me + Richard Armitage fan selfies: musings on self, presence, and the proximity question [a bit on evidence]



G_011614_Pinter_ProustA few definitional matters

Continued from here. Please keep in mind the caveats / assumptions / definitions articulated there, plus these additional points about reasoning from observation / description:

1. Any element of a description may be necessary, but not sufficient, to establish the truth of a hypothesis

Establishing, for instance, that Richard Armitage smiles in fan selfies could be necessary evidence to conclude that he is happy (in that we tend to assume that failure to smile indicates someone is not happy, i.e., if we saw a picture of him not smiling, we’d be less ready to conclude that he was happy, and more prepared to conclude that he is happy if he is smiling), but still not sufficient to establish it. He could smile although he is not happy, and he could be happy although he does not smile. Establishing the probability that the description is sufficient evidence for a conclusion inherently involves an examination of context, as well as considering all of the things we do not know. It may be reasonable to assume that Armitage is happy based on a smile, for instance, but not necessary, insofar as most of have smiled when our hearts were breaking at least once. I also think it’s important to keep in mind that Richard Armitage is an actor, actors seek to move their perceived audiences, and that the “real Richard Armitage” as we are able to see him is also a role he plays for our mutual benefit. I’ve said this many times, from near the very beginning of the blog, but it may bear repeating. This assertion doesn’t mean that he is solely false but neither does it mean that everything he does in his persona as Richard Armitage stands in one-to-one relationship with his emotions at any moment. “The real Richard Armitage” we perceive thus constitutes a variation of Richard Armitage as he is. This is one of many reasons that I am not discussing what Armitage feels in these pictures, but rather, what he does and — eventually — my reaction to that. His feelings as experienced while or about doing this (whatever they are) don’t really enter into my reactions to the pictures except as the emotions that he seems to show — i.e., the things he does — affect me in particular ways.

2. I am not claiming that Richard Armitage never takes a bad “fan selfie.”


molAbove, a 2013 photo with Louise Moloney, a Kerrang! Radio interviewer, broadcast December 13, 2013. Photo originally tweeted by Moloney. A bad “fan selfie” — Richard Armitage does everything I suggest he usually does successfully in my coming analysis, and nonetheless everything goes a little wrong, I think because of the camera angle on his stance and because she looks like she’s pulling her head away from him and thus a little cool to the whole experience. He looks a little creepy, like he asked her and she’s putting up with him, and definitely like he’s acting — just what you don’t want from your “fan selfie.”


Interestingly, most sites that explain how to make a good selfie suggest that you have to take lots of pictures because most of them will be terrible; I had asked Guylty during my first interview with her and she later expanded on how to get a good picture of yourself with Armitage if you ever meet him. I’ve seen a few bad ones — for a long time there was a picture in circulation of Armitage as Robin Hood 3 Guy of Gisborne with a small red-haired boy in which Armitage looked like he’d swallowed a frog, but it seems to have disappeared lately. My data set is limited to images I’ve seen posted on the web by fans, so the selection problem could be severe, insofar as a fan presumably wouldn’t put a fan selfie on the web that offered viewers a troubling image of Richard Armitage. But even he occasionally gets it wrong, as above.


Compare to this:

tumblr_mxjnuaTeDw1r4ihkho1_500Richard Armitage with Adele Roberts, interview for BBC Radio 1 and BBC 1xtra, broadcast December 9, 2013. Photo tweeted by Roberts. The feeling is completely different, even though Armitage is doing almost exactly the same thing in the photo from clothing to stance to expression. The stoop, which looks opportunistic above, is hidden here by the lighting, and Roberts is settled more comfortably against him, her head is parallel enough to his that it almost looks like it’s on his shoulder, and she’s smiling.


I’m guessing, however, without certain knowledge, that the problem goes more in the other direction — that fans who might otherwise put fan selfies into circulation are bothered by the image of themselves in the photo. A compromise is the edited fan selfie — where the poster crops the photo to remove his/her own image or most of it, but posts the portion of the image that depicts Armitage. This sort of dissemination still serves as an identity act, insofar as the “no picture, didn’t happen” objection is surmounted and the fan can still substantiate her claim to having met the crush. In turn, fan selfies are sometimes edited by other fans to remove the original fan from the photo but leave the Armitage, a measure we sometimes take out of discretion, but at other times for other reasons. A chief one of these, it may be, is to capitalize on the ways in which the photo is not only “real” in the sense of reflecting a social interaction, but allows the editor to exploit more effectively the elements of the photo that sustain parasocial interactions. (Please see the further discussion of this theme below.)



Staging the ideal “fan selfie” — Richard Armitage with fan, Tokyo premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, December, 2012. Source was originally, photo since withdrawn.


3. The fan selfie — a little more elaboration. While this isn’t the case with the photo above, which was too good to resist, I’m afraid, I did end up putting some pictures in these photos if they were posted in public places where I knew the owner of the image had given permission for the posting. Others are linked. A few are snaffled. If you want more images that capture the staging aspect of the fan selfie, check out Guylty’s slideshow of her “also ran” photos from the Berlin premiere of The Desolation of Smaug. The images I cite below as evidence are not all “fan selfies,” in that some of them are pictures with colleagues or people from the press, but they illustrate similar effects that we see in the fan selfie performance. This use of evidence in one genre to illustrate points from another raises the question of whether the “fan selfie” isn’t just another variation on a candid. In my opinion, it’s a subset of the posed candid, but not exactly the same thing.

tumblr_mxkbnr7gWU1s0g5f1o2_250[Left: A candid shot by a fan shown in progress; not a selfie. Richard Armitage, Berlin premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, December 9, 2013. Source was originally tumblr.]

I think that the utility of the term “selfie” will gradually become more obvious as the discussion proceeds: the purpose of the photo is equally for the fan to document the encounter and to depict him or herself with Richard Armitage (no matter who actually takes the photo). If the fan only wanted a picture of Armitage for documentary purposes, to record having met or seen him, that would not qualify as a selfie, as the fan would not be in it. That photo is an attempt to document an experience but not necessarily to include oneself in that documentation — even if Richard Armitage takes the selfie of himself for the fan. Pictures with Richard Armitage into which fans are maneuvered against their original plan or request are also not selfies, even though they have the same subject matter as a selfie and may end up being used in similar ways by non-present fans. The sine qua non of a selfie, in short, is the desire to document the self in a particular situation, and in this case, with Richard Armitage. While I can’t assert it because I have no evidence for what Richard Armitage thinks, nonetheless, I hypothesize that awareness of that desire has consequences for how Armitage chooses to make himself appear in these photos.

OK? Continues here.

~ by Servetus on January 27, 2014.

2 Responses to “me + Richard Armitage fan selfies: musings on self, presence, and the proximity question [a bit on evidence]”

  1. […] Continues here. […]


  2. […] from here. Please see all caveats and qualifications in previous […]


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