I’m enjoying the “silence,” personally

[I cut this out of something else I’m writing just now because it was supposed to be a small point but got too big.]

I may be taken as a contrarian for saying this, but I’m enjoying Richard Armitage’s relative silence on social media since mid-December quite a bit. Even as I support his right to tweet, I’ve always been ambivalent; torn between appreciating his speaking for himself (and what that means for my capacity to develop a fuller picture of him) and sympathy for what he’s saying and feelings of extreme alienation about the regular tweet/delete exercise when it concerns something significant and occasional serious tactlessness.

But potentially more significantly (depending on how you feel about the fandom) — and apart from whatever reach it has as a publicity tool, which has always seemed to be its primary function — Armitage’s illusory presence on Twitter has largely had deleterious effects on our fandom as a whole. I say illusory, because I don’t think we really “get” much from what he tweets (apart from selfies and other pictures). Although I encourage people not to think in binary terms (either it’s real or it’s fake; either it’s informative or it’s not), the balance clearly falls in one direction — there has rarely been much sign of a “real” Richard Armitage there and despite occasional promising moments at the beginning, there is very little of it now. For whatever reason (his oft-cited personal disinclination, referred to as recently as spring of 2014, or an inability to accept or tolerate the sort of discourse that normally emerges on Twitter), rather than learning how to navigate his social media to communicate effectively about the things he was willing to reveal about himself to fans, he’s gradually become defensive and even more preachy. It might be worth it to put up with that if there were some kind of exchange, but this is the big lie of Twitter — it offers a promise that we’ll be really talking to him that even when it went well, would never have materialized in a meaningful way. The history of his fan communications even before August 2014 pointed largely in that direction.

And in return for the “present” of his “presence,” 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 or criticize him without generating passive aggressive side-discourses about “some fans.” A lot of people disagree with his political tweets — and just as it’s his right to speak politically, it is the right of others to respond to them. The appearance of tweets assuring him that he has the right to speak and he should just ignore what disagreeing fans say ignores not only the real conditions of speech on a platform like Twitter, but also the fact that he’s always the most powerful speaker there when speaking notionally to any fan. Moreover, something that was increasingly intense in 2016 and fairly tedious was the oft-observed issue of long conversations using his tag that have nothing to do with him or his work. This is certainly the right of fans to do — on some level saying, “hey Richard! notice me!” is one of the purposes of Twitter –but for me it’s a negative byproduct of the fact that he can be tagged about everything.

In the end, the phenomenon of the tweets in the tag that are primarily about attention-getting rather than about substantive issues is really a symptom of something that I like much less well than the pesky or annoying effects above; that is, Armitage’s presence on Twitter inevitably makes everything in the fandom about him. Over time, it created a vertical re-orientation of the fandom in which fans were primarily following his baton as opposed to listening to each other. When we only want to talk to Richard, we don’t seem to want to talk to each other very much. That works in an orchestra, where everyone is cooperating to produce a pre-ordained effect, but it’s not a great as a source of fandom energy or creativity. I never wanted to be steered by marketers; much less do I want to be conducted by Armitage.

As Guylty said recently, before Armitage as tweep, when we were primarily oriented to the possibility that he might say something, we made our own fun. Since he’s been quiet, conversations that aren’t directed at Armitage seem to be developing again. I feel like there are more pictures on Twitter and chains of conversation about them that focus on fan needs an interests as opposed to pleasing Richard. So I guess the bottom line for me is that Richard Armitage being silent makes me like the fandom more — and I should say, since I’ve liked the fandom that shows up here to talk, it makes me like the parts of the fandom that I primarily observe rather than participate in more. Those conversations, when they turn away from primary concern toward Armitage and turn into primary concern about him, have the potential to re-ignite fan creativity; certainly for me, and I hope for others.

I’ve been asked, why not ignore the fandom? Ignore the conversations on Twitter? But try as I might, I don’t think a fan identity and a fandom identity can help but be intertwined (even if it’s not always a positive entanglement), unless the fan never broaches the boundary of communication with other fans. I don’t agree with or love everything other fans do, but without fan interactions, I’d just be a person in a room somewhere, staring at a screen. And as a fan, that is the last thing that I personally want to be. I like the increased energy, productivity and conversationality that I’ve seen showing green shoots again in the last two months or so, and I hope for more of it.

~ by Servetus on February 24, 2017.

28 Responses to “I’m enjoying the “silence,” personally”

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. The silence is balm for this fangirl’s soul. And it is not that I do not want to read his opinions, political or not. Far from it. I enjoyed his phase of expression very much. I even enjoyed the discussions that stemmed from it. But his involvement in the public discourse tends to monopolise the attention of the fandom. That in itself would not be bad – if the discourse were interactive. As it is, it tends to be a cul-de-sac, because any further discussion of topics that he has instigated, happens without his further involvement. For me, that is not particularly satisfying. – Anyhow, the experience of the last couple of months has already proven to me, that his silence invigorates my own creative urge. I guess, it leaves more space for our own attempts at interpretation. Not sure whether I have seen a resurgence of creativity on all platforms – that also depends on the availability of new material. But the general atmosphere certainly feels a little bit calmer and possibly happier at the moment…

    • I enjoy political discussions but I didn’t see many exchanges that rose to the level of discussions, frankly. So in essence, that was lost to me. But this is a general problem of social media.

      I don’t watch tumblr closely, but Twitter has IMO been much, much better, and the discussions I’ve seen on forums are also gaining a little energy. There is a broader range of people commenting here again. With a few more months of this, I could see the Twitter discussions going back to the way they were in 2012 or so. We’d need another push of some kind of project to get to the 2014 frenzy, but I wouldn’t exclude the possibility if he just lays low.

  2. the silence has been nice. I don’t have twitter, but i would read from different blogs about Mr. Richard Armitage and the craziness of his tweets/tweeting. It sounded like he was acting like a spoiled child/brat and wanted attention and mostly not to be forgotten […]. But look, it’s been a few months and we haven’t heard from him but people are still talking about him. […]

    • This comment is on the borderline to ad hominem. I’ve edited it slightly.

      • thank you for doing that and I am sorry for what I wrote. I do enjoy reading your blog, Servetus, and I like to sometimes leave comments, but before I start typing, I like to think what I am going to say and in my mind it sounds good and not offensive, so I start typing, but after I hit send, I would read what I wrote out loud and sometimes it would sound offensive (and I don’t mean for it to sound offensive. I am not doing this on purpose. I honestly don’t want to cause a rise/fight/argument out of anybody). I wanted to say very sorry for putting that on your blog. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings, especially Mr. Richard Armitage’s, and especially your feelings, Servetus. Sorry again.

        • I really don’t care about how Richard Armitage feels, and it’s not really about my feelings either — it’s more a question of how discussion works. If we talk about a statement or a behavior that’s one thing, but straight out statements about other people’s character make discussion hard because they divert us from the topic at hand.

  3. My impression was that he joined Twitter/Weibo and other social media primarily for publicity/career reasons and less so to interact with fans (if at all). My understanding is that actors can point to the fact that they may have a sizeable following on social media (and therefore reach) to help them secure roles. He is nothing if not career minded!

    • Well, his own statement in the late Fall of 2014 included his apparent need to respond to “vicious competition” among fans. If he joined Twitter in 2014 for publicity reasons, he was poorly advised; he should have done it in 2012. But i really don’t know what happened. And I don’t object to him pursuing his career.

  4. Love the silence. I hope he keeps it up for as long as possible.

    • I’m tempted to agree wholeheartedly. I was thinking last night, though, but what about BTS tweets or the BSt live tweets? I think if he could just stick to informative things it might be okay. I don’t want to be told what I can see with my own eyes on the screen — or have the show explained to me — but interesting stories about filming would be fun. I just don’t think he’s ever wanted to share that information. And of course, that kind of thing would still deform the hierarchy of the fandom.

      • I see he tweeted today, purely promotional. I have no issue with those, or a BTS tweet ( though usually someone else tweets them of him or with him in the pic). I think the interviews he’s giving are to boost the I tunes and other platform sales of BS2 – since it’s too early for anything else. It will be interesting because it sounds like tweets about BS2 will also be relevant to current events – so, maybe they’re a double edged sword as far as getting some of the fandom riled up.

        • seriously — Spooks was also often very au jour — but he could count on the sympathies of a lot of his fans that the Spooks were on the right side. That’s a really different story now — not that the CIA was ever an institution of high social trust in the US, but now you have all the people who used to stand behind it becoming opposed to it. The reactions could be extreme.

  5. His social media activity seems par for the course. He always said if he’s working, he doesn’t tweet. Right now he’s working or taking some before plunging back to work.

    • He’s said that, but it hasn’t been true. It wasn’t true for most of 2016.

      • I understand he hadn’t but he tries to keep to it, at least in my interpretation of the radio silence.

        • I’d have to go back and count, but he tweeted regularly through Berlin Station filming, through the beginning of his aborted movie plans in London, and through Love, Love, Love. He tweeted regularly throught the Sleepwalker filming as well, and intermittently during Hannibal. These are just the ones I remember. “I’m working” has never really explained his pattern very effectively, whether it means something to him or not.

  6. I miss the selfies. Yes, I am that shallow.

    • I think that’s a concrete benefit; just not sure it outweighs the other things. But there’s nothing to object to about selfies.

  7. 🙂 Mieux vaut le silence, même subi que la “trumpisation”.
    C’est un nouveau mot de vocabulaire qui signifie: “modification du débat politique en faveur d’un style rhétorique où l’on s’exprime de manière à être remarqué sans tenir compte des conséquences ni des faits”. Un ex candidat à l’élection présidentielle avait parlé de “‘trumpisation des esprits”.
    Il y a différentes profondeurs et qualité de silence. Entre le vide sidéral d’un trou noir, le silence de la nature, où l’on entend un bruit de fond comme la mer, le vent, le ronronnement d’un chat ou de voitures éloignées… Le meilleur des silences est pour moi, celui où en plein brouhaha, je déconnecte mes oreilles et me plonge dans mon moi intérieur , la réflexion mentale personnelle .
    Bonne fin de semaine silencieuse.
    Sur le sujet du silence une recommandation devenue un classique de la dénonciation de la guerre ” le silence de la mer” de Jean Bruller dit “Vercors” en livre, film, ou série télé.

  8. It’s probably wise for him to keep his views off social media in this climate. However much I may want him to rise up and be the champion he may not get back in the US if he went home to his family for a visit. For some people the decision of whether or not or how much they speak out must be a harder choice to deal with than I can understand and perhaps weighs heavily on their moral conscience. I am reading many stories of people having to surrender their social media when they travel now and being refused entry or detained and questioned for hours – Muhammad Ali’s son today. I don’t have anything to lose and so the choice is not as difficult since I have no desire or any real need to go to the US until this administration is out of office one way or another. To think it has only been a month and already people are being treated like this is unfathomable to me – Ali was born in the US and holds a US passport – what next?

    • And I agree the fandom feels more like a fandom when he is not tweeting. More creative and fun and lots more to us not so creative types to see and read about.

  9. […] 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 might, despite moments of frustration and alienation from my fan identity, I don’t […]

  10. thanks for all the great comments on this thread!

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