[There was a recent to-do on Facebook that publication of half nude pictures of Richard Armitage from The Crucible were allegedly “objectifying” and “disrespectful.” It wasn’t the first time the complaints arose and won’t be the last, although critics seem to assume their protests have never before been heard. Four years ago, I wrote this piece about objectification after some fans complained, among a list of other things that supposedly didn’t honor him. It elicited such a nice discussion and so many hits that it would be nice to start a new dialogue.]
A anthropology student alerted me to the following tweet posted on allthingsrarmitage:
“Callipygian is a word coined by the ancient Greeks (‘kallipygos’) that means ‘having beautiful buttocks.” This picture was associated with that reference:
This screen capture is of course Richard Armitage in Ultimate Force. Ancient Greeks would say he is quite callipygian. Now this type of talk in the modern age raises protests of objectification. My question is: why does that have to be so?
Ancient antiquity has always depicted nude image and statues of the human form.
The human form has always been considered a source of nature beauty, sculpted and painted for ages. It’s certainly safe to say that because artists could not take actual human being and freeze them in time, they froze them through other media. The following picture of Michelangelo’s “David,” sculpted circa 1501, is considered a masterpiece:
Millions of tourists flock to see this statue. Nobody would say (other than the must repressed prurient type) that it’s improper to admire and even study this work of art. People would certainly say “David” is callipygian even though it’s an idealized medieval depiction of a human male. Nobody could convincingly argue that Michelangelo objectified the human form unless they believe that all nudity is inappropriate. Since that’s not my premise, I won’t answer that argument since it takes us down the road of morality and personal taste which I’m not discussing here.
So why do fans become uncomfortable when viewing this picture? It caused quite a stir when first published:
I observe similar lines and muscles depicted in the idealized statues. If fact, the real human form is more beautiful because it shows the real flawed form, not simply an idealization. Does viewing his form suddenly become objectification because he’s a living man? Is it improper to also say he’s callipygian here? I argue no.
Sexual objectification arises when a person is viewed as an sexual object or only as one. I have yet to find any fan forum where RA’s artistry and personality isn’t also discussed in detail. He is not seen solely as an object of lust. However, it’s self-delusional to say that he shouldn’t be viewed as the sexy man he is. Human beings are sexual creatures; this is how we have the drive to reproduce our species (or not, as the case may be). We are hard-wired to perv each other. We sexually objectify each other to a degree on an instinctual level. We view the human form as desirable and have since probably cave man times. This form has been frankly depicted since antiquity. The fact that the modern media makes it possible to photograph the human form in real time doesn’t change anything.
I’m always amused when women protest the loudest that men should not be objectified because it implies a hypocrisy in protesting against female objectification. I have problems with female objectification only to the extent that it’s used for exploitation. When that’s not the case, I have no issue if Halle Berry’s fans consider her the epitome of beauty. Conversely I have no problem with male objectification and feel no shame and admiring male beauty. Is RA being exploited? He is a grown man who made informed choices to appear in roles requiring undress. I don’t believe it’s for us to question his judgment as to whether that undress was integral to the story or gratuitous. I’m comfortable respecting his decisions as to whether he considers himself exploited or not. I can safely assume he would not take a role he deemed exploitative. Even if he did, it was still his decision. So, I feel free to say that RA’s is callipygian in particular and gorgeous in general without any need to justify.
Here’s an absolutely callipygian screen cap:
What, no? Does it really make a difference that this is a screen cap of a real man playing a fictional role in a fictional series? What if RA decided to pose nude as himself? I don’t think this picture is less worthy of being admired than if a sculptor made an approved marble statue of his bum or his body and placed it in a museum. As a straight sexual female, I will admire his body no matter what form it took.
I’m amused every time the objectification issue arises. When the above tatted picture surfaced, fans drooled but always rushed to add they also admired RA’s work and personality lest they be accused of objectification, although this was understood by everybody. I find all this protestation unnecessary. It’s time to drop that veil of political correctness and just be honest as fans. We like to look up RA’s form because it’s beautiful and desirable.
Just say so. Period. We understand the rest.