Losing Armitage: Another View

Courtesy of Richard Armitage Confessions

Servetus finished a four-part series answering a sentiment expressed by the confession on the left.  I also felt the confessor’s loss and wondered how the legacy fans will fare with the expected influx of new people after The Hobbit debuts.  Then I read Servetus’s series and her hypothesis that problems in this fandom occurred because it is too small.   I agree, but there’s a corollary: it’s also too callow.

My impression has been that the legacy fans were mostly older, educated, literary women who never experienced any other fandom, and therefore knew nothing about how such dynamics work.  They clamored over an actor relatively late to success who suddenly had fans.  Thrilled over finding each other, RA and his fans commenced a honeymoon, and proceeded to reinvent the wheel, as it were, just like any other new fandom the world over.  Then, Things Happened.  RA learned, like every other crush, that sending frequent missives and closely interacting with fans allowed some people to presuppose they have relationships with him, which created expectations and a certain sense of obligation and possessiveness, both of him and the entire fandom.  The entire fandom became the fans’ identities.  The squabbling and policing began.   So RA distanced himself.  People still point fingers over When RA Got Burned, but actually, it was bound to occur sooner or later.  There is no”if X and Y hadn’t happened, he would still be sending us silly messages.”  Nobody is to blame.  Human nature being what it is, social interactions will develop and evolve until an advantageous point for everybody concerned is reached.  RA had to withdraw to the point where he could maintain his own equanimity and still satisfy his fans.  Although it might feel differently to many here, there’s nothing unique or special about anything that happened then, or that other fans wanted to expanded their boundaries within the fandom now.  This is the common cycle of individual-based fandoms.  The problems have been that many lack perspective and self-awareness of their inexperience, magnified by being such a small group, as Servetus said.  For example, a lot of the extreme vehemence over the real person fiction topic would a) never happened or b) been dismissed, in a huge fandom like the Tolkien universe.  Have a pet peeve or like?; there’s a subset of a subgroup for that.  There’s a lower level of personal identity politics because the universe is so big and diverse.

Having been been a fan for almost two years (I use the term loosely because I’m more an observer) and coming from two major genre fandoms, I’ve sensed wistful longing for the good old days when RA dashed off frequent reports while sweltering in Hungary.  While I understand the sentiment of the confession, “will you look back at us the same way?,” I wonder if the author, as a legacy fan, still has not stopped grieving for the past.  If I read it to mean, “will you still think we (particularly the legacy fans) are special?,”  then generally speaking, I believe RA will always think all of his fans are special. After all, we have the good taste to pick him as a crush and support his career; he will always be grateful.  However, I suspect the confessor is really asking, “will you treat me the way that made me feel special?”  The answer is: no, he can’t because he understands the dangers of cultivating a sense of specialness that closer interaction engenders. I’ve no doubt he’ll think of the first fans fondly and gratefully, but those days are gone. In a way, that Armitage has been lost.   He has moved on to the next level, and so should we.

The influx of new fans from a big old fandom will be a shot in the arm for ArmitageWorld, and I welcome it.  Our little world has reached a point in development when it needs an infusion of new viewpoints and perspectives before it either stalls or squabbles itself to death.  We need new energy and vitality. We need broadening by more viewpoints.  Arguments and flamewars will never cease to exist because the potential for disagreement in groups is always present.  However, the dissension will attract less attention and acquire better perspective in a larger arena.  That’s not to say that a burgeoning fandom won’t bring new challenges.  But if this one is to mature and thrive, we have to let go of the lost Armitage and welcome  the new Armitage as he emerges.  I anticipate some fans will need to carefully assess whether to stay in ArmitageWorld. Maybe the influx of fans will change dynamics and affect personal tastes too much to stay.  Then we must wish them well, let them go and remember that things change.

Servetus ended her series by reminding us not to forget that we share RA as a focus when times get tough.  I would add one more thing: we also need to remember that RA has changed, is changing, and will continue to change as an actor and person.  To be content here, people will have to acknowledge and accept the evolution in both their fandom and their crush.  The confession makes me wonder whether some will find it easier accepting the former, than the latter.




38 thoughts on “Losing Armitage: Another View

  1. Great post, Judi. I particularly like what you say about how it isn’t just the fans and fandom that change but also Richard Armitage. He is a living, breathing person, so naturally he’s going to grow and evolve. So we have to decide if we want to grow and evolve along with him.

    • That’s exactly it, Jas. I don’t think many fans realize that as RA rises higher in the dog-eat-dog biz, he will need to change for his own self-protection, and that as an ambitious actor, he can’t be as (insert adoring adjective here) as we’d like to think.

  2. Yet another well written post Judi! I think your analysis is comprehensive and right to the point: change is part of all our lives – we cannot freeze the past but have to keep on developing.

  3. Fabulous post. In particular your point about Richard changing too. In a world where an interview he did five years ago can be revisited at any time, it’s easy to forget that statements he made then may not reflect how he feels now. Most of us have the luxury to evolve without such scrutiny. If we are very lucky, those who love us will support us and accept change gracefully. I hope we can do that in Armitage world.

    • Exactly. I keep harping on accepting change because it’s one of the biggest life skills we can learn. An ideal place to practice is here in this small world.

  4. Thank you for the great post Judi!
    I hope the fandom will cope well with new fans and not so many of the ‘old’ fans will get lost during the ride!

  5. Old fans have their old friends and often only because they’ve discovered there is more to talk about than RA

    As I mentioned on Servetus post all this squabbling will soon just get drowned by many new diverse fans. Control will be impossible.

    I’m most curious to see how fame will affect RA’s public persona. Will we see that intense confidence again at the news conference in NZ for example versus more laid back at Comic Con.

    • I think RA has a point to prove at the press conference, that he could play Thorin. We were treated to a mini-performance. ComicCon struck me as more like him, which disappointed me when he was among his peers.

  6. Judiang – you rabble-rouser you!!!

    I think your age observation is quite astute. I’ve often wondered at the age range in AW – from teens to the septua- and octogenarians. I’d have to imagine that with that breadth of range that everyone is operating in different phases of their own identity and life cycle, so a fandom with smaller numbers could definitely make the experience a little more uncomfortable for those actively involved.

    • Rabble rouser? Who, moi???? 😉

      I’ve had the sense that the majority of the earlier fans were older. It might not be the case now. Some of the conflict might have been created by a generation gap.

  7. Still digesting this but I just wanted to comment that there’s a different fandom collision that I’m going to be watching with great interest over the next few months. Benedict Cumberbatch was just cast as Brian Epstein in a biopic…I can’t wait to see how the Cumberbabes and the Beatlefans deal with each other. They’re both pretty polite groups but I can see potential for amazing amounts of drama if they step on each other’s toes. And re:RealPeopleFic…I’d LOVE to watch anyone who objects to RPF take on Beatlesfans, many of whom started out writing Drawerfic, oh, close to 50 years ago and also several of whom have published their work. Call them creepy stalkers, but take tissues for them to dry their eyes while they’re crying laughing.

  8. Hey — I’m happy if anything I say makes you write something! Yay!

    (Keep in mind that I only argue with people who I think can take it.)

    You and I have talked about this many times, so you know I don’t disagree with you on the point about the “first fandom” experience (and you could have, and we have, in conversation, expanded on the theme of how the particular cultural and social demographic of Richard Armitage’s early fans — to which neither of us belongs — might have experienced both the surge of emotion related to fandom and the inevitably related issues around feelings of shame / being shamed). I am possibly more sympathetic to this tendency than you are, however, simply because Armitage was also my first really intense crush and I was probably processing stuff in ways more similar to the legacy fans than someone like you — for whom, as you say, Armitage has not been your most intense involvement, and for whom he is something like crush #3. The reason that I made a point of sympathizing with the original confession at length is simply that I think it’s important not to discount that experience on the part of other fans — and frankly, for myself. If I hadn’t had those feelings and admitted them and quite frankly *allowed myself to revel* in them, I never would have begun to deal with and recover from the things that were paralyzing me at the time.

    Yes, everything about Armitage and Armitagemania is a fantasy, but a constitutive one for my personal development. I can be more meta or distanced about it now, two and a half years later, but the danger of embracing that stance over the other, in my opinion, is by emphasizing the reality factor, I end up discounting precisely the lessons that I was supposed to have learned from it. In other words, while I don’t disagree with the possibility that what you have written is true (in fact, as you know, I agree that it’s true), I don’t find the consequences as expressed here useful for my purposes as a fan. (And that’s why I didn’t go this direction in my original series.)

    The problem of alleged “grieving for the past” that you raise offers a good demonstration of this difficulty around usefulness. People grieve openly because they have loved intensely, and that experience of intense love, particularly having an easy trigger to provide myself with it, has been the most beneficial aspect of the whole fandom experience for me. I can imagine not being interested in Richard Armitage anymore — but what I absolutely do *not* want, simply cannot afford to lose is the potential to feel suffused in love that Armitagemania provided. If he doesn’t provide that, I suppose I could move elsewhere and I would never encourage a fan who doesn’t have that response to him to stick around. I hope nobody is a fan against her will. But flame wars don’t result from the actions of fans who don’t care, and I don’t read this confession as one of a fan whose interest has faded; on the contrary, she’s expressing this because it hasn’t faded, because she still feels those things and wants a recharge. If grief is what she’s experiencing, I don’t think it’s especially useful either to tell her that her grief is inappropriate, or that she should not grieve. So in that sense, I frankly don’t want to encourage fans to “move on” if the problem isn’t their own fading interest in / love for Armitage or the situation that he no longer lets them feel the love. I would rather urge people to ask themselves to reembrace the love, to remember what they had in the past, to think about what they will share with no fans, where that feeling of love comes from, and to experience that with different groups of people — which I hope will be much easier to do once the fandom is larger, so that it’s easier to avoid tendencies or people one finds problematic and thus not feel threatened by them.

    You also know by now that I really don’t like or very often agree with arguments based on “human nature.” If it’s the case that things are simply owing to “human nature,” then I could have skipped everything I wrote in that series, because no one can change their behavior, and whatever happens as a result will be inevitable anyway. In my opinion, your argument here conflates “human nature” and “the historical tendencies of an individual-based fandom.” Those are two entirely different things; one is “organic” and the other is historical. The point of studying and understanding is history is to understand which things we can change or not change. Part of the fantasy that I cling to about life is that it is possible to change some things. I want to encourage people to change their perspectives. That was another reason that I wrote my series the way I did.

    Finally, on the question of Richard Armitage and the extent to which he has changed — I would book this under the category of things that are very hard to know or determine. In the sense that we all change, sure.

    • Oh goodie, a proper debate! 😉

      As you point out, the biggest difference between our viewpoints is the intensity of involvement with RA. You have a full blown crush; I’m more in lust, so you might feel I’m a being a bit more cavalier in attitude. (BTW, we need to have a discussion about the meaning of “love” when referencing RA. At times I find its use a bit disconcerting and questionable in certain contexts). Also, your opinion was deeply personal, whereas mine is more pragmatic. I do not mean to suggest there’s any shame in a legacy fan’s grief and longing for a past situation in which her showering of attention and approval was returned. I am suggesting that that Armitage was lost several years ago. It’s unhealthy and counterproductive to stay stuck in grief for years, whether over RA or anything else, even when that longing is to reclaim the old feeling of love. When reality changes, it crucial to either adapt to that change or risk creating a inner world of unreality.

      I know you feel daunted by the implications of that statement because holding tightly to those feelings has enabled you to move forward. That’s fine. But at some point, the RA who grabbed your attention so thoroughly will not be the same persona presented to the world, and you will have to decide how to react. As Suse said, you cannot freeze yourself in the past. If that legacy fan longs to reclaim that love so she can pay it forward, then I’m empathetic. If she wants to reclaim how he made her feel in the past so she can luxuriate in it in the present despite reality, then I have concerns. My point is to embrace change and evolve.

      On the issue of human nature, I may lapse into the lazy way of proving a point and have done so in a past post. My reference is not an all or nothing proposition. You can attribute some things to human nature (i.e., the propensity for disagreement), while still believing we can alter our behaviors. As you know, other disciplines like anthropology, psychology and sociology debate what is innate or not. I believe my reference to human nature in this post is a relevant point.

      Lastly as for whether RA has changed, the only thing we can discuss is the personal he has presented. It strikes me that the persona presented in 2005 is different from the persona presented at ComicCon. I would also add that one should hope that he is ever changing as a human being, gathering insight and wisdom as he goes.

      • I think it’s problematic to tell people — whom we don’t know — the point at which we think that what we are interpreting as their “grief” over a particular situation has reached the level of being inappropriate. That’s *exactly* the stance I am arguing against — that we have any right to judge the appropriateness of someone else’s crush or what it is doing for her. That’s the dynamic that made Armitageworld such an unpleasant place for me to be this summer — the constant regurgitation of the argument that my blog was unhealthy or immoral or whatever. You’re arguing for moving the standard — I am saying, why are we asking about the standard at all? Let’s stop with that evaluative process and think about the real motivator.

        • I think you’re projecting something into the discussion that’s not there. I’m not talking about “standards” or “appropriateness” or “inappropriateness.” My point is about accepting change in both the fandom and RA. It’s about evolving and growing. A person can do whatever he or she wants. But change cannot happen in an environment if fans choose to cling to what RA used to do, or how things used to run, (insert any lament) rather than looking forward. You brought up a deeply personal interpretation in your comment, so I responded on that level.

          • I didn’t originally use the word “grief” in my description of the confession — that’s your word; I refer to “alleged grieving” — but when you say “still has not stopped grieving,” you definitely imply a norm and a prescription: are you *still* grieving? Well, if you want to be health, stop that already. If grief is what we’re talking about, we should note that grief typically requires loss — that is, the feeling of grief already requires an awareness of change on the part of the griever. It is *also* and *already* an expression of response to change; it is not evidence of a refusal to give up the past. You’re saying, the only way to move forward is to accept change — something I agree with. But you’re prescribing how to accept change — give up what you term “grief” or their illusory beliefs about an Armitage who no longer exists — which is something I disagree with both as a strategy and as something that is likely to work. Fandom is constituted by a series of questionable beliefs about a reality one experiences third-hand most of the time. We all have illusory beliefs about Richard Armitage — including you! — and I don’t see why one person’s illusory belief should be prioritized. Nothing about it is real beyond the feelings one experiences.

            By the way, I also got no notifiation push on your last comment.

            • That RA has stopped sending frequent missives like he did previously is not a illusion or a belief, it’s a fact. That he said in an interview he would stand back is a fact. That’s he’s stopped interacting in a way that enabled fans to feel actively engaged with him is a perception, but it would be hard to argue that’s not changed.

              I don’t want to get bogged in the asinine; all reality could be an illusion in that case. Neither do I want to get pedantic about grief or alleged grief (my interpretation that you don’t share). For all we know, both of us could be wrong as to what the confessor actually meant. All of these things are beside the points we’ve trying to make in our posts.

              You and I have different interpretations of that confession and what we need to do as a fandom. As an avid fan, I can understand when you say “we should all remember we love him and unite over that,” but from my vantage point, that’s not workable. It sounds lovely in an ideal world, but we’ve seen flamewars ignited all in the name of love: “if you really loved him, you wouldn’t do X, Y and Z.” People have different ideas of what “loving” him means. Personally, I don’t feel that way, so I lean to embracing the ideas of change and evolving as a fandom.

              • OK. I didn’t say, we should unite over the fact that we love him. “Uniting” is what I say is impossible in the middle of the last piece of that post, precisely because of identity issues, and the impossibility of uniting is why I say I hope the fandom grows drastically and quickly. I did, however, say that when we feel inclined to be frustrated with new fans, we should remember that euphoria we felt and use it to control ourselves and act with welcome to new fans. Those are pretty different statements, actually, and I tried extremely hard throughout the entire series *not* to say that I feel people should agree or unite or cooperate. My *sole* prescription was that they remember their euphoria and try to be kind / welcoming to new fans.

                Similarly, I never said that Richard Armitage’s messages haven’t changed. I explicitly took that issue on in the first post in the series, because to legitimate that fan’s confession involves acknowledging her perception that something *has* changed. Whether that’s in those messages is indicative of something in Richard Armitage that’s changed would have to be proven, and I don’t see that evidence here, or for that matter, anywhere that I have seen evidence about Richard Armitage. In that sense, you are engaging in the same questionable technique of source critique as the fans you charge with inordinate attachment to the past. They would say, “those messages were accurate reflections of Armitage and now he’s hiding, but he is still the same, and I wish he would reappear” and you would say, “those messages are no longer indicative of his actual attitude now and he has changed.” The evidence for their argument is actually better, because they are not arguing ex negativo. But neither their argument, nor yours, examines those messages on the basis of what they might involve as sources. He’s an actor — he may be different actor now than he was in 2004, but even then, he was an actor.

                I’m disturbed by the undertone of “some fans can’t face reality” in these responses since that applies to us equally, just in a different way. To me, this is just a different kind of shaming, one that I don’t want to be implicated in.

                Trying again to subscribe to comments.

                • I’ve said that his approach to his fans has changed, but not speculated over what in him has changed because nobody but him can know that. I do assert that as a human being, he has and will (hopefully) change and grow. Change does not have to be a bad thing or a betrayal of his core personality.

                  As for source critiquing, that’s all any of us as fans have ever done and can do since none of us personally know him, as you have stated repeatedly. So this point doesn’t help the discussion.

                  Alright, I stand corrected as to what you were really saying in the post. I absolutely agree we should be welcoming. We simply have different mindsets about how the fandom should prepare itself to do so.

                  As for the alleged shaming, I say again that you are projecting personal issues into my responses. I meant my post as an interpretation and response to the confession, not a criticism of you. Disagreement with a perceived sentiment does not equal shaming just because it might cut too close to home for you. I think you know me better than this.

                  • I frankly regret raising the issue in the first place; I beg the pardon of anyone I may have offended in doing so. I still don’t think, however, that we as writers or fans get to decide on the basis of this kind of data when someone else (legitimately) feels shame, loss, grief, euphoria — or anything else. Disagreement over anyone’s right to do that and express it constitutes one of our biggest problems in this fandom. In my original discussion, I was trying very hard to transcend precisely this discussion. I want to emphasize my sympathy (if not empathy, because I can’t reproduce her subject position) with the feelings of the original confessor, which was where this started from, and I’ll be leaving the discussion now in order to remember the euphoria!

                    Off to remember the euphoria!

                    • This will be my last comment on our discussion as well. While I may or may not agree with the message, I have never ever disputed anybody’s right to express his/ her feelings or opinions. I object to your public attempt to characterize my remarks this way when you privately know I would never say that. Since this discussion has galloped off to where I seriously don’t want to go, this thread is closed.

  9. What I need to do at this point, I think, is to remind myself of the euphoria. What you do and say is your own business, of course 🙂

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