Who is our fandom for?

Continued from here.

Going back to my comment that I never wanted to find myself writing this blog, I’ll expand on that for a second to say that the reaction I always had to it was that the author constantly felt that things used to be better. As a former professional historian, I am fundamentally opposed to that point of view as a sort of conceptual argument. O tempora, o mores! goes back to the Romans and probably further; I just happen to know the Latin. And frankly, I was bothered by the implicit suggestion that those fans from 2004-5 were just better fans, more interesting people, and above all more polite and virtuous. I’ve learned over the years that there are generations in this fandom. There are 2-3 generations of legacy fans who are “older” than me, and while I am friends with a few of those people, my bonds to them may never be as tight as they are with the people with whom I started. Part of this is because different generations in this fandom tend to shame each other. Some friends and I laugh when we read someone who is probably a teenager shaming our behavior. After we vent, that is.

As much as we get frustated, though, we also make new friends. I concluded that more fans with more diverse nodes and more diverse views actually creates a better fandom, if a different one, and that there was no reason to think previous permutations of our fandom were better than the current one. Just different. Most of the people I knew at the beginning of writing this blog are not blogging anymore or even especially intense fans, although there are a few exceptions. Many are still friends and facebook or email me from time to time. But I think the super intense phase of Armitage fandom for the average person I know has lasted about twelve to fourteen months. Which is fine. Fandom without obligation. There’s no contract for the Armitage Army. But it means if we didn’t have a pattern of getting new fans, the fandom would die. Social media have helped us, and the coincidence of the emergence of new forms of social media have been particularly noticeable as phases in Richard Armitage’s career have emerged — so that from crashing discussion boards to forums to youtube blogs to facebook to tumblr and twitter, as he has completed new projects, new forms and modes of communication have emerged that have enhanced, rather than detracted from, our fandom experience(s). Most people find a place they like best — one that fits their form of expression. Some of us are present in multiple spaces, or interact in one space and simply broadcast in others so that people who might be interested in what we have to say can be aware of it. This has been fine because the fandom has always been multi-nodal: even in the years when only forums were available, very quickly there were multiple forums to choose from. And new modes developed new cultures of what could be said and thought.

I admit I picked blogging and have stuck with it because it has allowed me the most freedom to do what I wish. I am not a casual fan; I need to think, and write, and discuss. I need to be serious about it — which is one thing that can get you put on moderation on this blog is accusing other fans of being too serious — because that is an inherent way of delegitimating someone else’s statements. Fandom has had its fun and escapist moments for me as it has for many people, but if I want to just turn off my brain, alcohol is a much quicker, less strenuous option. Since I have been a fan, the impulse to want to turn off my brain in that way has been a much less frequent one. As I have said so many times, it is a fundamental moment of fandom for me that this all turned out to be about being able to feel feelings that led to creativity — so I needed to create and protect my own space. Now, I have issues with Twitter as a medium — 140 char seems to me the ideal space in which to be misunderstood — so I mostly stay away, apart from having a presence there so I can talk to a few people who prefer to Tweet or DM.

My frustrations with Twitter communication aside, the fundamental challenge to our fandom doesn’t come from Twitter per se so much as from the fact that by means of Twitter, Richard Armitage or someone claiming to be a representation of him suddenly arrived in our fandom.

I was reading a lot this summer in various places about how social media have changed the fundamental power dynamic in all fandoms from one based on knowledge and expertise to one based on access. This transformation is causing tumult everywhere, and we observed it this summer, the problems that emerged between people who could go to London and those who could not, for instance; between those who could live out a desire to meet Armitage at the Old Vic stage door and those who could not; or even between those at the door who had encounter they were dreaming of and those who did not. I’ve been able to benefit both from the knowledge economy (I’m good at amassing information and presenting it) and from the access economy (I could afford to go to London this summer) so I don’t count myself as disadvantaged at all in either regard. That is one piece of what’s going on in Armitage Twitterverse, and while many fans love what they think is increased access, or the hope of increased access, and I am not writing this post to diss anyone who loves the experience around @RCarmitage — certain aspects of it are not pretty. As people vie for access to the crush, they have stepped on each other verbally in ways that are much more long lasting and painful to the psyche than the minor physical blocking that occasionally occurred in Webber Street toward the end of the run of The Crucible. Even so, that’s nothing new. Fans criticized, policed, bullied (and those are three different things in my opinion) each other on social media before Armitage on Twitter and they will do so when Twitter is long gone.

The problem is not the fans, and it’s not Twitter — I’m going to say it bluntly: The problem is @RCArmitage.

If what you want is access, the primary, perhaps the only place to be, is on Twitter because it is the only place where it’s demonstrable that @RCArmitage is looking. There have always been suggestions to me from both opponents and well-wishers that Armitage was reading this site, and I have always ignored them because he’s not in the audience for what I have to say. I cringed every time a fan told me she had printed something out and given it to him or sent it to him — not just when I was being “reported” but people who sent that stuff with approval because they wanted him to see it. Because I did the Legenda series for so long, I was one of few people who really had a good idea how long it would take him to follow all of his own fan reaction — the equivalent of a half-time job if he read only the stuff in English. (And it got much worse for a while, because of tumblr, although tumblr seems to be subsiding a bit — one of my concerns, frankly.) I don’t want access to Richard Armitage — if you read the comments of this blog for any amount of time you’ll witness my resistance to the suggestion that I should interview him (and I’ve got more to say on this theme after London, if I can ever finish writing that series) — but I find this dynamic of his potential ubiquity affects me, too. The top visited site in my search history is now @RCArmitage, above my personal facebook, and that is the place I go first when I open my blogging laptop. Even if I don’t want to talk to him, I want to know what “he” said.

There’s nothing wrong with that, really, except: because many people want access now — because they can have it, or something that looks like it (we can argue about whether a Twitter exchange with Armitage is really access or just another experience of a wall we can’t find our way through) — @RCArmitage will now draw everyone who wants that to Twitter. As a consequence of that, he will always be the most important and powerful speaker there, and increasingly in other places, because as fans go to Twitter, they leave other spaces. This has been particularly observable with tumblr, I find. So precisely the GIFs that Marlise Boland took the time to make fun of have become scarcer lately, at least in my perception. Tumblr was also one of the best places to find fan art. Some of it has moved to Twitter, but I find much less of it there. And, importantly — what I find there I find to be notably less creative, and I assume this effect is occurring because anyone who tweets anything has to assume that @RCArmitage is more or less likely to see it. Or that it could be tweeted at him from somewhere else, since all the media networks are starting to interface each other.

This is an impossible dynamic for a creative, I would argue. It’s undeniable that we provide our creative work for our audiences, that our audiences are important to us. If the main audience for any kind of fan production about Armitage is going to move to Twitter, because @RCArmitage is there, that means it is moving precisely to the place where the true extent of creativity will be most compromised.

This compromise occurs not just because some fans on Twitter engage heavily in protective activities about fan art or other things they don’t like (beard campaigns). It happens not just because in the Armitage fandom, as we have seen in the last six weeks, Twitter has seemed to provoke a kind of discussion about copyright that has called down the rightsholders on several fan artists — this was always a danger, and the second Armitage started working for Warner Bros. and his work fell into the purview of Sol Zaentz this risk was heightened. Almost all of us are engaged in derivative work of some kind, even writers, and this was always a potential problem. Twitter is not the only place that generates DMCA takedowns. Rather, the compromise of creativity will happen in Twitter most importantly because the discipliners — the policers and the bulliers — can now act in the presumed name of “Armitage.” Don’t say that in front of him! In the name of decency. I have heard it there already; I can hear it now.

This is not to mitigate the enjoyment — and the humor in funny cracks — of people who are tweeting at Armitage primarily for the benefit of other fans rather than in hopes of getting access. The point is the potential possibility of access, not the acces itself. Still, if @RCArmitage is going to take a role as either preacher or policeman, he is feeding the energies of precisely the people he says he wants to behave differently: Let’s all have fun, let’s not take this too seriously, I am doing this so I can be in touch with you and help out some charities that I care about.

Fun, virtuous Armitage. I like this version of you, too. I fantasize about you being my good guy, boy next door partner who helps ladies across the street and can laugh at a sexy joke. I hope you get the younger fans that your publicist is dreaming of, the millennials with their years of earning power ahead of them. But now you will also potentially have an army of fans who will have an incentive, in your name, to occupy themselves telling people who care about you equally as much and who have always made your fandom a fun and creative place to be not to take things so seriously. Maybe not so bad, if what you want to do is exert a sort of subtle control over what is said about you by appearing to be present. And I am not excluding that possibility. We all saw the mean kinds of things said about you this summer.

Except the reason someone is a creative fan in the first place is because something about your work affected her/him so seriously that s/he was compelled to do something that the average person, even the average fan wouldn’t do. I’ve got a conscience; I might be moved by Richard Armitage’s conscience, even if annoyed; but I’m not interested in being moved by the consciences of people who think it’s their job to tell me what I can and can’t say in his presence. I’m a creative because I can think outside those boundaries. The Armitage fandom has been good for me because I have been able to find that audience. I hope I will still find it. But if Armitage is going to implicitly or explicitly — merely by the fact that @RCArmitage is there and can be assumed to be watching — exercise control over the kind of creativity his fans exercise — I am worried.

I didn’t want to be the fan who said everything used to be better. I wonder if I am getting to that place — if it’s inevitable. And I wonder if that means it is time for me to go — despite having things to say still. The fandom will still be there — the people who adore Armitage’s work. I just wonder about what will happen to the creatives if we’re constantly at risk of the regular sort of bombardment that used to be only occasional in the days when Armitage limited himself to one or two messages a year.

To get back to where I started — Marlise Boland is a problem because she stands precisely on this boundary. Marlise Boland is unlikely ever to ask very interesting questions, I suspect, because she stands exactly on that cusp. Yes, she makes him look more human. Yes, she doesn’t have the boundaries of the professional interviewers. But she also doesn’t have their ethics — she is dependent on having resigned her true independent for what she wants, which is the chance to be the person who shows us Richard Armitage. To ask something dangerous, to risk displeasing our crush, is to risk the loss of access. She can never do that.

And I have wondered a few times this summer, if Armitage takes over Twitter, if that’s where everyone goes, how much the longer the rest of us will be able to do so.

Wondering.

~ by Servetus on December 18, 2014.

46 Responses to “Who is our fandom for?”

  1. I guess I see how much I don’t really follow things like I use to. I don’t like the conflict part of anything and just don’t understand why people can’t let others enjoy the fandom in a way that is best for them. Is it like this in other fandoms? This is the only fandom I follow.

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    • Part of the issue is that most of the people in my position, anyway, have their faces in the full of it. There is such a thing as a casual fan — several steps away — who just takes away pleasant impressions and doesn’t think about fan or media politics. I am not that person, unfortunately.

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  2. I agree with regard to the inadvertent stifling of creativity as an unfortunate effect of Richard being more accessible to his fans. There’s this degree of frustration I feel with modern fandoms that I find a little hard to explain, though reading your words have helped me sort out a great portion of my own feelings on it. Someone I didn’t know tweeted one of my fanart to Graham a long while back, and while I was happy he liked it, that was when I realized I need to be more careful with what I share in fan spaces now. The fanart I would make for and with fellow fans is not always the same sort of fanart I would make for Graham McTavish. Same with Richard, and the problem arises when I might wish to interact with like-minded fans over matters that might not hold up well under public scrutiny, because those same fans are being active in exposed spaces that I’m not comfortable participating in. (OTOH, I’m actually managing to create illustrations that are more portfolio-friendly, heh.)

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your last few posts, you’ve brought up so many interesting things that’s going to take me a while to digest.

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    • This is another fundamental dynamic of social media — it erases context. A fellow fan told me that she printed my April Fools’ joke about Armitage and social media and gave it to him when she met him on the Urban set (apparently expecting my praise for having done this — um, no, if I wanted to be sure he knew what I was writing I could make a copy and mail it to him myself). I made those jokes for an audience of fellow fans. Yes, I made them in public, so I was always at risk of anyone who can read the blog seeing them, but the only way to find the audience for what I write is to write in public. But the jokes were for an in group. A piece of fan art — let’s say an erotic piece of fan art, to be provocative — is made for a specific group of viewers. It has be shown in public because otherwise people don’t see it; audience is necessary for art. But when it gets put in the wrong context, the creator of the art is made to look foolish or immoral or worse. There were always semi-public places; social media runs the risk of making every shielded conversation public and the net effect is that the true risk at the basis of art becomes mor and more difficult.

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  3. If Armitage takes over Twitter… I’m seeing this image in my head of a maniacal, goliath Armitage in mad-scientist mode hovering over the social media platform and extending his tentacles…

    But I take your point. I’ve been so busy lately that my Richarding has taken a backseat, but I only joined Twitter to be able to follow Armitage. For the most part, it’s been rewarding to see his humorous quirks and gambits, and who can resist the selfies? Nearly all the people I follow on Twitter are Armitage-related, but I rarely actually look at the Twitter feed and am therefor probably quite out-of-the-loop when it comes to the issues you’ve raised. I saw quite enough of that in September, and took a step back. I haven’t bothered to really monitor who he follows/unfollows, but I am a bit disturbed by the concept that RA might begin to police the fandom in the way that some of the fandom likes to police the fandom, whether by making direct statements, or by indirect “rewards and punishments” ie favorites, retweets, follows/unfollows. I see why you’re concerned.

    I still don’t believe that Twitter can ultimately abolish creativity in terms of artwork or composition. Perhaps fetter it to the extent that those “in the line of fire” of the policing entities voluntarily withdraw out of reluctance to deal with such hassles, or begin to feel bullied. However, he’s only been on Twitter for a few months, and from what I understand (being very new to this or any fandom) the policing has ramped up considerably since it happened. I just hadn’t drawn that connection, so your post is really quite a revelation to me.

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    • Yeah, I don’t think he has time — and I was getting tired as I was finishing this up and I did want to write something analytical before I went to bed.

      I think when I stay away from Twitter I am happiest. And I don’t spend much time there. The problem is that his presence there means Twitter is more and more important.

      I don’t mean to imply there was no policing or bullying before Armitage joined Twitter — there was, and indeed one of the incidents that made me saddest — took place primarily there. It’s happened everywhere. But his presence in that realm where the policing / bullying goes on affects the dynamic of it.

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  4. Thank you for your thoughts. I am an “old fan”, but I don’t make judgments about who is “better” or somehow entitled. I seldom look at Twitter, and I am selective about blogs I follow, preferring open and tolerant discussion, as well as fun. I found JAGrant’s “The Man” series re. Richard and social media to be hilarious. Somehow, I tend to ignore Twitter, except for the lovely “selfies” that appear in my FB feed. Somehow, it seems a mode that is more open to bullying and snark, and thus to policing, which is so sad. I am simply an ardent admirer of RA, and that won’t change, regardless of any sturm und drang in the fandom.

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    • I respect that. And for fans who simply want to enjoy the beauties of the pictures and hang out with their friends, that is fine. But one consequence of this is potentially that media information — and let’s be honest, despite Marlise Boland’s weird hybrid status, that is what she wants to be — pushes fan creativity out or into the ghetto (the way that fan fic has already historically been treated in the Armitage fandom — behind passwords, on sites that are known to be “margin” and not center of the fandom).

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  5. I’m not on Twitter don’t get it ? Other than a platform for self promotion and invitation for followers to think they have access. Reading your latest posts I realise that although I’m following his tweets out of curiosity I’m not seeing the bigger picture of the effect on fandom. My problem echoes much of yours that he or his people are attempting to police and modify the fandom. That’s not what a fandom is about fans shouldn’t have access to their crush and vice versa. Fandom is IMO projection and outlet for fans who admire his work have desire to be creative and converse with each other about him not with him.

    His presence changes this dynamic and dictates its course. If he wants to have a presence then that’s fine but following and unfollowing his own fans is dangerous territory if he wants harmony. I only see responses to his tweets which are usually the same people and usually fawning or just attention seeking. Twitter IMO breaches the 4th wall between fan and crush I’m giving you access to me but I will also tell you how to behave in return for this access! However I don’t and will never get what can be meaningfully said in 140 characters?

    On your previous post ‘re Marlise Boland. I have commented on this before she is a fan who got lucky and now wants to position herself as the titular head of the fandom giving us access to RA by breaching the 4th wall. Anyone can set up a you tube channel and Anglophile is very amateur. She breaches every rule in the book on personal space and never gets anything new as she’s too busy flirting with him. What is more perverse is that she is doing this in her husband’s presence. She is obsessed with linking to the fandom of which she knows little. I find these interviews cringe worthy and feel that at times Richard just takes the p*** to deflect from her fawning. I’m not sure why he still gives her access perhaps it amuses him? I know many like her but each to their own!

    Think I’ve vented enough now . Well done on your postings of late you seem to be getting back to your old self?

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    • I think if you want to get a bigger picture (and I am not saying I have the full one), you have to follow a lot of people and above all you have to look at the discussions that go on response to his tweets, not just the tweets himself.

      See, this is part of the problem — already in public space I feel I have to choose my words. Some of that has to do with my own self-image, but some of that has had to do with fans and some of it with Armitage. I really struggled this fall until a few people told me, if you don’t say what you’re thinking the blog will go under.

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  6. Ok, it isn’t getting any easier to formulate my response. You make some really interesting points here, and I have to admit that I had not looked at some of the activities of @RCA or his emergence on Twitter per se in light of what you are describing. Whether it is Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or an official website, I agree with you that the active participation of a celeb in social media changes the game, although I think that “access” is a myth. The majority of interaction is one way – or rather: “dead end”. Hundreds of fans tweet at RA, but RA does (and can) not reply to (all of) them. So the tweets “bounce”, like a cheque. He may reach us with his tweets, but we don’t reach him. Kind of like it always was. And thankfully so.
    I take your point about the stifling of creativity – especially if there is a possibility of being taken to task by the man himself. That would put me off big time. But then again, there has always been an element of self-censorship in the individual fans and in the fandom, even pre-Twitter emergence. I don’t think it would be wise for any celeb to get involved in fandom matters or in monitoring/censoring the creative fandom output – censorship has never worked anywhere, it merely forces people to look for new, clandestine platforms and/or ultimately ends in general withdrawal. Surely that cannot be intended by RA or his PR people? (ever the optimist here)
    In all of these discussions I find myself strangely torn. There are my own needs and desires as a creative fan, but they might conflict with the right of the OOF (object of fandom) to assert his opinion and reactions or to draw boundaries. Then there is the community as a whole which makes the framework in which I as a fan operate. Ideally the whole thing is one harmonious circle. I am tempted to say that until RA gets in touch to explicitly tell us what to do, we should continue as before – and ignore Twitter if it distracts/disturbs us. If fandom is for us, then we get to decide. According to our own conscience. After all, aren’t we all a one-woman-fandom?

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    • You said it so eloquently, Guylty, and I agree completely.

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    • Note my caveat above:

      (we can argue about whether a Twitter exchange with Armitage is really access or just another experience of a wall we can’t find our way through)

      I agree, there is no meaningful access here. There doesn’t have to be — it is the illusion of access — the possibility that he could be looking, that he could be smiling at what someone says, or more likely, be offended by it — that changes the dynamic among the participants. The point isn’t what @RCArmitage wants per se — it is what he can be seen to appear to be wanting and how fans react to that.

      I also think the intent to control is there at least in nuce. I think if @RCArmitage is asking people to stop tweeting certain pictures, that expresses an intent toward control of what is tweeted. (Which is his right — to try.) I also think his statements in the press this week express a disciplinary intent (paraphrasing — there was a “vicious competitiveness,” I wanted to remind them that it was supposed to be fun). Yes, of course, people look for clandestine platforms. But to me that is a hugely undesirable effect. We know that there are people in our fandom who don’t like the concept behind your shrines. Would you really want to hide them behind a password? We are not the people who are sick. The net result could be a fandom that is boring on the face of it, that simply waits for information transmission in whatever medium that comes in. Admittedly this is a problem for someone like me more than some other fans because the main outcome of my Armitagemania has been creative. These issues may not matter in the same way to other people. But they are affected by them nonetheless because his presence has the possibility to affect what creatives put out there.

      I ask you: if you knew Armitage were offended by your shrines — whether or not you were on Twitter where the offense was being expressed — would you stop making them?

      I think there are potential contradictions in your last statement, frankly. Yes, Armitage has the right to draw boundaries around himself. But by joining social media he has changed the boundary of what @RCARmitage seeks to witness or control. If a fandom is the group of people who admire a particular object, Armitage is by definition not part of our fandom unless he is willing to say I admire myself. Rather, @RCArmitage is an attempt to make the fandom be useful for his purposes — all of the rhetoric about harmony and charity notwithstanding.

      If he got in touch, that would be a disaster for him and the fandom. The tricky thing about the social media is now he doesn’t have to get in touch. He can simply rely on fans doing his policing for him, implicitly and explicitly.

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      • The dynamic has changed, I don’t dispute that. It has become less easy to ignore RA anywhere since he has established his presence on one SM platform. But I am still not sure that his presence alone is an expression of a wish to monitor what is being said about him/done in the fandom. It could be interpreted as such – especially in light of his recent comments on his motivation for joining Twitter. But it may only mean that he is throwing his creative contribution into the ring (selfies, links, comments) to add rather than to replace others’.
        Clandestine platforms are not desirable, I agree, free expression is the optimum (and should be the given). How far each of us go in our desire to express ourselves, is individually different. You asked me directly how I would react if RA was offended by my shrines. I don’t think that anyone save myself can stop me making them. But there are two concerned entities who could force me to stop showing them in public: the copyright holders of the characters I put in the shrines; and RA as a natural person who has the right to object to the use of his image and name. So yes, if he communicated directly to me that I offended him with the RL RA shrines, I would stop showing them publicly, because I have no desire to make him feel bad with what I do. My personal creative urge is not dependent on showing my work in public, even though that has become a hugely motivating, gratifying and enjoyable by-product and I would miss it if it was taken away from me.
        I am not sure whether I am getting what you are saying about the boundaries. Are you saying there is a difference between Armitage and @RCA? Sorry, “standing on the wire”.
        And @RCA as an attempt to make the fandom useful to him – but surely that is exactly the point of a Twitter? To prompt and motivate the followers to watch his films, to keep his name in the news, and to thereby make him bankable? Fandom self-policing a bonus…
        I do get what you are saying about the effect of his SM presence on policing – i.e. letting the fandom police itself so that he doesn’t have to dirty his hands. Yet, self-policing well existed before he appeared online. Only that now with added implied authority.

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        • to me, that’s a problem. Armitage by definition cannot be a fan of Armitage. He can speak on his own behalf if he wants to — it is certainly true that he has the right to express appreciation or dislike of what any fan creates. That is not, however, in his interest in my opinion because it worsens the very dynamic that he says he wants to reduce.

          re: audience — I would argue that there’s something fundamentally different about art in the presence / absence of the audience. I have always written for myself. That isn’t going to stop and perhaps it’s the most important thing. But what I realized this fall is the fandom does matter and this conversation is a good example of why. Certain kinds of conversations sharpen us and make us better creators. If we can’t have them in public because saying the things that would help us find the fellow fans to talk to becomes too risky, we are in trouble.

          Armitage can be assumed, I think, to be partially contiguous with @RCArmitage.

          the point of twitter: if he kills the most creative, fun parts of the fandom in the name of making it useful to himself, he’s not doing himself a favor in my opinion. Because if the access is plastic, the main reason for being in the fandom is the fans.

          Agree, as I have said multiple times, that Twitter didn’t create bullying. (Which, however, raises the question of why, if bullying bothers him, he didn’t intervene a lot sooner because what we’ve seen on Twitter since he’s been around has been unpleasant but are not the most severe instances.) I think the added implied authority is a huge deal because we never had him on one side or the other. I think he is now close to standing on one side or the other — and if that happens, it will be devastating. The fans who applaud this kind of thing will, of course, feel vindicated.

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  7. how much interaction is actually going on between Richard and the fans on Twitter, really? I think it gives us the illusion that we have personal access to him but we don’t have any more than we did before. I like what he’s doing from his end, I get to see more of him and hear more of his inner voice. if that illusion was wiped away and we knew it was just going to be a one way street, would that help the troubling atmosphere on Twitter? I think maybe it would on our end but not on his. he hates the thought of self-promotion or being on display so he’s convinced himself that he’s interacting with the fans, that this will take place of the letters. speaking of the letters, he’s always tried to steer the fandom in the right direction, urging us to be nice to each other and not forget what is really important, etc. I can’t say I always relish that “fatherly” advice but I imagine he feels a sense of responsibility for us, out of guilt. I could easily see myself doing the same thing if I were in his position.

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    • See above re: illusion of access. I don’t think we get much of an inner voice on Twitter, except inadvertently.

      re: liking or not liking his advice about behavior — see what I said in the previous post. I’ve got my conscience, he’s got his. If I want spiritual admonitions I have other people for that. Part of the reason is that we honestly know nothing about him. The constant possibility of “tu quoque” is present — that someone whom we wouldn’t admire if we knew more about his personal life is admonishing us to behave in a certain way.

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  8. Can I just very quickly say that I have wondered what Ms Boland’s role and agenda are ever since I saw that first interview earlier this year. In my naivety, I believed it was a cultural thing – my apprehensions about what she’s doing – but I now see that others question the purpose of these “interviews”.

    Regarding @RichardArmitage, I don’t consider RA tweeting a problem per se, but I do wish he would employ some more social-media savvy pr-people, because he does not and cannot manage this account on his own, and some actions have indeed been questionable, i.e. the following and subsequent un-following of fans (I’m not referring to your example, because I was unaware of this).

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    • There is a sense in which she can be said to be “very American” — I think that is true. But also, and admittedly this pushes my trigger, very stereotypically “Californian”. Even among Americans there are levels of approval of / disagreement with our own cultural patterns …

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    • Actually, the cultural thing I’m referring to above is not so much the generalisation of Ms Boland being implicitly ‘too American’ (or ‘too Californian’), because I’m acutely aware that being ‘American’ is a much too general – and superficial – term to cover ya’ll :-).
      I was actually referring more in terms of my own culture. My perception of Ms Boland, i.e. her role, her agenda, and ultimately her demeanour, is coloured by the culture I come from. I don’t want to describe more here. I fear I would then be violating your blog rules about fan behaviour, because I perceive Ms Boland to be a fan of RA and not a journalist.

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  9. I tweet a lot but nowadays rarely about RA. I follow quite a few ‘older fans’ on twitter. I also follow RA’s account but he tweets so rarely that I usually only notice his tweets once they are retweeted in my timeline. I rarely read up on the tweets others send him as when I do this often makes me cringe (as we Germans would say – Ich erlebe einen Anfall von Fremdschämen).

    Although it had never crossed my mind so far I now understand your doubts about the effects of RA’s presence on twitter. There’s probably little to be done about it. I also believe that some of the tweets are his own while some other tweets are sent by his management team. I only learned on here that he followed and then unfollowed fans after a short while. This is a clear breach of twitter etiquette and I would strongly advise his team not to do that. In fact I would advise the team not to follow any fans at all. The same goes for retweeting fan tweets – a “no go” in my opionion. He/they shouldn’t single out any fan.

    I run a work-related twitter account and it’s important to know about “etiquette”.

    One thing is for sure – and you said so yourself – he will only see a very very tiny percentage of the tweets addressed to him. If his fans think they can interact with him on twitter they are wrong.
    I sort of believe him when he claims he joined twitter to try and ease the sometimes tense atmosphere between fans but I can follow your argument that this strategy might perhaps be counterproductive in the long run.

    I am fairly sure that his management team (perhaps ‘helped” by Warner Bros.?) decided he should join twitter for promotional reasons. This is the main purpose of the twitter presence. He did join during the run of The Crucible shortly before the promotion for “Into the Storm” started and he (his team?!) tweeted during the current promotional tour for BOFA…
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the tweets would get rather sparse in the new year and increase again when/if one of the two films premieres in the cinemas.

    Arguments/policing/bullying are a big problem on twitter and other social media. If memory serves me right even on the forums (in which I never really participated) there was what some may call policing. I think this is a problem of all fandoms and it has become more apparent and perhaps also more intense with the arrival of social media.

    Another big problem in my eyes is the subject of copyright and the internet. I have to deal with it in my job but it also is a big issue online. I know there are important differences between U.S. and European copyright but basically posting photos, clips on Youtube, articles published in journals on twitter, FB, blogs etc. most of the times is a breach of copyright. If fans modify these to produce fan art it is definitely creative but the products of this creativity usually are “illegal”. With the growing popularity of RA the danger has increased of copyright owners to find out about these violations. A new source of conflict and arguments – unfortunately also between fans. I noticed at least one incident when a fan drew attention to an alleged copyright violation. That was something I could not understand at all….

    As one of those fans who can decide when to participate and when to take a back seat in this fandom I have found a way of dealing with the unpleasant aspects of fandom. For me RA is not some sort of hero who can never do wrong but somebody whose acting I admire and who seems to be a kind human being (the latter is mainly guesswork on my part). I can understand that – as a blogger – you’re in a different position. Today’s/yesterday’s posts have helped me to better understand your experience and your view.

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    • Thanks for the comment about Twitter etiqette in particular.

      I think one thing that’s clear is that there’s a real difference to this fandom if you’re on the surface of it, watching the news go by, and enjoying the occasional fan creation here and there, or if you’re dug into it, running a site or creating stuff yourself. The problem is that the serious fan can’t really get along without the casual one, at least in part due to audience issues. If we’re all going to be pushed rhetorically to be casual fans, that puts a lot of the things that have sustained us over the years when Armitage isn’t around in jeopardy.

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    • re: copyright — I meant to say and forgot — this is something that has really been bugging me lately. If all fans insisted that all other fans adhered strictly to the law, most of what we do would be prohibited. I’ve always operated in a particular realm where I emphasize understanding the limits of tolerance — I am aware of what is legal and what is illegal, and although much of what I do is formally illegal, I try to keep it within bounds of what I think will be overlooked. A bit like driving 5 mph over the speed limit. And I don’t bring other people’s sins to the attention of the authorities. It was a really sort of chilling moment for me when I noticed that fans were taking it upon themselves to start working as the copyright police. This, too, is justified in the name of Armitage.

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  10. I’m feeling very sad here. While I am not on twitter, i have enjoyed the selfies and all the other stuff that’s been coming from @RCA. I suppose I’m just naive, but i wish the twitter stuff could just be accepted as fun. My personal opinion has always been that RA himself is far too busy to be checking on the Internet for what’s happening in the fandom. I’m sure he has some sort of people whose job that is, and he probably does get vague updates (like i said, I’m probably naive). But the whole following and unfollowing? I’m going to choose to believe that he personally is not making those decisions.

    Anyway, my point being that I have enjoyed the twitter stuff and i would hate to see it lost due to what seems to be problems between fans themselves.

    to quote margaret hale: “i’m sure I’m very ignorant” and i certainly do not mean to cause offense to anyone.

    (hiding behind the sofa now)

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    • The point of this was not to spoil Twitter for anyone who enjoys it. You should enjoy it! Armitage wants you to enjoy it — per his own comments. I do think it’s possible simply to read what he tweets and not dig any deeper into it. It’s just that for those of us who do dig deeper, there are disturbing things to be observed.

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  11. I remember your admitted cultural bias against Californians and I don’t think Marlise’s journalistic shortcomings can be blamed on the Golden State. The fact that she wears too much mascara (it seems to fall off her eyelashes in RA’s presence) and loves hair extensions and is touchy feel-y
    is not limited to “California girls”. What is stereotypically ” Californian”? I would like to know so I can avoid embarrassing myself by acting like one when I am out of state. It might be too late, but I would like to know. Seriously, I signed up for Twitter to follow RA and never looked at it directly. For me, there was no urgency to see what he had tweeted, I felt like if anything worthwhile happened, I would find out from somewhere else. I don’t really know what is going on in the fandom (the undercurrents, bullying and just plain crap.) I just bob along the surface lightly and the undertow can’t pull me under, the typical ” casual fan”. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and providing a civilized place for well-wishers to express varying opinions. I sometimes feel guilty that as a casual fan I have checked my brain at the door and should examine RA fandom with a more critical and informed eye. But where is the fun in that? “I am not that person.” At least, not here.

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    • I don’t see the makeup situation as Californian as much as her super-bubbly, super smiley dynamic and her sort of insistent personality. The insistence is not only Californian; I tend to experience people from the West Coast that way in general. Don’t worry — if I ever meet you, I will make sure to have my own “Serv you’re being ridiculous” warning meters on 🙂

      Nothing wrong with being a casual fan. Everyone gets different things from fandom. I think, though, that that is the direction in which we’re all being pushed. I admit that given the heavy criticism that I took in 2012-13 for being “too serious,” this kind of discourse gives me the heebie jeebies … which isn’t to say I don’t have it myself. I take to heart Armitage’s earlier statement that if it can’t be fun, it needs to stop. It’s just that taking something seriously is one way for me to have fun.

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    • I fear I somehow spurred this ‘American’/’Californian’ generalisation on. This was definitely not my intention. Please go to my above comment to see my further explanation to Serv as to what I meant about culture; I was referring to my perception of Ms Boland in terms of my own cultural background.

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  12. […] ethics turn into a sledgehammer for fans to beat each other over the head with, and my argument here about how people who don’t toe the line of being “good” fans will be told by […]

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  13. My how time flies…..hard to believe we’ve been around so long you can actually give a historical perspective on the RA fandom social media evolution, but maybe that’s just the nature of the beast, i.e. technology . IMHO twitter was a mistake and I’ve never thought RA does much of the tweeting (seems more PR motivated than personal in comparison to say, Jeb Brody, Graham Mctavish, or even Ian Mckellan) and I don’t usually keep up with his tweets unless I see something of particular interest come over my FB feed. Sometimes I think RA (or his PR team) thinks his fandom is somehow a reflection of RA — same way parents think their children are a reflection of them — and any negativity reflects badly on him. Also think RA has a lot of sentimental feelings for his fans — maybe something left over from the ‘good ole days.’

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    • I agree to some extent that when he’s talking about gratitude to his fans he means the ones who started his career with such a bang in 2004 — I don’t mean he isn’t grateful to current fans, but he did have a special relationship with that particular group; he replied to their letters, for instance, which he doesn’t really do any more (how could he)?

      I don’t think he was eager to join Twitter (if he had been, he’d at the latest have done it when all the other dwarf actors did it), and I am never sure how to interpret what he says about it now or how he tweets now, either. We need more evidence.

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  14. […] https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/who-is-our-fandom-for/ […]

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  15. I doubt very much that Armitage is writing all (or even most) of his own tweets, following & unfollowing the same individual(s) (if that did indeed happen), etc. As I understand it, most celebrities hire someone to handle Twitter for them–to tweet in the celebrity’s “voice” (which includes misspellings, grammatical errors, selfies, etc.) It’s very common and the people hired are whizzes at it. (Full disclosure: I work in showbiz and hired someone to tweet for me and I haven’t a fraction of Armitage’s fame.) Of course Armitage may not have hired anyone but I would be flabbergasted, frankly, if he didn’t. Celebs with work schedules like his do not usually have the time to tweet, follow/unfollow, etc. And if they do do it themselves, they’re checking with their publicist and/or agent and/or manager before they do the deed. Any and all “access” is usually part of the entertainment biz / PR machine and is just giving fans an illusion. (I’ll never forget when someone who worked for a gossip rag told me how a celebrity’s PR people would call the paper to say that the celeb would be walking her dog on the corner of___ and ___ at ___pm so that “candid pics” could be taken of her. This was and is a HUGE celebrity who wasn’t and isn’t losing popularity and seemingly had/has no need of more paparazzi in her life.) Of course I can’t prove my point about Armitage so this comment is highly ignorable. I just keep noticing that fans don’t seem to understand the entertainment industry and actors’ careers in particular. (There’s far less choice of roles than non-actors think, even for someone in Armitage’s position, which is why publicity and keeping a fan base are so very important.) My (I hope forgivable) unsolicited advice: take ALL PR, very much including social media, especially Twitter, with a pitcher of salt. I’m not asking anyone to be cynical, but I am asking them to be wiser about fame and how it divides a public persona from the real human being behind it.

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    • I hope this isn’t news to most of us, but it’s a salutary reminder.

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    • oh, and following and unfollowing the same people? Yeah, it has happened. The most recent example was Andrew Novialdi, but the first time I noticed it was more like a month again, Peregrin’s Corner or something like that.

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  16. i think he followed people only for the promotion of hobbit, then he un followed, he nw follows suzan who just tweeted him at the start, but practically said she wanted to ( ahem you can imagine) but shes toned it down now but he followed her so you can’t tell me that, that doesn’t flatter him bit, andrew was very respectful on his page and ra said no favoritism…yeah right…. I Iike ra alot but some of the things he says are contradictory.

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    • Actually, he started doing that well before the Hobbit — it was groups of 2 or 3 fans originally; they’d be followed for a week-ten days, then unfollowed. There was a teenager, once, a big Hobbit fan among them. I don’t watch it super closely but it’s been noticeable. One of the early fans it happened to was apparently really upset when he unfollowed her. I just think it’s the kind of thing that will eventually make someone who doesn’t understand what is going on extremely angry.

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      • I think this following unfollowing is more likely to be his PR than Richard himself as I can’t believe he would want to or have the time to follow young fans. His PR may on the other hand want to keep tabs on how he is appealing to the younger fans. I think this behaviour folly and he should disassociate himself quickly as there are impressionable vulnerable fans who could read something in to it that is not there.

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        • the thing is that it’s very easy to follow people nearly anonymously on Twitter if that’s what you want — you can set up a dummy account to do that. This seemed calculated in some way. In any case he’s now unfollowed all the accounts that were presumably fans … and one of his unfollows certainly generated another tempest. I hope that whoever is doing this, he’s done with it now.

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  17. […] direction from which I anticipated criticism of that position would come, and the extent to which the desire for a deceptive access was damaging the best parts of our fandom. I was on a bit of a high after I published; some of these topics had been on my mind for years […]

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  18. […] of mums and children. I didn’t expect that a lot of people would agree with me, but for reasons that have to do with the effect of Armitage’s presence in our fandom, I did feel the need to say it. (Note: the statement I made about me there. I’ll come back to […]

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  19. […] to be present via Twitter, his needs, desires and expectations are one among a group of these. @RCArmitage does not own the Richard Armitage fandom. Within the Twittersphere, Richard Armitage is just as important, or unimportant, as anyone […]

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  20. […] insulting to our intelligence and incredibly arrogant. Armitage has always behaved on Twitter as if the fandom were primarily about him, or as if it belong…. He’s refused to see it as a creation of the fans, and we had more evidence of that today. So […]

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