Watch out, Richard Armitage fans. We’re a market segment again!

Pursuant to this. I have a lot of the same reactions. And, as history repeats itself, a lot more weariness about it all. And two additional points to make.

Twitter #richardarmitage tag before August 2014 — how I miss thee. Full of funny exchanges, sexy remarks, links to great fan art, and some real discussions. What do we have now? A non-stop stream of smarm and fundraising and polls about James Bond with Armitage’s occasional self-promotion put in there and some pretty pictures. No discussions that involve anything like differing viewpoints; everyone always already agrees with everyone else. I haven’t been there much lately because I remember when it was fun and joky and it was okay to make some racy comments about Armitage’s body and I don’t want to lose the memory. The current state of affairs is what we get, though, when the occasional swear word provokes a fan to insist that “Richard asked us to keep it clean,” when we are asked regularly to follow Richard Armitage’s “teachings,” or told that his words are particularly valuable and should be given our full attention, when people who ask honest questions are set upon by others who weren’t part of the discussion (something I may or may not write about in a bit) with the intent of shouting their point of view down.

It's not entirely clear what this means.

It’s not entirely clear what this means. I hope you become, too, whoever you are, in the direction of always Urban. Not very effective marketing. Most Germans understand at least simple English.

Into this soup of sentimentality stirs: a suddenly revived Twitter account for Urban and the Shed Crew. Make no mistake, this isn’t Candida Brady or whoever was running it up to just a little while ago. That account shared new pictures and the occasional piece of information. It seemed to be run by someone who had access to information and shared it when they had a second. This account broadcasts a non-stop barrage that includes mistranslated replies (hint: don’t use a machine translator for languages that you can’t read; on the other hand, malapropisms often make the day of a native speaker); of directions as to what fans may or may not do, and irrelevant information.

On the other hand, it’s clearly not the work of a professional marketer, because it’s coercive and off topic way too often. It spends a lot of time telling fans who they may or may not tag (really?); it engages in long arguments with tweeps about whether Periscope is an appropriate marketing technique; it occasionally even hints unsubtly to fans that their reaction to photos it tweets is wrong.

lI don’t think a professional marketer would do this kind of constant arguing and disciplining. Moreover, I think a professional marketer would believe enough in his/her own product not to have to tell people how to interpret it. I also think a professional marketer would be able to accept that maybe not everyone is going to share the same ideas as s/he does. Not this tweep — s/he’s clearly insecure and worried that if she doesn’t rain down a ton of pronouncements on how we are all to behave, she’s going to lose control of the situation. Fans are supposed to help market Armitage — but not, according to her, by making any suggestions about film festivals or marketing. Only by doing what s/he wants. Other fans shouldn’t post general Richard Armitage content there, but she can and should. Hint: if you want to crowd source something — or even work successfully in the average U.S. workplace these days — you need to accept that other people may have useful ideas.

So, yeah, I don’t think this is a professional marketer; in fact, I am sure it’s a fan and I’m pretty sure it’s one I know because I’ve observed exactly this style before. (Haven’t you? There are a few other random traces here and there that suggest who it is.) Maybe you like this, or you think at least that it’s worth putting up with in order to gain information, but it’s a style that leaves me cold. I may occasionally call myself part of the Army but I don’t appreciate being told where and how to march and you know, while I haven’t been tweeting about this film, when I do tweet about it, I will tag whoever I like and I will say whatever I like whether or not it conforms with this particular fan’s idea of what I should or should not be saying. I’ve been the target of attempts at creating a market segment before (cough) and I might be again but my opinion about it hasn’t changed in the least.

Whatever. You like this stuff. As long as you like it, why should we care?

Two reasons.

First, I think the account as it is now involves a fundamental misrepresentation and one that gets to the heart of some issues with Twitter. Armitage’s fans debate over who’s actually tweeting at @RCArmitage, with opinions falling here and there, but the assumption among most is that at least some of the tweets are authentic Armitage, even if we are not sure which ones. People participate in celeb Twitter streams because of the illusion of access. Well, I think most of have realized that Twitter doesn’t give us real access to Richard Armitage, but with these smaller accounts — people in the crew, etc., of projects he has worked on, there is an even greater expectation of authenticity. I may not be able to talk to Armitage, so the thought goes, but I will be able to talk with someone who worked with him, or observed him.

But this account isn’t authentic. If it’s a fan, and I think it is, then I can’t stress enough that s/he wasn’t there. This is a good example of this kind of lie, or rather, marketing:

Screen shot 2015-10-19 at 8.51.50 PM

In which the Tweeter describes a scene she never witnessed.

Because we don’t know who the narrator is, but claims to speak on behalf of the whole film, we believe him/her. What s/he should be saying is, “I’ve been told it was a happy set,” or even “I believe it was a happy set.” So what do we believe of what this person says, if we know that fundamental affirmations it makes are misrepresentations? If we want to evaluate the veracity of information we need to be able to determine who is speaking. Twitter relies for its effect on the effect of non-mediation. And when s/he lies like this, it undermines fans’ belief in the utility and sincerity of the account. I think it’s obvious who the fan is, so I don’t know that s/he needs to out him/herself, but admitting that s/he’s a fan and not someone originally associated with the production would go a long way to making the information the account distributes more credible.

Since I pretty much think that person is never going to admit that — until perhaps forced to, and I am not going to be the person who forces him/her to the wall — it bothers me less than the other thing.

To wit:

Chop the hero. It only takes one person! Except that's kind of the opposite of what Bernard Hare argues in the book.

Chop the hero. It only takes one person! Except that’s kind of the opposite of what Bernard Hare argues in the book.

This is one of the other things that identifies the new Urban and the Shed Crew tweeter for me — the stream of unrelenting, heartwarming treacle s/he pours over everything.

I dunno, maybe s/he’s seen more than the trailer, although I doubt it (and maybe that’s what s/he’s angling for, who knows). But, you know, I read this book, and I bet you have too. In fact, you will remember that it’s not one solid stream of unrelenting, heartwarming treacle. It’s frighteningly disturbing in places. Chop is not a conventional hero. He participates in risky behaviors — he does drugs — he occasionally refuses to be Urban’s hero — he does morally objectionable things more than once — he’s violent — he watches the Shed Crew twock cars and does nothing about it. The book is interesting precisely because it’s not one solid tale of redemption and Chop is an interesting hero precisely because he’s not morally clean — something that some Armitage fans were troubled by when the announcement of his role in the project was first announced.

The other facet of the book is that it’s an indictment of an entire economy and social system gone wrong (the trailer hints at this when we see Chop marching toward the police — remember that?)

Caps from various trailers distributed from the film. Dunno, but I think Chop's participating in riot. In one place I see the cops kicking him.

Caps from various trailers distributed from the film. There seems to be some social unrest here! Dunno, but I think Chop’s participating in a riot. In one place I see the cops kicking him.

Screen shot 2015-10-19 at 9.09.05 PM

I don’t think what Bernard Hare was saying in that book was — look how I saved this kid. (If he was saying that, he turned out to be wrong insofar as the real Urban ended up an adolescent father and in jail, too.) In fact, throughout, Hare concedes that he can’t save even Urban, he can’t cope with the problem — that it is too big for one person. One person who cares isn’t enough, in the face of an entire society that has thrown away these families and their children because they don’t fit into its economic forecasts. Depending on your politics you may or may not agree with that diagnosis of Urban’s difficulties — but no matter what, the book is not a syrupy, heartwarming story about how one person makes a difference.

Well, I haven’t seen the film. So maybe that’s what the film is about and maybe this “marketer” is right. If that is what the film is about, I’m going to hate it. But no matter what the film is like, by potentially stressing a tilted picture of it that corresponds with an apparent need to make Richard Armitage into a hero, s/he’s doing none of us any favors. First of all, it’s fairly clear in remarks that he’s made for years that Armitage himself struggles against that heroic, handsome lead image — probably one major reason for him to take this role in the first place is that Chop is so manifestly, openly flawed and isn’t even really trying to change. Finally he gets to smoke and drink and be the opposite of who he is — a sort of nonambitious everyman dropout. But second, a marketer who missells a film does it no favors at all. In my case — by beating the sentimental drum so loudly and insisting that this is how the film is to be interpreted, she’s actually making me start to dislike a project I was very interested in.

No one can resist the constant chirping message of a fangirl or fanboy forever. I’m going to try. I just hope that Urban’s new “marketer” doesn’t ruin the film for me months or years ahead of when I can expect to see it.

~ by Servetus on October 20, 2015.

37 Responses to “Watch out, Richard Armitage fans. We’re a market segment again!”

  1. Interesting post. You and Perry have made me wonder the why of this UATSC account, about which I was blissfully ignorant. I agree with both of you that it is not promoting the film as it should. I’m glad you pointed out that this is not always a feel good story, even if it has some feel good moments. My past concern with some of the book promotion and now film promotion is it sounds too rosy when in fact, the best that can be said is that Chop kept these kids from much worse fates. It seems the political message is what got Candida Brady’s interest in the first place, and that is clearly not rosy.


    • Thanks. I really hope the “marketer” doesn’t destroy the social message of the film. i seem to remember a tweet from a social service professional that said it was an excellent film — which gives me hope, in that those professions aren’t usually syrupy. And yeah, Blenheim Films as an entity does not seem to be focused on the heartwarming. We can only guess about Armitage but given his long-term support of charities that support children, it might be reasonable to hypothesize that he cares about that, as well — being realistic in portraying this social segment.


  2. Food for thought!


  3. Thanks for posting. Will definitely monitor this more closely.


  4. Thank you for bringing this up. I had made note of the change of “voice” from the account and the dramatic increase in tweets about…well…nothing. What confuses me is why would the film’s producers would turn over the official (?) account to an amateur and not even vet the tweets? It seems really odd to me.


    • No money, and this particular fan is incredibly assiduous (and I say that as someone who’s very detailed oriented and motivated herself). This person has me beat by thousands of miles.


  5. Bingo, Serv…. my own mother wouldn’t lecture as much as this page has begun to do. It’s a shame and I hope it won’t impact anyone’s perception of the film.


    • I don’t think anyone CAN perceive the film. The account spends so much time replying that actual info about the film has been a bit slim. Though I don’t think the marketer has all that much info.


  6. It sounds as if they may have a potential mess on their hands if people go watch the film, expecting “happy happy joy joy” & not getting it.


    • I’m guessing — Leeds people will see the film because it’s about Leeds, and it will be controversial there because the book was controversial when it was published. Armitage fans (mostly won’t care). What I wonder about is everyone else — the way this is currently being marketed, it doesn’t look like a “social commentary” film, which is what I’d hoped it would be.


  7. And I too would prefer to let both the film and Chop be ambiguous and even disturbing, as Hare intended. We can be allowed to struggle with the realities, it’s good for us…


  8. […] 1) From Servetus:… […]


  9. Thanks for this Serv! I too wondered about the change of tone for this account…
    And I always get a bit angry when someone tries to make a hero out of Chop (that’s why I disliked the trailer that disappeared so much) and I really, really hope the movie was made true to the book and hasn’t constructed something that wasn’t in the original story!!!!


    • I agree with Herba. And honestly, I thought this is the official twitter account of the Urban team – shame on me:-(


      • It WAS — originally.


        • I’m a bit shocked actually. I didn’t notice it is her. But she has a private account on Twitter as well. And there she communicates intensely with LIFF…declaring she wants information to share with followers.
          This doesn’t feel good…very disappointing.


          • yeah, that’s her MO. Pester people until they put her in her place. Let’s hope we’re not going to see a repeat this time.


      • I got a bit curious when I noticed the times the tweets happen. It’s obvious that they come from US, I would say Atlantic coast…
        In the beginning I thought it was fine, but in between it’s getting more and more irrelevant.
        I’m quite relaxed about the movie…it will be good. But my feeling is, that the marketing of the whole thing isn’t professional enough. I’m not convinced, that I will ever see it again after Leeds. Perhaps on DVD…later…


  10. Interesting perspective with a broader context of his fandom’s lifespan on social media. Wish I had been cognizant of this audience in those early days.

    Personally if all the James Bond posts could be filtered out, it would save my scrolling. My own judgement suggests such a popular, contract limiting role would not give him what he’s reported to want: respect for his manifestation of the craft; instead, it would provide a high profile quagmire, and a fan bubble during the length of the contract, one that would further restrict availability for other, more distinctive performances in the pursuit of his next acting challenge. Most assuredly, I’ll stay tuned…even if it’s only as I ultimately scroll by.


    • IKR? I don’t care either way if he does Bond or not, I am just sick of reading about it. Obviously from the perspective of someone who’s been having this discussion for approaching six years now.

      That said, I’m starting to think that this is what Twitter measures — not real interactions, just text streams. So maybe it’s what we should want.


  11. I don’t follow that account on twitter but looked at it after reading your post. If that is an official marketing account it’s very unprofessional. It looks like a fan account to me. If it is a fan account I find it somewhat disturbing. 😏


  12. You’re so right; the target audience is off.

    This film should reach a wider audience than “just” the British – the potential is there, and I KNOW the audience is here (in Denmark), because it’s raising the social-economic issues that we (here) are still discussing today. 20 years haven’t improved the lives of many children who continue to live in squalor.

    The Armitage fandom is not the proper target – If we were to have the opportunity, we would go see the film. The distributors are, the entire movie business constitutes, the proper target audience of a marketing campaign to achieve international exposure, and as such the marketing should be aimed at them. This marketing strategy via Twitter is so off in many ways.

    I had a gut feeling that something was off; I just couldn’t figure out what it was, and I’m delighted that you and Perry give us your analyses.


    • I agree totally — they should be drawing in social welfare organizations, universities, historians, etc.. The point isn’t using Twitter to tweet at media outlets — you do that kind of marketing behind the scenes. However, because this marketer isn’t in the UK it will be hard for her to accomplish that.


  13. Yep! Sounds like a bit much!


  14. 🙂 Interesting!


  15. Reblogged this on Armitage Agonistes and commented:

    What frustration, having seen notice of this post in my email about a topic I initiated and want to discuss, and then having my internet go out from night until a few minutes ago, before I got to read the content. Anyway, this post raises some additional issues and thoughts of what we’ve been discussing here, including, and this is key to me, the possible misrepresentation of Armitage’s character and the nature of the film. I would also say here, that it is only because I don’t have the one hard fact I need, to publish the name of the fan I think is running the account. I have copies of tweets from the fan begging Anna Friel and Candida Brady to use her services free since she has a PR and alleged digital media background, as well as tweets offering concrete “advice,” and a host of other clues and circumstantial evidence. But until someone in the know confirms the fact, or until I get utterly fed up, I’m going to refrain from mentioning the name or the FB page, which I think, most of us already know.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Since I’m not often on Twitter, I’d missed all this. Sounds like you and Perry are onto something. I don’t really have a problem with a fan offering to help, if asked, but it does seem like they should attempt to keep the RA-fangirling to a minimum and focus on marketing the movie.


    • I don’t have a problem with a fan offering to help if they are qualified but this fan is not and has shown themself repeatedly as unqualified in the past. I can think of two previous incidents in particular.


  17. Interesting …. my friend gave me the link to this forum, after we had pretty much the same discussion for the past couple of days. I am not an Armitage fan, but I loved the book and was really excited when I learned they will make a movie out of this. As I happen to be in the UK during LIFF, we even were able to secure tickets for the Nov. 7 screening, I am honestly determined to resell mine, as I more and more get the feeling this film can’t live up to the book, as all the “marketing” is focused on Mr. Armitage and goes to extremes that have nothing to do with the movie. It’s not uncommon to use a big name to draw more attention and audience, in this case, I feel sort of withdrawn by the fact that the story itself doesn’t seem to matter at all. I work in that industry, and have hardly ever seen such a badly conducted campaign. Whoever is behind this, s/he sure enough is not a professional. I hope you are right and we’re talking a fan here … I might reconsider selling my ticket then and hope for the best.


    • Thanks for the comment and welcome — I don’t want to talk the film down, insofar as I have hopes that the film is really about a significant question. I think the “marketer” in question is an Armitage fangirl and s/he doesn’t get why the political and social themes of the film are important because s/he’s too busy marketing Armitage. Which isn’t the purpose, of course, as the rest of us know.

      I hope you’ll see the film and let us know how it was.


    • See, this is more like it —

      It quotes a reviewer of the book that compares the book to “City of G-d”. That was how I envisioned the film — brutal, shockingly real (if perhaps with a few warmer moments, and a little bit more picaresque of a tone). But I kind of doubt the “marketer” has seen City of G-d, so it’s not helpful information for informing his/her campaign.


    • Hi Sabine, I will also be in Leeds…mostly because the book fascinated me and I can imagine this movie to be very good. Partly because I like the way RA works a lot and partly as Bernard Hare was involved in script writing.


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