Everyman receding? Pondering the subject position(s) of Richard Armitage fans, including my own

[post tangentially inspired by a conversation with WesternFan.]

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Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 11.15.09 AMThe most recent sighting: Richard Armitage at “The Book of New Zealand,” November 30, 2013, Los Angeles, California, ©HeatherVideos. Source: heathdances on Instagram.

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We’re about to hit it again — in approximately 24 hours, the appearance of The Armitage on the red carpet in Los Angeles. Last time was so amazing that it remains my most vivid Richard Armitage fangirling memory!

I already can’t wait, even though as soon as I publish this post I have to get off the computer and grade, grade, grade for tomorrow. Though Lego mini-Thorin has informed me that he plans to make a brief appearance later tonight. He’s starting the party early and very short plastic figures have to work harder to do that.

Somehow I can’t imagine that last year will top this year for me, but whether it reaches that level or not, a few things are certain. Fans will line up in Los Angeles to try to catch a glimpse! There’ll be streaming! yelling! squeeing! tweeting! retweeting! photo ops! interviews! Tons of enjoyment!

Every fan is a new fan once. “Veterans” like me profit from the amazing euphoria that accompanies an event like this, much of which comes from the newest fans, whose excitement reinvigorates and recharges mine. New fans in particular get the unburdened opportunity to do something a little unpredictable or a random golden opportunity to ask a silly question or to make a zany misstep. It’s so much fun for the rest of us to watch and cheer or watch and groan and remember our own baby fandom glee and innocence.

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1463165_681615565205015_78512895_nThe place where Richard Armitage stood at the event above! Maybe because we haven’t seen a solo posed picture from an official source yet? Did you run away from the camera again, Armitage? Source: MiddleEarthNews on FB.

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And amidst the euphoria — disappointment. (Here I start to sound experienced, but I hope, not jaded.) The fans who were there but didn’t catch a glimpse, or caught a glimpse but didn’t have the hoped-for line of sight or the chance for an encounter. The fans who have to work during the streaming. The fans who put up pictures and get criticized. The fans who put up pictures and see them reappear in a nonstop stream on other social media. Re: the photos, I repeat my previous advice, stolen from a friend — any picture put onto the Internet when and where people are looking for it will never again be the sole property of its owner. Those of us who can’t bear a misinterpretation or a misappropriation should probably keep such photos private. As much as that decision would sadden me, because I adore the stream of these pictures and the adrenaline rush they cause. But I would rather any fellow fan leave a fan encounter with the happiest possible memories.

From euphoria to disappointment and everything possible in between. From our screens at home, this is how it has gone.

Tomorrow night, Armitage will step onto the red carpet, styled again this time, as we know well, by Ilaria Urbinati. (In case you haven’t already read it, there’s a great article here about what she does and how she does it. I found it fun to read and imagine Richard Armitage engaged in this activity and wonder who went along with him to judge. Plus: Urbinati’s styled Miles Teller, whose work Armitage has complimented as transforming the acting of Nicole Kidman.) He will be wearing something predictably fashionably spectacular. Of course, fashion involves more than simply what’s in style right now — in my opinion, one should ask oneself at least four more questions before agreeing to wear anything in public — but whatever he wears, it will be “in” because it’s also exposure for the brand and he probably got some discount for wearing it.

We’ll all scream — because it’s him! We love him! Don’t we love him??!?? OMG!

For ten days while the premieres happen and until the film is in general release, pictures will constitute most of what we have to discuss (for those of us who don’t make use of bittorrent, anyway) and we will take them apart, detail by detail, with some fans unearthing (unwebbing?) ever higher resolution versions and unwatermarking them and so on. Fans who really love his look will make immediate, lightning evaluations. Because it’s easy to be positive, quickly, when we’re euphoric.

As for me — because people tend to hate it in when I say how I feel immediately — and by temperament, predictably, at some point, some detail of his clothing will catch my eye, as the cuff button did last year, or the trouser break. I live for the trouser break because I’m such an Armitage boots freak, and I’ll write a whole history of how The Armitage has worn or not worn this style feature before. That’s more or less my point of entry into this — I’m not dressing a man these days, even when I did I didn’t have high end brands at my disposal or men whose bodies fit well into those clothes, and so I don’t follow men’s high fashion very closely. I don’t know enough about what’s in to tell him whether he should wear Zegna or Tom Ford or Helmut Lang — I just know what I like in men’s clothing fit and features, can gush on about it for a long time, and can make basic recommendations about features to look for.

And honestly, for the most important thing is that he look competent and appropriate. He doesn’t have to be the most stylish man on the red carpet; I just want him not to look silly. Admittedly, my standards for that may be somewhat broader than those of other fans. In my opinion, everything he’s worn in these appearances since May of 2010 has been well beyond adequate, if some examples of it were more to my taste (BAFTA 2010) than others (Captain America Los Angeles premiere).

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Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 4.41.48 PM

Source.

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And finally, the thing will come that was hardest for me to process last year — the takedowns. Armitage’s clothing, and by extension not just that, will become the object of fan hostility. This development — it’s always a minority, of course — takes the longest because sometimes one feels a reaction of immediate non-response (blah / meh) or even discomfort when one sees him in a new setting or new clothing. This or something akin to it happened to me with the two recent photoshoots. But it takes a while to figure out what’s bugging one, I think. It happened back in the day when he was dressing himself kind of incompetently, but it hasn’t stopped now; in fact, it may even be getting more intense as his clothes get better and more appropriate to the occasions on which he wears them and more people are around to argue with. I’m not going to link to the one I’m thinking of in this context because reading it still depresses the heck out of me. I got a bunch of comments last year in the same vein from first-time commentators as well, and I ended up not publishing any of them because they were just plain mean.

Of the tone: we’ll cut you down to size now, thank you very much.

I don’t believe by any means that a fan has to love everything associated with Richard Armitage. No minimum requirement involved! I don’t, as I said recently. And I suppose you can be a fan and spend a lot of time tearing your crush down. Still, I wonder where that sentiment comes from. I sympathize insofar as my own requests to fellow fans to follow the maxim “don’t like / don’t read” when stuff appears here that troubles them often fall on deaf ears. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that any of this stuff doesn’t matter or doesn’t matter that much. I get why one cares a whole heck of a lot about the detail level of things — my goodness, do I ever get that. That’s half of how my brain works. I’ve written at this point what must be well past a quarter million words — I stopped counting years ago — because I get that it matters. I love that scene from The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep schools Anne Hathaway about the blue sweater and why caring about the shade of blue is important because I do find things like that important; but / and they’re engaged in a business. If Ilaria Urbinati got exercised about Armitage’s clothing, now that I would understand. I just don’t understand why, when it doesn’t conform to expectations in this case, anyone else would be exercised about it beyond a shrug or a kind expression of concern. Surely my like or dislike of Armitage’s apparel choices can’t be so consequential as to get angry about it? There’s been a lot of anger lately that I’ve 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 energy behind it.

Talking with WesternFan about something entirely different this week shed some new light on this problem for me. Her position was that “Richard Armitage everyman” is incredibly important to many in the fandom — the notion that Armitage is a down-to-earth guy, just like us, who was talented and worked very hard. I identify with that too, on some level, obviously, but I felt it didn’t have to be a necessary point of identification. WesternFan felt it did.

“You don’t get this,” she noted, patiently, “because you don’t think you have a chance with Armitage.”

I conceded that point. Various sexual and conversational and intellectual or emotional fantasies notwithstanding, my notional relationship with Richard Armitage, such as it is, has never really included the belief that we’d be potentially workable partners in real life. (I keep meaning to write about why not, but as you know, time is short.) I’m definitely “in love” with him, but it’s a love of a vision of him that includes not just a fantasy of love (whatever that is) but more importantly, the notion of him and his characters as a mirror for my experiences. In that sense, for me, Armitage is what he is perceptible as being, and the fantasy will end when he stops being a potential mirror — a development that is dependent both on my own needs and what happens in my life and the extent to which his moves correspond to those needs and developments, as well as the persistence of my own capacity to keep telling myself a story about him that’s emotionally and creatively productive for me.

“And people think I’m living in a fantasy world. I don’t understand,” I typed, “why anyone thinks that. He isn’t going to date any of us. He’s barely going to meet any of us.”

WesternFan pursued the point, though, and I remembered that I had made that point once upon a time myself, in a long discussion of Annabel Capper that’s still the most viewed post on this blog, even if I don’t think about it much any more. (Poor Annabel Capper, to have her available performances most memorialized by me, I sometimes think.) I’d written that her image, so principled and very pretty but not spectacularly or conventionally beautiful and so plausibly “real” made him a more attractive fantasy.

“It’s not that they think they will meet him, or will date him. It’s that fantasy that they could. Annabel Capper makes the average woman think,” WesternFan explained, “that he’s the kind of guy who wouldn’t set the bar for dating at the movie star appearance level, that he’d love a talented, good woman. He’s an ordinary guy, who’d have a regular relationship, like we all have.”

“OK,” I typed.

“I think right now,” she continued, “he’s making a lot of fans nervous with his ‘new’ opinions and his fancy modeling spreads. He’s moving out of reach.”

Ouch. Succinct and to the point, and it reminds me a lot of things that have happened in the last few weeks and indeed, over the years. The frustration of legacy fans as new fans came in and conflicts started, the constant urging to new fans not to do that or Armitage won’t send us any more messages, and so on. Armitage was incredibly close to his fans at the beginning of his career, and at every new stage he moves just a little further away. These events, as joyful as they are, are also a reminder of that.

Armitage looking well turned-out on a red carpet makes us proud, but it equally makes him the man who can afford (or whose backers can afford) — the likes of Ilaria Urbinati, who gets $500-1,000 for a single appearance, $10,000-$20,000 for a press tour (which includes packing of the clothes and detailed instructions as to what to put on where and how). As the author of that piece wrote, it’s not just about clothes for him anymore, even as that’s what we see: “A star’s outfit is ontologically distinct from an outfit you or I might wear. In the surface-oriented world of a Ryan Gosling or a Jake Gyllenhaal, clothing is less body shelter than elevator pitch—a case to be made in a time period measured by red-carpet lengths.” He’s selling himself to the members of a higher price class than most of us will ever occupy. He’s still our Richard Armitage, but in leaving the appearance of Everyman Armitage behind, it feels like he’s leaving us behind, too.

I didn’t think that was ever true, even as Armitage’s modus of interacting with fans has changed — as have the allegiances of the fans, once invested mostly in costume drama, now probably predominantly in fantasy and comics and action. I’ve never bought the argument that the gradual dimunition in the number of messages to fans meant that Armitage cared less about us or was disgusted with our behavior. The size of his career has changed, and he has to change with it. In fact, from the same article, we learn that “[i]n the cautious universe of branding, appearance is an expression of discipline.”

This beautiful Armitage is our same hard worker, getting coached, figuring out how to do it right. He can still be us, our mirror or crush. We can still all love him together. We can still squee together at that red carpet, wherever we are in the world. If we don’t get too nervous.

~ by Servetus on December 2, 2013.

26 Responses to “Everyman receding? Pondering the subject position(s) of Richard Armitage fans, including my own”

  1. Dear Servetus so elegantly put. I love your blogs.

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  2. I got this boot thing bad, I start at the feet and work my way up. Even started to check out what others are wearing on there feet. There are some really nice boots out there. As I trip over the boys boots, and Mr. 70’s got way to many pairs, I still love boots. Thinking about boots, maybe I should buy a new pair and not winter boots.

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  3. Wow, I think WesternFan nailed it perfect with this: “I think right now,” she continued, “he’s making a lot of fans nervous with his ‘new’ opinions and his fancy modeling spreads. He’s moving out of reach.”
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

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  4. As always a thought provoking and honest response. I find it odd because I have been a fan for nearly 10 years but only found the fandom in 2011, I still get the rush of finding new things, like the fan fics and Tumblr (still don’t get tumblr, have you done a post on how it works!) but I remember the shy young man on the North and South video and watch in wonder at the confident older man who has taken his place. The shy man is still there but he is getting better at the public face.

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  5. Thanks for trying to articulate what may be the source of anxiety and lashing out among us. I’d never really contemplated the specific issue of his moving beyond reach in a more personal way. He was never within reach to me! At least not as a fantasy date.
    But I do comprehend the anxiety over watching him be molded to expectations and processes belonging that are part of the higher echelons of actor fame. We want him to remain the same guy we fell in love with, and not become distant and cold and more careless of fans. As long as I glimpse snatches of his sweet, sympathetic nature here and there in the melee, I think I’m fine. I really don’t believe he can undergo a drastic character change in short a time. Fame will not ruin him, and if it ever did, it’d take a lot more time and not a few unlooked for, unpleasant experiences to harden him.

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    • Trudy, well put. I really don’t get the “do I stand a chance with him?” but then again I’ve already grappled with that one and when I was fifteen I had to accept that, no, John Taylor wasn’t going to leave his supermodel girlfriend for me. I absolutely agree with you that this is the dynamic behind a lot of the lashing out at each other.

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      • it’s like the difference between these propositions:

        A) I believe that Richard Armitage is a potential date
        B) My fantasy of Richard Armitage requires that he be the kind of person who would date me

        I’m alleging B is the issue at stake.

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    • I just want to clarify — I am not alleging that fans are dreaming of being his actual date. I’m saying that what we / they are losing grasp on is a Richard Armitage who is the kind of person who could be a potential date. An Everyman. It’s not whether one will ever *get* to date him — it’s that he’s now officially not the kind of person that one gets to date. I hope the diffference is clear.

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      • Sorry to misinterpret. I think it’s the word ‘date’ that throws me. Replace with ‘associate’ or ‘befriend’ and I’m on board. Either way, it’s the fact that he is becoming less Everyman with fame that is key to feeling distanced.

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  6. Well I would say that yes he is entering a realm where one isn’t likely to be able to befriend or associate with him but I use “likely” because nothing is impossible as a acquaintance or friend if one should meet him and have a chance to really talk. Not so likely of course that is true. Being romantically involved, well that was not on the charts to begin with I think but definitely yes he has entered a realm now where that is gone completely if there is anyone who really believed it existed. He is still the friendly man he has always been and especially appreciative of his fans but the higher one goes the further away they are from those who put them up there or I should say helped because his talent put him there. He is a beautiful man but without that voice and that talent to go with it where would he be. Fame seems to demand isolation in many ways. Celebrities are not really like us. They may have been at one time but the business changes them whether they want it to or not.

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  7. The reason I am trying to be precise here is that it’s EXTREMELY important to me that we not engage, as fans, in the things that outsiders do to us — oh, fangirls secretly believe that they have a chance with their crush.

    I.e., and please, if anyone else leaves a comment, don’t run afoul of this again, I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ARMITAGE FAN GIRLS EVER BELIEVED THE CHANCE TO DATE RICHARD ARMITAGE IN REAL LIFE EXISTED.

    That is explicitly not what I am saying because I have very very very rarely talked with a fellow fan who believed anything close to (A) above. Maybe once in four years. Fans get accused of thinking that, but really we don’t. The question is what the fantasy of Armitage as an “everyman” means and how we feel when that fantasy recedes or something that he does forcefully points out to us. That’s what WesternFan convinced me of — that certain things he’s done lately are destructive to “Armitage everyman.” Not to our believe that we could date Armitage, which doesn’t exist, but to our fantasy that Armitage is the kind of person we could date.

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    • Good. Then I’m glad to have messed things up enough to enable you to be crystal clear on that! 😉
      I get it, and really like your intention to stay clear from anything that could demean the fanhood from within.

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  8. There’s a story about Bill Gates that I think is the heart of what you’re saying. Dreamworks opened a huge gaming arcade in Seattle and opening night was crazy with celebrities and the space was red velvet roped with sections for VIPs, local big names (like Bill Nye) and the rabble. Gates was with the VIPs and someone he knew approached him to say hello but was brushed off by security. Gates was so ticked off that he went out to the rabble area and found a table and refused to go back. I think that willingness to not be separated from us is what you’te talking about, at least in part.

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    • Yes, that’s well put.

      What we have seen recently has been that he’s interested in going to the fans who are there — he went across the street on Monday night for instance, and so on — he poses for pics when he meets fans. So he’s not separate, per se. But he’s also not breaking down barriers.

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  9. I have to agree there too. I don’t think I’ve seen anything on any website here that indicates any fangirl believing they could ever “date” Richard. It is all about meeting him or seeing him. There are fantasies certainly which is perfectly normal but outside of that no one I’ve seen has ever indicated that they would ever have a chance at dating him.

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  10. Has he also stopped sending messages? I think the last one was at the premier of The Hobbit last year. Has there been anything at all this year?

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    • I don’t know that we ever know for sure that he’s stopped, but yes, the last message was a year ago and that’s one of the longer if not the longest gaps. I guess I’ll go ahead and say in public that I think it’s doubtful that we’ll get another one. I think there are reasonably two more chances (the DOS premiere, and Xmas 13), but if he doesn’t send them then, I think he’s probably done. It’s I think telling that he hasn’t changed his information politics since the beginning of sending them. At that time there were 3 sites he sent the messages to. 2 of them have folded, and so Richard Armitage Online is the last site from that period still operating. as far as I know he doesn’t send them directly to the 2 sites that have succeeded the missing ones (RACentral and RANet.com), though he must know about them.

      Also, the last message had (for me) a kind of elegiac quality to it.

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  11. Do you have any ideas about why? So many celebrities are on twitter/fb these days. Why stop sending two or three messages a year?

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    • Social media don’t really seem to be his style for fan communications. He’s made two comments about twitter — one that he’s afraid he would say something he wasn’t allowed to say, and the other that he “doesn’t get it.” There are fans who think he has a twitter account but we just don’t know about it. There’s an urban legend that he has a FB account, and I’ve been told a story (don’t know about its veracity, but have no reason to think it was false) that he logged himself into it via 4square once and outed himself to all and sundry and then deleted the account. I also know at least two fans who believe they got a FB message from him. (shrugs)

      I could guess why in specific he’s not in touch more often but it would only be guessing. I think he suffers mildly under his notoriety; I have the impression from more than one remark he has made that the fan swooning over his person troubles him. The messages encouraged that; they also were interpreted by many fans in way that gave him a persona that I would guess is not entirely his (when I write about it, I call that persona “precious Richard”) and which he may struggle with slightly. I hesitate to say even that much because someone will say that I am saying he’s unhappy with fan attention (*and* there is also a small group of fans who believe that as well — that he intensely dislikes all attention from fans o/s of approved venues), and that would be an overstatement. I also think, as someone in this thread would say, he’s just not a Tom Hiddleston. He seems not to be actively, aggressively playful in the way that social media sometimes require, or tremendously quick on his feet with jokes. think he has a very silly streak but it’s easy for that to be misunderstood.

      Again, I am only guessing.

      Like

  12. […] fellow signatories clearly triggered that impatience that comes from the fact that professionally, he’s ceased to be everyman and joined the ranks of the […]

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