me + richard armitage’s sexual orientation + the new openness

[First, if you do not wish to read discussion about Richard Armitage’s sexual orientation, please don’t read this post. The times when I would have passworded this post or apologize for making it it are over. Second, this is not a “you’re doing it wrong” post — it’s a reflection on my own reaction to how Armitage has done it. The post is split into two parts — a historical review, and a response to the article in Radio Times.]

History

 

Because I was keeping a diary back then, I know the exact time in January 2010 at which it first occurred to me that Richard Armitage might not be straight. It was just a weird intuitive flash. About two weeks after Armitagemania onset, I was listening to a radio interview when the host asked Armitage if he ever got teased about having an enthusiastic female fandom, and he said something along the lines of “my mum finds it particularly funny.” I said “huh” to myself. I thought, “He’s out to his mother and she finds the situation ironic.” It was just a flash. But I wrote it down.

It didn’t take me long to realize what an explosive topic this was within the fandom. The main fan sites that included discussion options at that point were Armitage Army, Richard Armitage Central, and C19, and the moderators did not allow personal discussion of any kind. (Several print articles at that point that had discussed a “girlfriend,” and I don’t remember how those forums dealt with them — maybe someone else does.) Pretty quickly, I ran across Natalie’s blog and she was one of the first to dare to take on the topic of “Richard’s private life” in a mainstream setting (this is a very old page at this point; it may or may not display in your current browser). It’s weird to think that back then, some fans found posts like that too risqué.

Before that, there had been plenty of rumors in different public discussion forums, and I remember talk of a gossip sheet (I’m purposely being vague here) but the only data point that was remotely “reputable” (which is potentially exaggerating the situation — here‘s a commentary on the quality of the site) was a reply to a question in Yahoo Answers about who Armitage had dated during CATS. It was a man’s name. And I knew people who did their own scouting. There was a way to read UK poll registers, for instance, to determine who Armitage cohabitated with. Every now and then someone would show up on a blog, and claim to have known Armitage and a boyfriend, or assert that he was gay. But both the tidbits and the venues in which they typically appeared were so trashy that it was easy to discredit them. At some point someone even posted on datalounge that they had had sex with him — but no one believed it. Between his frequent lack of interest in appearing in public with anyone, male or female, who might be a plausible romantic partner, and the absence of posts that could even potentially be identified with him on blind gossip sites like CDAN, every applicable mote of unverifiable information more or less melted into thin air.

 

Back then, we weighed all of this apocrypha against the mildly more trustworthy “evidence” of his romantic life offered in the entertainment press. Given the level of heterosexual female ardor broadcast in Armitage’s direction, it wasn’t surprising that journalists asked him about his romantic life. He was unprepared for the storm that greeted him in 2004, but it seemed odd that his answers to questions seemed so regularly awkward, stilted, or unprepared, even in the year or so afterward. (Here‘s a reflection on that phase of his identity as seen through the media, written in 2012.) The press at that time still assumed a default heterosexuality and allowed Armitage to say fairly vague things about “a dancer” and “a girlfriend” who then moved out. It didn’t hurt that our largely female fandom largely preferred to believe he was straight, and was also delighted with the image of a modest, reserved, apparently ethical, quiet star. In other words: most of Armitage’s “Army” really appreciated what he called his “boring” qualities, which he referred to regularly in deflecting questions he didn’t want to answer.

In the Robin Hood years, an article was published in which he bared all — a long narrative about his past romantic history that highlighted a platonic romance in school, losing his virginity in a tent as he was leaving it, and confusion over  a drama school-era girlfriend, before musing on how difficult relationships are and so on. It was easily plausible that the drama school flame could have been Annabel Capper (so easy, in fact, that I might have been inadvertently responsible for a Spanish journalist printing in a later article about The Hobbit that they had been a pair. My piece was loong the most-read post on this blog and the first search result on Google, and I was the only fan blogger coherently following her career).

 

 

Finally, some more detailed info from the horse’s mouth — even if the discussion of the article was an early example of how Armitage fans regularly blame the journalist for whatever we’d rather not read in an interview. Poor Richard, talked into giving up all his secrets by a nosy journo. Poor man, couldn’t defend himself. He also left a message apologizing for the interview, in which he curiously misused the word “spendthrift.” At the same time, the piece had the paradoxical effect of actually angering some fans who felt that a gentleman never tells.  As the years wore on, I grew to think that Armitage’s recounting of his previous sexual history in that article was quite potentially another attempt at deflection — just a much better one than before. He spun a simultaneously intriguing and bothersome tale that drew the fans in, blamed it on the journalist, and achieved what he or his publicist wanted in the end: full-length coverage of a purportedly heterosexual history that allowed him to appear as if he’d been the one who’d been tricked into telling “the truth.”

The 2009-10 outings with Annabel Capper, whether intended to accomplish it or not, pulled him firmly back into appearing straight. By 2012, though, Armitage was living full time in the sausage fest of the Hobbit shoot, and the gay rumors were once again coursing, over a picture of Armitage and Lee Pace in each other’s company from New Zealand.  At that time I was still in the undecided camp. But I’d also started to get enough grief from fellow fans over writing heterosexual female fantasies about Armitage that I was starting to think that he really should be paying me. They were honest fantasies that I had (and still have from time to time), but as much as some fans tried to taunt me with remarks that Armitage would hate the things I wrote, I also wondered more and more in the face of the Richlee gossip whether  supporters of his career shouldn’t be happy that someone was publishing intense straight RPF about him.

 

Meanwhile, discussion raged behind the scenes in emails and chats — I remember a regular IRC chat room hosted by a fellow fan where people got together every night (although we also discussed other things). The thing that finally tipped me into the “he’s gay” camp was a blog post I wrote in 2013 about Richard Chamberlain. Some very ardent admirer of Chamberlain’s had put photos of a lot of his earlier press on the web, and it was easy to see that many of the same words and ideas used to describe Armitage had been used in the articles about my earlier Richard, sometimes word for word: “quiet,” “modest,” “workaholic / focused on work,” “too busy,” “lost in his thoughts,” “serious.” It was as if there were actual verbal press conventions for excusing a male actor’s failure to date or reproduce with women, and reading them about someone else forced me to read the press about Armitage — the best evidence for a heterosexual Richard — in a different light.

But in 2013 I had also been trying hard to write about the fantasy level of RichLee, and attracting a lot of fan anger for doing so. After 2014, due to Armitage’s association with Pace, there was starting to be more evidence if you knew where to look, and there seemed to a concerted effort on the part of persons unknown to out them, which I always assumed was because someone had a problem with Pace. (By this, I don’t mean shippers, but rather whoever was responsible for photos that regularly appeared when Armitage or Pace had some other big thing going on, including at dates after when they were presumably no longer involved.) Unless you knew me well at that time, you probably never got an actual statement out of me about what I thought of the factual level of the question. You had to infer. I verbally stood by the idea that heterosexuality is the default assumption. I stood up pretty well even to private pressure to say what I thought — until in 2017 I admitted to a fellow fan what I knew, and devastated her. After that I just stopped talking about it most of the time, except elliptically, in response to that borderline offensive Tanya Gold article (here, and here).

Response to the latest press

So here we are, after years of my relative silence on this topic (and a lot of things, I think: 2018-2021 were hard on me in ways that this blog clearly bears the traces of). But in the last few years, it seems, Armitage is ready to “come out” (I’m not sure what that means, since he insists he wasn’t closeted). He did it in 2020 and again in October and now again.

Let me stress again that Armitage doesn’t owe me anything and he leads his life and I lead mine. Chiding him for the past is not what this post is about. I get that he had professional considerations (and particularly in the Hollywood market). I even defended them at times. But at the same time, I really wish we could all be honest. His lack of honesty on the issue tied the fandom up in knots for more than a decade and the prudishness he expressed to us then but now apparently opposes was a big factor in that. It caused a lot of people a lot of grief. That was our choice — but he set the example.

Things about the narrative he’s been occupied in constructing for the last two years about how his sexual orientation was never that big of a deal just don’t wash. Reading this Radio Times article made me wonder if he’s actually forgotten Spooks; episode 8.4 made pretty clear that there something “definitely not 100% straight” going on there. The fanfic on DreamerFiction at that time posited all kinds of things from coercion to secret affairs and that was all spawned by Armitage’s performance in that episode. No fan will actually be surprised by that possibility — and we could take it further. Not everything about Guy’s relationship with the Sheriff was “100% straight” either. (Again, the fanfiction about this was wild and the fans didn’t construct that out of nothing; there was a weird power dynamic ongoing.) Pretty much every performance Armitage made in those days raised questions about gender trouble.

There’s also a strange conflict in the interviews on this topic between his awareness of “female gaze as marketing tool” and his dismissal of the possibility that he wouldn’t be cast because of knowledge of his sexual orientation. My jaw dropped when I read that, because if that was true, then why not just be honest about it? Why invent girlfriends? (Back in 2012, a big chunk of the fandom, although very few who would admit it, thought Charlie Condou was talking about Armitage here.) Why talk about what you would want in a woman if you’re not probably not ever going to want one?

This feels an awful lot like rewriting history — a history that I have witnessed much of. I think we can use Occam’s Razor to get to a much simpler answer here: he was taken by surprise in 2004; suddenly he was the object of the female gaze; he realized that it wasn’t in his interest to disrupt that; there were also issues around not wanting his parents to be impacted by gossip about his sexual orientation; the world has changed, especially in terms of younger audience members; and he’s now mostly out of the romantic lead casting category due to his age and greying hair.

And another possibility about this stuff occurred to me. I used to have conversations from time to time on the topic of his sexual orientation in which someone would say, “Well, maybe he’s bisexual.” To me this always felt a bit like an attempt to patch a wound in one’s own self-esteem. Bisexuality is quite rare and more common among women than men (or was, in his/my generation; maybe it’s changing now). There’s this whole piece of fandom that involves shame about whether the crush could ever be attracted to us, and if s/he can’t, that’s worse. So if there’s even a teeny possibility that he could be attracted to a woman without having to act, that’s better than nothing, at least from the perspective of some fans. But now with this hint toward “if I declare who I am and my sexuality, then I’m saying it’s fixed and I don’t know that, or if I might feel something for somebody further down the line,” and given the level of his past obfuscations, it also feels like he’s potentially leaving some crumbs for those of us who don’t feel attracted to non-hetero men. “I doubt I’ll be attracted to a woman … but I might …” as marketing tool.

I wish you all the joy of your new openness, Mr. Armitage, and happiness in what seems like a great relationship for you. I can truly and honestly say that I will continue to have poymorphously perverse sexual fantasies about you and your characters no matter what your real-life orientation is or who you are actually sleeping with. It doesn’t matter to me at all, and on some level I’m grateful that the fact that you’re not hiding any more means I don’t have to hide either. It’s a lot easier to blog if I feel I can be honest. But if you ask “why anyone should be defined by who they love” — well, it looked for an awful, awful long time that you thought they should or would be, yourself.

~ by Servetus on April 12, 2023.

75 Responses to “me + richard armitage’s sexual orientation + the new openness”

  1. The latest interview write-up also prompted me to discuss RA’s (reframing of?) sexual orientation with some friends bts. Since he never talked about his sexual orientation, that kind of set the tone within fan circles as well. I certainly always felt that it wasn’t my place to openly comment because he evidently did not want to come out publicly. But his refusal to talk about it turned out to be highly problematic. It created an ambiguity. And my main issue is that he continues to feed this ambiguity. The RT piece is a case in point, as discussed by you. Believing in bi rather than gay to alleviate a fan’s own “shame” – or continue to feed the own personal fantasy – makes sense. However, I have another issue with the ambiguity that has been created. Not telling the truth does not equal active lying, but it nevertheless leads to the same result: It makes me wonder about his authenticity. Is everything he says just an opportunistic, off-the-cuff and therefore non-binding statement? Granted, we need to take everything that is said in public, with a grain of salt. But on a more personal level, this reframing leaves me feeling somewhat disappointed with myself. Am I blinkered? Am I possibly even homophobic because I didn’t accept the possibility of his gayness for a long time? (Truthfully, if that were the case, it would hit me harder than having understood, accepted and believing RA’s gay. The latter is perfectly fine with me – but I couldn’t live with the former.) I do not believe that we (the public) have a right to know the truth. But I do resent it when I feel I have been manipulated into believing something that turns out to be wrong. Because even if no active lie has ever been told, the narrative has still been reframed by simple omission, and there is an intentionality in that, too.

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    • This is reply will be short b/c I have to go to work, but I didn’t want to leave it to stew all day — “Am I possibly homophobic” — I think the force of this question is probably enhanced by all the abuse that people took over the years who said either “I don’t want to discuss it” or “it’s not my business” — for whatever reason they did that. I would argue no, you’re not, in part because I think the concept of “homophobia” has been stretched so far it doesn’t bear much weight. (I mean, am I homophobic because I’ve never considered having a relationship with a woman? The answer is: it would depend on why. There’s a useful Venn diagram there somewhere.) Like: it is not homophobic not to have same-sex fantasies. But there was a group of fans who was insisting that it did constitute homophobia. I do think we all have the opportunity to use this question to ask questions about our own attitudes — but I don’t think saying “my fantasy life wanted him to be straight” is homophobia. (There’s also a generational thing going on here, I suspect.)

      I would say there’s a golden rule violation going on here. Most people don’t want to be lied to, even passively. It’s possible to explain it, to understand why, to excuse it, not to care. But I don’t think we should say that it hasn’t occurred. And given the amount of time we’ve spent listening to Armitage’s version of the Golden Rule … yeah. And also his somewhat more limited comment about “being truthful” as an element of acting.

      Anyway, I may answer more later.

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      • Good point about how that accusation of homophobia was levelled at anyone who did not publicly support the (then) gay speculation. I must have internalised that. I certainly know that I always felt really offended by that sweeping generalisation. (“If you don’t think he is gay, you are homophobic.”
        The whole “truth” (and by extension, authenticity) thing troubles me. But well, maybe I just don’t like what I am seeing anymore shrugs.

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        • re: “if you don’t think he’s gay, you’re homophobic” — it’s especially problematic because at the end of the day, back then everyone was engaging in a fantasy, even the Richlee shippers who turned out to be right. And it’s odd to argue that homosexual orientations are inborn, but not to accept that heterosexual orientations (assuming sexual orientation has a heavy impact on our fantasies) are also inborn and not easily changeable. It makes me cringe every time I read something like “well, I hope the fans to clung to his heterosexuality are self-combusting now” because it could so easily have been the other way.

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    • I get the impression from the RT article and other recent articles that Richard is trying to promote himself as a gender fluid, let it all hang out, ‘polymath’ actor, writer, producer… (tongue only partially in my cheek)!
      It’s all about his career first and foremost with Richard; always has been, always will be. And he will use whatever means to self-promote, including his fans.

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      • Possibly to prevent having any role opportunities disappear?

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      • That’s a valid conclusion. Kind of puts a dampener on my fan ardour, but that is my problem, not his.

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        • My observation is not necessarily meant as a criticism of Richard. He is in a tough competitive business trying to maintain and/or improve his currency as an actor. That, IMO, is a major motivating factor in his decision to come out, talk about his sexuality now (at least in the context of some of his roles). I don’t know what I would have thought if he had said the character John Thornton was not 100% straight! 😂
          Personally, I find it somewhat ironic that a subject that was considered off limits or taboo by many in the fandom, although it was always the ‘elephant in the room’, is now ‘open’ to discourse. IMO, that is a positive thing in the long term.

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          • but would we be ‘allowed’ to talk about it if Richard himself hadn’t spoken about it, I wonder?

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            • Probably not. It has been a taboo subject among the fandom but I have never really understood the reasons why such a topic should be so off limits. I remember attempting to raise the issue of his sexuality in past discussions and being politely informed that it was not a topic discussed on the site. End of discussion!
              I am just curious by nature: if something is taboo then I want to talk about it!

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              • The pragmatic reason is that such discussions always led to vicious arguments. So the philosophical questions is why discussion of his sexual orientation was taboo. I don’t actually think it was because people were prudish or homophobic, but rather because it was / is perceived as an identity issue, which means talking about it not only draws his identity into question (or puts it up for grabs), the fan’s identity is also challenged if there’s disagreement. In contrast, if we all agree that he’s straight, then it’s a consensus that bonds us.

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                • Arhhhh…. Had not thought of it like that. Many thanks for clarifying.

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                  • This is a bit gratuitous — but I feel like there’s a similar aspect to the prominent discourse in the fandom right now of praising Obsession and, importantly, insisting that everyone should praise it and that those who are not praising it (whether fans or critics) have something wrong with their brains. As there was with the whole insistence years ago (it has abated somewhat) on “precious Richard.” Believing and expressing this identity element has the effect of bonding those who are willing to do it.

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                    • “Believing and expressing this identity element has the effect of bonding those who are willing to do it.”
                      So true ! Une dynamique constructive se crée ainsi. Chacun se rassure en se retrouvant dans un groupe où les mêmes pensées sont partagées. Il reste le risque d’y être dans le vrai ou l’erreur.

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            • i think we weren’t. It was a major factor in the slowing of my posting. If I can’t be honest about what I think without incurring a lot of anger, is it really worth it? There may still be anger out there, but at least now I can point out that Armitage himself has discussed it. If we now live in a social media world where he is notionally ubiquitous via Twitter, still the topic has opened up a lot.

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          • well, you know the Victorians. Who knows what they were doing in secret? 🙂

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      • He may be gay, but I don’t think he’s gender-fluid, unless I misunderstand the meaning of the term. Has anyone ever reported seeing him present as something other than a man (apart from possibly on stage)? I mean, Harry Styles is gender fluid.

        re: career first — yes, BUT I don’t think he’s only a careerist. Although he certainly looks that way at the moment.

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  2. I like him as an actor, as a narrator and now as a writer. What he does behind closed doors (with consenting adults) does not affect me. I will never meet him. I will never know him. And he will never know me. But I can admire what I do see.

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  3. I started to comment on your last post and then ran out of time that I wondered if all the stuff about kissing a woman being the same as kissing a man and falling in love with his co- star was a way of connecting with fans fantasies – a kind of marketing tool as you have put it.

    Although I have some empathy for the reasons RA may have been reticent to be publicly out until recently I feel really irritated by his rewriting of history. He invented girlfriends and talked about wanting to get married and have a family – at a time when same sex marriage/ surrogacy was not the norm. I’ve been of the opinion he’s gay for a while ( I’m not sure how long – since TH/ Richlee?) but have had many conversations with other fans who felt strongly he was straight. I know one fan in RL who swears he pretty much drooled over the girl standing next to her at an event. So if people have been “polite” about his sexuality ( his words in the RAdio Times) it’s probably because that’s what he has encouraged.

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    • Judging by RPF, a lot of straight fans have gay fantasies about him, too — but this is a point where his discussion of the whole thing is again so awkward that it’s easy to assume he’s trying to sell something.

      If he had said, I was not honest because I had career concerns, people would have put that in the “understandable” category (sort of like not wanting to expose his parents to any kind of pressure), I think I would be less bothered by the whole thing.

      re: politeness about his sexuality — maybe he meant casting directors? B/c I don’t think his fans (apart from C19, etc.) have been esp polite about it.

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  4. I was a fan who wholeheartedly thought he was straight. it wasn’t until 2016 and his involvement in ‘Love, Love, Love’ that I started to change my opinion on that. his demeanor just appeared different to me. it’s like he took something off, a metaphorical mask or cloak, and suddenly there he was- and I didn’t recognize him anymore. pair that with all the subterfuge he used in the press, and I just felt duped. why do that to us, when there were other ways? refuse to answer the personal questions, be evasive, don’t purposely leave tracks that lead us in the opposite direction. by doing that I felt like he didn’t give us a chance to accept him for who he really was; if I wasn’t given all those crumbs of him being straight, then I could have come to other conclusions myself over time and it wouldn’t have been such a bucket of cold water to my libido (and it would have saved me A LOT of strife in relation to my fangirling. a lot of confusion, and a lot of guilt). it feels like it’s all water under the bridge to me now, but to read his flippant attitude about his sexual orientation as of late, the casualness of his claims that it was never a secret- that is a lie.

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    • That was the same point I was pretty convinced he was non-straight, Kelly.

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    • I agree that he clearly appeared different in LLL than he had before (some people would probably attribute this to the coincidence of the end of his relationship with Pace).

      Your point about not giving fans a chance is just really excellent. It hadn’t occurred to me but / and it describes exactly how I feel. And it’s not that I need to know everything — or even that it’s a way it’s necessarily realistic to have an actor or celebrity to behave — but given the “whole picture” as we knew it, the defensiveness / lies in advance feel wrong and that draws the whole picture into question.

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  5. Great post, including the links back to some of your “greatest hits” on the subject (or perhaps bombs at the time, in some cases). Again, it’s a truism that so often there’s no reward in being proved right, but clearly, you were right about a lot of things.

    One of the first things I realized about RA is he didn’t generally feel bound by his past statements. I’ve usually chosen to interpret that as either his moodiness or as demonstrating his value for personal change and growth. On the other hand, the downside was his unwillingness to acknowledge how much and how many fans were affected by his statements, and the emotional/mental whiplash that resulted. Hell, even his quote tweet to the Jan 2020 Telegraph article demonstrates he felt his orientation was a big deal (or at least any focus on it)!

    I would guess his relationship has helped him feel more secure and blurred some of the past misery in his memory. I doubt anyone grudges him that, but as Guilty noted, the ambiguity he generated at the time wasn’t victimless. He tried to stand against the gossip and catfights at the time with mixed success (I’m blocking on the cyber group he partnered with, maybe Freudian 🤣), so while holding him responsible for the scars is a stretch imo, it would be nice if he could bring himself to acknowledge the role of his silence in some way.
    I’ve gone through a lot of big changes myself starting in 2015, and felt compelled to acknowledge those, along with continuing tensions, at least online, since a lot of people I love in rl can’t/ won’t hear it. Maybe his position is reversed, since he came out to his family that early 🤷‍♀️
    (Sorry this is all coming out pretty random 😬)

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    • I think people might have been friendlier to his changing of his own story if he hadn’t spoken with such conviction at the advent of any new statement that the new material was how it had always been — something he’s doing now. As you say — he knew how much his statements meant, even if he apparently couldn’t admit it or except it.

      it’s interesting that you raise CyberSmile — I was thinking about that, too. I had various thoughts at the time that he picked that as his first “official” charity — it seemed really like almost a virtue offensive against his own fans. Who knows if the fandom was the reason, maybe he had had some other exposure to cyberbullying, or his nephew did, or whatever, but it really seemed like a sort of implicit sermon he was directing at us (which then got amplified as some fans started singing from the same hymnbook). What your comment makes me think is: “he knew there was a problem that stemmed from his failure to be truthful, but instead of being truthful, he made us responsible for it.”

      I totally get that the death of a parent (or esp the parent you are closer to) can really affect your life in all kinds of ways and especially in terms of what you say. That has certainly happened to me. But I think: we’re acknowledging what we’re responsible for. The phrasing was also unfortunate: “came out to everyone who was important.” I am sure we know that we are not that important to him in the grand scheme of things, but if he had said “to family and friends” that would have been both kinder and more accurate, since hiding his orientation by omissions would certainly have involved employers.

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      • Yes, and while I get that he’s trying to avoid having this become the headline like in 2020, the narrative now that he was “always out” verges on gaslighting, for anyone paying attention before that. It’s always been his own business and story to tell, but this promo tour is really the clearest statement he’s ever given publicly. Even the Telegraph in 2020 kept some wiggle room to wonder.

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  6. Scattered thoughts from a casual lurker (very sorry for rambling for so long, hope it’s okay to post!)
    I would consider (which you’ve touched upon) that sexuality is not just important to an actor’s professional identity, but is deeply entangled with personal identity, family relations, people’s sense of self worth and past childhood experiences. So, it’s difficult to be judgmental in how people act in response to all that. I’ve also read some quotes from Jonathan Bailey (of Bridgerton fame) recently saying that there was still a lot of shame among gay actors. He seemed to be out as not to have to hide things all the time, but he still indicated that it might have negative consequences for his career. I think, though much has changed, it’s still not easy especially for actors that are slotted into the hot, romantic/action hero place.
    For me, evidently, I have the urge to defend him a bit (but I’m not sure I’d even like him that much in real life, but I don’t need that to sustain a fantasy attraction.) My image of him is probably as someone who is quite pragmatic and not willing to feel too exposed. If he now said (regretfully) that he used to perform heterosexuality in his public profile as an actor that would probably be the headline. Not sure he’s comfortable with centering that kind of public self-criticism. Maybe he does regret it, maybe he was a bit conflicted and battled with shame back then. I personally also subscribe to the sexual fluidity notion so I’m fine with that. If he’s using it to market himself, it’s kind of a weird move to me, because it might not appeal to the older demographic, plus he’s supposedly trying to transition into different types of roles anyway..
    I don’t think the accusation of him only caring about his career is totally fair, since we of course only read about him in the context of promoting his work. There are obviously other contexts quite removed from work in which he probably expresses himself differently, but that isn’t accessible to fans. Also, fans must be a pretty amorphous group to him, not sure he’s aware what role he plays in peoples’ lives he doesn’t know. And what should he do with that info. Though I realize he used to try and be involved with the fandom, which I personally feel more ambivalent about.
    As a caveat: I’ve not been part of any fandom tensions so I haven’t had any accusations thrown my way and I don’t have any scars in that regard. So, it’s also easy for me to say. I’m just wondering if some of the indignation others have expressed is also informed by people harbouring some kind of hope for a long time that he would turn out to be straight after all? And I don’t think that’s automatically homophobic.
    On a sidenote, if he’s primarily concerned with self-promotion, I wish he’d realize that incessantly saying he’s on the decline isn’t the greatest marketing strategy!

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    • Good point that his gender fluidity comments may not be intended as marketing because of the mixed generational reactions. He might have chosen to acknowledge gender fluidity partly because it tends to be more easily erased than being gay/lesbian – I remember Lee Pace stating early on that he preferred to identify as queer because he resisted being pinned down (something to that effect, anyway).

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      • I remember Pace saying that, too, but as far as we know he has never had a female partner, right? I admittedly don’t have a very high opinion of Pace but I read that as obfuscation. It’s like saying “I’m so much cooler because I’m not a boring gay man” or something. (Armitage’s newfound “gender fluidity” falls in a similar category for me.)

        To me it’s a lot like people who say they are political independents. There’s been research done on that — the number of political independents in the US who actually switch teams is apparently vanishingly small. People say they don’t identify with a party, but they just don’t like people to make assumptions about them. In reality, they tend to vote for one part or the other, they just don’t like the label.

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        • I think Lee used to be seen with more women socially than Richard ever was, but no clue if they were actual relationships- I don’t follow him closely, but he seems like more of an extrovert than R and a less “guarded” personality if that makes sense. Avoiding being pinned down might be more important to celebs than “regular people” we work with, who imo don’t identify as fluid or bi if they don’t feel it- still think it might be an acknowledgement more than identification for RA, but who knows.
          Interesting re: political independents, split ticket voting definitely still happens, yet it’s harder to say a politician’s party doesn’t matter, “I just vote for the person”, in 2023. I’d say political independence is less prevalent than political homelessness now, and maybe that always drove calling yourself an I. How much that could possibly apply to sexual identity would be a whole other subject!

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          • well, I don’t know — I think they’re pretty similar as they’re both identity choices. I can think of other identity choices that fit in this category (e.g., among Jews — what tradition / denomination do you say you belong to vs your actual practice on the ground? this is a big issue for us) as well as various consumption patterns. People have pictures of themselves or the person they want to be seen as or want to think they are that just don’t correspond to their actual actions. Maybe I’ve just seen a lot of it.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for de-lurking!

      I think one possible reading of Armitage’s past statements would be simply that he isn’t one of those people for whom constant proclamation of his sexual orientation is important (I tried to say something like that toward the end of this post: https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/why-tumblr-made-me-happy-friday-night-observations-about-related-things-pwreally/

      I read demands for that as coming primarily from younger fans, i.e., there was a generational split over how ready you had to be to have important facts about you known to all and sundry. Workplaces have really changed a lot in the last twenty years and we now know things about our colleagues we never would have two decades ago. I could have respected that.

      I think if he’s bisexual — okay, it’s not especially likely on a statistical level, but probably there are more bisexuals among actors than in the general population — that’s one thing, but I thought he said he admired gender fluidity, which isn’t quite the same. By 2014 I would have guessed that he was a Kinsey 5 or 6, but that’s nothing more than intuition, which is frequently very wrong.

      re: how aware he is of fan’s attitudes — there’s a lot of evidence that he was very aware before The Hobbit — and then after The Hobbit, he went on Twitter and he clearly reads his mentions. So I think while he is not as aware as we are of every little nuance, he’s quite aware, and potentially more now than he was ten years ago.

      I’m with you, incidentally, I don’t want Armitage in my fandom. But that hasn’t been a popular position ever, and definitely not since 2014. Also agree strongly that he shouldn’t be running himself down.

      re: people hoping that he’s going to be straight — I think there are still people for whom that’s a central identity element, although I’m sure many fewer than in 2004.

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      • Thanks for the link! The bullet points towards the end really cover a lot of ground in terms of my thoughts on this topic too. And I love the point about fantasy not having to correspond to reality. That is my approach to RA as a figure of enjoyment for me. Though the real RA exists in parallel and is still a matter of intrigue for me too. (I just wish there was more positive career news. I had hopes for this production because of the people involved, but alas. I’m in it for the diversion, I have enough setbacks in my own life! Then again, I’m sure he was hoping for the result to be better, too.)
        It’s interesting that he is so involved on Twitter and reads his mentions. Dangerous business. I guess he thinks it’s essential for promotion purposes.
        About the gender fluidity thing: I don’t think he’s gender fluid, but I think it’s possible that he found masculinity, especially ‘conventional masculinity’ constricting. I don’t find that surprising for those who already find themselves out of step with heteronormative society. His enjoyment of dance seems to heavily involve what might be described as androgynous bodies (according to his instagram likes), so there may be a fascination there. Incidentally, if anyone was still wondering about his sexuality, one look at his instagram follows in the last couple of years would have put that to rest. I personally just like that he seems supportive of non-binary thinking in terms of gender and sexuality.
        (I thought it was interesting that he mentioned someone sending him a bible in the latest promotion video, I know many gay men who would take offense, and rightfully so imo. Though he spoke about it jokingly.)

        Liked by 2 people

        • Sorry about the long delay in replying. Netflix ended up being a world #1 last weekend, so whatever the critical response, it’s going to be a win for the company and probably for him (laughing all the way to the bank).

          I probably agree with you about the potential he found masculinity constricting (although cf his early remarks about how men should not wear skirts — or something to that effect — unless they are playing a drag role; although again that could have been him trying to appear more straight). Although, like you, I don’t think that is necessarily evidence of gender fluidity if I understand it correctly. Presumably there are straight male ballet dancers, and dancers, period. Or used to be anyhow.

          I also had a sort of kneejerk reaction to that comment about the Bible. I really wish people (whether that was a fan question or not is up for grabs) would stop using opportunities like this to make a jab at fans. The appropriate response to a gift is “thank you” unless it is directly offensive (like if the gifter put a postit on the front cover saying “please read Leviticus 18:22”). He knows this, I think — I remember that interview with whatshername where she gave him a Thorin Oakenshield Xmas ornament after he had made a critical comment about them, and he still managed to smile. At the same time, I really wish people would stop thinking that the unsolicited gift of a Bible to a total stranger is somehow a loving act. In that sense, I am glad he laughed at it.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Serv! I saw the trailer for “Obsession” yesterday. As you mentioned, talking about Richard’s sexuality (or his personal life at all) was kinda taboo when I was heavily involved in the fandom. I wondered if that was still the case and then saw this post calling a spade a spade. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here Nat. I started my blog because of the vitriole hurled at a group of us by fellow fans back in 2008 (I think). Richard’s private life was way off limits. Glad he has finally felt he can be open about his sexuality, but what took him so long?? Fear of not being cast in roles because of negative bias of casting directors? Fear of forever being in the shadow of heterosexual actors? I would hope attitudes have moved towards more inclusiveness since he first started out in the early 2000s. His role as Ricky Deeming in George Gently (2006) was his first role playing a gay character. I thought at the time there was some speculation. These days I’m fairly disengaged with the fandom – I enjoy most of Richard’s audio narrations, but I’ve missed quite a few onscreen performances.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. I’m not a good index anymore because I feel like the center of the fandom is elsewhere (Twitter, tumblr) and long-form blogs like ours are like museum-pieces now. I think on the whole it hasn’t been as actively or openly taboo mainly because most people stopped talking about it much (that applies more to Twitter than tumblr). If you look at the Twitter comments about “Obsession” among fans, the disapproving voices are clearly in the tiny minority.

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  8. Am glad he was out to those important to him (ie friends & family) at 19. He rephrased hus IG comment about Charlie ‘transforming’ him. Could it be that he (thought he) was gay and then whilst filming for Obsession he fell in love with, and accepted the possibility of fluidity in his personal sexuality? It concerns me now that you’ve highlighted it as a possibility that this latest comments on fluidity is just marketing to remain current? I hope that my concerns are incorrect.

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    • I thought his use of the word “transformative” in the IG post was an intriguing choice of word. Begs so many questions…
      I have always thought that Richard uses his roles to explore different facets of himself. Maybe he discovered he might not be quite as gay as he thought he was? We’ll never really know what he meant by it (if anything at all).

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      • I think we’ve all forgotten that in western society, until very recently (~50 years ago or so), most gay males probably had their first sexual experiences with females — and many, many were married with more than one child and went to their graves while still in heterosexual marriages. That didn’t make them not gay; it made them closeted. I suppose in the end it’s definitional. I remember reading a Dan Savage column at once that said there was a small proportion of gay men who were in straight marriages because although they preferred gay sex, they could not have the emotional connections of the sort they preferred with men (or it was very hard to). As we’ve become more open to the possibility of homosexuality, I think the options that involve homosexuality with little/no experience of straight sex are more open to more people. Whatever the transformative experience was, one of them doesn’t change your whole life and history, or at least not usually.

        That comment reminded me of Richard Chamberlain saying that while filming The Thorn Birds, he made, or tried to make, Rachel Ward fall in love with him to improve the acting.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Richard Chamberlain was obviously not successful in that particular endeavour as Rachel Ward fell in love with her other co-star Bryan Brown during the filming of the Thorn Birds! And they are still married and together today….😃

          Liked by 1 person

          • That’s the point I am trying to make here. “Love” or “transformation” aren’t necessarily permanent or deep-going experiences (even if “transformation” can imply that). They take place in contexts where other things are going on. And anyone’s own statements about something like “transformation” are contextual.

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    • I personally don’t believe he is either gender-fluid or sexually fluid, but again that’s just my feeling. It’s cool to say you’re “fluid” right now.

      I’m still trying to figure out what he meant by saying he was “platonically in love” and it was “sexually charged.” But it doesn’t sound like (a) he and Charlie actually had sex or (b) his same-sex romantic partnership ended over it.

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  9. While I’ve always found him very convincing playing straight characters, I’ve always gotten a vibe from his real life interviews and photoshoots that he’s queer.
    For one thing, there was so much awkwardness and evasiveness whenever someone asked him a question that presumed him heterosexual. No one who is heterosexual would answer simple questions, like he’s been asked, with such awkwardness and evasiveness.
    In so many of his interviews and photoshoots, there’s a queer quality to his face.
    And sorry to say, maybe because of the cageyness and inauthenticity – that is evidenced now with these articles – he seemed quite uninteresting. I’ve always admired yours and other fans’ blogs, but I’ve also marvelled that anyone could really get so obsessed with him as an actor and person because there was so little of the man to like. (He’s possibly a fascinating man in real life; I’m just saying he’s always been so inscrutable in his personality that he presents as boring, from what we have access to as “fans”.)
    So I can really say I am not surprised at all that he’s saying now that he’s gay, and simultaneously putting out crumbs for those fans who need their totty to be straight.
    I’ve never found Richard the man to be a plausible romantic/sexual interest. I’ve never had a crush on him.
    And I will continue to rewatch Lucas, Guy of Gisborne, and John Thornton because those characters are incredibly gorgeous and sexy; and potentially find characters played by Richard in future projects fodder for my sexual fantasies; and don’t ever expect to watch one of his projects simply because he’s an especially compelling actor. Because I still see him – and have always seen him – as “totty”. And is that a bad thing? Even as he ages, he’s still got glimmers of that sexiness. I don’t think he needs to be pitied for being “totty”, he has an extensive filmography full of artsy and Hollywood films, and he’s got a novel out now.

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    • re: queer vibe from interviews, I would agree, particularly early ones.

      I think maybe it was easier to get obsessed with him because so much of consequence was hidden. My biggest fear about him was that he might not be very smart. Wrote a whole long post about that and took a lot of abuse for saying it. Well, he sort of admitted that in 2012, and it didn’t bother me, but given the amount of time I’ve spent trying to figure out what he can possibly have meant with some of the things he’s said, it has gradually convinced me that the only thing it might be fun to talk about with him is movies / art / music. The ability to speak in coherent complete sentences is less important in those spheres … in other words, I’m sort of agreeing with you that in the end he has proven to be somewhat boring.

      re: totty — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, and obviously that quality kept this blog going for decades, but I think that he has felt shame about it (maybe his theatre background makes him think he should aspire to more), and perhaps more importantly, I think it was an issue for those first gen fans who were embarrassed by the vehemence of their crushes. If they just wanted in his pants, that would be sordid and juvenile, but if they admired his art, that would be ennobling. There’s definitely a weird feedback loop between fan and crush, at least in this fandom. To some extent Armitage’s own shame, I would argue, sort of coincided in productive ways with a group of fans who found him and then felt a certain sense of shame about what had happened to them, no matter how much they also enjoyed it.

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    • My own fear about Richard is that there may not be much there of substance once you take away all the trappings of being an actor…

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      • I increasingly wonder (and more since all this sexuality stuff finally blew up) if he really only says things because he thinks he should. I do think the fact that I rarely hear what he says outside of press rounds and they are so repetitive and they make him sound so repetitive makes it worse. But a lot of his original thoughts are problematic.

        Liked by 3 people

    • What gave it away for me was his close friendships with his female co-stars and how he’s always sharing pictures of himself with the women he’s acting with. It really started to hit me during Berlin Station, with Mina Tander and Michelle Forbes. He was physically close to them, and not just for posing purposes. I may be projecting here, but I recognized these interactions from my own friendships with gay men (who are amazing friends for women IMHO. They basically treat you the way you like to be treated and I’ve yet to meet a straight man who can hold a candle to that. Which is probably why I’m single)

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      • Agree about friendships with gay men — there were several gay men who were really important to me in that sense in the late 80s and early 90s. (Although there are also gay men who just absolutely hate women, so it’s probably important not to generalize.)

        re: posing with women — to me it depends somewhat on the age and relationship status of the woman. By the time he was hanging with Mina, she had a child with her husband (and, it turned out, was about to have a second). Forbes had more potential, but she’s five years older. I always thought it was a bit strange how she behaved in that connection, more than him. She was almost motherly.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Ach, das Kissen! 😎 Die wirklich relevante Frage ist doch: Was sagt es eigentlich über die Qualität des Room–Services aus, wenn Man(n) noch die Vorschläfer in den Laken erschnüffeln kann?? ☺️

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  11. What a great post! I went down several enjoyable rabbit holes with your various links.

    As you mentioned in one of the comments, I think it was very common for gay men to have their early sexual experiences with women. I have one male friend who can’t even imagine ever being with a woman because “breasts” and has only ever been with men. And yet another had had long term relationships with women, but always balked when they wanted to marry. He had his first long-term relationship with a man only at 40. So, I guess I still think that it is possible that some of the early experiences RA mentioned were actually truly with girls/women. Also, I have not seen him come right out and say “gay”, so it is possible that he does consider himself bisexually-open and possible that when he says he came out at 19, that he might have come out as not being fully straight. Definitely not gender fluid, but maybe he misspoke when he used that term.

    Am I just deluding myself that he may be bisexual or at least have had some experience with females? Quite possibly. Maybe it’s still important to me to explain away what he has said by thinking that he wasn’t lying, because it is hard then to believe anything he says. And what he says always changes depending on what he is promoting, I’m afraid… ever the actor. And maybe it is also important to me to preserve some idea that a fantasy wouldn’t be totally out of the realm of however slim possibility. Because, yes, I am not just in it for the acting ability.

    I find now though that because of what he is promoting, he is perhaps being too open. It’s fine to be open about being gay, but I don’t need to hear that he experiences all-consuming orgasms.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wouldn’t count out some fumbling around (although if we go on what he said in that infamous article, he had a platonic relationship with a girl while in school, and lost his virginity just as he was leaving it, so that leaves maybe a year on the time line for any experiences at all before he came out). I guess the reason that I am still skeptical that he had many experiences with girls, or positive experiences with girls, is that he was 19 in 1990. Anyone coming out then was doing it in the absolute heat of the HIV crisis. It was still heavily stigmatized, and there were no treatments of any kind. In England, Section 28 had become law two years earlier. It was really not a propitious moment for an announcement like that. Even apart from the apparent cultural conservatism of his parents, or their small town context, coming out to anyone then involved a lot of extra burdens. It would have made sense at that time to remain closeted, and indeed in the US, that was the high point of politically motivated outing of people against their will. Then again, if he knew at that age and in that context enough to be able to come out at all, it seems like that his parents were already aware at least subconsciously, so the immediate risk might have seemed lower. But being almost his age, my memory is that my gay contemporaries usually did not come out to their parents until a few years after that — often when it was finally clear to everyone they weren’t going to marry / reproduce.

      re: belief that he is bisexual — I would try to avoid calling it a delusion myself. As you note, there is plausible, if slim, evidence. And as I noted above, I don’t think it’s morally problematic to say “a crush on a completely homosexual actor would be a reach for me.” In essence, we have very little control over that aspect of our brains.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We will probably never know for sure when he came out because he will change his mind with every passing interview.
        I don’t think he is bi because ( my main reason for thinking he was gay in the first place) there’s a complete lack of evidence of female partners. Annabel Capper always struck me as a beard and if he were bi we would have seen photos of him with women over the years surely? Especially as it seems he wanted, at one time at least, to preserve the illusion of heterosexuality.

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        • We know he went on one outing with Jo Bending to a charity dinner, but in general I agree. There was even an article where he discussed this, iirc — going out with women who were on the job, too. But then not wanting to date another actor. And not being short of a date … a bunch of salad that never fitted well together.

          I suppose we could say his failure to do better at bearding suggests that he wasn’t all that interested in preserving the illusion of heterosexuality, i.e., it would be a point for him — but it’s a weak one in the face of the years of references to relationships in articles.

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      • I’m not sure I really believe he is bisexual, but maybe the idea does make the crush more palatable.

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  12. I first noticed RA in N&S as many of us did. A romantic role as a romantic hero. Perhaps he decided to keep his sexuality to himself because of the fans he gathered. Would i have liked Heathcliff to be played by a gay Olivier? I don’t know. I guess in understand his choice. A little like Dustin in Tootsie. He needed the work. Do I see him differently now I know? I would be lying if I said I didn’t. I know him preferring men does nothing to diminish my chances with him but still.. I can not fantasize about an actor whom I know likes men. Sorry. That’s just how. My mind works. As an actor I still like to watch him, although I am not crazy about his roles these days. But he is no longer in my fantasies and no more an inspiration for fan fiction

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    • I think Tootsie is an interesting parallel — b/c the problem is less that Hofmann’s character plays a woman, and more all of the lies to Charles Durning’s character.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I never understood the rage of the fandom whenever someone even suggests he may not be straight. I guess it takes something away from their own fantasies, although like for you, it doesn’t change anything for me.
    I’m glad he’s more open about it now, and I do believe he feels he can be now his mother is no longer there to worry about it. Also ( and he’s hinted about this a few times) he’s exploring other avenues of income that rely less on him getting acting parts as a (straight) romantic hero or a man of action, which are still the parts he’s getting offered most. His whole spiel about hoping he won’t be asked to take his shirt off every role is along the same line ( and then he went all the way in Obsession, right?)
    I’m also much more forgiving about him keeping himself in the closet than most. Yes, times have changed, but it’s still hard to get the kind of parts he’s always played if you’re an out gay actor. I don’t blame him for keeping it vague all these years.
    I know one of his dreams was a big role on Broadway and he hasn’t quite made that. I’m sure he’s missed out on quite a few other parts, like most actors, so that makes it tough to come out.
    It’s also a very British thing to say that it’s best for an actor to be a blank slate. I think saying that is part of their actors training. I’ve heard a few RADA and LAMDA trained actors saying exactly the same thing.
    I’m still hoping he’s doing Now and Then, although his name had disappeared on IMDB. I read the book and can totally see him play that part. It’s still on his list at his agent’s website…

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    • I don’t know that people are angry that something many suspected all along has turned out to be true, but I wouldn’t characterize his statements as “leaving it vague.” I would characterize them as “lying.” I wonder what his mother actually thought about that (my mother certainly would have called a spade a spade). That’s what people are angry about (to varying extents). But I think that the current state of affairs is also different than it was in 2004, when it would have been much more damaging to him if he had admitted being gay (he was thought to have had a fairly long-term boyfriend at that time) in the middle of the whole BBC message board crash setting. THEN people would have been angry that he was gay. Or at least, many people.

      I don’t think it’s only British to say an actor should be a blank slate. Plenty of US actors think that, too. One difference, though, is that the rank and file of successful actors in the UK aren’t subject to the Hollywoodification of their lives in the way that US actors are. They seem to have maintained a greater expectation of privacy (maybe because the UK industry is smaller, or further away from the Hollywood Dream Machine).

      I’m not excited about Now and Then, unless it gets a pretty major rewrite, but I have said that elsewhere. It would be interested to see him play a gay male role where he is (mostly) out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They would need to rewrite Now and Then just to bring it into the 21st century for one, so they might as well change other things. But any other gay role would do for me as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I do not feel it necessary for actors to divulge their sexual orientation. I had never heard of Richard Armitage before seeing BBS’s North and South when I saw it for the first time back in 2022. Yes, that late. I confused the Civil War North and South with the Brit version. Since then, I have watched it numerous times. I fell in love with the character of John Thornton and how he was portrayed. That role was masterfully done by Richard! No other actor could have done that role and peeled back the layers of the character so well. I wish he had followed that role up with other period pieces and not the hobbit or Robin Hood roles but I know that was his preference.
    I would prefer not to know the actor’s sexual orientation which would allow me to truly appreciate the character they are portraying. But that’s just me.

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    • well, he did do two period roles pretty quickly — Percy Courtenay and Claude Monet. Just nothing on the scale of N&S.

      These days, I think that if you want to stay away from the actor’s personal life, you mostly have to stay away from the entertainment press and social media.

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