Welcome back class. One of the downsides of protracted absences is I lose the advantage to stir the pot, as it were. For instance, take the old news of Richard Armitage’s nose job that sneaked up on us way back in 2013. At the time, there was heated debate over whether it had actually occurred or that anybody would suggest it had. Clearly, he had a slight nose bob with the faintest shaving over the bridge bump. The change is subtle but obvious overall when seen from different angles. Great job, eh? I applaud the cosmetic surgeon who showed restraint in altering it from the allegedly “mean” and “sinister” looking (according to RA) to a more classically formed Caucasian nose.
Personally, I like the result. RA stated repeatedly that he never
Courtesy of Microlina on Tumblr
liked it but had become resigned to it because his mother discouraged him. It’s likely he finally did it to satisfy himself and gain access to more roles and advance his career. I say more power to him. If it makes him happy, then it’s all good.
Now that three years have passed and the heat has died down, what to you think? Is he better with the new nose or should he have left it alone? Is it too pointy and “Disney prince” like?
I glanced at my WordPress dashboard and saw that this blog made it over the 500 posts mark at last – not a big deal when considering that it took six years. Analytics tell me that I posted in concentrated spurts the first few years, ramping up to the wild and crazy time from 2012-2014. But there were long periods when I didn’t post at all.
During those silent times, my fangirling evolved. Let me explain. Having spent over 25 years in various fandoms, I’ve experienced them as a process of phases. The first phase we all have experienced – the giddiness of discovering a new crush with the accompanying squeeing and desire to find like-minded souls. Then the girlishness progresses to an avid following. The infatuation stays strong but a bit of the breathlessness tapers off. Finally, there’s the third stage when the ardor wanes and heads down one of two roads. The first path leads out of fandom and fangirling – full stop – with the crush kicked to the curb. The second way continues to hold interest in the crush’s work, but the initial passion is gone.
After six years, I’ve hit the third phase. Mind you, I’ve not been the typical Richard Armitage fan. In fact, the ongoing joke has been me as an anti-fangurl who is the first to scream the emperor has no clothes. (And I’ve been a pretty fab anti-fangurl I might add). But alas, I’ve come to that fork in the road where the thrill is gone and I have to decide what happens next. Don’t get me wrong. I still like RA and enjoy his work. And he’s still easy on the eyes. But the lack of keen interest has made it difficult to blog about him as in the past. So should I close shop and move on? Should I direct my focus away from him? Can I write about him occasionally? If I stop, will I have any readership left? Can the blog survive a transition?
Most importantly, what becomes of The Man? I’m not being funny here. I enjoyed writing the series; it exercised my writing muscle and entertained the fan readership at the same time. However, the inspiration behind the series *cough* may have been a certain actor *cough*. Can I find the MIA muse and bring it back? Will the readership stick around for fiction having nothing to do with their crush? At this point, I have no answer to any of these questions. There’s just a persistent feeling that something has to give.
I welcome feedback here. Please let me know what you think or if there’s a happy compromise.
Zan and I had tickets for Saturday night to see Love, Love, Love, so Friday night was free. So of course we went to the Laura Pels Theater to see if they just happened to have any extra tickets. Lo and behold, they did. Guess where we spent our evening?
Afterwards we met up follow attendee bloggers and piled into O’Brien’s across the street. Much talk, food and and drink was had by all.
In 2 1/2 months, I will celebrate my sixth blogiversary. Needless to say, I’ve evolved as a fan of Richard Armitage. Six years ago I enjoyed the rush of a newfound crush and seeking out his work, digging for pictures and videos, reading blogs, just being a typical fangurl.
Now, things have changed. It’s not like I’m no longer fan – don’t get me wrong – I still like him. However the euphoria has dissipated and I find myself more interested in the work than the man. A long time can go by without even a thought. Then the PR starts to crank and I look forward to seeing an upcoming project like Berlin Station or Love, Love, Love in New York City. I still participate in fandom but the reasons why I do so have changed.
But then a picture will come along and I’ll have to stop and look because – reasons. I’ve not gone blind, you know. *Cough.*
Of course you all know that Richard Armitage is just the bit on the side. David Tennant is my main attraction. I discovered him in 2006 when he played the lead in Doctor Who. I didn’t even like him for three whole episodes and then it dawned that this man could really act. He went on to become the most popular Doctor ever (which takes some doing) and beloved enough to be called “a national treasure.” I crossed the pond to see his acclaimed “Hamlet,” and popular “Much Ado About Nothing” where I confirmed that DT really is a special talent. (These shows are available for digital download; you should really watch.) His latest popular series is “Broadchurch.” Coworkers and fans like remark that he’s a genuinely nice caring person. I observed the same thing especially when he dealt with his small fans. (He was solicitous of me when I got pushed into a barricade by a rambunctious crowd, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) The man is simply a peach. *Squee* *Cough*D
Anyway, DT received a Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards. He’s always been popular at the NTA’s; why not give him another? Amazingly they managed to keep it a total secret from him. So here is the presentation and his acceptance speech.
Along with the rest of ArmitageWorld, I’ve been tracking the opening preview reviews coming in from blogs, Tumblr and Twitter. Naturally I focused on Richard Armitage as the touted star of the production. How did he do? Does he have the chops to be a headliner? Responses ranged from “brilliant,” “outstanding,” and “[left me] crying and shivering,” to well – underwhelmed. A tweeter stated that as a lead, RA was “weak.” The former reaction didn’t surprise me; the later responses have me a little concerned. Was it an accident that the superlatives poured from fans who have a vested interest in seeing their man succeed; and the not so glowing comments issued from those who simply viewed RA as part of the ensemble? If so, what would the critics say on press night? Or does it really matter who says what?
Fan-wise, it might not make any difference. Fans are delighted merely to see him in the flesh (no pun intended) and onstage in a quality production. What could be better than that? Looking through adoring eyes, they would be more likely to praise his strong points and forgive the weaker aspects of his performance. Then based on some reviews I’ve read, there is the problem of some fans not fully comprehending the play. If they don’t understand the basis, how can they objectively judge the performance? I’m not saying all fans have that difficulty or would deliberate skewer opinion in his favor no matter what, but there is an element of loyal blindness. Does any of this matter? They’d encourage their friends and family to see it too because it’s Richard -freaking-Armitage, right?
What about the opinion of the Old Vic? Here is a man with star power who can put bums in the seats. Financially speaking, it doesn’t matter if RA proves stellar or only competent – he has a sizable fanbase willing to buy tickets more costly than other East End productions. Although certain critics have decried using “popular television actors” to feel the theaters, the truth is live theater is a costly and competitive business – directors will do whatever it takes to fill the seats and keep their enterprises afloat – as long was critics don’t deem their lead actors box office poison.
But what about the critics’ opinions I’m keen to know? These are people well versed in the artistic side of the theater and supposedly know a good production from a bad one potential goers should skip, thus affecting ticket sales and ultimately the possible closing of the show? Should they have that sort of power? A case in point: a famous British theater upon learning David Tennant had been cast as Hamlet essentially stated that the trend of theater directors hiring “TV actors” for productions was harming the artistic integrity of theater by lowering standards. The ignorant critic only knew DT from Doctor Who and was unaware of his previous acclaimed career in the RSC. This snooty rant ultimately made the critic look bad, but imagine the sway he perceived himself as having by implying that non-theater actors had no use on stage besides being a box office pull and readers listened. And yet, it’s the professional critics’ opinions directors and the theater-going public notice. The directors crave acclaim for their productions; the public loathes wasting money on anything less than praiseworthy. I admit wanting to see shows both popular and highly acclaimed, and really hope this is true for The Crucible.
But what if opinions diverge? What if the fans rave and the critics boo? What if the latter say the cast is brilliant but the lead is not? Would it matter to Old Vic if they are interested in more than the bottom dollar? Would it matter to directors looking to cast other leads? Should it matter?
And would it matter to Richard Armitage to be a popular or artistic success or both, and would it effect his ability to be cast in other productions?
When I began this post, I thought the answer would be that opinion shouldn’t matter as long as the audience and the producers get what they want. Then I had to ask myself whether I’d travel thousands of miles to see a “popular” but not acclaimed actor in a play. The answer is I’m torn. On one hand, I’d love to see RA perform onstage; on the other, I want to see something considered more than competent. Tickets are expensive. I want to see a prime specimen of outstanding theater. I want to be transported, so I can say years from now “oh yes, I saw him when he first returned to the stage in The Crucible.” I want to be seriously impressed. So I suppose professional criticism matters to me, even more than popular opinion. Some may say there’s an aspect of elitism in there, but it’s my honest view.
What do you think? Are you swayed by fan opinion or holding out for press night?
I’m trying to figure our how I possibly missed seeing this picture after all these years. Never laid eyes on it until today. It’s like two FAN !FAILS in one. And Billie Piper got to be the filling in that lovely man sandwich. Looks like RA beat DT to the half-embrace but Billie doesn’t like fazed at all. Just sayin’.
David Tennant, Richard Armitage, and oh yeah, Billie Piper
EDIT: An eagle eyed fan explained the picture is probably photoshopped. Well, mystery is solved then! So, intact fangirl status 2, eyesight: 0.
I promised a reaction to Richard Armitage at Comic Con, but hit the wall a bit on the fangurling. After all, I’m not an ardent fan, just an lecherous old bag admirer. Maybe I need some assistance. Hold on…
Richard Armitage signing autographs at Comic Con 2012 and wondering why these American fangirls like peaches so much.
Ah, there’s nothing like a visual for inspiration. Where was I? Oh, yes, RA’s presentation. I’ll preface by saying that my admirer status allows me to shed my fan cloak and observe him coldly and objectively. I’ve never had any qualms pointing out that the emperor is wearing no clothes, as it were. In RA’s case, he’s gotten his wardrobe only half right. (I’d talk about Martin Freeman’s real attire but it makes my brain hurt.)
Before you throw the brickbats, Dear Reader, I’ll use my other crush David Tennant as an example. I mentioned previously that DT and RA have similar personalities and rises in fame at relatively older ages. They are both intelligent, articulate, and witty but basically shy, quiet, well mannered, modest, geeky, and introverted. When producers cast DT as the 10th Doctor in the UK’s wildly popular sci-fi program Doctor Who, he was thrust into an immense spotlight. The public attention and scrutiny was huge; DT had to learn quickly as he went. It was akin to being thrown into a lake, instead of the deep end of the pool, to see if he would sink or swim. Not only did he swim, he created a modest cult of personality.
Boyishly attractive but not good looking, tall, skinny, lanky, and geeky, he is not the stereotypical leading man material. He utters face-palming but refreshing remarks (after several celebrities sprouted prentious rubbish over a play by Tom Stoppard, infamous for being annoyingly esoteric, DT stated, “I was afraid I wouldn’t understand it, but it was accessible!”) He is unself-conscious or apologetic about it, essentially saying, “This is who I am. Love me or leave me.” As he has said, “I’ve learned to deal with the yin and yang of that.” He has turned these weaknesses into strengths, a well buffed public persona of DT, the man. Sources say he is a quiet shy man in real life. But before a camera or audience, he turns on the persona. At times he gets a wicked gleam in his eye, suggesting he enjoys playing this role; it’s like his alter ego, the personality he would have possessed had he not been an introvert. One of the biggest qualities DT exudes in single or group public situations that draws attention to him is confidence; he appears comfortable in his own skin. If he isn’t, he does a damn good job not showing it.
David Tennant and Richard Armitage. Only two British actors not in The Hollow Crown.
So what does this have to do with RA?
Okay, aside from him *still* having that beard, I found myself a bit ambivalent about his performance. Don’t get me wrong, he’s made great strides from the nervous, giggly man from the North & South days. He does seem more composed and confident in one-on-one interviews. He displayed charm, intelligence, some dry wit (that flew over the heads of a few interviewers), and ease. However, when it came to the group interviews, his confidence was not as evident. He knew he did not have to speak unless spoken to, and it showed, especially during the EW interview when he became the most soft-spoken guest. Even fans in chat remarked, “why’s he talking like that? Speak up!” During the Hobbit panel, he dutifully answered his question and said nothing more. It is true that time was tight, and Martin Freeman appeared the designated spokesperson, so RA might not have had the opportunity to engage more. But what if circumstances had been different and he’d had more time to interact? Would he have used the opportunity to talk? I don’t think so, and that’s what concerns me.
I understand he’s a shy man who, when he’s not “on,” has a propensity to standing at the ends of lines, hovering in the background of shots, being the only one to pull his chair back at the panel, forever finding some way not to be the focus of attention. RA is confident about RA, the actor, but not so much about RA, the man, and it shows. I have to wonder that if I can pick up these nonverbal cues, other people in positions to advance his career can, too. RA may not want to be a “star,” but he wants to break into Hollywood. That place is chock full of g00d-looking, talented actors. He needs to stand out from the pack. His wallflower tendencies of fading into the background won’t work there; he has to show the same confidence in a group that he does in one-on-one situations. If he cannot find it within himself, then he must act it. That means putting himself forward (at least not falling back), talking more, interacting more in groups, being a bit more forthcoming. He’s come along way, but still has a bit to go.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another. No sooner have I felt better than another real life issue reared its ugly head and started messing with my head. No, Winston is still MIA but the situation has been disheartening. Hopefully things will resolve soon so I can get on with life. In the meantime, I see life still has moved apace. Imagine that.
Good friends joined me during the hottest holiday week on record for The Taste which I belatedly learned didn’t start until a week later. They say they still had a good time and nobody smothered me in my sleep. I took that as a good sign.
So naturally I dreamed of David Tennant, who was quite the chum, gabbing nonstop with me at my parent’s old house. We had good clean fun, as befitting the scarred psyche of a good little ex-Catholic girl. I despair of myself. Nope, no sign of Whatshisname.
Speaking of whom, I’ve noticed a disproportionate number of Tumblr posts and Tweets suddenly singing the praises of Tom Hiddleston or Michael Fassbender, and even my DT. I’m utterly appalled at the mass defections. Has nobody even considered Idris Elba? Give the man some love; he’s British!
Idris Elba – Good actor, can speak American
Okay, on to Whats– er… Richard Armitage. There’s been banter back and forth about the demise of The Beard with 11th hour analysis dedicated to it. Apparently, based on this fresh news (snark reserved), its farewell is imminent. In fact, it could already be history. Oh, be still my pounding heart! It also means we missed our big chance to raise big money for charity. Alas.
My internet buzzes with preparation for the San Diego ComicCon at which RA will attend. (DT was the darling of ComicCon two years ago). So, the big question will be: will he or won’t he have a beard? Oh, he might also be there to shill some movie or the other, I’m not sure. In that case, I hope he leans (clean shaven) sexily forward, flashes those teeth (unobstructed), opens his mouth (fully revealed), and — TALKS. I’m thinking interactively and repeatedly. LA is lousy with pretty people. Americans aren’t into wallflowers. If he wants to impress Americans, he needs to make his personality felt. *SNAP.*
RA – Good actor, oh dear
Now that I’ve revealed the secret to his Hollywood success in four sentences, I’m eager for festivities to begin. Over the next few days, I’ll bring to you interesting ComicCon news, repeated elsewhere ad nauseum, except with more snark.
One last thing: on the latest “fan” viciousness, I will only say this: every fandom has one of these types. Eventually they self-destruct by their own words and actions and become what they fear most, social pariahs. So, take heart. Truly, what goes around, comes around.
The poll results are in. I asked you to have fun with it, and 72 comments later you certainly did, so much so it gave Servetus nightmares. In a landslide victory, heavyweight Richard Armitage beat poor David Tennant. Interestingly, three people think my meds are too strong; one considered it all a trap, maybe for the men with the white jacket; three were terribly objective; four like blood and gore; two had caveats; and nobody thought it was a draw. I suspect the rest of you were simply biased. I’m shocked, I tell you.
So tell me, if you were offered the dream fantasy job to be RA’s assistant, for what reason would you NOT go?
Because Winston has been giving me particular grief this week, a friend called to amuse me with a scenario: Richard Armitage’s secretary calls saying he needs me to come to Wellington immediately. (I must have passed all the psych and background checks. Amazing.) Supposedly a good position worth my while awaits. But then David Tennant’s secretary calls saying I need to come to London ASAP, offering a similar position. What would I do?
First I thought RA might need me more since he clearly needs a grassroots PR person to whip his image/exposure into shape and get his brand out there. But DT wouldn’t need such grooming, already having his act together, so I could assist in refining his brand. I’d get in on the beginning of RA’s rise to stardom; I’d be joining an already rising star with DT.
If I worked for RA, I’d get to work closely with him. But if he’s as shy and intense as he appears to be and can’t/won’t grow past it, I’d want to strangle him after awhile. DT seems to be more socially sophisticated but there’s some indication of control seeking that would make me want to strangle him too. Both of these guys are a different generation; with whom would I be able to better communicate?
But if all things were equal, I’d have to mull over which would be the best deal. It’s heading to winter in London but spring and summer in beautiful Wellington. I’ve been to England many times but never to New Zealand. If I were stationed in London, I could take side trips all over Europe. If I were in Wellington, I could explore Australia and Far Asia. Then there’s the question of how would I travel, who pays what, where would I live, etc.
In the end, I couldn’t decide. Guess it’s time for a poll! What would you advise? Just don’t check RA because that’s who you would choose. If you’ve been following my blog Dear Reader, put yourself in my place. That should be fun.
The poll closes November 2nd. Have some fun with this.
DT wonders of his assistant has arrived. RA wonders if she's the one with the shaver.
[I’m telling this story because it represents my background in fandom spanning a period of almost 20 years. All observations and opinions stated are mine alone. This post has been month in the making because it’s been so difficult to articulate and pen. It’s important to know this background so Dear Reader can understand upon what basis I attempt to answer the question of various bloggers in Armitage World: Why Richard Armitage?]
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Way back in the early 1990’s, I was involved in a major fandom. I was in my early 30s who had just left a bad long term relationship. I was still a bit naive and callow and frankly, not happy with my life. I found a group (let’s call them Alice, Bea, CeeCee, and Daria) of what I thought to be like-mind fun women in a forum on AOL. (There might have been a few more of us, but these are the ones I remember). Anyway, AOL was not so fondly called AOHell because lasting through the long connecting handshake and reaching the forum was a labor of love in the days of 4800 baud dial-up. This fandom surrounded a show that became a major convention industry.
Our group focused upon one actor on the show known to have an extremely dry sarcastic sense of humor. We decided, sight unseen, to attend a convention in San Diego and meet. It was a big affair and many of us had never attended such an event. It was a beautiful city with fantastic weather and we all enjoyed the adventure of it all. The actor was funny and in his element onstage. The audience was not disappointed. My job didn’t send me to industry conventions, so I thought this was a wonderful excuse to travel, make friends and see new places. I was terribly green and unschooled in the ways and personalities of fandom. I’d never traveled before to see any celebrity, so it felt quite weird and daring. It was a chance to get together, and be giggly, girlish and silly, a stage I missed out in my adolescence. It wasn’t my first actor crush but it was the first I had ever actively shared with any one else. I don’t recall having any expectations of the actor aside from wondering how he looked in person and how he would present himself out of character. At such a large event, I didn’t even expect to get an autograph or attempt it. I perceived no “relationship” to him apart from being a fan which was a distant abstract concept to me and I was content to stay that way indefinitely.
It never occurred to me to examine some of my travel mates more closely or even the actor himself. I assumed our only motivation was to have a good wholesome time because that was my mindset. That brings to mind the old legal adage, “to assume, is to make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.” As I said, I was naive.
I was late joining the group and therefore didn’t know that a history already existed between Daria and the actor. She was a nice, sweet, very unassuming woman who was something of a door mouse. She was on a first name basis with Mr. Crush who knew her on sight. I was aware she’s lost a great deal of weight but not that she did it to impress him. She lavished him with expensive presents but lived hand to mouth in garage back of her parents’ home while she toiled in a low paying job. All of this information came out as we met from time periodically for the conventions. After awhile the thrill of traveling receded and I could see the dynamics of this group. Of the five of us, Bea and I were there for the camaraderie; Alice and CeeCee seemed to teeter on taking all this too seriously and Daria was disturbingly intense.
As my awareness of the dynamics grew, I became more uncomfortable as was Bea. Things came to ahead when we traveled to be in the audience of a radio program starring Mr. Crush. This was the first time I’d had a chance to have a one-one encounter with him. Some in the group was thrilled about this and seemed a bit too in earnest in their pursuit of his attention which I found crossing the line. On the fateful evening, Daria, Alice and CeeCee waylaid him in the corridor of the hotel. From what I could see he was smiling and comfortable, so Bea and I approached. As I stated, he has a very dry sarcastic personality, but in that moment something in his demeanor indicated that he was actually laughing at us. I don’t know if I was being overly sensitive; but life had taught me to recognize veiled contempt when I saw it. Maybe that’s not what he intended to exude but that’s how it felt. I was turned off. The three were clueless but the two of us were DONE with the whole thing. It was as if I’d taken a step outside myself and viewed the situation with a cold objective eye. My fangurling dropped away. I was disturbed by the trio, by me even being there and mostly by this actor. In a flash, I wondered what kind of man he really was and whether he was the type of person I should admire. I recall thinking, “maybe it’s not a good thing to get too close. Just who the hell is this guy?” The group broke up shortly afterwards.
As far as I know, the trio are still fans, 18 years later. I saw Alice on Facebook two years ago talking about seeing him in a play. We don’t know if Daria was still hoping to be noticed. We lost contact with CeeCee. Bea confided a few months after the breakup she had similar misgivings.
I came away from the group a bit more savvy about fandom dynamics and with whom I should associate before jumping into a situation. I also became aware that the object of my crush might not be who he seems but that I can never really know who exists behind that public persona. Although I felt a bit more experienced, it turned out I still had a lot learn from my next fandom.
So what about you Dear Reader? Were you part of fandom before Armitage World? Is this fandom new to you? Please feel free to share your stories.
Yesterday I talked about Richard Armitage’s being callipygian for obvious reasons. There’s no doubt he’s a very attractive man, but he’s not the only one. Although ArmitageWorld is dedicated to all things RA, I wonder how many fans have other squees on the side, other actors they crush on.
David Tennant; publicity shot courtesy david-tennant.com
It’s no secret that my other crush is another British actor David Tennant (see a pattern here?). (If this is news you need to start reading my London adventure). I discovered DT back in 2006 when he played the 10th Doctor on the popular British sci-fi series Doctor Who. I didn’t even like him at first, but he won me over. He has much in common with RA: same age, similar upbringing, classically trained in drama school, similar approaches to acting, similar talents, similar personalities. DT became acclaimed as a Shakespearean actor on the stage before making it big on television. It’s likely because of DT that I found myself drawn to RA.
As pointed out in the chat room (what, you still haven’t visited?), a big difference between the two is RA wins in the looks department. DT is cute with boyish looks. He also has a very slight wiry but slight build, so much so that he’s been accused of not eating properly. I’ll admit DT does not have RA’s stunning good looks or physique. But while not on the same level as RA in the looks department, many people including myself find him incredibly sexy. Why?
Richard Armitage; publicity shot courtesy richardarmitagenet.com
There are other factors which contribute to sexiness besides looks and physique, such as personality, presence, and charisma. Every article I’ve read about him point out these same things in one form or another. Plus, he has one additional factor: confidence. He is comfortable in his own skin and aware of his talents without being arrogant. This shows in interviews and his work. I find this terribly sexy.
Before RA, I was only able to crush on one actor at a time. Not sure why that was. I have spent five years and counting in DT fandom. Then either my gaze widened or I tapped a new level of perving (otherwise known as graduating to dirty old woman), but I discovered I could appreciate the attributes of two men at once. And for the record, that has not extended to my real life. Damn.
So confess Dear Reader; what other actor do you find sexy and why? Can you crush on more than one at a time? Are you straddling two fandoms? Let me know; tell me your stories!
[I want to preface this post by adding an addendum to the previous post regarding The King’s Speech. I don’t want anybody to come away with the thought that my problem was severe as his. What he did was truly heroic, as Colin Firth said in an interview. My issue flowed from partial deafness; garbled sounds equaled garbled speech. Once my parents and school therapists realized one caused the other, my speech impediment was basically controlled by age 11. My comments mainly concerned experiences as child and efforts not to lose ground as an adult. I don’t feel as badly plagued as he was, but can truly empathize and identify. So, there is nothing brave about me.]
Anyway, believe it or not, I’ve been ramping up to talk about my first exposure to fandom, except for maybe the bits about blizzards, dogs and computers. I actually drafted a partial post about an adult fandom experience but realized that if this was to be an introspective view, I needed to explain my thoughts. But everytime I questioned why I behaved a certain way, it led to earlier and earlier experiences requiring more peripheral explanations. So, I’m going to chuck it all and take things way back – before I was born.
When my mother was 16 years old she developed a fascination for a young British actor, named Laurence Olivier. When Wuthering Heights premiered in 1939, she made her boyfriend (my father) take her to see it so many times, he finally refused. Way before he became Sir Larry and Lord Olivier, she knew LO would be considered a great actor. In fact, she would shake her fist and exclaim, “I knew he would be great, before he was great!” I was small child when the film was broadcast on televison for the first time. While she squeed and exclaimed and sighed, my father would smirk, shake his head and walk out of the room. This was my first experience with a fangrrl. I looked forward to repeats just to see my proper mother behave so unseemingly, although my parents’ reactions signaled it was all silly and fun.
Later I paid more attention to the actors and thought they talked funny. Then I realized I could understand every word. Remember this was before anybody realized my hearing problem.Thus was born my love of British films. Because of the lilting tones and crisp diction, I could hear every syllable and consonant. When a speech therapist informed me I wasn’t talking like others’, I loosely patterned my speech after the Received Pronunciation type British accent in an effort to enunciate clearly. Pygmalion with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller was one of my favorite films. British actors became my personal speech therapists and Laurence Olivier headed the list, spurred on by my totally smitten mother. We watched Wuthering Heights every single time it was broadcast (along with anything else LO made). When finally after viewing Love Among the Ruinsfor the upteenth time I admitted, yes, LO was a great actor, she loudly cheered, “yes, he’s finally gotten to my daughter!” Her crush continued some 47 years until her death. Wow, that’s what I call a loyal fan.I wonder if her crush would have lasted as long in this internet age of information access. I suspect my mother would have preferred not knowing facts disclosed about LO in recent years. But in her time, the star system and satellite media panted rosey pictures of its actors and so, my mother managed to preserve the innocence of her fantasy. In a way, that’s kind of sweet.
Speaking of sweet, I thought this picture is just that:
Richard Armitage realizes he has fans while on Red Carpet at BAFTAs 2007
This weekend I finally saw The King’s Speech. It interested me for several reasons, the least of which is it’s an Oscar contender for Colin Firth as best actor and the film as best picture. It intrigued me that the premise was about King George VI’s severe stammering. (He nickname was Bertie in the movie). I wondered how it could be presented in both an entertaining and informative way, why dealing with a painful and uncomfortable subject. I was keen because I have a speech impediment too.
Mine isn’t stammering. Rather it is same as British actor Jeremy Brett’s, rhotacism, the difficulty in saying the letter “R.” I am hearing impaired (profound loss in one ear, mild-moderate in the other) caused by being given too much oxygen at birth (I was born premature). Since I couldn’t pronounce what I couldn’t hear, I had to be taught the location of sounds, like consonants at the end of words. Apparently if some sounds aren’t learned during early speech development, like the Western distinction between the letters “R” and “L” for the Japanese, the speaker has a very difficult time producing it. I learned to approximate the “R” sound through speech therapy as a child and home grown efforts as an adult. On good days, my speech sounds like an accent nobody can place. On bad days, my diction is mushy at best. Sometimes I’m just too mentally tired to enunciate clearly. Only rarely do I stammer but that occurs under great stress. However, no matter what day I’m having, speech is a conscious constant effort because I’m always aware it’s my primary visible means of communicating with other human beings and of how I’m perceived.
So I felt personally connected to Bertie’s plight. He was a public figure, born to be a ceremonial figurehead and boster the morale of his people, but speaking was the bane of his existence. Plus he had to endure the discomfort and embarrassment around him as he struggled to express the simplest thoughts. He was locked into a vicious circle of fear of others’ expectations, anxiety over his notion of duty, and reactions of listeners. However, Bertie was so determined to fulfill his duty that he was able to overcome his impediment with the help of speech therapist Lionel Logue played brilliantly by Geoffrey Rush. His stammering was never cured; he learned to compensate so that it wasn’t so apparent. Although the story took place in rarefied circles with people we commoners can never really understand, at heart it was a simple story of a man trying to overcome his personal demons, albeit on the public stage. I certainly could empathize and came away with the thought that no matter how history treats George VI, his effort in this regard was truly commendable.
Colin Firth did an exemplary job as Bertie. I can imagine how challenging it was for an actor with no speech impairment to portray a historical figure with such a severe one in an accurate and believable manner. Just as it’s difficult to enunciate proper in this context, it’s equally a linguistic effort to do the reverse. I was acutely aware of how much work Firth put into that role. I would love to ask him in an interview what techniques he used to accomplish his task. (Also, he had to use the royal accent with vowels so rounded and syllables so strangled, that it’s dialect of it’s own.)I listened to the real speech, which was also depicted at the end of the film. King George sounded as if he were employing mere pauses for dramatic effect. The movie showed the physical and mental gymastics used during those pregnant pauses. I’m sure that other people like me with speech impediments nodded along with each line, knowing our own exercises and things we do to compensate every time we open our mouths.
I’m pleased the film highlighted the difficulties of people with speech impairments. When I was a child, many tended to associate hearing/language problems with low IQ which doesn’t necessarily correlate at all. A counselor actually told my mother I should transfer to a “special school.” Until I learned to compensate, I was often treated impatiently and retreated into silence as a result. I hope that those who rooted for the Bertie at the end of the film remember that feeling when they encounter people with language difficulties, especially children. Don’t be uncomfortable or wonder where are we from, just wait and listen.By the way, after the movie I suddenly remembered a stumbling block I encounter when I listen too long to another with a speech impediment: it becomes infectious. Because proper enunciation isn’t hard wired for me but consists mostly of smoke and mirrors, my tricks slip away. This dawned on me when trying to talk about – wait for it – Richard Armitage. Bizarrely I could say his first name but could barely get out the surname, when normally I had the opposite problem. Then I noticed I dropped syllables and slurred whole words. Jeremy Brett once said he had to practice elocution daily. Very true, my man, very true.
So I shall restart my exercises by repeating “Richard Armitage.” That’s not too bad actually. And as a treat for getting this far, Dear Reader, here’s more shiney:
Guy finally gives a damn; Robin Hood S3.9; RichardArmitagenet.com