Richard is no plaster saint. It’s OK not to agree with him 100 percent of the time

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I’ve thought a lot about the subject of RA as ambassador for Cybersmile, about bullying in general and cyber-bullying in particular over the last few days. I’ve read various blog posts concerning RA’s blog post for Cybersmile. I’ve voiced my own opinion in comments.

Clearly, this fandom is not a united front when it comes this issue, just as it is not over RA’s selfies, RA’s choice of roles, RA’s friendships and possible romances and a laundry list of other aspects of the man’s personal and professional life. Frankly, I don’t think the fandom has ever really been completely harmonious (not in the eight years I’ve been part of it, anyway). And I don’t think it ever will be.

With a growing number of fans quite different from the middle-aged, educated, BBC Radio 4-loving motherly creatures we were reported to be back in the day—with more kids, teens, guys, male and female fans of adventure/fantasy films vs. period dramas, individuals from very different cultures than our own joining the ranks—there are bound to be differences in tastes, attitudes and viewpoints on his work and his life–and how we should and should not behave as fans.

Some in the fandom seem to imply that if we do not show wholehearted agreement with everything Richard Armitage says or does, displaying a sort of slavish adoration of every word issuing from his mouth or keyboard, then we are not “nice” or “good” or “loyal” fans.

I beg to differ. I have tremendous respect and admiration for Richard and how he’s conducted his career, which I have watched closely over these eight years, and for the man I perceive him to be: a kind-hearted, compassionate, sensitive and well-mannered gentleman with a lively and slightly naughty sense of humor.

I have seen him grow in confidence and poise in public appearances and interviews, and in terms of his physical beauty and overall attractiveness, he really does seem to grow better with age.

But what I do not see him as, is this faultless, saintly individual who can absolutely never do wrong and whose words and actions should never be questioned. Frankly, if RA was a perfect human being, I doubt I could be the long-term fan that I am. I’d have found him an insufferable “goody two shoes” to whom I could not remotely relate and ditched my interest in him long ago (other than strictly as an actor).

Richard Armitage isn’t some plaster saint to be parked on a pedestal, but a real, flesh-and-blood human being who happens to be nearly 44 years of age. HE is not a vulnerable child in need of our protection from the big, bad world, even if his boyish impishness still surfaces.

Surely he is capable of recognizing and coping with the idea everyone isn’t going to agree with all his choices or comments. Aren’t we doing him a disservice by treating him as if he isn’t capable?

The man I love most in my life, the man I married thirty years ago come Monday, is a wonderful man—intelligent, talented, modest, funny, kind and thoughtful. Yet I hold no illusions he is perfect, and he certainly knows his wife isn’t.

We’ve both got our bad habits, our quirks and our failings. Sometimes he gets on my nerves and I get on his. Sometimes, he makes a comment I don’t like and vice-versa. Sometimes, we have to agree to disagree on certain subjects, but it doesn’t make us any less respectful or appreciative of one another.  We are still besties and will be for life.

Recognizing and acknowledging our human frailties doesn’t make us bad spouses or our marriage an unsuccessful one. I like to say we aren’t perfect, but we are perfect for each other.

There have always been those who would seek to police this fandom. As many of you know, I was the direct target of one of them and lost a paying writing assignment at Comic-Con a few years back due to their machinations, after being described as a “dangerous, obsessed fan” from whom Richard Armitage needed protection. This is the same individual who has interfered in the real lives of other fans/bloggers. My sincerest empathy is extended to anyone who has been the target of her and other “fans” like her. And yes, like many of us, I endured some bullying by classmates as a child. My heart hurts for anyone who has had to, or is, enduring it.

At the same time, I have grown really wary of, and quite uncomfortable with, attempts to police or shame fans and their fanfic, blog posts and comments. There is room for many different voices in this fandom. If you don’t like a particular voice, you don’t have to listen to it. It’s never a good idea to tell a blogger they shouldn’t be expressing a particular opinion; it’s their blog and their right to do so.

I am not saying I think RA should not be ambassador to Cybersmile; I am saying I am not sure he was completely prepared for the task. And that surprises me, given his track record of dedication to and research for projects undertaken. I guess I’ve grown to expect him to always bring his “A” game, as we say here.

Given his short time spent immersed in the sometimes murky and potentially dangerous waters of social media, I simply wish he had given himself a little more time. I sincerely hope that this organization can accomplish all that it desires to, with RA as its face and voice; I also wish they were a bit less vague in their mission statement, but maybe that will change. We shall see.  Looking forward to quantitative positive results from the project.

I do applaud him for his continued desire to aid young people in need of a helping hand, just as I applaud him for taking on controversial roles he believes will challenge and strengthen his acting chops—yes, even if they aren’t the kind of project with which I most wish to see him involved.

And speaking of “Hannibal”—well, that, my dears, is another post.

Shallow Fan Fedora Lady will note he looks damned good wearing only his fancy tats. Mmmm, mmmmm.

(A little laughter in life, boys and girls, a little laughter in life.)

69 responses »

  1. This is really well put and responds to a dynamic that has troubled me for years. I am a fan. I can question his choices and his statements. He’s not G-d, which is why that’s fine. But even if he were G-d, it’s not like my questions and disagreements would have any effect on him.

    And — yeah, on the policing. You know how I feel about that.

    • Thank you, this is about the fourth draft of it, I think. Started working on it in the wee hours of last night,pondered things some more, and finally finished tonight. It was definitely not “off the cuff.” Yeah, the policing thing—definitely on the same page there, my dear.

    • And that is exactly what I am, Jazz! LOL My darling and brilliant young friend about whom I have written several times told me the other day I had “warmth and charm” in my writing, which made me ridiculously pleased.

  2. Thanks for the Voice of Reason. A very good post. I too have read some of the other blogs and been disheartened by the characterizations of posts saying anything critical of RA.

    • Thanks, Judiang, maybe it’s my Libra nature but I do tried to be fair-minded, reasonable and see both sides of the issue as much as possible. Don’t always succeed, but I try! I’ve been doing more writing for pay of late and felt energized to express my thoughts here after reading so much about this issue. Haven’t written an editorial in a while. Feels good.

  3. I’ve been really grateful, though, that the bloggers themselves have risen to the occasion and have refused (as far as I have seen) to join in in that vein. The attitude from the bloggers has very much been, it’s her blog, she has the right to disagree. There have been times when it wasn’t this way.

  4. Yes, that is true, Serv. The bloggers, at least, have been supportive of other bloggers expressing their viewpoints even if some of the commenters haven’t been so generous. That’s an improvement.

  5. I really enjoyed your comments and reposted them on our FB page, where, some can get a little TOO protective. I didn’t really care for his essay. I think it was mainly his writing style (I was never sure who his audience was supposed to be) but if I mentioned that fact on certain pages I’d definitely be cyber beheaded! It’s alright to disagree with him, it’s alright not to like everything he does. What a boring world it would be if we agreed on everything! Thanks for your insight.

    • Thanks, Tamara, and welcome. Yes, I have noticed some of the fans on FB get a little carried away with APM (Armitage Protective Mode). 😉 It can make a person feel as if she is walking on eggshells, which is no fun–and a fandom should be fun and lively place where people can express different opinions without automatically being labeled a “bully” or “troll” (there are enough reals one out there to deal with, thank you very much). If we all thought exactly the same way, a great many wonderful inventions and innovations, not to mention great works of art, literature, music and so on would never have been created in the first place IMHO.

  6. Absolutely! He’s a fantastic human being, but certainly not an authority figure for me- and really, not for anyone, I hope! He’s a great example in many ways, especially for the kids I believe were the primary audience, but I don’t think that “authority figure” is the role he should play in the fans’ lives, or necessarily wants to play….

    I had some issues with the blog piece too, but honestly I enjoyed it much more than the original interview on the Cybersmile page. So between that & knowing he’s not a professional writer, I may be giving him more of a pass … The longer I think about it, the more my hunch is that some of the issues are more about Cybersmile than him. Not saying that they aren’t a great charity, just perhaps organizational things. I may come across as a people pleaser at times, but I really do believe free speech is just as important as kind speech, and hope a commitment to both can still be honored within the fandom. I really trust & believe that it will. Great post, Angie! 🙂

    • He is truly a breath of fresh air compared to certain celebs and pseudo-celebs (people are famous for being famous and not for any discernible skill or talent that I can see *cough* Kardashians) out in the world today. And goodness knows, I want him to success in every endeavor possible, because he IS one of the good guys and a very talented one at that. Yes, I think a lot of the fault may indeed lie with Cybersmile’s own lack of definition and organization in some areas. At least we discovered they do encourage young people to contact Childline, a long-time charity supported by RA—that’s a very positive thing,

  7. Angie, Thank you! This is so well written. I have been very absent lately…very busy and quite discouraged by the censorship that keeps being called policing. it really bothers me. I love Richard and am I thankful that he is taking on new opportunities. that being said, I do not feel his cybersmile statement was clear. I was unsure of his intended audience, context, and reason for the essay. It has certainly caused a ruckus. I do not appreciate those who are trying to silence dissenters.

    As for Hannibal, I can’t watch. I would love to. I am sure it will be well done. I just cannot handle cannibalism…so I will be waiting with great anticipation for any and all pictures like the aforementioned “tats” pic……..

    And happy anniversary!

    Becky

    • Thanks, Becky. I know you’ve been busy from your posts on FB. It’s pretty much been the same with me—lots going on in real life along with feeling a bit depressed over people trying to stifle personal opinions being expressed in the fandom.

      I have watched the first two eps of this season’s “Hannibal.” I am still not quite ready to talk about it other than it is sumptuously produced with a very able cast, but I suspect (no pun intended) it is an acquired taste and I am not sure I have the right palette, as eclectic as I am in my viewing habits. I will try to continue to watch but . . . we shall see.

  8. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t understand how some fans can become so upset about people examining his message and discussing its shortcomings. He was praised for embracing an important cause, and he is surely capable of withstanding some mild criticism. Just because we are fans, are we expected to check our brains at the door? All the comments I read regarding his words were calm, polite and well-reasoned. Can the same be said of some of those in APM?

    • Thanks, Kathy. I know people here in my RL community who are quite the knee jerk reactionaries if anyone/anything they admire gets criticized in ANY way, shape, form or fashion and they go to town about it on FB. I don’t like to see that in RL nor in a fandom. And YES! Surely we are not supposed to be brainless lemmings, ready to dash headlong off a metaphorical cliff rather than risk the tiniest chance Richard Armitage might not like something we say. You know, I remember him saying a while back that fans were not always going to like his choices of roles . . . so he recognizes he isn’t always going to please us.

  9. Well said, Angie. I appreciate that you and other bloggers are putting your thoughts out there and providing a space where we as readers and commenters can offer a range of views without being shouted down.

    • I am glad to offer that, KatharineD. I am strongly anti-censorship, even of books, films and ideas I find loathsome, and I feel there is room for a number of POVs in this fandom.

    • It does seem that way at times, doesn’t it, armitagedme? I think there are more out there who think this way but who are simply afraid to say how they really feel because, as one commenter here said, “They might be cyber-beheaded.” Maybe it’s my age, the length of time in the fandom, or the discipline of newspaper writing and trying to separate fact from fiction and truth from innuendo and gossip, but I really think we need to be reasonable in our approach to all this. And being so excessively protective of an intelligent, capable, able-bodied 43-year-old man is NOT reasonable.

    • No need to apologize, Gina, that should have been changed a while back–that goes back to the Comic-Con trip I referenced in my
      post. I had lost my job. then soon after broke my tailbone in a car accident—the opportunity to write for an online mag came up and I was trying to raise funds to cover my flight and hotel expenses with the mag agreeing to pay for my tickets and for my stories . . . before it was all sabotaged. Anyway, someone else set it up for me on here and I’ve never gotten around to fixing it. I do take donations for our Humane Society through it, though. 😀

  10. Bravo! I could not have said any better myself. And as for “fans” who seek to claim ownership of Mr A- 1. get real! 2. Interfering in other people’s lives and work – shame on you! I have seen some of these so called fans in action, at a very public event, and it was pretty ugly in every sense of the word!

    • Thank you, Meryl, and welcome. Yes, I tend to think some of those who have accused me and other fans/bloggers of being “dangerous and obsessed” actually are much more of a threat to Mr. A than we will ever be. :/ I don’t have ownership rights to him 😉 and neither does anyone else.

  11. You have just brought me to tears with your words, because I have seen myself in what you have written. I have been one of the many, I am sure, who have also been accused directly and by implication as an obsessive fan who harasses/spams Richard with my venom, and yet if anyone takes the trouble to read my blog and twitter feed beyond the first few tweets or posts, you will see I am not capable of such thing, far from it. I, like you, have nothing but admiration and respect for the guy. Perhaps my problem is that I care for him far too much, but isn’t that what fans are? And yes I tweet him a fair bit, but at least whatever I have said, say or will say about him, I have the courage and decency to say to him directly and not behind his back as so many are doing today. That way whether it is praise or critique coming from me, he has first choice to read it if he so wishes.
    I too have experienced this policing to the point of wondering whether I truly live in a free, democratic society or under the rule of some tyrannical regime that will only tolerate opinions that agree with the majority or I should say with the opinions of those who speak the loudest and exercise the most control over others.

    May I please invite you to read my own post which I wrote to Richard in response to his article as well? You can find it on my blog. It shares very similar points to yours about having the freedom to express a different/contrary opinion to what the majority are saying without this meaning that you love/admire/respect/care for/ a person any less than the rest. Criticism is good, positive force in this world. Gossip isn’t. Criticism is the fire that fuels, propels and removes impurities and polishes rough diamonds into jewels. If we only give someone adulation, worship and praise, at some point we are going to set the standard for them so very high, they will live only to meet that expectation and eventually they will fall of that pedestal and not only create enormous disappointment for themselves but also in us. I don’t want that for Richard. He is too unique a human being, too inspirational a person. He deserves our most honest thoughts, be they in agreement with what he says or does or not. He deserves our truth. Seeing as there are so many of his fans, including myself at times, who feel so motherly/nurturing towards Richard. Let’s ask ourselves this question: For those of us who have kids: when you see they have already made a mistake or they are about to, do you praise their actions regardless or do you do everything in your power to stop them, to show them what in your own experience is the right alternative so that greater embarrassment and pain can be avoided later on?

    I also must congratulate you for homing in on the point of blogs and twitter accounts as personal, sacred spaces where we should be able to express ourselves as we are and not as people would want us to be. Yes, if you don’t like what I am saying, leave. You came here of your own accord. I don’t tell you what or how to write your stuff, please don’t tell me how to do mine or as Richard said: “Live and let live”. Yes, he is a grown man and yes he is incredibly smart and has insights which sometimes blow my mind. Do we really think someone like that needs to be treated like a little boy who needs protecting from the so perceived enemies because he is not able to do it himself? You don’t get to where he is at by being a push-over, a coward or a defenceless creature. Freedom of speech: yes. Respect: yes. Criticism: yes but gossip: no. Control: no Tyranny: no

    Thank you for allowing me the space to vent my feelings and thank you for having the courage and honesty to give us yours. These thoughts are not a poison that will destroy Richard. These thoughts are healthy debates and wonderful conversations that can shed light on all of us as to how to better treat him and each other. Peace! #JesuisCharlie

    • Anewcreation, thank you and welcome. I am truly glad this post helped you. I gave it a lot of thought and attention before I published my final draft, as I wanted to state my views and why I have them as clearly as possible. I don’t have children but I was a teacher before I became a newspaper writer. I know I certainly didn’t/couldn’t praise everything my students did. At times, I knew certain kids were simply not working up to their potential. I knew they could do better and I said so. If they asked me for advice, I gave them my honest opinion. I was not cruel or intentionally hurtful. I just wanted them to extend their reach and expand their horizons. I want much the same for Mr. Armitage. 😀 And you are so right, that man has inner reserves of strength that have helped him get where he is today–to a place of critical acclaim with regular employment and an ever-growing fan base, experiences the vast majority of actors struggling to be discovered never can claim as their own.

  12. Reblogged this on BELIEVE and commented:
    This is an outstanding and honest piece and this morning it has acted as a healing balm on my wounds. Thank you!

  13. “Given his short time spent immersed in the sometimes murky and potentially dangerous waters of social media, I simply wish he had given himself a little more time.”

    Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis. So much this. While I can find it in myself to believe that his intentions here are good and that I was never his audience, I really do wish he hadn’t chosen a topic on which he is patently uninformed to speak up as any kind of authority. It doesn’t look good, no matter what angle you try to peer at it from.

    • I feel as if he tried to go from crawling to sprinting and skipped the learning to walk bit, you know?? I know RA feels as if he’s a late bloomer and has to “catch up” with the younger actors he’s competing against for roles, but all that shouldn’t come into play with charitable projects.

  14. Angie love your article. As I was one of the people who was treated, shall we say harshly by the person who treated you so unfairly I truly understand about your issues with policing the fandom. I just don’t believe that is was RA is trying to do. I like what he said and what he is trying to do.

    I think two things have happened and have been added up to make 5. I think his asking for a little caution in what was written in the Q&A session was just a request for basic politeness. I hate bad language I don’t want read it and I don’t want to hear it. I think he was aware of the nature of what he was promoting and didn’t want to damage the gravitas of that.

    Then he was asked to do this cybersmile possibly because of his support of youngminds and suddenly we feel like we are all being attacked. There is a world of difference between what happened to you and what Servetus is writing on her blog. I thing RA wants to stop what happened to you not servatus or perry or anybody who questions RA.

    I also think there is a difference between the fans who crashed the bbc website all those years ago and the ones who have joined later. Many newer fans don’t like the rules on c19 and the AA (which when I joined were the only boards around) finding it too restrictive and started to blog on their own. Talking about anything they wanted which is fine by me but some fans don’t see it that way and wanted it silenced and that is wrong but equally trolling a board continuously to the extent that IMDB is being trolled is also wrong.

    I really think that RA’s target in this are the people like my daughter who has been bullied all her life because of her disabilities. He is trying to give them some guidance and tactics to cope with this. As somebody else said much better than I can, this cybersmile thing it isn’t about us it is about them.

    • Thanks, Kate, and I appreciate your weighing in on the subject here, too. 😀 I am not keen on trolling, period, and I admit I avoid certain places (like the IMDB board for RA) like the plague. Having been raised a southern girl, good manners, common courtesy ARE important to me and some people in social media (and elsewhere) sadly lack in those qualities. I believe in freedom of speech, yes, but tempered with some common sense and kindness—civility, that’s the word I am looking for. Let’s be civil to one another. Goes back to the whole Golden Rule thing, treating others as you would wish to be treated!

      I really DO hope RA’s ambassadorship helps young people like your daughter. He has a truly good heart–as do you. *hugs*

    • I think you know the circumstances that inform what I’m writing on my blog, Khandy, so I won’t belabor the details. It has *exactly* to do with the situation that you and Angie experienced and my own experience of that exactly. I’m writing what I am writing because exactly the terms he has used to urge fans to shape their discourse with were used in hate campaigns over and over again in the last few years.

      I don’t think we can really have it both ways — free speech for only the kinds of speech I like and no swear words ever (however I feel about them, and besides the fact that Armitage swears himself in public). Free speech is always going to have to be free speech for people whose speech I don’t like — otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it, because we wouldn’t object to it and we wouldn’t have to protect it. The issue with imdb.com is only tangentially related IMO. They do not have admins for those boards and they have only very limited rules there. Those are the terms of participating in that setting. If you want to participate there, you have to accept that because the venue allows it.

      It may not be “for us” but since we are part of his audience, it will be impossible for us to avoid being affected by it.

  15. I have really enjoyed reading your thoughts here, Angie. I would have needed that reminder that RA is plasterboard icon last week 😉 Of course I agree with all you say (even if I have decided not to write my own response publicly…). In fact I am really grateful that the discussion has been taken up so sensibly and sensitively by others. (I am almost annoyed that I have missed the chance to add my own two Cents.) Well, here’s to many more discussions.

    • Mrs. Tubbs! How are you? Lovely to hear from you. Yep, he has all those normal, rude bodily functions other mere mortals can claim. He simply does them in a more attractive package than most humans have. 😉 Thanks!

      • He does, but that doesn’t make him any less a human or a frightful lovey. Having read the rather long winded, rambling essay there is a valid point in there. We shouldn’t forget that everyone on the Internet is a real person and we need to be careful what we say to each other. But, like many celebs, I’m not sure he entirely gets social media. His experience will never be typical!

        All well here, hope same goes for you

  16. I linked your post link to mine in my post’s comments.

    And well said about preparedness. Though with the size and variety of his audience, I wonder if that is every possible. Each person will look for their own personal perspective that we hope he references. Perhaps short focused essays on his part would be a possible way to achieve that.

    • Thanks, Grati. Well, true, you cannot anticipate what every person’s perspective will be—still, I think Cybersmile itself could make things less vague (that would help a lot), and a little more forethought from RA would have improved the overall impact of what he is trying to do through this ambassadorship. I think the short, more focused essays would be a good idea.

  17. So good to have you have back Angie! Great post. As I did with Richard’s article, and the discussions on the other blogs, so too have I agreed with some of the points you’ve made, and have taken something away from reading this, so thank you for your thoughtful words. 🙂

    • Thanks, Vicki! Good to see you here. 😀 Things overall are the better than they were this time last year, when I was first struggling with the arm and wrist (and it went on for six more long months). We’ve been busy with the video production company and I’ve been doing more writing for the paper again. It’s hot and humid here in LA (Lower Alabama) so trying to stay as cool as possible. XOXOXOXO

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