Why RA?: Part 5 – Who’s A “Real” Fan?

Last week, Servetus ran an interview for her Fan Showcase with the irrepressible Jane.  Jane is a fan known for her blunt but frank opinions regarding Richard Armitage, his roles and the direction of his career. She presents her views as one of an outsider.   She’s aware these opinions are not mainstream, and at times directly conflict with the majority of fandom.  I don’t agree with everything she says, but I respect her opinions and guts to stick by them.  The commentary was lively and interesting.  Unfortunately, the  post had to be closed because of ad hominen attacks.  I came away with a sense that some people saw Jane as hurtful to fandom and worse yet, not really a fan.

I find such attitudes disturbing.  A fandom is not a monolith.  We are all different people from different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, etc.  We are not a hive mind; we do not think alike.  So it stands to reason that there’s a a whole spectrum of fans and a broad definition of what it means to be one.  That the crush happens to be Richard Armitage doesn’t change that.

I agree with many of Jane’s core remarks.  I’m an outsider looking in as well.  I don’t subscribe to the idea that everything I say about RA must be 100% complimentary.  I see nothing wrong with criticizing a crush, or pointing out the Emperor is wearing no clothes if that’s true. I don’t think RA is the most special actor to ever come along; he is a very good actor with the potential to be exceptional. Whether he will prove to be so remains to be seen. I am a “polygamist,” in that I also admire another actor and think the same things about him as well.  I don’t believe everything he says, being mindful of the public persona he must present and the publicity machine of which he’s a part.  I don’t think my remarks mean one jot in the larger scheme of things, can “hurt” fandom in general or RA in particular, or that he need any protection.  I can embrace all of these views while still admiring and enjoying his work and respecting him as the person he present himself to be.  Oh, and he can take a bad picture.   Does that mean I’m not a “real” fan?  No, it just means my way of thinking about him may be different from the next person’s.

Last year, I received a private email from a commenter intrigued by this series.  She questioned whether there was room in fandom for people like her, who while admiring RA, did not necessarily agree with the consensus opinion.  I replied there should be room for everybody; there are different kinds of fans with a myriad of views who need to be heard and respected.  It makes for a richer, more interesting and mature fandom.  Happily, she started her own blog.

Yes, it’s possible to disagree, analyze, question and still be a fan.  Support and enthusiasm for a crush should not be measured by the degree others think a person should squee, gush, and go along with the program, but by that person’s own personal enjoyment.  Jane, although at times critical, gave quite some thought to her opinions.  Yet she still is an avid fan because her appreciation of RA continues. Likewise,  I have disagreed on my blog (albeit wrapped in snark and humor) but that does not diminish my appreciation.

So, there’s no such thing as a “real” fan.


75 thoughts on “Why RA?: Part 5 – Who’s A “Real” Fan?

  1. How old are these people?  Sheesh.  Frankly,  acknowledging these kinds of behaviors and even posting this comment makes  me not want to be a part of whatever this is. It makes me feel dumb.   The few times I’ve posted something about bad behavior on my blog has made me feel the same.    What helps me get over the feeling is the knowledge the public can be ridiculous,


    • It is sad we have to keep saying it, but I think the message bears repeating as many times as it takes: fandom is not a monolith, never has been, never real be.  Long live diversity!   🙂

  2. Wow, I really did not intend to become famous (or infamous) with that interview! I hope I don’t hurt his reputation as I’m trying to be fair and not mean and sarcastic.

    • Jane, I don’t think you could hurt him with your remarks.  As Fitz says, it would be a disservice to him to be blindly syncophantic.   I think he would appreciate a diverse community with respectful dissension.

      • I would like to ask him what he really thinks of the shows he was in and if he’s content with his career to date. He only ever expressed that he was dissatisfied with the idea that Guy should kill Marian, otherwise he’s always polite and positive, as he is expected when doing PR for a show.

  3. The Jane Interviews are refreshing and invigorating. We are not a monolith, as judiang said. I don’t agree on all details with Jane, but those are the differences that make for discussion. If we all thought exactly alike in all respects, we’d be “Stepfords”, and there’d be no point to discussion. Some critical (and respectful) dissention is necessary. And though the actor probably does not see much of blog community first-hand, it does him a disservice to be blindly sycophantic.

    • I really enjoyed the commentary too.  The attacks and need to close the post were what ticked me off.  We need to keep repeating that respectful criticism/debate should be encouraged and protected.

  4. Why can’t people just understand that opinions vary within the fandom? We wouldn’t expect to agree on everything outside of Armitage world, so why in the world would we all have the same cookie cutter opinions here? I appreciate when someone voices some actual criticism for Richard Armitage’s work, even though I may not always agree. If we thought absolutely every picture he took, or word he spoke, or role he played was perfect…our adoration may have gone too far (he is a human being after all).

    And Jane, I can’t imagine that you would or could in any way hurt his reputation! It isn’t as though you said he’s a horrible actor. You expressed your views and gave clear insight into why you hold said views. I thought your interview was very well done.

    • Jasrangoon, I agree.  Putting RA on a pedestal and treating him like a perfect demi-god is not a healthy or realistic, and I’m sure he wouldn’t encourage it.

  5. Thank you for this clear statement for a free and open RA-fandom, Judiang. In the fandom I especially like the openness and welcoming nature of fellow fans. I do not need to agree with everything from everybody in the fandom, still it is a wonderful exchange of opinions, thoughts and attitudes. (I find some points of view mentioned by Jane typically German – I am German as well , so I hope I may say that ;o) Germans tend to be very critical and [over-exaggerated] even do not agree with their own opinion. This is an attitude which has the advantage of reaching a real depth in arguments, which is otherwise not achieved. So Jane’s perspective was in a lot of points really thought provoking and it in my opinion is a quality sign of RA’s fandom, that he does provoke such a high level of thought and analysis.

    I must add, I did not come into the fandom because of RA’s good looks. That was something I discovered much later ;o)

    I especially like the artfulness, thoughtfulness, thought provoking and world welcoming (is that an expression?) attitude of the fandom.

    • “So Jane’s perspective was in a lot of points really thought provoking and it in my opinion is a quality sign of RA’s fandom, that he does provoke such a high level of thought and analysis.”

      Actually, I think we should be proud of ourselves.  I’ve yet to encounter another community that discusses an actor’s work in depth like we do.  It’s one of things that drew me to this group.

  6. Great post and thanks for making these points, as I didn’t feel able to broach the topic directly on my blog. Some bullet points:

    • I really appreciate the depth that debates can reach in Germany — I always find myself thinking this when I listen to German political discourse, which is so much more sophisticated than it is in the U.S. precisely because German culture teaches people the art of neutral disagreement. (And because the mainstream German media outlets don’t assume that consumers are idiots. …) Not that there isn’t plenty of unpleasantness in Germany as well — but people don’t automatically assume you’re an enemy because you disagree. The public sphere seems somewhat less ideologized because the interlocutors are slightly more self-critical.
    • One thing that I found odd about the exchange was the response of some (deleted or not published) commentators despite the fact that I stated the rules in advance. Did they think I was not going to follow my own principles in editing?
    • Parts of the exchange made me want to publish all of my own troublesome opinions in detail to demonstrate exactly your point — that we are not a monolith. I have a few. I also think that Armitage would be helped either personally or in public perception by a greater diversity of opinion among his fans. If he knew, for example, that his fans had wildly different opinions on some of his projects he might not worry about disappointing fans. And if fan attitudes play any role at all in the possibility that he would be typecast, a greater diversity of opinion might jar that loose a little.
    • Yay for outsiders 🙂
    • I’m slightly more jaded about how this fandom came to be so sensitive about saying anything critical of his roles.  I think I feel a post coming on. LOL!  But first I’ve got to make a damned post about the upcoming changes on Facebook, and if you’re on FB and don’t know what’s coming next week, you need to read it.

      • I’ve known about the FB thing for weeks but I’d be interested to hear your take on why this fandom is so sensitive. One thing that’s been interesting to me as I learn more about fanfic is seeing what kind of fanfic is written in other fandoms, and despite the buzz in ours about “not going too far” with fics and how there have been fics that are not acceptable, in other fandoms you see a much, much richer variety of stuff, much more inventive AUs, etc. It makes wonder if the demographic of the Armitage fandom isn’t interested in that stuff — or if people who think that kind of stuff up in our fandom are afraid to publish it.

        • Yep, the new format has been around since September of last year for some and December for everyone, but it was only announced yesterday that it would be forced on everyone whether they like it or not.   That’s what makes this news.  The post is here.

          • Huh, I read an article some time ago that said you’d be forced into it eventually and that you then would have seven days to revise your timeline; it had instructions for how to do that. I’ve been debating how much of my timeline I want to revise.

            • Yep, there were articles about choosing to make the change, and it gave you seven days before it went live and was then permanent, and there were also references to this “sometime” being permanent for everyone.  At least then they gave seven days to decide if you really liked it whereas most of the options like this have had no backout plan, which is one of the chief reasons I’ve disliked Facebook.

              So everyone is going to the new look in six days, and it can’t be said enough as some people don’t realize what’s about to happen.  BTW,  if it were just about a look, I wouldn’t be so wearied by it, and it’s not so much for myself that it wearies me.  I’ve never put anything on FB that I wouldn’t be happy for the world to know — except maybe a few likes in RA Universe, which I’ve long since removed.  No, it’s my children. Thankfully, they  wised up quite a while ago about what is appropriate for FB, but now they are needing to  clean up their old stuff. What a pain in the ass, but on the other hand, the pain of doing that may drive home the point in a way I never could by merely talking to them.


              • I’m maybe not your target audience, but I don’t subscribe to the “facebook has a nefarious plan” scenario, because it’s been my reaction that everything they’ve ever done has been fairly obvious from the beginning. I got the account because I was forced to by work obligations (had to be able to see anything a student group that I advised published) and it seemed obvious that it was going to be a tool to expose information about participants to marketers / markets that masqueraded as a connectivity tool. How else could it make itself pay?

                That said, I’ve gotten really tired of the idea that’s been pushed on me in various situations that I should shield everything I say. That is a separate question, however.

                • I don’t subscribe to that either. I just think they have little regard for their users’ privacy and Zuckerberg has made it plain he doesn’t consider much of anything private.  He has a point to a degree, but he does not have to be so cavalier about others’ privacy.

                  Other than that, Facebook is a bit of a developer’s nightmare.  I won’t say further about that as I think it would bore the socks off of everyone, and I’ve already hijacked enough of this comment section.

                  I didn’t see your link below until after my last comment. That is the kind piece I was thinking of.  FB was vague about what when the change would occur and now giving only seven days notification is ridiculous.

                  Judi, I’m done here on FB. LOL!   Back to the fandoms inhibitions. : D

      • Looking forward to that post. I’m sensitive towards criticism myself, but I think with me it manifests itself differently.

    • Serv, I was ticked off when the attacks forced you to close the post.  At 146 comments, things were just getting started!  😉

      – It’s one of the sad things about US political discourse – the whole “if you’re not with us, then you’re against us” mentality.  Neutral disagreement is becoming an alien concept (like critical thinking).

      – People who ignore rules usually think said rules don’t apply to *them*.

      – Publish your opinons!  Jane’s well reasoned arguments  have encouraged me too to say what I’m really thinking instead tiptoeing around.  Things should get interesting.  😉

      • I may be oversensitive, but years in the classroom have taught me that if you want to have a good discussion over the long haul, you can’t let people go after each other in a personal way. The people in the classroom will always be thinking, “is that what will happen to me if I express an opinion?” and so you have to demonstrate that you will make the room safe for every opinion that doesn’t involve a personal attack.

        However, because i do that for work, I find it tiring to do it for fun, too. I could have left the strand open and just edited everything that was problematic but I also can’t sit at the computer all day moderating. Have to let people take responsibility for themselves. The same / similar conversation continued a bit on the “Reasons I Love John Porter” comment strand.

        • Oh, I wasn’t criticizing you for shutting it down, I was annoyed the attacks sparked it in the first place.  I probably would have done the same in your shoes.

        • Obviously I didn’t saw those attacks but I wouldn’t have minded facing them. I would have answered and tried my best to remain polite and stick to the topic.  I understand that my views frustrate some people and I also understand that they feel I cross a line when I comment on things that are none of my business and despite my claim, that I like him, don’t put his happiness and well-being first, but what I feel I admire most in an artist. I tried to get across, and maybe it is hard to understand, that I understand many of his choices, would have made them myself or advised him accordingly if I were a friend or relative, but those choices still don’t represent what I admire in an artist and would like to admire in him.


          • Part of the problem is that no one can defend herself against ad hominem.

            “You are _______” (fill in the blank with negative adjective or predicate nominative)

            can only be responded to with some variation on “I am not.” It then takes the whole conversation off track.

    • “I also think that Armitage would be helped either personally or in public perception by a greater diversity of opinion among his fans. If he knew, for example, that his fans had wildly different opinions on some of his projects he might not worry about disappointing fans. And if fan attitudes play any role at all in the possibility that he would be typecast, a greater diversity of opinion might jar that loose a little.”

      This. Of course, The Hobbit is quite a bit different than anything else he’s done. I really think it would do the man good to know that his fans come in all shapes, sizes, professions, ages, etc and that we all appreciate him slightly differently and became fans over different pieces of his work.

      • It tore my heart apart a little when he said that he had worried what his fans think of him. We’re the last people he should worry about!

        • I didn’t realize he had said that. Well, if I did, it didn’t sink in very far. I find it curious that he even considers what his fans will think of him when choosing roles. I can’t imagine too many other actors even making that a consideration. One more reason to like the guy. 🙂

          • After all, a handful of very vocal fans are decidedly not the people that keep his career going. Sometimes I read that he owes his success to his army and should be grateful and shake my head. We are not a market force. A handful of people blog and comment on blogs and are currently active on the various message boards. Even if you consider that the big boards have a few thousand members, most of them are not active any more and often never were. What matters for his career are the five million people that watched RH and Spooks and the millions that will see the Hobbit.

  7. Frenz, please get busy on that post! It is blogs such as judiang’s, servetus’, RAfrenzy’s, and others, that keep me interested in the Armitage world on line. Because there is a tone here of respecting differences of perspective and of learning from one another. My own impressions are not written in stone. Arguments are marshalled and presented, and other perspectives presented, that  can instigate a second look.

    Yes, good point, servetus, about whatever small influence “fans”  might, have in typecasting. This might, in fact, be the role of the community. To keep the critical eye open, and as a fairly large? contingent do worry about stereotying a promising actor. Of course, it is up to the actor to forward his own career, as he desires it to go.

    • I really wonder how much influence as a fandom we really have on RA’s career, aside from the general knowledge that he has fans.  I also wonder about the other side of the equation: how much thought does he give to his fans?  For example, how would he feel if he discovered his base was shrinking?  “Ladies, you don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t send me flowers – what have I done? *sob*”   Sorry, snark is creeping back.  😀

  8. They are just plain groupies;) for that reason I never come in to an army of divine Richard.

    I’m well satisfied with several cool blogs. I love all his wise,smart ,sometimes critical’ minstrels’.! 🙂

  9. I have no career any more, to feel protecting my privacy for career reasons (sort of over-aged and retired) . Just a sense of not embarrassing myself, or family, by anything I write. Which is why I don’t write my  “fantasies” – they are private to me, anyway. That is simply a choice we make, and it has no reflection on anyone who writes in a different vein. It is all good. It is self-expression, and however – circumspect -(or buttoned up 🙂 ) some of us might be, we know we reveal much of ourselves in putting anything up on a blog in any case.

    I don’t much care for FB, and use it mainly for exchanges/photos between family members. I think it, and twitter/tweet, have a very strong role in events. The problem for media, is confirming reports. I doubt the Internet can be tamed or bend under any regulation. The genie is out of the bottle, and hopeless as I am in managing technology, I think this is a very good thing.

    (Now how do I cut and paste this to that?….) (Where do I find I find my practice blogger blog– sorry, can’t do algebra eitther; oxygen-deprived at birth. Or something. )



  10. I am pretty much out of touch today, so I doubt my piece will be up until tomorrow or this weekend.  I’ll probably run something mindless today, which isn’t saying much since almost all of my pieces are mindlessly done by the seat of my pants!!  But I’m finding it’s better when I run with that instead of the “well thought” pieces that bore the socks off of me when I’ve gone back to read them later.    (picture me cross-eyed)

  11. I missed all of this, but totally agree about encouraging discussion and different viewpoints within the fandom. I remember making a comment on a forum stating that I hoped Richard Armitage would move on from Robin Hood. Boy was I harangued for saying so. Thankfully I had one ally, which was Jane. I recall we moved the discussion to a more general board where we could discuss his career choices without fear of upsetting people. Jane has been loyally following Richard Armitage’s career for years and has very accurate information – I love to hear her viewpoint. I must head over to her interview with Servitus.

    BTW: Here’s a quote about his thoughts on fans from an interview Richard Armitage did in October 2010 – thanks to Annette at RAOnline for archiving. http://www.richardarmitageonline.com/articles/leicester-mercury-20101016.html

    He was asked by the interviewer if he ever feels like a “piece of meat”!!

    “You can’t tell people what to like, but I can control how much I let that influence me. I just leave them to it” he says.

    I’m glad to have their support, but at some point, I’m going to do something they hate and they’ve got to accept that”

    This was just before his casting as Thorin was announced.

  12. I begin to suspect that there is a blog / message board divide.  At any rate, I get the impression that not many commentators here are immersed in the rich variety of viewpoints on at least one message board started for RA; I’ve been a member for five years, and I find the difference striking.  I’m not saying that one is better than the other; perhaps there are blog people and message board people.  But if there are a variety of viewpoints represented in the people who write responses on a blog involving RA–and there are–it’s all the more likely that there will be many more viewpoints expressed among the thousands of threads created by thousands of members over the six or so years since North and South.   The standpoints people take are inherently more varied than those I tend to see represented on blogs, even blogs that attract many responses; there are just a lot more people who speak up.

    On the message board there are lengthy threads discussing several aspects of any given episode of any show RA has ever been in, threads about the costumes, threads analyzing the work of co-stars and discussing scripts . . . it’s really hard to overstate the variety of things people talk about, or the wide differences in opinion.  If you advance an idea you may be applauded for it, you may be ignored, you may be asked to elaborate on your interesting idea, you may be challenged to defend it against others’ views–it’s quite a different thing from a blog, where an author writes posts and isn’t challenged unless she chooses to be and where others simply are not the equals of the author, who always gets the last word if she wants it, deletes posts she feels don’t contribute, and can block people at will.

    A message board, on the other hand, is more of a big forum, a place where ideas are exchanged, jokes are told, interpretations are offered, and where you can go at any hour and see scores of new posts.  There’s a great deal of discussion, and because we’re equal we can’t just delete posts we don’t like; we have to think of responses and, often, be open to very different viewpoints. That challenges us to think through ideas that are foreign to us and to be open-minded., A blog is a bit more like a college lecture that allows people to comment or ask questions at the end.  Both have their uses and pleasures; but a message board simply has a greater diversity, from the professors familiar with the history of cotton manufacturing in the North of England to the crew posting pictures of every closeup of RA ever taken so that they can oooh and ahhh at him on Pervy Friday or Thursday Thighday.  It’s profound.  It’s silly.  It’s a big group of people batting ideas around and having fun.  It’s anything but a giggly bunch of fangirls or a monolithic group all invested in the same stance.

    Forgive me, please, for saying that criticism of RA for not fulfilling one fan’s idea of his ideal career path occasionally in such a venue is understandable, though I’d respectfully suggest that RA has a far better idea of his ideal career path than a fan can have, and is aware that actors can only take what’s offered to them and often have to accept roles that are less than ideal because most actors, even very successful actors, need to keep working and take roles that are beneath them.  Most of us work five days a week on most weeks of the year and many of us are paid during our vacations; an actor doesn’t have a pension scheme and doesn’t get paid for the time when he’s between jobs, no matter how long that lasts.  So he has to create a cash flow as best he can and he never knows when the roles might dry up.  I feel that Jane is genuinely a fan, but I feel that repeated explanations of how RA has failed to live up to his promise and ought to take different roles than he has tend to dampen others’ enthusiasm for discussion.  I believe that her thoughts about his career arise out of a very strong wish for him to have the best and most distinguished career that he possibly can, and I applaud that.  But there’s a risk of simply looking critical of him.  There’s the possibility that advancing these ideas of how he has failed to live up to a fan’s standards for an excellent career can SEEM critical.  Granted that RA no longer reads about himself on the internet, such comments aren’t going to wound him, of course.   But it’s a shame if the effect is seeming to express pessimism and disdain for RA when that isn’t the intent; that tends to be off-putting.  That impression would of course be minimized if other posts, perhaps on the same thread, perhaps on a different one, conveyed what the writer admires and respects in RA’s work.  Surely there must be plenty of things to mention; no one would keep writing about the same actor for five years if she disliked him.  It would be easier for others to recognize that Jane is a fan, I think, if she more frequently expressed her enthusiasm towards some aspects of RA’s work,  There’s no loss of dignity in that; instead it can indicate discriminating insight and good taste.  Barring more positive statements about RA, though, most readers are, indeed, going to jump to the mistaken impression that Jane has very negative feelings about him.  That’ seems a shame.

    • I normally do not comment on any discussion about Blogs against Forums, as I want to keep out of this fiercely fought discussion and in my view ‘battle’. And I certainly will not say any more about it than I state here. I also am of the opinion, that one fan cannot tell another how he should be fan or what is right for him.

      And I completely agree with you that I see the strong wish of Jane to have the best possible career for RA as her main motivation and that is really a deep expression of fandom.

      In this case I think I still must comment regarding blogs versus forums, as I have not experienced the forums as the free discussion network of equals, as you seem to have, Anon. They surely have a time advantage, as they are online much longer, so they are a rich source of information. That is certainly undenied.

      I found the discussion of blogs reaching in areas, where the forums ended or the administrators of the forums already blocked the discussions or did even warn the contributors off beforehand. So I experienced censorship in forums and not so much on blogs, only if it really got personal and nasty (and I certainly would not like to read such a thing like cat-fights on sensible and well researched blogs, so am very grateful to the blog-owners who did stop discussions in that regard. But such an escalation of a discussion would also be blocked in a forum, at least in those I know. So I can’t see the big difference in this aspect).

    • I don’t want to say much, because I agree that everyone needs to find a niche, and also my blog stands behind the point that there are many acceptable ways to be a fan, and any way that is not illegal is fine with me, so if what you want is to participate in a board, you should do that. Also I respect the work that goes into moderating a board, which is non-negligible, and I know that they provide important locations for many fans. However, when I became a fan I registered for the boards, and I spent a month looking at posts on two of them before starting my blog. I was desperate for someone to talk to, but I never found the entry point into a conversation that I found within five days of blogging. Besides the logistical issues of reading them, which is a huge turn off, they are emphatically not more diverse, open-minded, more free spirited, or more informative. They strongly seek to push consensus on their participants.

      Perhaps if you already agree with that consensus you don’t notice the way in which people are constantly marginalized on boards. A blog, in contrast, presents the viewpoint of one individual and the blogger facilitates discussion around that point according to certain rules. If you disagree, you are disagreeing with specific individuals instead of transgressing an entire worldview with rules you have to conform to in order to be allowed to speak at all. On the boards, what seems to happen repeatedly is that if you don’t share the majority opinion you get ignored or dismissed by a large group of people as opposed to one or two who disagree with you (as opposed to one or two people), and there are topics on boards that are off limits. On my blog, no topic is off limits except ad hominem attacks on me or other fans. Boards are seriously transgressive of basic free speech ideas. That’s their prerogative, but it’s not a world that attracts me — it reminds me of much that I disliked about high school.

      I fail to see what the “risk” is in being critical of Richard Armitage’s career. He’s an adult like all of us.

  13. If ‘Jane’ posts contrary messages on a message board and contrary opinions aren’t acceptable on a message board, how is it that ‘Jane’ has been on one for five years?  Apparently, a contrary stance doesn’t get stifled on on a well-run message board.

    Obviously my experience is rather different; the consensus on the board I participate on seems to be “We tend to be RA fans, but even if we’ve lost interest in that, there still are lots of places we end up wanting to talk.”  In five years I’ve argued extensively, disagreed, agreed, gotten people angry, fought against the tide in long threads, agreed with the tides in others, and seen some pretty intense conflicts about any number of issues.  Overall, the tone is positive and threads are pleasant, but I’ve certainly seen a lot of intelligent analysis in which people take sides, listen to each other, explain themselves, and find others’ ideas persuasive or not persuasive.  I wouldn’t be around, otherwise.  And a thread can be picked up by any fan at any time.  So an old thread about whether the ending of “Sparkhouse” is hopeful for the main character’s marriage can be picked up two years after the last post by new fans who want to take the issue up again.  And they’re off and running.  That was a bit of a bruising thread, if I remember it; that’s only one instance of a thread that’s been controversial and divisive, as I recall.  I mention it as an example because it is a very small topic that isn’t likely to get things heated up on this blog.  I’ve written contrary posts that turn into massive threads that are hotly argued for months, go cool, and then get picked up again and again whenever someone wants to keep the ball rolling.

    I think it’s fair to say that contrary views are not ignored; ‘Jane’ writes plenty of them, and they are rarely ignored.  Perhaps you missed the threads of comments on Strike Back and Spooks?  Crikey, were they heated, and believe me, there was no consensus.  And as it happened, she wasn’t alone in her take on things.

    So I’d have to say that if a person, after a month of finding nothing worth posting about, comes away believing  message boards ‘are emphatically not more diverse, open-minded, more free spirited, or more informative. They strongly seek to push consensus on their participants,’ her experience and that massive generalization is less informed than that of people who participate in them and jump into the debates routinely, knowing we may get smacked around or applauded but knowing that either can and should happen on message boards, as in a classroom.  Yes, there are some things that are off limits.  There aren’t pictures with big red arrows pointing to Richard Armitage’s genitals, say.  I’m not sure that’s a loss, but that’s only my opinion, and I can’t pretend it is invariably correct.

    I think almost every topic that I’ve seen on Dr. S’s blog would be very welcome on the message board, however; that’s not to encourage her to post there, since that’s clearly not appealing, but  . . . . sorry, most of what I see on blogs would be right at home and discussed thoroughly, but by more people.

    If the message board was truly intolerant of contrary opinion and if posters who often disagreed with the tide weren’t welcome, ‘Jane’ would have been booted out years ago.  I might have been too.  ‘Jane’ often draws fire.  If she’s broken the (fairly reasonable) rules and another member has reported the post, she may have been contacted by the mods, but there simply aren’t enough of them to patrol every thread; they don’t pretend to do that.  If she’s been contacted by the mods, they certainly haven’t barred her.  The one case I can remember in which a member was barred came about because she was posting under two different names from the same IP address.  That’s it, in five years.

    I think, consequently, that if someone who has never attempted to express herself on a message board makes large, definitive generalizations about message boards stifling free expression and limiting discourse, such an opinion should be regarded as only that:  an opinion.  It’s not a final statement, no matter how authoritatively it’s made.  It’s arguably a less informed opinion than statements from those who do participate on message boards extensively and for long periods.  This discussion, in fact, is exactly the same thing you might see on a message board when the talk gets heated:  no one’s an authority.  Everyone makes up her own mind, informed by what other people on the thread have said.

    • Just as someone who mostly participates on boards and drops in anonymously to criticize blogs — which have only been around for about 3 years, so naturally don’t have the same history as boards — is also expressing just that: an opinion.

      I’ll decline to list specific examples because I have no desire to condescend to fellow fans who get a great deal from the boards — and I have heard that again and again, that people have made lasting friendships there. Good for those people. A lot of people do both boards and blogs. Super! If boards had been my only outlet I wouldn’t have found friends in the fandom because the repressive atmosphere turned me off, and I’m grateful for the benefit of exchange that I’ve gained since blogging and encountering the sisterhood of bloggers. I like where I am, the blog world allow me to express about 90% of what I would like to say, and since I don’t claim my worldview is the only one, but one among many, I don’t think this is an either / or situation, nor should it be. There’s a new blog practically every week now, and the expansion of the tumblr world I also find heartening, because they in turn have expanded the boundaries and expression of fandom in ways that might have occurred to me, but which the blogging framework with its insistence on a coherent identity for the blogger makes troublesome. I’m thinking in particular of “Richard Armitage Confessions,” which I find brilliant and has given expression to a lot of people to say things directly that could likely never be said a on a board because they are required to specify an identity, because they are NSFW, or because they are embarrassing in some way. I think the success of bloggers, tumblrs, and tweeters speaks for itself — that these media offer something that other fans want. Otherwise those venues wouldn’t have developed the audiences that they have. If they maintain their audiences they will persist, as the boards have. If they don’t, they won’t — and the same rules apply to the boards.

      In the end, you know, no one makes anyone look at anything if she doesn’t want to. And as far as I know, no blogger in the current generation has made any principled argument for the superiority of blogs over boards, no matter what her actual feelings are. I know what I’ve seen, and that influences my behavior and my decisions, and none of these are illegal. Let every woman follow her own conscience — but more importantly: let every woman accept that other fans have their own consciences.


    • In all my years in fandom,  I’ve also not shared your experience with message boards, not because I was  treated badly, but I because I disagreed with the restrictions placed on them.  I realize some of these restrictions were necessary due to the large readership, but some forums took these restrictions further than others.  The blogverse drew me because I’ve not run into those restrictions.  That’s not to say that boards or blogs are better or worse than the other; it’s just a preference.

      Getting back to the main topic concerning tolerance of differing opinions, this topic is not unique to fandom; it’s everywhere where debate exists.  There are always going to be those who attempt to shut other people down because they disagree.  It happens on blogs. It happens on message boards.  It happens anywhere you find comments.  No venue is immune without the need for diligent moderators.  I’ve been on boards when the moderator had to step in and remind people about respect and tolerance.  It’s a message that bears repeating, which I’ve done in this post.

  14. I wonder, incidentally, just how reasonable it is for someone who has never actively participated in a message board to say that people who have contrary opinions are ‘constantly marginalized,’ that message boards ‘strongly seek to push consensus on their participants’ and ‘ are ‘seriously transgressive of basic free speech ideas’?  That last one’s a pretty outrageous claim, in my view; but then I’m quite familiar with a particular message board.  If these statements are based on something other than a subjective opinion, would it be possible to say so?  If that is a stance based on a strong sample set of people who have participated in a scientific survey, rather than anecdotal evidence, would it be possible to say that, too?  If that’s a position that can be argued by reference to actual, specific message board behavior, rather than a poster’s dismissive rationalizations, that kind of argument would be reasonable, too. What isn’t quite so persuasive is a poster making those claims based on insufficient evidence.  I think that is what has happened here.

    One of the things I disliked about high school was teachers who made sweeping generalizations based almost exclusively on their own opinion, especially they were not genuinely familiar with the subject at hand. I wasn’t at all impressed by that at university or as I was studying for my doctorate, come to think of it.

    • I see now why CDoart limited herself so strictly. I have nothing but respect for the people who administer the boards; it’s hard work. I originally expressed only that my experience does not reflect your description of them. I do not experience them in the way you do, so your description is not valid for me. I know that many people share your perception, as I also know some who share mine. What one does not like, I would suggest, one should avoid. Life is too short to engage in unnecessary unpleasantness. I can only say again: Let every woman have her own conscience. Mine is clear.

  15. Permit me also to say that I am not arguing that message boards are better than blogs; I think they serve different purposes.  One of those purposes is often to offer the blogger a standing place where she is entirely in charge, a place where she can put her views forward and be arbiter of what happens. I can certainly see the appeal, and I’m glad blogs exist. I imagine that it’s inevitable that a blogger excludes contrary opinion, which is of course her decision and nothing I’d quarrel with.

    But that isn’t something that a good moderator of a well-run message board is allowed to do.  I think that it’s quite possible that a moderator sometimes finds herself grinding her teeth and thinking ‘I really want to delete this post, but I can’t find a way in which it’s broken any of the forum rules, so I can’t.’ I think I’ve caused some teeth-grinding of that kind myself.

    I don’t want to argue endlessly or defend message boards endlessly, but the people who argue topics like this on a blog are naturally going to tend to be people who are particularly drawn to them and comfortable with them.  People who are participating in message boards are far less likely to look at or post on a blog, whatever the topic is.  And that’s fine.  I’m not a message board evangelist; they don’t appeal to everyone.  However, I would be very, very sorry to see someone who might also enjoy participating in a message board put off by posts that, to my mind, misrepresent them and the people who participate in them. Something that is a prospective source of pleasure to a fan shouldn’t be dismissed without a great deal of thought and care, and I question whether such dismissals are in any way positive..  I think respect is due to message boards and to the people who enjoy them:  ‘Jane’, for instance.  We are all part of a fandom, and subjective, divisive  posts that denigrate message boards and those who use them aren’t a contribution to it.

    • I can’t speak for any other blogger, but I have never deleted a single post of my own, though there are posts I regret having made on my blog, three in particular; neither have I ever deleted a comment unless it was ad hominem. IMO ad hominem does not constitute a rhetorical opinion but rather a logical error so severe as to explode the realm that facilitates speech. I would say in about a dozen cases I have edited posts to remove ad hominem but leave substantive comments. I have blocked exactly one blogger for failure to obey these rules. Many people disagree with me on my blog regularly and their posts are clearly in evidence if you want to find them.

      If you think that what a single blogger, or even a few bloggers think, is sufficient to divert the course of an entire fandom, you overemphasize our influence. I’m emphatically not the fan police. People do what they want to do; they enjoy what they want to enjoy. I encourage them to do so as long as they are not breaking the law. I, like every other fan, am allowed to have my own experiences and my own opinions and I am allowed to state them as long as they do not attack others personally. LET EVERY WOMAN HAVE HER OWN CONSCIENCE. I can’t say it enough.


    • I think what’s happened here is we are getting away from my original post which is about celebrating diverse opinions.  Nowhere do I mention message boards, in fact, my post was in response to attacks on Servetus’ blog.  Nowhere in Jane’s interviews or statements do I recall her misrepresenting boards.  This off-topic didn’t arise until you introduced it which then elicited unfavorable comments. People have their own experiences, favorable or not, just as you have yours and they will express their opinions in reply just like you have expressed yours.   That’s what happens when you open a door; anything can come through.  I’m sure you realize that.

      Because we have gotten away from the original topic, and this discussion has taken on a contentious tone,  the topic of boards vs blogs is done.  If anybody would like to discuss the original topic, please feel free.

      • Maybe I’m too simple, but people are going to agree and disagree no matter what happens or what is said — however eloquent.   I figure disagreement goes with saying something of interest and sometimes something worthwhile. If there is no disagreement, then it is status quo, and frankly, what everyone already thinks and therefore doesn’t need to be said — too much.

        What gets old are people who live to disagree as means of affirmation for themselves and do not feel alive unless dare I say it, there is a shit storm brewing.   Now that statement is coming from someone who likes to argue, but not for the sake of arguing.  I think it’s healthy when the end is to get at a better understanding of something.   Maligning someone’s character almost never gets at a better understanding.    In my experience anyway.

        What makes things difficult is that we don’t agree on what it means to malign.

        End of sermonette. Carry on. : D


        • Maybe we don’t always agree, or there may be in between stages that are contested, but I think that there would have been broad agreement that the comments I blocked were ad hominem. There are always controversial cases, but that doesn’t mean we never agree.

          • Dammit!  I just realized I left a key word out of my post.  I meant to say we “don’t always agree” not that I don’t agree.  Sorry I didn’t catch that.


              • In my defense, I have a new laptop, which I love, but it’s a sweet little machine with one problem — the keyboard is really stiff, and sometimes when I’m typing it just doesn’t type.  OR maybe it was a Freudian slip.  Seriously, I don’t like my keyboard. It’s the only thing I’ve found wrong with this system, and SO has the same laptop, but his keyboard is not like mine. Yes, we have matching laptops — isn’t that sweet. : D  The only crime is that he will NEVER use his to its potential or even close.  Actually,  I bought his so I would have a backup. When the kids left home, I no longer had three extra systems of which to avail myself, and my youngest has an old desktop I bought on ebay for about $30 and put another $50 into. It works well, but not for my purposes.   I need to stop. LOL!

  16. Now to the topic.  Does it matter if someone thinks there is only one kind of fan?  Seriously, why do I care about that thinking?  Those who espouse that mindset are either stupid or controllers.  Wait. I should have come up with a term more effective than stupid. : D

    Here’s some more honesty that will probably get me hanged, but it’s really how I think.  Groups of women wear me out.  They always manifest controlling tendencies and the requisite pettiness to go along with it, and I’m once again reminded why I’ve always worked primarily around men.

    Yes, yes, yes, I admit I have a problem with women. I love them and hate them. In groups anyway  Isn’t that terrible?  I wonder how many reading my statement feel like I do.

    But I must say that I love women individually and have loved getting to know all of you as individuals, and when I’m writing a blog post or making blanket statements in cyberworld, I try to always think of you all as individuals.  But sometimes (like now), I revert to thinking of the big globby masses of girls who I did not like in junior high or high school and could no wait to get away from.


    • No, it ordinarily wouldn’t  matter to me if someone thinks there’s only one kind of fan.  But when those someones engage in personal attacks sufficient to shut down a post, then it does bother me.  This type of thing is en vogue today any time real discussion is attempted (especially when talking about politics or social issues).  I suppose I’m adamant in declaring that this is not a valid form of debate and should not be accepted as such.

      I’m not sure if women are especially susceptible to this or more petty and controlling in groups.  I know we can be unnecessarily catty with each other. But any way I cut it, I still dislike the behavior that sparks a need to shut down discussion.

    • Unfortunately, the people who really care that there be one kind of fan tend to be relatively vocal about it. So it may be a small contingent but it’s a loud one.

      I had almost no good female friends until I was in college precisely for the reason you specify. Too much pressure to conform if you wanted to be friends with women. That changed gradually when I was in my twenties, but my closest RL friends, with one or two exceptions, are all male.

      • I went to a women’s college – and still recall those years as some of the most wonderful of my life (college in general can already be such a wonderful time, but the women’s college thing was special for me).    This on-line RA blog community is about the closest facsimile I’ve experienced since  to that high caliber, respectful, and open community (sadly, not quite enough creativity was espoused there, but that has been taken care of with this community!) 

        I do remember now the confused horror on some of my high school classmates faces when I mentioned where I would be going to college.  Their response was a flat out, “but how will you find a husband there?”  Gah.  Strangely, that was not my primary concern in attending college.  Go figure!  🙂


        • I think people experience these things differently. I’d have gone batty if I’d attended an all-female institution! I know a lot of people have great experiences at them, though.

          • Oh we were plenty batty there, believe me!!  And I’m no proselytizer for single sex education (my mom had plans to send me to a Catholic all-girls high school run by nuns … thankfully, divine forces intervened and closed the school down before I reached high school age).  However, I can only answer for my own experience and in my case, a few consecutive, uncanny set of coincidences caused me to take notice of a pattern and I chose to follow those instincts.  I’ve never looked back and never regretted it. 

            But I only brought it up as another example of positive female camraderie I’ve experienced.  I’ve only known the blogging community side of the fandom, so I am a little baffled by this whole blog vs. board discussion.  This could simply be because I’m so new and a blog (to me) is more consistent and identifiable (to a single person) than a huge board, which would have an overwhelming number of threads to me.

            • I agree with you, UK Expat, about the wonderful camaraderie. I went to an all girls school. I enjoyed it, as it gave me the necessary time and space to grow up and find my interests.

              But I found out later, that girls from all girls schools build groups and behave differently, e.g. in work groups and in establishing contact and friendship with other females. The combat pressure is not that high towards other females, but the co-operative aspect is more pronounced, so in later mixed groups at university, I found, the most co-operative and best to work with were mostly from all girls schools. Men tended to be lazy and wait for the results of the females to steal them and present them with the greatest effect and the least effort. (I found wonderful exceptions from that rule as well, fortunately ;o)

              (I also don’t want to make this about girls schools a holy rule. I also met women from all girls schools who were hardly bearable, but as long as they are not the trend setting beauty of the club, they tend to be o.k. Those imaginary beauties, shining in their own glory, are hardly bearable in any surrounding ;o)

  17. BTW, my last comment is not in reference to any group.  Personally, I have had a good experience in the Richard Armitage fandom.  The only time I haven’t is when I deigned to talk politics after someone else brought it up on a board.    I mentally slapped myself a few times for that since I WAS NOT there to talk politics  but to ogle Richard Armitage and discuss his many fine points. : D

    And yes, I’ve had a handful of people say things to me in email since I started my blog, but  I would have concluded I was terribly boring if I never got any flak.   So that was almost welcomed. Almost. LOL!




  18. Men friends, women friends, I love ’em all and am grateful for them.

    I’m clearly a little confused about the issue because it seems to me that there are always going to be different kinds of RA fans, and the same probably holds true for many actors.  Certainly there are going to be fans who are genuinely interested in him simply as an actor and are mostly interested in discussing his performances, and they’ll mention the merits of a particular performance or any weaknesses they perceive, and that’s sometimes going to lead to polite or impolite dissent.  There are obviously fans who are fangirly, watching RA because of the Power of the Cuteness, and I know of two fans who are older women who see him almost as a member of their extended family.  They’ll say directly that they don’t like to see any criticism of him, since they think of him almost like a son.  That’s obviously a different kind of fan from the other two I’m mentioned.  Both of these women will say frankly that they hate to see anything that smacks of criticism because they feel profoundly protective of RA, and they sometimes lash out at people who think a show he’s in is poor, however good his performance is.  RA broke the surface as an actor in an adaptation of a 19th century novel, and some of his fans are still mainly interested in that particular show and will admit that they’ve never watched some later shows because the genre doesn’t appeal to them–macho heroics in Strikeback do nothing for them but John Thornton rings their chimes.  I imagine he has gay male fans, and I don’t know if they could be considered another type of fan, since I don’t know any of them.  You can see how fans can come into conflict; people who are mostly interested in him as an actor seem to look down on fangirls, and people who see him as a relative and are protective of him may get pretty upset and flustered when someone from the first group says ‘I think his performance was fine in Strikeback, but it was an absolutely dire waste of his talent’ or ‘Why is he playing a DWARF in a CHILDREN’S BOOK?’ (a sentiment I saw a lot when he landed the role of Thorin).

    To my mind all of the types of people I’ve mentioned are fans, but fans who are inevitably going to get into conflicts once in a while, since they may want very different things for RA.   Fangirls are not necessarily going to get absorbed in a radio adaptation of a an old novel  in which RA plays a very cruel and brutal man.   I certainly saw a mighty effort to turn Drowning, Not Waving into a love story rather than a story about a man who took advantage of a woman and then made it likely that she’d be arrested because of drugs he put in her case. (Well,that was how I saw it, though there are obviously different views from people who have just as much right to their views as I do.)  Many fans enjoy seeing him as a romantic lead, but those interested in his acting seemed more involved in discussing how he had managed to play a malicious seducer who was also very attractive.  Those two groups of fans were a bit at odds.  Fans who acknowledged that they saw him almost as a family member were quite silent about both the radio play and “Drowning Not Waving”.  Perhaps those negative characters were at odds with their sense of RA as a real person.  But that doesn’t diminish the fact that they’re fans, I think.

    Could we really say that any of the groups I’ve mentioned aren’t “real” fans?  I don’t think I see it that way.  Fans with different needs, fans with different interests, fans who may occasionally come in conflict because of those needs and interests.  But even fangirls would rather see the peaches than see RA as a vicious seducer, even if some fans find Between the Sheets and the peaches alarming, even if a fan skipped “Spooks” because she doesn’t like the show, even if a fan is gay, aren’t they all fans?

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