind of response that indicates a burgeoning of emotion, a sort of bundle of nerve endings that can be pushed to infinite levels of (sexual) receptiveness:

[Richard] feels a mouth suck at his shoulder.

Richard is shaking now, so hard it hurts, his other senses painfully sharp – the heady smell of sweat and sex, the sharp taste of his own blood. He hears their ragged breathing, feels his pulse pound against the fabric drawn tight across his wrists. His legs are starting to ache but he doesn’t care, barely notices, so intent is he on those fingers at his thighs, slowly moving up, up, up

“Oh god,” he moans […].

He’s stroked hard and fast, the teasing over, fingers at a nipple again, mouth hot on his neck. The suddenness of the onslaught has Richard almost sobbing, panting, he can’t even cry out. His hands struggle against his bonds, straining to find skin to touch; he barely manages to make contact and his frustration just makes him that much harder. The fist pumps […] relentlessly, his nipples pinched without mercy, a hot tongue finding a sensitive spot on his throat.

Richard makes a low keening sound, rumbling from deep in his chest; hears an answering moan and feels the chest against his back shudder. His hips jerk, thrusting hard into that tight fist, teeth scrape his neck and that’s it, he’s gone, mouth open in a wordless shout and coming so hard his vision behind the blindfold whites out, his mind blank to everything but the hand […] and the harsh breathing in his ear.

This sort of appears in a lot of Armitage RPF and RPF slash — the face and sensations of the character out of control, maxed out on sensation. In my mind the pictures in the back of this narration are always the ones from Armitage the actor’s oeuvre that combine vulnerability with a high receptivity to emotionality.

Additionally, the story includes my favorite kind of fanfic conceit; that is, in addition to its literal level and the sexual or romantic energy that powers the story, that these elements in turn embody something vital on an allegorical or metaphorical level about how we perceive Armitage. (I talked about this effect in relationship to another fanfic, here).

if he’s honest with himself, this is part of what gets [Richard] so turned on about this – that he’s being posed and touched and for all intents and purposes, used, all for someone else’s pleasure. A someone he must know, but couldn’t name.

In essence, the author of the story illustrates on the sexual level something we may already believe to be true (or would to be true) about an actor, a person whose job it is to be presented on the screen for the pleasure of the viewer. This Armitage is, sexually, what we on some level we believe him to be professionally — the passive receptacle not simple of our desires to enjoy him, but indeed, of our desires to make of him what we will.

***

tumblr_mvov54PE9J1smpqjwo6_1280Richard Armitage attentively observes his coach during sword practice. Screencap from the extended edition extras of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Source on photo watermark.

***

In a way, the Richlee fanfic ship built itself as it built my interest in it. The next story I saw, St_Germain’s Training Session, described a sexual encounter that occurred after a sword choreography session.

The iconic moment in this story lay in its emphasis on another element I find central to my perception of Armitage — his status as a watcher. His characters do this on television — he’s often the person whose eyes the camera tracks in order to show motion in a conversation; and his standing demeanor in groups tends to suggest that he’s never the steerer of the conversation. He’s a listener, and an observer. The fanfic mobilizes this perception, again on a sexual level, reminding the reader of the way that watching something you’re not sure you can have builds up the excitement around it.

Richard tracks the movements with hungry eyes and unconsciously licks his lips. Watches the long line of Lee’s back as it curls into the drop, the flex of his thighs as he stands again. Watches the way his loose gym pants cling to his ass as he rolls.

Suddenly, Lee turns to look at him. Richard is caught staring, tongue still at the corner of his mouth. He knows he should turn away, pretend to be packing up or stretching or something, but he stands frozen as Lee watches him. Richard can’t seem to tear his eyes from the glisten of sweat on Lee’s throat. His mind jumps to wondering what it would taste like, how that exercise-warm skin would feel on his tongue, against his mouth – and then he’s licking his lips again, and Lee’s eyebrows rise.

Richard suddenly comes back to himself. He blushes, adding to his mortification, and quickly turns away.

First of all, this description of Armitage struck me as essentially realistic or one that I notice in the Richard Armitage that I see in the press and now on the AUJ extended edition extras — someone who watches, attentively, who learns from watching, who enjoys watching, who might even prefer the safety of watching as opposed to the risk of involvement. And someone who blushes — and then can’t control himself for just that split second, a technique he regularly uses in his acting. Secondly, however, it made me think about the whole way that desire takes hold of me when I feel it.

At the time, I read First Taste by pherede and remember not especially liking it. But I mention it here because I revisited it and I think that it tells an important piece of the Richlee ship story — just one that I picked up much later. So I’ll come back to it. Some of these stories were so fanciful (Armitage as impoverished nobleman in a forced marriage with Lee Pace? — that crosses some weird sort of historical fiction line for me) that I didn’t read them carefully.

***

On March 24, 2013, a live web event from New Zealand was broadcast to viewers who’d purchased the first legally available copies of The Hobbit and had the required code. On the whole, it wasn’t as interesting for Armitage fans as for others, but it started to profile the cast of The Desolation of Smaug and showed us a preview scene from the film.

This event was the first time I really took a good look at Jed Brophy and liked what I saw — so charming — but more importantly, it was the point at which I finally got hit with the Lee Pace “thing.” It was this few seconds from his interview, which I was livecapping, that did it.

***

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 3.44.23 PMLee Pace, Hobbit live event, my screencap. March 24, 2013.

***

I don’t even remember what he said, but  I finally “got” Lee Pace. “He was intensity on wheels,” I wrote. My initial reaction was to this moment — something about the way he tilted his head, and the sort of inherent irony of his eyebrows totally took me in. I think it would be worth asking if I’d have found him so sympathetic had I not read all of these fanfics ahead of time, but I can’t really rewind the spring and test that possibility.

The other memorable moment of that web event involved the glimpses we were shown of the encounter between Thorin and Thranduil, and the way that Armitage’s Thorin flinched in response to Thranduil’s wrath.

***
Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 3.28.38 PM

Richard Armitage as Thorin and Lee Pace as Thranduil, scene first broadcast at Hobbit live event, my screencap. March 24, 2013.

***

I also remember thinking, boy do those guys have some amazing screen energy together. (Armitage ultimately confirmed this same perception recently, when he remarked in an interview that the scenes between Thorin and Thranduil were among his favorites). I also remember thinking that this scene, if it was as good as this green screen shot revealed, might be an incredible memorable performance. And finally, aware of the ship, I thought — and this is going to feed all of those fantasies precisely because the presence of the green screen behind the scene makes the scene appear simultaneously scenic (as in not real), but not so not real that we fully lose ourselves into thinking that these are the characters. The green screen has the effect of making me think that they are simultaneously Thorin and Thranduil — and Armitage and Pace working together.

I was right about that. On A03, the ship took off precisely on March 24th. And, I’m fairly sure the point at which I started noting one of the major manifestations of the ship — what its adherents call “clothes sharing” started after this.

However, I’m going to stop this post here because it’s three thousand words.

To summarize what I’ve said so far — I initially wasn’t that interested in this ship, but as it kept creeping into my vision, I noticed that it provoked or legitimated certain emotions in ways that were unique to me in the fandom and in my life experience. I noted ways in which especially moving Richlee deftly picked up and magnified facets of my own perception of Armitage as a person and a character. And then, I finally “got” Lee Pace both as an individual of interest and, more importantly, someone who had strong screen interactions with Richard Armitage. The fan fic that appeared after March 24th began a turning point for me.

Next time more discussion of the ship in fanfic, “clothes sharing,” the fan art I started to notice,  and the ways in which the ship further affected my emotional states and what I realized about myself from getting involved in it.

[to next part /interlude].

~ by Servetus on November 21, 2013.

52 Responses to “me + Richard Armitage + Lee Pace, or: The ship that dare not speak its name, part 1”

  1. […] [to next part.] […]

    Like

    • The comment under the cap about Paul Andrews ( Between the Sheets) is wrong. In this episode he is not responding to fellation . Have you seen the episode ?

      Like

      • Yes, I have. What would you call it when his partner makes a gesture at his zipper, drops to her knees, camera shifts to his face, and he throws his head back like that — then says, “I want to come inside you.” You can’t see it but I’m pretty sure she’s going down on him.

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  2. As usual, you put it quite eloquently. I like shipping as much as the next fangirl. It’s a fun, harmless qay to just let your fantasies out. I’m not much of a RichLee shipper (more of Aidean actually). The only annoying thing i find is that some people take it very seriously. I had got an anonymous ask on tumblr regarding the Prometheus thing, whether Richard and Lee were actually on a date. I was stumped, but somehow managed to make her understand that they had been there just as friends (and even if they were on a date, it doesn’t matter).

    I might start shipping Thorin/Thranduil post DoS though 🙂

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  3. I don’t know anything about these two right now to be honest. I usually stay out of their private lives. I will say that I am sure that online world is one massive endless closet of stuff based on the possibility of them pairing up. Whatever relationship these two have, I hope they are both happy in the paths they want—professionally and privately.

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  4. Da*n! 🙂 I must find the time to read those fanfics!

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  5. The ship is sailing. Isn’t it? None of my beeswax, (if) they are a couple they make a really cute one. Like really super duper adorable. And I hope they are happy.

    As a fan, I really could careless if he is gay (OR) straight.But I do hope he is happy.

    But my nose does get really bent out of shape when I read stuff online that assumes that his female fans would abandon him, if he came out. That is just total and utter B.S.

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    • Yes, I’m pretty we can all stipulate to wanting him to be happy. I don’t think his fans would be at issue. There’d be some bleedoff but it wouldn’t be a mass exodus, at least among people I know.

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  6. It is a touchy subject, but I am glad that you brought it up. If for no other reason than I could say that … Mr. Armitage I support you, gay or straight, makes no difference to me, and will be a fan for life.

    I really feel for people, whether they are actors politicians or people in the private sector , that feel that they cant come out. I have a doctor friend being living with his partner for YEARS and still feels like he cant totally be out. That just sucks.

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    • Sorry, Servetus, but I disagree with your views. While you are careful not to make your observations about the real people involved, the simple fact is, shipping does involve and does affect the real people discussed. Setting aside one’s personal feelings about RPF (I’m not a fan and it borders too close to defamation), shipping of real people fuels wild, unsubstantiated rumors that the fiction is not fiction, but a real life coupling. This particular ship has prompted Tumblr accounts dedicated to “celebrating” them as a “real life” couple and has people comparing standard articles of clothing–denim shirts, tie clips, dark sweaters and peacoats–for “clues” to “confirm” their real-life affair. Every public appearance is scrutinized–are they interacting, if not, is that an intentional ploy by PR to hide their “affair”? Not everyone is willing or capable of making the distinction between fiction and reality, and I simply cannot support or condone what has happened to these men and to so many other people who, by virtue of the fact they do a job which involves the public’s viewing of their work, are freely discussed as if they are not real people but beings who exist purely for our entertainment and have no right to be treated with basic human dignity, including truthfulness about what is real and what is fantasy. With Richard and Lee, both are private, talented gentlemen, and they and the people in their real lives would likely be upset and mortified by what is written about them. The anononymity of the Internet (and a user name makes one no less anonymous), is treated by many as a gateway to say things that the law, simple empathy, and basic common courtesy would prohibit in real life.

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      • Please note the post above, which states that I want to talk about the emotional valences of shipping and that while I will not bar this discussion among others, I will also not respond to arguments about the validity of shipping that I have not heard and considered before. I think I’ve read just about every fight on this topic in the Armitage internet. However, if you’ve got a different argument, I’m all ears.

        Really, I’d suggest you just click away these posts, as the post stated, you’re not really in the audience for them, you’re not going to like them and I am going to finish this series. Cheers.

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      • also, the ironic use of sorry is really tiring to read. It’s something that’s gauged to put the reader’s nerves on edge. If you want to disagree, disagree away, but don’t apologize if you’re not sorry.

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        • My “sorry” was not intended to be ironic, I was being respectful. Also, I did not address “emotional valences” or “validity” of shipping –my comment addressed the impact of shipping. While you might not confuse fiction with fact, many people either cannot or choose not observe the distinction between the two, particularly where RPF is concerned. That is an objective observation based on such things as the “celebration” of their alleged real life affair and numerous accusations of these men being closeted for which only fiction–not fact–forms the basis. Whether one enjoys RPF is irrelevant–the fact that it is out there creates the groundwork for gossip, and while false statements about these actors (not in RFP but the statements which are inspired by it) may have some level of limited legal protection because they are “public figures” (at least in my jurisdiction), much of what is now being said nonetheless constitutes actionable defamation which would give rise to a cognizable legal claim if the identity of the person making such statements were known.

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          • Writing “sorry” if you’re not sorry, which you don’t seem to be, since you weren’t apologizing, but in fact reiterated a case, is called irony (when the literal meaning of the statement is opposed to its actual meaning). “Sorry, but,” is a classical signal of the ironic use of the word. It is often used to indicate outrage, and I’ve read way more than enough outrage in the last week.

            Re: RPF or shipping, if you’re that concerned about it, you should contact Pace or Armitage or their representatives and urge them to make a case.

            As I said, I’m not arguing things I’m already convinced of and you aren’t providing arguments that are new-to-me. I want to discuss the utility and pleasure of a particular fantasy, which should hardly surprise anyone as that’s really what this whole blog is about. If you don’t like it or aren’t convinced by that, close the darn window. There’s always a great variety of stuff here, eventually there’ll be something you like. Or there won’t, and you’ll stop reading it, but at least you won’t be angry and you won’t be jumping on the nerves of people who enjoy this particular fantasy and the discussion we’re having about it.

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            • I was stating why I don’t like RPF–the line is too blurred between fiction and reality (or some persons’ perception of reality.) That is just as valid a viewpoint as someone who states why they enjoy it.

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              • yeah, I got that from your first statement. What piece of: if you don’t like this, close the window and read something you like is puzzling to you?

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              • The intro to this post stipulates to you not having to like it. It stipulates to a lot of people not liking it. It stipulates to people having moral objections to it (that I don’t share). It also says that this is supposed to be a safe place for people to talk about it. I don’t understand why you would even want to participate in a discussion that’s odious to you.

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          • Actually, in many U.S. jurisdictions it is no longer libelous per se to falsely call someone gay, on the grounds that the statement is not necessarily damaging to one’s reputation. A potential suitor would have to prove damages. So in the case of an actor, he or she would have to prove that he or she lost roles or otherwise suffered monetary damage on account of the statement. And there is even less merit in any case in which someone falsely states that two people are in a relationship, especially if both of them are single. I detest the idea of spreading false rumors of this kind for any reason, but I also get fed up when people trot out the law in support of their argument. There are about 10 other reasons why these foolish rumors on websites and in chat rooms fail to rise to the level of defamation, but the one that is most pertinent in this case is that reasonable people have to believe the statements made. That’s reasonable, as in clear thinking, logical people.

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            • thanks for the legal perspective, Perry.

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              • Being a lawyer who has worked on dozens of defamation matters each year for more than two decades, in my jurisdiction, the standards are different, including the fact that a false statement that someone is gay is still considered defamation per se.

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                • As lawyers, you and I both know that a complaint can be brought for defamation but the crux of the matter rests on what monetary damages can be proved, if any, as Perry stated.

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                  • I had two clients who lost their jobs last year because the employer’s CEO heard rumors from their supervisor that they were gay. There is no protection against discrimination on the basis of LGBT status in my state, but we won on the defamation claims in an amount roughly equivalent to lost back pay and benefits plus punitive damages. Defamation causes real harm.

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                    • It is not a realistic fear that either Richard Armitage or Lee Pace will be fired from any job due to rumors that one or both of them are gay.

                      Really, there are plenty of places to discuss the dangers of shipping where you will find people who agree unanimously that it’s an evil custom carried out by crazy people who paradoxically seek the destruction of the people they love most in the world. imdB seems to take the topic up regularly. This blog, however, has never been that place and is now out as never going to be that place in future.

                      One reason this post went up was precisely so that we wouldn’t have to have *that* discussion, which is not only tedious, it’s unlikely to convince anyone who doesn’t already agree with it, after a mean discussion that took place on one of the blogs. I wanted to create a safe place to talk about this topic openly, and I ask, Northern Gal, that you respect my decision. I am going to bed shortly. If you can’t respect my request to stop hassling us all about this, and I wake up to another post from you, you will be put on moderation and/or permanently blocked.

                      In sum: don’t like, don’t read. Or start your own blog. Or talk Armitage into suing me. You wouldn’t be the first person who’d tried. Just please stop hassling me. My blog, my rules.

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                    • I never labeled anyone “crazy”, did not say anything about finding RPF “odious”, am not threatening to tell anyone to seek legal action against you nor am I harassing anyone. I discussed the cause and effect of RPF in a respectful fashion. Don’t worry about blocking me, because this is the last you will hear from me again, on any topic. It’s a shame, since there were some enjoyable debates here, but that time, at least for me, has passed.

                      Like

                    • Good. So that we’re mutually clear on your desire never to say anything here ever again, you’re blocked.

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  7. Something has just struck me… given how popular slash fanfiction is, and that it is mostly written and read by women, how come gay male relationships feature so seldom in mainstream published fiction written by women? Do we need the fan relationship to start our imaginations working?

    I read a fair bit, and the only examples I could come up with were Song for Achilles by Madeline Miller, and The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and a passing mention in The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. Admittedly I haven’t particularly sought books of this type out – but nor have I actively avoided them. Can anyone think of more examples? Are there hundreds that I’ve just missed?

    Maybe this is an idea whose time has not yet come, and the next 50 Shades of Grey will feature a short angry bearded man in a relationship with an ethereal tall one! Anyone who fancies being the next E L James, better get writing!

    Like

    • LOL, a slash 50 Shades! Someone should get on it. Maybe I would like it better if it were M/M.

      I’m sure it’s true that I’ve read more books that have female same sex relationships in them than male ones — I had never thought about that. Well — there’s a market.

      I think part of the problem is the shame associated with admitting to enjoying something like this. Also, are female readers just as happy with a bromance as with explicit m/m sexual encounters? I can be, if it’s written really well.

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    • There’s a wildly popular Paul-centric Beatlesfic called “In My Life” that discusses this. The Paul character asks the fan-who-won-his-heart why fans do the things they do and she offers that many of them are young and exploring bewildering feelings in a relatively safe way. The Beatlesfic community is more than happy to talk to you about why they write Ringo Starr as Dr. Who and there’ve been a few pieces of scholarly inquiry within the fandom. At a site called Rooftop Sessions there’s a link to an article titled “Beatles Worship Through Words” that’s a fascinating read and talks to fic writers about why they do what they do. It fires just as many neurons to formulate a question as it does to jump to a conclusion.

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      • This last is really true. Turning over a thought in my mind is a source of endless enjoyment. Once the answer’s there, it’s much less interesting or productive ….

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  8. I read a post on Tumblr the other day which went something like this: “why am I now attracted to my celebrity crush as a gay man instead of as a straight woman?” It made me laugh until I realized that there was a grain of truth to it. Before discovering the world of fan fiction, I couldn’t have cared less about slash stories. Since, I’ve read so many I’ve lost count. Hubby doesn’t know it but he’s grateful I have because I picked up a few pointers, lol.

    I have enjoyed your posts and have learned from you too. I don’t always agree which is comforting because I’d hate to be a sycophant – where’s the fun in that? I have really appreciated the comments you’ve made about shipping and slash … you’ve explained a great deal that was going on in my head but that hadn’t been brought into the light yet.

    I’ve appreciated your pov on Richlee even though I can’t quite get there. I am hung up on the reasonable chance that they may actually have a relationship … and that somehow makes it ‘out of bounds’ in my imagination. I don’t care if RA is gay or straight – his sexual orientation neither enhances nor detracts from him in my eyes. I, as many above, just wish him every happiness. If Richlee is real, I feel sad that they can’t be as free as he was with AC for all those years. Because of that possibility, it hurts my heart more than a little to ship them.

    I can see shipping Thorin and Thranduil because they aren’t real . Does this make sense?

    I am overdue for some serious introspection and am concerned I may be a hypocrite … I have written RA RPF and have two new ones on the go at the moment. Oh I am so confused!!!

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    • Thanks for the comment, jollytr, and welcome. No one is required to agree 🙂 Reading carefully is always appreciated, though.

      I think this is a question that everyone has to decide for herself as write rand reader, but I also think that if one has or enjoys a particular kind of fantasy, it’s productive to take an honest look at that without fencing off the topic or the genre of the fantasy automatically as impermissible. I’m not saying that one needs to do that looking by blogging or writing fanfic, it doesn’t have to be public, that’s just easier for some of us because it makes the examination more stringent and meaningful. I’ve had my own struggles in this regard, I’ve just never called what I wrote “fanfic.”

      Fwiw, I don’t find the evidence for the actual existence of Richlee (insofar as I am aware of it) very compelling. I wrote a very long piece about Annabel Capper back in the day that got me in a lot of trouble, but the data points that connected them were better, for starters, and because the relationship seemed more plausible to me, I wrote about it in a different style. Maybe I’m making it too easy for myself, because as I said I can’t prove it doesn’t exist, but the flimsiness of the stuff that I’ve seen cited makes me agree with Perry’s point that whether or not it’s wrong, it’s not actionable because it’s not particularly reasonable. Even if it were true, reasonable people would not be inclined to believe in its existence on the base of the evidence that’s been presented for it.

      That doesn’t mean it’s not an enjoyable fantasy, of course, and what I learned about myself from entertaining it was really important to me. That’s a main message of this blog — what do I learn from fantasy? — and that’s the purpose of this series. Also being honest. I’ve come to see how certain kinds of silence harm the people around me and I’m tired of contributing to that.

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  9. I had a really long reply typed up from yesterday, but rereading it, most of it feels inappropriate to post as a comment now. So I’ll uh…just be picking out certain parts, which will result in a disjointed reply, and I am so, so sorry if this ends up too disjointed or confusing.

    This is such a wonderful, positive post, and incredibly interesting. First, thank you for creating a safe space for RPF fans. I absolutely loved reading both posts, and I’m very much looking forward to part 3 (what a cliffhanger!). Absolutely loved most of the fics you recommended (and encountered one I hadn’t read yet! THANK YOU!). Also, St. Germaine seems to be writing for the fandom again, and I hope we see more stuff in the coming months.

    With regard to Lee Pace, if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly, highly recommend watching his early movie “The Fall.” It’s a masterpiece and it was my first dose of Mr. Pace, and his performance there was such that I was never able to really forget either his name or face afterwards, even though I didn’t keep track of his next performances too closely. I personally think any other performance of his pales in comparison to the intensity and raw emotion he showed in that film. There’s a part near the end that involves him with a girl on a hospital bed that just has me crying no matter how many times I watch it.

    I find stories of how people get into a particular ship or got into RPF in general very fascinating, because they often involve little epiphanies about themselves and about fandom in general. I love how you’ve documented your journey so well, I wish mine had been as enlightened and interesting.

    Graham’s probably aware, having such a strong presence on Twitter and with characters in both the gaming fandom and now The Hobbit fandom. A recent tweet of his has him commenting positively on a Dis/Dwalin drabble, and I found that extremely cute. If he chooses to ignore the slash ships, that’s all right. Martin Freeman was rather classy in his reaction to a media personality’s attempt at showing him “shocking” pornographic fanart of him and Benedict, and while I would love it if more actors displayed the same forbearance, there’s only so much we can ask of these actors. (Frankly, I’d rather people didn’t ask them about fandom stuff in general–I love the fourth wall so much, I could hump it–but it always seems to come up during Q&As now and then.)

    With regard to AUs, I think it provides a certain “out” for writers to a degree – while all RPF is technically AU, some strive to be as close to RL events as possible to enforce a feeling of immersion and authenticity, and part of that is having to consider the actors’ existing loved ones. AUs provide an easy out, as Actor A who is married to Person B can exist as a single man with entirely different ties. As you’ve mentioned, most of these writers are women, and I think a portion of them would rather not discount or dismiss the women in these actors’ lives, and would rather actively “displace” the fantasy rather than have to make changes to existing relationships just so Actor A is no longer tied to Person B, and Actor A and Actor C can happen. Although different writers approach this differently – a common thread seems to be just to pretend RL Straight Relationship X never happened at all and that both men were single or were gay to begin with.

    I honestly really love it when writers construct these relationships in incredibly crack-filled and fantastical settings and make it work. There’s a fic being written by Mdseiran called “Invisible in the Sunny Spaces,” and it’s a Graham/Richard superhero AU that is both hilarious and romantic (mostly hilarious). I don’t even like superhero stories, but this one had me hooked. I didn’t much like Harlequin settings either, but then St Germaine happened. There’s such a range of talent in the fandom, and I love how they seem to inspire each other in surprising ways.

    It’s amazing that you’ve put a date to when the Lee/Richard fandom took off! I never realized. I was one of the few who kept leaving Richard/Lee prompts in a particular meme during early January onwards, and I could count on one hand how many fills this particular pairing got. There are so many now – and you’re right, the fic train feels like it took off at around late March. (Although that makes me wonder if they started writing way earlier!)

    (Sorry for the length and for any spelling/grammatical errors! Very much looking forward to part 3. <3)

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    • Thanks for this long, thoughtful comment from the perspective of someone who’s more “inside” this than I am. I hope St_Germaine does get really active again. i sent a prompt, but the replay was that there was a huge queue of stuff to right first, which is okay, too. (Maybe I will get off my *ss).

      Hang on a sec.

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    • Sorry. Pesky stopped to say “hi.”

      I think I try to write this stuff down and publish it because it’s often so mentally all consuming. But I also have a really good memory and really good records of what I was doing on any given day for the last four years or so, so it’s not difficult.

      re: 4th wall — I think fans often assume that an occupation that can be all consuming to them would be of equal importance to the actors and I just can’t imagine it is. Everytime someone tells me that Armitage reads much of anything fans write, I point out how long ti takes to produce a Legenda and ask, do you seriously think he spends that amount of time per week digging out what fans ahve said or thought about him or his work? He’d have to be crazy. I think the actors do well not to take it all too seriously. I can imagine that a new fan would think it acceptable to ask questions about those things — and hey, everybody’s young and naive once or even three times. But I also appreciate the “fourth wall” more the longer my fandom lasts.

      Interesting point about going AU in order to rhetorically protect actors’ real life commitments to me — I had never thought of that and it makes total sense. I will say that even though “respect” for an actor is not a tremendously important category for me in thinking about what or how to write, I’ve always seen the vast majority of RPF that I have read as a very respectful genre. I know that will raise objections because of all of the wild stuff that people right, but I think that critics lose sight of the fact that RPF is essentially an homage. Someone said to me once, after a particularly stressful encounter when I made a big admission, that this was a little bit like the hidden temple of a devotée, and in a way, these different canons and headcanons are like competing scriptures.

      re that superhero fic — I’d seen but hadn’t read it yet.

      Dating — the first fic after the live event was labeled “throne sex.” I think that that few seconds of argument between Thranduil and Thorin had to have been key. I anyway was really impressed by it. I honestly can’t wait to see that in the movie.

      working on the next piece, it will probably be at least another day or so. Thanks again for the length comment and I’m glad you liked the piece.

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      • Hi Pesky!

        I only tend to go for Richard-centric slash fics, so my experiences have been pretty limited, tbh. I do hope St. Germaine takes up the prompts from her askbox again. Very interested to know what prompt you left, and I’ll hopefully find out in fic form!

        Yeah, I honestly doubt Richard has either the time or inclination, though part of me does wish he sometimes visits the RA tag on Tumblr or the RA blogosphere, if only for a quick dose of positivity and Richard-lovin’. Re: “fans often assume that an occupation that can be all consuming to them would be of equal importance to the actors,” I have trouble wrapping my head around that as well. Most of The Hobbit cast have already moved on to other projects and are making new ties with other people and immersing themselves in entirely different worlds, meanwhile, us fans are still really hung up on The Hobbit ’cause it’s being released once per year, and we’re only now getting a better glimpse of what life was like on set in NZ which was over a year ago (or a few months back, depending on whether it’s pickups or the filming proper). Very different headspaces there. Sorry, got off on a tangent! But good point about being new fans (or new to fandoms in general) and being a bit overenthusiastic with regard to shipping. I keep forgetting that we were all new fans once.

        “I’ve always seen the vast majority of RPF that I have read as a very respectful genre”

        YES, yes it is! This is what rankles me sometimes when people accuse RPF writers of not having any respect at all, because most of the fics I’ve read have been nothing but respectful. This can differ depending on the writer, of course — I’m not too closely familiar with the Rob Kazinksy situation in RPF, but I hear it’s pretty bad? — but in the RA slash fandom, even when one of the other actors gets saddled with a villainous role in an RPF story, he or she doesn’t even come across as all that much of a baddie, and there’s often a note of warning somewhere. Most of the stories have no villains — just slices of life where opposing actions, misunderstandings, or POVs become the source of tension. I honestly don’t understand how people can think RPF creates false damaging rumors, mostly because one doesn’t actually seek and get into RPF without actively wanting to. RPF isn’t read by people with blank slates.

        Re: Superhero fic, I feel like a bit of a cheat since I beta-read it for her, so I got advanced copies of the chapters. Not sure if you’ll like it since the setup is rather outlandish, but it has lovely sweet and hot moments while pinging all of my nostalgia buttons back when I was still into X-Men. The marriage of such unrelated themes into an AU fic just blows my mind sometimes. I was trying to think up other wildly AU RPF fics, but most of the ones I’ve read and liked seem to be from The Hobbit setting rather than the RPF branch, sadly.

        Re: Dating, that makes total sense. I’ve forgotten how fandom exploded when that clip was shown back in March, feels like so long ago now. Thanks for reminding me! I can’t wait to see it either, I love that Richard mentions it as a favorite scene. Hoping with you that the intensity comes across as well as it did in rehearsal.

        Sorry again for the long reply. And congrats on your ticket!

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        • If your crush is an actor, an RPF is a way of saying that you see him/her as so successful that you can imagine him in an entirely different role. This seems to me to be a compliment.

          The Kazinsky “problem” is an interesting one. Yes, when he appears in this, he’s almost always a villain — the Aidean fic I’m hooked on at the moment has him as a sexual harasser / thug / serial rapist. Again, though, I think this is fans saying they can imagine him playing that role, not fans saying he is those things. All of those fics emphasize that they don’t know the people involved and are not writing about reality, anyway. Rhetorically speaking, because RK left the production and no one really knows why, he’s always going to serve that “joker” role in fanfic. He can be anything anyone wants him to be.

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        • oh, and sorry, re the “blank slate” thing — yes. Shipping is not a response to inductive evidential thinking. I saw a good demonstration of this yesterday and I will point this out as soon as I get a chance (I have to grade a few more papers today).

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          • That’s a very good point about Rob, I never saw it that way. And yes, very much agree that RPF fics are tributes and complimentary, as fan creations often are. Out of curiosity, do you think there’s a difference in attitude between RP fanart and RPF? I’m tempted to think there’s a bit more tolerance to fan illustrations of, say, Richard as a mech pilot versus fanfic of Richard as a mech pilot and doing stuff, but I’m not sure where that thought is coming from or if it has any actual basis.

            I very much enjoyed reading your post regarding the Tumblr response on Richlee as a ship (which also made me realize how disjointed my own arguments often are! Sadly, I think I’m a bit too muddled to organize my thoughts that way, but I very much enjoyed the structural analysis).

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            • I don’t see a difference and that’s one reason that I felt I needed to do this series. You can take a picture of Armitage if you see him or you can draw a picture of him. It’s the same thing. Both are representations of something you saw somewhere. If you write about Armitage at all, you inevitably write about a representation that you noticed (through the press or interviews or whatever) and you create one yourself. That is what I’m doing here, and it’s exactly the same thing as taking his picture or drawing a picture; it’s only the genre that’s different — I mostly write nonfiction. Or drawing a picture with objects in it that he’s never appeared with in real life. And the same thing as writing an RPF. They are all constructed representations. Some of them may be more accurate than others to “real life events” but all are structurally the same in that they present an argument or rhetoric or poetic about the things that they treat. There may be legal objections to some of them and not others on various bases (copyright being the main one that’s been made plausible to me) but their status as objects is exactly the same.

              Glad you liked that other post. I don’t think most intuitive thinkers really stop to chart their thought patterns. I know i had to be trained to.

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  10. […] The topic proceeds from here. […]

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  11. [This post has been edited in accordance with the comments policy to eliminate homophobic and ad hominem remarks. — Serv].

    Oh dear. […]

    If you think this is something, you should have seen the convictions a small group of fans had during the LOTR heydays, where the male cast were all very touchy feely and great friends. Plenty of them were, some still are, totally and completely, 110% convinced gay couplings were going on, and a great PR conspiracy to hide the secret […] relationships. And no matter how much real life evidence of the contrary, nothing could dissuade them from this belief. Alas [fans who believe these things] appear in all fandoms, Supernatrual – Vampire Diaries etc, some actors are aware and joke about it, perhaps even use it in their shows, while most just…keep mum.

    I’m not bothered by shipping, though RPF isn’t really my cup of tea, I choose not to venture into that territory for my own reasons. But if it floats your boat, by all means, get creative in your writing! If you’re lucky enough, it might get published and adapted into a movie or TV series! 😉

    I do tend to draw the line when your own perceptions start to interfere, and you start to fill in all the blanks so much so that you believe you actually know the person in question. You think you know the absolute truth, and only you. When the fictional character has replaced the real person, so when the real person speaks, that’s seen as an act.

    I do concede it’s a fine line, but what I’m trying to say is: shipping is fine, but keep your wits about you when it comes to the imagination.

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    • I’m pretty sure all fans think they’re clear on the lines between imagination and reality, just like they have consciences. They don’t need reminders on my blog. They may draw them differently than you do but that’s their business. Please see comments policy if you have questions about edits.

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      • Most fans do know the boundaries, including the flexibility it offers, fortunately. And most simply enjoy reading/writing RPF for what it is.

        Alas I have been around fandom for quite a while, and have seen how a small minority start to believe their own fantasies are based on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and ultimately have it cloud their judgement. I guess I’m a bit jaded on that part, so much so I didn’t even think twice about the term a lot use to describe this phenomenon. Then again, I have seen a rather extreme end of it.

        Sometimes I do wonder if it weren’t for the internet, such strong beliefs would come about. At times it was such a We vs. Them mentality, where both sides were “clearly wrong” for different reasons.

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  12. FYI, emil hostina was in The Fall with Lee Pace; he is now 45, is a former champion in kendo (martial art), has a doctorate in theatre history and many years on stage in repertory theatre.

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    • Acting is a truly small world. Hostina was very impressive in Spooks 8.4! Thanks for the comment and welcome.

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    • Also — interesting that he has such a history (which I did not know) because those scenes between Oleg and Lucas are really effective — proves Armitage’s theory about how a good actor pulls good performances out of other actors.

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  13. […] me + Richard Armitage + Lee Pace, or: The ship that dare not speak its name, part 1. November 21, 2013. A discussion of the history and appeal of the fantasy relationship between […]

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