Richard Armitage fans make it into the annals of academic research: Were you quoted?

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

I don’t know if anyone else remembers, but in 2012 and subsequent years a group of New Zealand academics were doing a study of the audience for the Hobbit trilogy that related to fans, marketing, perception of these, etc. Many of us answered questions from at least three surveys relating to our perceptions of the films. Today I (and I assume others) got an email from the researchers noting that the project is complete. The summary of their findings is found in this (somewhat expensive) book. There are some previews available of it at Google Books and some chapters of it available via open access at the university website.

If you’re not trained to read academic prose and/or don’t care about methodological issues for studying fans, much of this material probably won’t be of high interest to you. However, all of the articles include extensive first-person quotations of remarks by respondents, which are quite interesting to read (perhaps they quoted you!).

Overall, while “celebrity followers” (people like me who were primarily interested because of one of the actors involved in the film) represented a small proportion of respondents, Richard Armitage, the Richard Armitage fandom and RichardArmitageNet.com do appear in the research as much or more than any other actor. I didn’t dig deeply enough into the data to figure out if that was because the call to respond was posted prominently in our fandom media, or that we were actually over-represented in the “celebrity follower” sample. This information does, however, conform to my own general hypothesis that marketing to Armitage fans does not take up a significant amount of effort even in a blockbuster production like this, as we’re just too small of a market segment.

I thought this discussion of how expectations changed before and after TH: AUJ was interesting; most readers will want to skip past the methodological discussion and the review of previous research to the results. This piece discusses audience reactions to the (at the time highly contested) HFR shooting medium (celebrity followers and Armitage fans did not make up a noticeable or differentiable contingent in this group). This paper concludes that while the films were highly marketable, in the end they were not playable — most audiences were on some level disappointed with them. Again, the “celebrity follower” fan does not make an appearance as such in this paper, although the last fan quotation (apparently intended as somehow definitive by the authors), which refers to “fans of the film’s actors who are disrespectful to the story” did raise my hackles a bit. That informant thought the films split the fandom in a way she found intolerable. (I would say: it wasn’t the film, it was the fans themselves.) This paper discusses responses to the labor controversy between Warner Bros. (fanned by Jackson) and the New Zealand Parliament.

The main discussion of Armitage fans occurs in this paper about anticipation for the film. We’re included under G3, “celebrity followers.” (This is an earlier form of a chapter that ended up in the book, which makes reference to the “brooding presence of Richard Armitage as Dwarf prince Thorin Oakenshield” on p. 67; the book also references Armitage fans as frequent merchandise consumers.)

Here’s the snippet:

and

As far as I know I’m not quoted but that’s an accurate description of me and my responses as I remember them. I was 43 in 2012.

~ by Servetus on February 22, 2018.

27 Responses to “Richard Armitage fans make it into the annals of academic research: Were you quoted?”

  1. Fascinating stuff. This quote from the book excerpt ( similar to your blurb) *while the participation of Martin Freeman, Sylvester McCoy and the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch were all attractions, it was the brooding presence of Richard Armitage as Dwarf Prince Thorin Oakenshield which promised the greatest reward. ( for celebrity fans) What else caught my attention was that almost an entire chapter of the book ( according to the summary available) revolved around the controversy of adding the non-canon Tauriel/Kili/Legolas love triangle – a whole chapter almost!

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  2. I also noted that in one of the papers, the authors mention that some fans actually work on promotion ( my words) and in another place, “Such communities thrive online and periodically seek to influence textual producers to ensure the realisation of their collective vision; their favour is also actively courted by publicists (Murray, 2004).4 Jenkins (2006) ”
    ( REAL publicists)

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  3. Interesting. Although the whole thing is already so long ago, I can hardly remember whether I took part or not. The findings are interesting, even if we, as ‘celebrity fans’, do not feature much. Thanks for highlighting!

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    • I remember being frustrated with the choices that they gave for some question answers. There was an interesting ranking system in terms of priorities — you could move blocks representative of your priorities around a map to indicate what they were. That’s discussed here under “Q methodology” and it was interesting to read why they did that.

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  4. I think I took that survey but like Guylty, it is so long ago I barely remember it, much less what I had to say. I think it was a lengthy questionnaire with room for comments at the end. I saw Black Panther yesterday with my son and felt compelled to complain that MF’s career trajectory after the Hobbit is higher than RA’s, IMO. My son reminded me that RA was already in the Marvel universe as Hans Kruger and can never be in it again, since he died. So I cannot use that comparison as a yardstick of RA’s subsequent success, or lack thereof. But are there MF productions languishing on the shelf (I’m looking at you, Urban) or is he narrating romance novels? Who knows? And back to topic, Black Panther is great. Loved the score and it is also extremely pro female empowerment.

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    • MF’s career trajectory was already on a faster track before TH — because of Sherlock, which had/has a huge international audience in a way that Spooks and Robin Hood never did. That said, my dislike of Martin Freeman grows everytime I see him on screen, so I am not a fair judge of his career. He was the one negative in the Black Panther movie for me.

      And yeah — I loved it. Dora Milaje for the win! (Why didn’t Wonder Woman understand this?)

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      • I don’t have a strong opinion on Freeman either way, but I thought his American accent was very good. And his hair was perfect.

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        • Really? I thought it was hilariously bad. About every other sentence there was a word that came right out of South England. To me that was one of the worst pieces of it — that he can’t convincingly play an American.

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          • I guess I didn’t recognize the south of England influence. I was being sarcastic about his hair. I don’t think it ever moved, and the color was fifty shades of grey highlights.

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            • I think that’s just his preferred hair, no? But I agree, it’s not a great look for him.

              I have a friend who’s a cultural studies professor who thinks that the whole role was some kind of pun on the “comic black sidekick” that a lot of white heroes get in the genre. Apparently they sometimes also have awkward accents. Then I read an interview w/Freeman in which he said he didn’t want to be that and the role was changed to make him more badass. I was just flummoxed by the whole thing. He was only necessary for the plot up until he was wounded, after which he didn’t do anything that couldn’t have been scripted otherwise.

              But I just loved the movie otherwise. Just wish he could have been blackwashed out.

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  5. I definitely didn’t partake. I was a lurker at the time 😉

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  6. That’s an interesting study and had i been around back then i would have likely participated 😉 I tend to mostly because i always feel for academics and the like trying to do their studies and research. though not sure i am on board with the categorisations and the quotes certainly don’t represent me. Still fell fans are seen all too often as too one-dimensional or blinded by their preference. Most pieces of writing about fans always end up irritating me one way or another. Also while for our fandom due to size the lack of significant influence might be true, it is not necessarily always the case.

    Glad more positive reviews of Black Panther are coming out, it’s on my list and i am really curious to see how it fares against others of Marvel /DC which i have seen. Glad it sounds like this is a really good film,apart from all the positives of finally having black heroes on screen in superhero movies 🙂

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    • I think overall this isn’t bad. I haven’t read the whole book, of course. That said, fans do say this type of thing. I probably would have subscribed myself to that whole long quote except for the “nutty” piece.

      re: Panther — I liked that it wasn’t all action and effects. There was a backstory, a story, beautiful colors, emotional moments — it felt mythical to me in a way that comic book films almost never have.

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