Why I have always disliked the Gospel of Friendship according to Richard Armitage

Continued from here. [edited for typos.]

Wow, this one has been a long time coming, too.

A lot of fans have praised Richard Armitage’s virtue over the years — to the point that a few years ago, I came up with a name for the action of praising Armitage for being a good guy: the trope of “virtuous Armitage.” It’s never been my favorite trope for describing him, mostly because even the kindest people I know have flaws and sometimes large ones. I certainly do. I don’t think he’s Dorian Grey, but I have never thought he was Jesus, either. When he does something virtuous I approve of, I tend to praise it, because as a fellow fan said of me a few years ago, I’m a cheerleader personality. When he does something I disapprove of, I usually I don’t say anything about it, because who am I to disapprove? And he’s not listening to me, anyway. He has his own conscience. I do plenty of things that are disapproval-worthy by others’ standards. I make mistakes. Frankly, although I was often intrigued by the wit, intellect and style of its author, I never wanted to find myself in the position of feeling I was writing this kind of blog. I don’t want to be an anti-fan. And from the other perspective, I have never spent significant time worrying about what Richard Armitage might be thinking of me, but if he were aware of me, presumably there would be things he would disapprove of. Maybe everything about me. He’s my crush, not my deity; I’m his fan, not his publicist. I have my own conscience.

So when fellow fans talk in glowing terms about his general virtue, I tend to clench my teeth slightly. Particularly when they cite Armitage’s messages at Christmastime. Mostly because those messages have regularly been used to bash me over the head. Not so much lately, I think because the fandom is so much more diffuse and not all fans who disagree are even aware of those messages, but two or three years ago, I used to hear regularly that I should shut up when I said something controversial, because Richard wants his fans to get along, or that I should stop writing my fantasies down because of the children who might run across my blog, and there was proof in his messages that Richard wanted us to think of the children. Or because he might read something I said about him, and someone so good as he didn’t deserve to be written about as nasty as fan as I am.

And who hasn’t thought that — when we see another fan doing something we disapprove of? — I wonder if Armitage would approve of that?

In short: we generally don’t use Armitage’s command to be kind to each other or to modify our own personal behavior. Admittedly, I don’t see that step in other people’s brains, so maybe there are people who say, when they find something they dislike, oh, I am going to shut up about that because I should be kind. I know, because at some point the private conversations have begun to outnumber the public ones in my fandom, that are some fans who look at themselves first before criticizing others — but over the years I have seen plenty of exhortations of fans to other fans to change their behavior, made “in the name of Richard.”

Now, when the exhortation came one day a year, or two, that was okay. Or perhaps even praiseworthy. The guy cares about how his fans behave to each other. Although one sort of wonders why he cares so much more than the other celebs whose fandoms I see from the margins. As a fellow fan of mine asked me recently, why is he so curious about us?

One of the problems with the Armitage fandom in Twitterverse, however, is that the potential for this kind of disciplining of the fan base becomes ever greater. It’s been curious to me that Armitage’s comments on Twitter in the press round this week have been related specifically to fan behavior that he has called “vicious,”  precisely as his presence has enhanced people’s competitiveness in the first place. The strategy he has been pursuing of following a few fans and then unfollowing (is this something your publicist told you to, Mr. Armitage?) only makes it worse. One sort of dreads watching what happens when he approves of something that a fan did. One fan whose graphic he retweeted was two days later kicked out of a facebook group of which she was the heart and soul for being “confrontational.” Hard not to read that kind of policing as the result of jealousy or competitiveness. If Armitage does or says anything that can be interpreted in the most remote way as a response to what I am saying here in the next little while, the consequences to me will be unpleasant. Not because people disagree with me — but because he will have responded. It’s one of about five reasons that I never tweet @RCArmitage.

Richard Armitage’s entrée on Twitter was explosively filled with admonitions about cyberbullying. The problem is that he doesn’t have the space to provide a definition of that. Admittedly, I find it hard to take seriously statements about not bullying other people from someone who has Anonymous — the epitome of cyberbullying, no matter what we happen to think of their politics and their aims — in his follow list. Do you know, Mr. Armitage, that some members of Anonymous have threatened to give photos of the children of their opponents to porn sites? The problem is that a lot of political action (campaigns, like ones I have participated in such as the Chik-Fil-A boycott) looks suspiciously like bullying depending on how you define it and where you think the line is. Talking about anything critically means people will disagree, and disagreement can breed arguments, contention — competitiveness. Is critical discourse bullying? I disagreed with someone once this summer on Twitter and was called a bully. If bullying happens in his presence, will he be called in to referee? What about disagreement?

And given his statement that he wants fans to relax and have fun — I wonder when the exhortations will get more expansive? I don’t follow Twitter closely, but a fellow fan who does told me that @RCArmitage followed someone this week, asked her to follow him back, then asked her to remove a photo she had tweeted, and subsequently unfollowed her. I’m not entirely convinced that @RCArmitage is only one person, but if he is — Armitage? Are you going to be your own fan police?

In the next post I will talk about why I think a fandom that Richard Armitage is an active part of is ultimately harmful to us.

It’s again weird because as I just said, I really still love his work. But I didn’t sign up for a fandom in which my crush was going to tell me regularly what it was okay to feel, do, and say about him. I liked better his mood of 2010 — “I realized they had had to get on with doing their thing.” That Armitage apparently wants to participate is, of course, one of the potential consequences of Twitter. The tradeoff for access is inviting someone into my space whom I may really not want there.

Continued here.

~ by Servetus on December 18, 2014.

36 Responses to “Why I have always disliked the Gospel of Friendship according to Richard Armitage”

  1. Great post, Serv. You make several very interesting and valid points – I have a tendency to react to a thing with not a whole lot of analysis. I’ve been on Twitter for quite a while now, and it’s mainly a news aggregation feed where I check in periodically. I’ve tweeted to RA – and lots of other people – but mostly because I think I’m hilarious & not for any kind of response 🙂 Someone characterized Twitter as something that – unless you’re famous – is “talking to yourself in a crowded room.” That’s pretty accurate, I think. I’m not sure I’m worried about his more direct involvement in the fandom: I think you’re right in that there’s a team of people who also tweet things for him. That others read meaning into what’s written is their own lookout, just like my reactions to it are mine alone whether I think something’s funny, stupid, misguided, or even creepy.

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    • I’m worried slightly about its effect on mood — I think it has incited people to bully — but I’m more worried about creativity. Next post.

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  2. Reblogged this on Armitage Agonistes.

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  3. I hate to sound sexist but this seems like a man thing to me, at least the majority of men that I know. they think it’s easy to “just get along” because they mentally block out the things that they don’t like, avoiding confrontation at all costs. there are pros and cons to that approach and I think it really just depends on your personality and what you are willing to sacrifice for peace and quiet :/

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  4. Very thought-provoking post. On that follow, ask to follow back, ask to take down a photo then unfollow business… really? I missed all that. I missed a lot lately. Now I’m curious what that was all about. But it seems to me if he (or his theoretical Twitter team) is going to start worrying about photos and/or sentiments that are posted, better pack a lunch because it’ll be an all day job. Lol

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  5. I may not agree with you completely but I do love your post. From RA’s perspective how much ever he may deny it , twitter is self promotion. I just think he should stop calling it otherwise and with him being a celebrity there is nothing wrong with it. There are a lot of times where I find he contradicts himself . So yes I agree with you he is not perfect and I tend to ignore those imperfections because I want to still imagine him to be perfect. I was just thinking yesterday that it would be good if I do not know too much about him since that would break the aura that I have built around him. So while I love his selfies , I really am not interested in his politics or his opinions on the more serious stuff. For me twitter is one more way to interact with other people in the RA fandom. I don’t tweet him and don’t expect him to tweet me back either. But I would love to tweet you and would probably expect you to tweet me back if I asked you for a opinion on something 🙂

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    • You could tweet me. DM is better, it gets delivered more reliably. I would respond if I noticed the tweet, just the way I do to email. Email is harder to ignore.

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    • oh — I wanted to say — I have a good friend who thinks he really needs an official site of his own now. I never thought so but I am starting to agree. Then we would have a better indication about was propaganda.

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      • You know what, when RA first went on Twitter, I thought an official site would have done much more for him. Lots and lots of his fans are not on Twitter, so it’s only a limited audience. Again, I question the PR people…

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  6. I’m like MaryJane in that every once in a while I’ll Tweet some smartass thing in response to something he’s Tweeted, but I know he’s not going to see it let alone respond to it. Other fans do, though, and I’m wise cracking ultimately for them rather than him.

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  7. […] 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: […]

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  8. Oh my gosh, this is hitting so close to things that bother me, both as a fan and as a fandom participant. Waiting for your next post on this, but also wanted to drop this link(though you’ve probably read this already, and if that’s the case, I apologize), in case you find it interesting.

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    • Yes, I have — I even linked it a while back — very smart article There’s another example of publicity people just rolling over the fans. Cumberbatch plays a gay character, there’s some anxiety about his gender apparently, so he around the same time announces his heterosexual engagement, and then these articles (in which he can’t separate himself from the character he is playing) in which he describes Sherlock / himself as a great straight lover and makes fun of fans who do the same thing … it was all puke-inducing. I was relieved I was never a fan of his.

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      • Oops, sorry, re: link! I wasn’t aware of that about Benedict, but then I’m not part of his fandom either. Wow. The London premiere kind of makes sense to me now, in this context.

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  9. […] Continued here. […]

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  10. I think Richard would be the first to say he is not perfect. He’s even expressed his unpleasant characteristics..LOL However, I do like how he uses his “celebrity” to help others. I recently left a group over something trivial that ended up with people making nasty comments to others. There is enough drama in life, I don’t need it on FB. What happened to people having a difference of opinion? And I hate the word “bullying” because I think it is overused. Just because you do not agree with someone’s belief’s does not make you discriminatory or a bully if you express yourself.

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    • I agree that I admire his use of his voice to promote particular charities (even if I don’t always care for the charities on his list, and wish he would pick at least one in the U.S.). The impulse is noble. The problem for me is that his promotion of certain kinds of virtuous behavior becomes a rationale for fans to police other fans. I agree that disagreement, policing and bullying are three different things (I said this somewhere in one of these posts).

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      • I could care less what others choose to do, or not do. But there are those in life where it is a competition to be the better “fan”. In the spirit of donating to a charity, I choose to donate to my son’s private non-public school. It is a school for kids on the autism spectrum or other similar neurological issues.While his tuition is paid by our local school district, any extras the school needs are raised by the parents. So if anyone is looking for a charity in the US, find one that is important to you and make a donation

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        • Sure — of course — and reference my post about charity in 2011 in which I make the “charity begins at home” point. The point, though, is that if people are going to use participating in his charity appeals to get his attention, then I think it would be nice for him to include charities in other places where he has large known fan groups.

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  11. I don’t pretend to know Richard Armitage or his PR team but what type of picture would be so disturbing/unsettling that they would pierce the wall and interact with a fan about it? Someone that didn’t even follow him in the first place? Seems odd to me. Other than that…

    I follow a few other fandoms and I have to say I think he’s handling his fans much better than some others. Some actors get down right childish and confrontational with fans who say rude things. From what I can see Richard has been ignoring those types of people, so far.

    My self-control is more challenged. When I get sick of seeing the younger generation call him “daddy” I have to mute them to stop my temptation to post a reply LOL!

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  12. […] the stuff I have been talking about this week. My argument here about how Richard Armitage’s vague statements about ethics turn into a sledgehammer for fans […]

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  13. […] status and the problems it created for a fan commentator in speaking about her work, the 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 […]

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  14. […] crush ever, but at least my crush is a good man. If there’s an enraging quality to the “Gospel of Friendship according to Richard Armitage” in its typical application, it nonetheless shows him in a good light, as someone who […]

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  15. […] was thinking about this and objectification in detail in the fall of 2012, for instance — and the application of WWRD to discipline every discussion, no matter how measured, that someone finds unpleasant) will not go away. Conflict with my decision […]

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  16. […] this was just going to be another limited episode of annual preaching from Reverend Armitage, I had decided to keep my mouth mostly shut, insofar as I have read this stuff in the past and […]

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  17. […] had just been musing over the bitter irony that what I had been calling The Gospel of Friendship According to Richard Armitage had come to include words from the Gospel According to Matthew. Note that the first post says, […]

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  18. […] around the leader. The issue isn’t so much with what Richard Armitage says, it’s with how his words inspire people to behave. And what I’ve seen in the wake of past instances of messages from Armitage, and what […]

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  19. […] Richard Armitage’s directions about online behavior have been, are being, and will be used by a segment of fans to try to control the behavior of others. […]

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  20. […] and to be frank, it doesn’t matter to me that much. I know how I feel about it. In essence, people have in the past, and I suspect, will in the future, use the command to have empathy as a reason to empathize with […]

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  21. […] selfies as much as anyone else, I’ve been in the ambivalent camp for three reasons: first, because of the effect his statements often have on fans’ treatment of each other; second, because of his frequent tendency to delete; and finally, because of the impression of […]

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  22. […] we pay with particular side effects in the fandom. I’ve long talked about increased policing before, something that was really rife on Twitter in 2016, when it became even harder to disagree […]

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  23. […] deleterious) effects his illusory presence on Twitter has had on the fandom as a whole, both increased policing and the way his presence on Twitter inevitably makes everything in the fandom about him. Try as I […]

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