Why RA?: Part 1 – Are You Sitting Comfortably?

[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.

fandom-by-the-crayola-of-doodahWay 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.

fandomI 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.

My fandom isAs 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.


29 thoughts on “Why RA?: Part 1 – Are You Sitting Comfortably?

  1. Hi Judiang,

    I’m a newby–I’ve only been an RA fan since February 2010, when I rented North & South. Up until then, I had appreciated other actors work–even to the point of collecting their movies on dvd–but not followed their work closely.

    However, the romantic story in North & South and Richard Armitage’s portrayal of John Thornton moved me like no other actor has. It took me several months to realize that there were web sites devoted to Mr. Armitage–the BBC Drama Faces bio page for him having long since lain dormant was my initial link to RAOnline and then RANet. We only got DSL in February 2011. So, then I could really utilize You Tube to view films of Mr. Armitage’s that I hadn’t seen yet, nor been able to purchase in a US region code version dvd format yet.

    And, I have only been chatting online and making friends with other RA fans since June 2011. I was too shy to do so before hand–hearing horror stories about the internet. But, RA fans are a friendly, helpful, encouraging, and talented group of ladies–writing/blogging, grpahic design and artwork, vidding, etc. So, it’s been nice getting to know people–virtually.

    Cheers! Grati ;-.

    • So you are very new indeed! Yes, this is a wonderful bunch. I feel comfortable here which is one of the reasons I decided to give fandom another go. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. Hi Judi,

    Where do I begin?

    I’m an Australian and you may have seen my comments on other blogs. We get quite a number of television programmes produced by the BBC and ITV on our ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) channel. It’s like the BBC and nothing like your ABC! Of course, not every programme is high quality – it would be foolish of me to imply that. But the ABC does provide a nice change from what the commercial channels have on offer. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a sucker for some very low-brow junk indeed!

    I first noticed this tall, good-looking centurion guarding Octavius in the telemovie “Cleopatra” in 1999. Of course, at that stage, I had absolutely no idea who the actor playing the part was. (And he didn’t have any lines, so I had no idea how he sounded – more about that later).

    I have to admit that I watched the movie because Billy Zane (Marc Antony), Rupert Graves (Octavius) and Timothy Dalton (Julius Caesar) were in it but it certainly didn’t stop my noticing that lanky centurion!

    Over the intervening years, I have watched Richard’s career with interest as I believe he is one of the most talented actors I’ve ever seen.

    I didn’t “look him up” on the internet until earlier this year. And, I have to admit, he is the first celebrity I’ve ever Googled.

    And, what a surprise that was! I had no idea that RA had garnered such a following or that fansites even existed (or even that he’s sometimes referred to as RA!). But I am thankful these sites do exist as now I know I’m not the only one who appreciates his talent as well as his spectacular looks. Yes, I’m admitting that the way he looks was what first drew my attention but it isn’t the most important thing about him.

    It’d be crazy to follow an actor who couldn’t act! And what an actor RA is! He doesn’t just act a part – he IS that character for the entire length of the production.

    But it’s his voice that gets me the most. If he does become “old and fat and ugly”, his voice will still be wonderful and I’ll still be “tuning in” to hear it.

    I probably don’t have as big a problem with my “crush” because – it’s not my first! Nor it is my longest-standing – I’ve drooled over Sean Connery since the 1960s!

    But, I agree…sometimes people can take things a little too far, even to the point of stalking. And that’s worrisome to say the least.

    Bye for now,


    • I think you’ve beaten out everybody as the one who noticed RA the earliest! I think Sean Connery has been on the list of several ladies in ArmitageWorld. Thanks so much for sharing your story. 🙂

  3. “Fandom” is as complex as anything else. Perhaps a refusal to take oneself seriously in thrall to an actor. Before RA, my last crush was another actor of English origin. Adrian Paul, of the TV Highlander series. A Highlander convention was to be held in Vancouver. I missed the dates. So my sis and I missed the opportunity to just go and have fun! I take Mr. A seriously, definitely the acting talent. But I don’t take me as a fan seriously. And I can poke fun at the actor’s performances – and interviews, without losing that respect for his accomplishments. And above all, I thoroughly appreciate this blog community of RA supporters, and their concern, for not only the actor, but for each other.

    • You and I have the same attitude regarding RA. I poke fun at everybody including myself. After 20 years in fandom, it becomes difficult to take things too seriously. Humor helps keep things in perspective. In my book, fandom is about fun and camaraderie. Too bad you missed the Highlander con. I have a friend in that fandom and she said their conventions were fun. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. Kathryn, I am one of those “anonymous” fans of SIR Sean. And still think it very funny for a self-proclaimed Scottish Nationalist to accept an English knighthood. 😀
    I have much frustration with BBC Canada, too – one more waste-space ep of Top Gear, and I’m cancelling. Thank goodness for PBS and TV Ontario…

    Sorry to have missed the Highlander con, judiang. The subsequent DVD extra made it look great fun. Much nonsense, of course, and SERIOUS fans. But all good-humoured – only, just as well perhaps. Don’t think I’m the stage-door sort. But could be persuaded, given favourable circumstances. (Loved your London experience!)

    • If you had been there with me, I could have persuaded you to at least stand back and take pictures. Since you say you’re vertically challenged (love that), the crowd might have been a bit of a crush. But quiet stage door affairs like one with Alan Rickman after Private Lives, you would have loved that (and been awake to tell me about it later).

  5. I’ve been waiting a long time to read this, so I’m gratified!

    I was moved by your description of yourself as someone who didn’t have the opportunity to giggle as a teen. Me either.

    I haven’t been a fan of anyone at this level, but I wonder if it’s just because of Internet access. That is, as a kid I was a huge ST:TOS fan but all I could get my hands on were the novels in the public library and syndicated reruns. Not much more was available. I was also a sort of limited fan of Goran Visnjic (Luka on ER), but I think that was generated by the fact that I was living in a place where NBC was the only channel I could get on analog tv and i refused to pay for cable. I thought he was really neat and I looked up info about him on the (then — 2001) much simpler internet. There was one really good fan site, but fangirling him was hampered by the fact that most of the info about him was available only in Croatian. I did read some fanfic about Luka, including some Luka / Carter slash. The big war at the time seemed to be between the Carbies and the Lubies — i.e., who should be together with Luka on the show — and I remember when Luka and Abby broke up there was even an article in the New York Times about it. But his career didn’t seem to go anywhere, and I was never motivated to see his other work or back episodes of ER. That faded out pretty quickly.

    • I began this post months ago. The reason it took to long to publish was I was hesitant. This is a potentially volatile area when discussing fandom and my perception of it. Although I don’t, many fans take their crushing quite seriously. Now that I’ve put my toe in the water, I’ll have to wade in, and perhaps go where some would rather I didn’t. This includes topics as cult of celebrity, forums and policing behavior. So this series will be slow going while I work up the nerve.

      I know what you mean about a crush petering out due to limited access. For a time I was a fan of the Japanese show Iron Chef, and its host Takeshi Kaga. Turned out he was also a very talented actor and singer but most info on him in was Japanese. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  6. Now that I know more about your pre-DW fandom, it makes me feel even more blessed that you took the chance on Elsa and I and joined us for that convention. 🙂

    For me, the only spooky fandom stuff I’d encountered was with the non-Internet stuff (via college fangroups). I’ve been very lucky with the Internet fandoms. 🙂

    • Yeah, because you know I was thisclose to not coming and was ready to flee at the first sign of spookiness. But when you both entered and smiled at me, I *knew* everything would be okay. A sixth sense I guess. 🙂

  7. Your story is very fascinating. I’ve been a fan of RA from the first moment I saw him in The Vicar of Dibley on Netflix 2-1/2 yeas ago. I have a short fan attention span, but my RA fandom is holding on tight with no signs of waning.

    Years ago, I was into the X-Files and would chat on IRC. Then I stopped watching the show after the second or third season but couldn’t stop hanging out online because my fellow fans would keep me coming back for more. I even met a few of them but we have not stayed in touch over time. It never even occurred to me to meet any of the stars of the show.

    Back to the present, that part of my nature has not changed. While I love hearing stories of those who have met and spoken with RA, I have no desire to do so myself. If he comes to New York City for a movie premiere–and there’s advance notice–I would consider joining others to hang out together and show our support for the actor. Quite honestly, it improves the marketability of an actor if he has a visible fanbase.

    • So you do have a little experience in fandom. It never occurred to me to meet any star before the fandom in the post. But that and later experiences have taught me that should be kept very limited if at all. I’m a little ambivalent now. If it were a proper setting, I might get RA’s autograph and have a group picture if we all were gathered there, but not anything else.

      I think the hanging out together part is the most important thing. I’ve found the friendships and camaraderie to have a lasting effect, sometimes more lasting than the crush itself. I can’t see myself standing for hours in a red carpet but might be if we all decided to do that. 🙂

  8. I found this to be a fascinating reading. I can relate to the whole lack of teenage famous guy crush and not having that outlet. I’m very “picky” when it comes to men that I find attractive and I think RA is the first modern actor that I find attractive. I don’t know if I consider myself part of fandom because I find it hard to find the time to keep up with things on a regular basis. I haven’t made it to your chat room in eons (you ladies are fun) and I read the blogs when I have time. I don’t where RA is at this moment, if he’s dating anyone or anything like that. I first saw him in an episode of Robin Hood on BBC, but didn’t bother to take notice until recently.

    It would be fun to see him perform live because I feel he is a good actor and I could definitely see him pulling the audience into his performance in a live venue. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in person either, I just think meeting him briefly would be awkward. If he was someone I worked with and could get to know him as a person (faults and all) that would be a different story but meeting him in the context of ‘actor to fan’ just seems contrived. Plus, I’m not willing to degrade myself by slobbering over a man I don’t even know in public (for all I know he never puts the toilet seat down, snores, leaves water all over the bathroom counter and his dirty dishes all over the house).
    That being said, I definitely “crush” on some of his characters, especially Thornton and Guy. I find the character crushes to be safer. With those I know what I’m getting. I even let him and Colin Firth share Darcy duties.

    I am always impressed at the creativity that fandom creates. People draw pictures, write stories, do videos and all sorts of creative things because of fandom so in that way I think it can be a good thing. I guess I’m hesitant to jump totally into fandom because of a lot of what happened with Daria. I know myself and how I easily become obsessed with things so I keep myself a little at a distance. Would I go on a trip to see him perform? If I had the money, yes. Would I go out of my way to force a meeting with him? No.

    • I consider myself picky about actors too so when I find one I’m usually surprised by which ones catch my attention. Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂

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  12. I haven’t had time to reply properly to this, which I’ll probably do in a post, but I just wanted to say I’m enjoying these pieces. Thank you for sharing. I also hope no one who takes crushing seriously reads my blog. They would be so upset if they did — even though it might be good for them. : D

    • Glad you like them. I plan to continue the series in January, once I figure out how to tell what happens next as diplomatically as possible.  🙂

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