Who owns Richard Armitage’s fan messages? (part one)

[Background to this in terms of my mood is learning yesterday that George Soros was funding the Ferguson protests and that Richard Armitage “won” another Anglophile Channel prize. Yes, I realize this post is likely to be controversial and that some readers won’t like that. It also attempts, however, to be point-blank honest about my feelings. My theme of 2015 is “liberation” and I’m really optimistic that the prospective forthcoming expansion of our fandom will guarantee the ongoing possibility of greater diversity of opinion. All I ask is that people who leave reactions do not make personal attacks on me or other fans. As I still cannot tell whether Marlise Boland is a fan or a journalist, I leave you to your own consciences on that one. I remain conflicted.]

me + richard armitage fandom wank

So, remember this, last December? I knew that move would be controversial and that even some friends of mine would disagree with me or be angry, but I had no idea that going down that road would have the effect on me that it had. I want to talk about it now because of how it’s made me think of my role and investment in the Richard Armitage fandom in the time since. I was just thinking, should it be “the Richard Armitage fandom” or “Richard Armitage’s fandom” and I think I am going with the former, because I don’t think it belongs to him, but rather to fans, even if I no longer believe in a “we.” I reached some kind of turning point last December, without realizing it immediately, or really being able to characterize it now. And as much as I want to feel independent of the presence of @RCArmitage, I see that I am affected by it despite my resistance. So I hope writing this post will help me figure it out.

First, the backstory (as I saw it / see it)

When Marlise Boland announced she’d have an interview with Richard Armitage during the Los Angeles publicity for The Battle of the Five Armies, I thought, oh, no, not again, and I knew I wanted to say something, but I needed info first. I asked which she was, fan or journalist, and closed comments to see what the readership thought on a knee-jerk basis, without committing to my own position. I’d read her own statement on facebook that she was a journalist. And, I admit, I’m a captive audience — if Boland is the court press secretary, I’m going perforce to watch any interview at least once, no matter how I feel about her work. When part one of the interview went public, I was at work, but a friend with whom I talk to privately about Armitage things these days had sent me a message that it had appeared, mentioning that apparently Boland was completely unaware of the history of fan giving efforts on behalf of Richard Armitage beyond what her own friend had done.  So I went over to download the interview and watch it.

I had almost nothing positive to say about it other than that I loved the teacup, so I discussed it solely with a few friends behind the scenes. My reaction was above all: boredom. Is it really possible that she can make Richard Armitage boring? I messaged my friend, so far this is an astoundingly boring interview. I mean, the guy says he doesn’t ever want to be asked about being tall and getting cast as a dwarf ever again and then they go on to speak about scaling, something fans in particular have heard about ad infinitum. This seems like a counter-productive interview strategy — I was yawning. Yawning! Then I got to the moment where she calls following the Internet traces of the Armitage press junket (which was created precisely so that fans could follow it and draw their friends in! so now participating in a marketing effort designed for that purpose makes one a stalker, except of course that she was doing it too!) “stalkerish” and I hit pause to make time for a loud snort about the irony that precisely she would make that statement and to let my blood pressure fall. Yeah, no matter what anyone thinks, she’s not a fan, she’s a journalist, I thought, that’s what they do, rely on us to bolster their audience numbers, and then diss us in conversations with people whom we’ve come to really care about, like Banksy says, they’ve got us coming and going. As I continued to watch, my friend and I got to talking, and I said to my friend, he surely knows more about the history of the fandom than she does, maybe he’s too nice to say anything, or too tired, and we got to talking about the way she made the statement — obviously she thought she was trying to represent “the little people,” of which she does not see herself as one, of course, except that she was only aware of one segment of fans. As this post notes, however, Boland spent a disproportionate amount of the interview talking about fans. Why was she so uninformed, then, if that was what she wanted to talk about? I tweeted her after that to let her know about the history my friend was concerned about.

The second part came out, and everything that bothered me about the first part seemed just as bad or worse, along with some snarky comments about what fans will do with things Richard Armitage says or does — if you’re a fan, Ms. Boland, like everyone seems to believe, then why are you criticizing fans? How are you any better than us? — but there was a new wrinkle — a sort of cryptic cut-off statement to the effect that there would be an exclusive Christmas … something. I was still wavering about writing anything about it until I saw this post, which made me think, okay, those of us who are chatting behind the scenes about this are not alone in our frustrations, maybe we should be a little more vocal, see if we can get something better than what we’re being given now. My behind-the-scenes conversation was considering the meaning of that information and turning to the whole question of whether Boland “got” Armitage’s Christmas message and how we would feel if that happened. I did not pause long enough to reflect on that relationship, as it seems now, but I’d decided the time had come for me to speak my piece.

In three posts I wrote that night, I broached the topics of Boland’s ambiguous 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 fandom. I was on a bit of a high after I published; some of these topics had been on my mind for years (“the Gospel of Friendship,” in particular) or months (fan responses to Armitage on Twitter), and I felt like I’d let go of some stuff that bothered me having been honest and direct. When I saw a post that went in the other direction, I also reblogged it so people were aware I thought there could be a rational defense of Boland’s work, even if I didn’t share it. My statement was construed as mean, just as I’d predicted, oddly confirming the things I’d asserted previously.

I’d probably have left it at that point, because I wasn’t enjoying the discussion all that much, and I wanted to go back to watching the movie, and not Boland. If watching her work gave me high blood pressure, having to talk about it didn’t have a significantly different effect; that sense of liberation evaporated relatively quickly. But then two things happened. After making a statement intended to shame us on Facebook, Boland blocked me and Perry, and I saw a conversation in which she confirmed (and appeared from perspective to boast) that she was going to have Armitage’s exclusive message. My head was kind of spinning at that point — and I thought, she is a fan — a journalist doesn’t care what audiences say about her — this is some weird kind of rhetorical quicksand where I think I can write about a journalist, or someone who behaves just exactly like a journalist, but then she turns out to be someone with whom I’m supposed to have stuff in common and now I’m perceived as having been a jerk to a fellow fan. If she’s a journalist, I’m allowed to write what I’ve written; if she’s a fellow fan, then I’ve just massively broken my own rule about policing.

And at that point I stopped writing about her because it had become rhetorically impossible for the moment — but I had definitely reached a low point in terms of my self-esteem as a fan. First, I thought, I needed to have shut up about this two posts ago at the very latest, if she’s a fan. And then: Is she going to have the message? I wondered. I had several hours of feeling despondent — again talking to people behind the scenes about the feeling, something I’ll discuss a bit more in a second, before Armitage appeared on Twitter.

It turned out that Boland didn’t have the message — she had outtakes from the earlier interview that she glued together as a Christmas “exclusive.” Richard Armitage tweeted his own Christmas message to fans ahead of her piece — along with a tweet of a picture by Sarah Dunn in which he asserted “no favouritism.”

I felt a lot better about him — and myself — when he tweeted his own message.

And then I went off to brood.

Continued here.

~ by Servetus on January 19, 2015.

41 Responses to “Who owns Richard Armitage’s fan messages? (part one)”

  1. Reblogged this on Armitage Agonistes and commented:
    I thought of waiting until Part 2 to reblog the entire post, but I think the background in this one is concise and useful. The Marlise Boland journalist/fan enigma is also highlighted, IMO, by her premature revealing of their victory to the winners of her contest at the BAFTA LA tea party. This odd timing was brought to my attention by readers.

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    • I saw this earlier today and it was off putting to me as well, that 2 winners of the contest were told on camera before it was officially announced :/

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      • Yes. I received emails about it. Fans wondered either (a) was it fixed or (b) was it such a runaway that waiting for further counting was unnecessary. Yet, there was a post on the FB page that it was ” a real horse race.” All in all, it left a sour taste in some people’s mouths. I don’t think the Outlander result was fixed. But I do wonder about Richard Armitage’s victory.

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        • I’ve always wondered about that.

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          • It’s all about how many fans vote and on all 4 or 5 platforms.There was much less buzz and urging to vote from his fans this time around. And let’s face it, Marlise Boland needed him to win an award or else she might not get another interview.

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            • Yes — and I assume the choice of nominees in each particular category was somewhat based on that need. You know, once was fine — fans clamor for him to give a longer interview to someone than he will get in the press — but if the award turns into something that Armitage fans vote him in for every year as a consequence of which he gives an interview every year — it’s hard to see how that is good for anyone, her, him, or us.

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              • I don’t think it was fixed for precisely the reason you mentioned: fans want to see that interview so they will vote in order to get it. while it’s true that I saw less urging by fans to get each other to vote this time, I did see fans saying they were voting several times a day and as much as the site would let them at one pop before glitching out (around 40-50x).

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        • I wondered about it as soon as I saw it. There was little to no buzz about voting that I saw. I also questioned her “millions of votes cast.” I find it highly unlikely that millions of votes were cast since her highest views (on an Armitage interview) were about 65,000. She doesn’t give any info on what program she uses to count votes and I find the whole thing a little bit shady.

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  2. very interested to see where you’re going with this. I’ve had some peeves of my own regarding fandom/Twitter lately and I’m wondering if you’re going to touch upon them. also, I feel this was a very fair recounting of the events that transpired in December 🙂

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    • I’m not sure if I went where you were expecting, but I appreciate your last sentence.

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      • no, you actually didn’t go where I was hoping but that’s okay 😀 my issue as of late has been w/the running of his Twitter account & the random fan follows, etc.

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        • I went to the random fan follows issue in the third post, so I figured I’d put my fingers down on that once. What’s so bizarre is that he unfollowed all the fan accounts sometime in late December (even ones he’d followed for a while, like Frenz), and then he follows one again yesterday.

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          • the “cleaning up” would have seemed reasonable had he not then followed more random fans. I don’t think it’s “him” that’s doing it and that fires me up, that someone is stirring the pot on purpose.

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            • I agree — I think it’s his publicist or someone else with admin — and since you’ve put it on the table — see his last favorite — the favoriting of such explicit praise for himself would be out of character with the Armitage we know.

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              • I just checked the “favorite” you mentioned and it is so at odds with what he’s consistently shown us in the past; he’s a modest man who always deflects the praise for himself and points it in other directions.

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                • IKR? I know the fan involved and would not want to be criticizing her at all, so it gets sensitive, but it’s out of character.

                  I think it’s pretty standard for PR people to do some “running” of these accounts but if they are not careful they damage the apparent integrity of the thing.

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            • Have you considered that these follows might not be intentional? Maybe he has a clumsy scrolling thumb. I have always thought (with the exception of one in particular) that the follows were accidental. I do nearly all of my tweeting on my igadgets and have experienced just how ridiculously easy it is to follow and favorite things unintentionally in the Twitter app. It used to happen to me almost daily until I realized how it was happening and changed the way I place my thumb when I scroll. And I don’t notice when its happened until I see the random tweets in my timeline later and then usually unfollow.

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              • I would think that, if there weren’t a very observable pattern.

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                • What the pattern tells me is that he (or someone) is reading his mentions. All of the people who he has followed have tweeted @ him right before that. And a majority of these follows have been people who tweet @ him repeatedly. If I was scrolling through that many mentions from people I don’t follow, the likelyhood that I’d hit that wee little follow icon is pretty high. And I’d probably do it a lot. It’s the only explanation that’s made any sense to me. I just can’t wrap my brain around why he (or anyone on his publicity team) would do it on purpose.

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                  • And yet the pattern repeats itself.

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                  • this isn’t the only thing that whoever runs that account has done that makes him look bad, it’s just the most obvious. If whoever it is accidentally following fans, then whoever it is should apologize and quit doing it. They’re obviously aware because they did a cleanup before New Years.

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                • exactly. they’re “random” in that they have nothing to do with what Richard is promoting but they clearly have things in common with each other.
                  I think if the intention is for the fans to get to know each other by RCA’s promoting, then an explanation should be given that this is what is going on. anything else does seem like favoritism- which is at odds with what Richard himself has always shown us.

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              • the other thing that someone should say in this context: it’s really horrid etiquette to unfriend people. So if he is accidentally friending fans, okay, fine, but then the casual unfriending is pretty rude.

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                • I personally can’t see Richard doing this repeatedly without some sort of explanation or apology. that’s just in his nature.

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                • I do find it a little odd that he wouldn’t tweet something about it, if they are indeed accidental. A ‘sorry I have clumsy thumbs’ tweet could save a lot of grief. I also wonder if perhaps he’s underestimating the “weight” a follow from him carries. If I unfollow someone I don’t have a tweet friendship with, I usually expect it to go unnoticed. But I also use twitter very differently than RA would.

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                  • See — I think that’s key and that’s part of the problem. A lot of the squabbles around his Twitter among fans have related to assumptions that he would use his twitter for the same reason and in the same ways they use theirs. That’s precisely where the hurt feelings come in. I also know that Twitter sometimes drops people for no apparent reason (or it did a few years ago). I don’t have any huge presence or investment on Twitter so I trust that people who follow me there know that and use it mostly as a tool to get in touch if they want to, or to read what I broadcast. But his presence there means something entirely different than any of our presences there; he is pretty important in our lives (however we see that).

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                • It’s interesting to me that you used the terms friending and unfriending in regards to Twitter. Yes, it would be bad form to unfollow a friend. Maybe I’m quibbling over semantics, but I think the terminology says a lot in regards to how differently people use Twitter. To say that RA is “friending” someone when he hits the follow icon (intentionally or not) gives that action a much deeper meaning. For myself, a follow doesn’t assume friendship. I have to have some interactions with a tweeter before I begin to think in that direction. Whether RA is aware of how his Twitter activity is analyzed, we can only assume. But I think what he intends could be very different than what is sometimes interpreted.

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                  • I’m not all that warm & fuzzy with the way I use Twitter either. I don’t automatically follow someone if they follow me and sometimes I do drop people after following them for a few weeks if they’re not tweeting the kind of things I thought they would. sometimes Twitter drops people for me and I just don’t refollow b/c I have enough stuff to deal with in my timeline already; Twitter is such a time-suck! so I’m quite cynical in regards to imagining Richard reading even a medium amount of what is tweeted at him. he has stated that he doesn’t read reviews of his work, and in my mind twitter is in much the same category. when he plays a game, like with the beard thing, I think he reads the responses somewhat but most of the time I think someone is sifting through all of that for him.

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                  • Excuse the slip of the fingers. Nonetheless, the basic twitter manuals of etiquette that I read after joining Twitter mention that unfriending without an explanation is considered very rude.

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                    • Sorry — unfollowing. And as I’ve been using FB since 2003 and Twitter since 2011, yes, I actually am aware that the word is different in two different contexts and that interactions on the two media are different.

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          • I noticed it as well. I agree it seems out of character for him to like a tweet in praise of himself. I thought it was a good move when he (or his rep) cleaned up all of the fan follows in Dec. It is somewhat disheartening to see him pick the habit back up. I’m really looking for “professional” here and I’m not always seeing it.

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        • https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/why-i-have-always-disliked-the-gospel-of-friendship-according-to-richard-armitage/

          “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.”

          The thing is that it’s hard for me to speculate about how someone who was unfollowed would feel (he doesn’t follow me and I can’t imagine why he would). I’ve seen two very negative reactions to it and two neutral ones.

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  3. […] Continued from here. […]

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  4. As I see it, the Mrs Boland because is a lady, time is a bad friend for all… Mrs Boland is a person with a toy which is formed by contacts and money, and that toy is Anglophile Channel. That lady is not a journalist and if she is a journalist her interviews give me shame. I´m jorunalist, I was four years a faculty and i think that she not. My advice: do not listen. She needs be the center of attention.
    Sorry for my english, I´m spanish and I am studied it now, XDD

    Kind regards

    In twitter I am @Corhonis

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  5. TAC award aside, I’m more interested in whether fans think this is Richard Armitage’s Fandom or The Richard Armitage Fandom ( with all it’s splinters). Up until he joined Twitter, except for messages and a few comments here and there, he mostly stayed out of things – I only know this from history, as I wasn’t here. I won’t be a happy camper if he gets too involved in what’s going on. I didn’t even like his attempt to modify what we call ourselves, from fans to well-wishers. I was bowled over by the number of fans who began using the new phrase, almost instantly. His fans created the fandom. They/we keep it alive and thriving – and they grow it. I refuse to think of him as our king, or our leader. He’s the object of my admiration in most instances, in my case, mostly for his talent and less for his personal characteristics. He may own his Christmas message, but he doesn’t own his fandom, in my opinion.

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  6. I don’t feel as calling myself a well-wisher, even is ‘fan’ has a connotation of fanatic, I think it is what bothers him. 🙂
    I’m firmly in the camp of ‘less is better’ involving from RA too. I can see many people are happy/delighted with his every tweet and I wouldn’ want to rain on their parade, but I do think it’s better for him and us in the long term.

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    • He is within his rights to ask his fans to consider ourselves “well wishers,” I just don’t see myself that way. It’s a word that says very little to me, insofar as there are very few people on the planet whom I wish ill, and even people about whom I am neutral, if I were just being human I would wish them well. What I feel about Armitage is more than wishing him well or hoping the best for him, and different. So, I guess, I have embraced the identity of fan with regard to him.

      Like

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