I started this series in October 2011. It had numerous parts but unfortunately I never completed it or answered the ultimate question. Friends have encouraged me to repost and get on with it already. Since it’s been almost three years with a new influx of fans, I think it merits a new conversation.
[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.