When Richard Armitage popped onto the Twitter scene August 22nd, his birthday no less, fandom collectively swooned. Most couldn’t believe he’d gone and done it, despite statements that he “didn’t understand [Twitter].” Some welcomed him, happy to have him onboard, curious about what he would say, and grateful to have any perceived interaction with him. Naysayers dreaded what could happen, fretting that he would lose his aura of mystery, that the more rabid fans would bother him, that he would be able to see and track the ongoings-on meant for fan eyes only.
In the almost five months, since RA started Twitter, fandom has – essentially remained the same. We did not band together behind our crush to become one big happy peaceful family. With such a diverse lot, that could never happen. He still retains his mystery. His selfies, jokes, and charity pitches are at the heart no different from those he messaged frequently in years past and reveal no more than what he wants to show us. Do we really know more than he’s a dorky guy with a quirky sense of humor, a taste for philanthropy and extreme sport, and a busy work schedule? Not really. As for the rabid fans – every fandom has them. They troll his timeline and I’m sure he’s been warned to ignore them as he did when they contacted his agent. Does he see the fandom machinations? I’m sure his people have always kept a finger on the collective pulse; after all, we are the foundation of his livelihood. They have to notice whatever is posted to his timeline. But do they notice every fan spat and upheaval? I’ve always assumed even before Twitter that the answer is: probably but that he and his people have found it unwise and unproductive to become involved.
It’s been suggested that RA’s presence is harmful to fandom because Armitage Protection Mode types have come down harder on fans perceived to be disrespectful, offensive or somehow injurious to RA and thus hurt fandom creativity – a type of rally around Dear Leader attitude. While it’s true that some policing fans have seized the opportunity to supposedly get others in line, it’s important to remember that just because RA’s mode of contact has changed, the option to push back has not. There’s no need for a fan to tolerate browbeating just because “RA is in the house.” The same is true for what I call “The Happy Police.” These fans twist RA’s words to “be positive” and “lighthearted” to mean anything not in a fluffy happy vein is verboten because Dear Leader has allegedly spoken. I don’t believe that fandom as a consequence loses it’s ability to think and speak critically because RA joined Twitter. (That’s not to say that if RA himself said “Judiang, you’re out of bounds,” I wouldn’t back down (or leave). It is his fandom after all, not mine.) We still have our voices and will continue to have them. Nothing has really changed. Only the medium has.
So RA reached 100,000 followers today; fandom goes on.
By the way, I’m still waiting for the rest of the story to come true. You never know.