An Embarrassment of Riches

I’m not sure where they came from but screen caps from the Digital Theatre production of The Crucible hit the fandom sometime over the weekend (no, I generally don’t pay attention, why do you ask?) followed shortly by a predictable dust-up about them. A fan page that posted them to Twitter had to explain themselves on Facebook yesterday because, gasp, the screen caps were of a half nekkid Richard Armitage and didn’t they know that was “objectification” and “disrespectful”?

Uh…come again?

You do realize that he took his shirt off approximately 101 times during the run of The Crucible, right? And you further realize that HE’S AWARE he took his shirt off approximately 101 times during the run of The Crucible, right? And you further realize that HE WAS AWARE that he was being filmed, right? He was also aware that he was baring his assets during Spooks, Strike Back, and Between the Sheets, AND I’ll bet it didn’t get past him that he was wearing a Speedo in Cold Feet. He’s smart like that, you know.

Richard Armitage is an adult and as an adult he gets to draw boundaries around what he does and doesn’t do professionally. In the past, this has included roles where he drops trou. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt — the respect, if you will — that if he’s willing to do these roles that on-screen or on-stage nudity doesn’t bother him as much as it does some of us.

Over the summer I got a note from someone I didn’t know who was really upset that Armitage was being “treated like a piece of meat” in a particular Facebook group (not the same one as the one above). Aside from the fact that Armitage wasn’t actually being treated in any way at all because he wasn’t there, this is one of those statements that always makes me roll my eyes because it’s my opinion that it’s just as easy to make a fetish object out of John Thornton as it is Lee Preston. I don’t think that a romantic fantasy is any more moral in itself than a sexual one, it’s still just a thought in your head and still a projection of who you are, not who he is. That specific incident had to do with a screen cap of NotLucas North’s bare butt while he was getting changed in Spooks Season 8 Episode 4 and my defense of the person who posted it. I have this admittedly silly notion that if he’s done a piece of work we should be able to talk about it. My correspondent wrote, “This is a public Facebook page and should be given at least the respect of a PG 13 rating[.]” If she’d have stopped there I’d have totally agreed with her because it was indeed an open Facebook group, there are restrictions on what can be posted to those and part of the contention had to do with the fact that the Administrator of the page at that time wasn’t answering inquiries about what was acceptable and what wasn’t. It was still up to the Administrator and Facebook’s Terms of Service, though, and not my correspondent, or me, or the person who posted the screen cap to begin with. However, then she wrote that “…if it would not be shown on public TV, then it should not be shown in other public places where people like myself could be offended.”

Again, uh…come again?

First of all, it was indeed made by and shown on public television. The BBC is not a shady soft porn cable station. For the record, Spooks was also shown on PBS in the US, again, not a shady soft porn cable station. And how, exactly, are the rest of us supposed to be able to predict what may offend someone else? For example, Richard Armitage had no idea that he’d trigger a really negative response in me when he mimicked hanging himself with his tie during the press tour for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. It’s not his responsibility to know my triggers and I made it really clear that it wasn’t the responsibility of the fandom to accommodate me, either. It was MY responsibility to remove myself from places that made me uncomfortable. I had my say on blog because that’s my space. Similarly, it’s YOUR responsibility to remove yourself from places that make you uncomfortable, rather than trying to force the entire fandom to adhere to your sensibilities. If you want to create a space where your morality reigns supreme, knock yourself out, but for the love of Mike can you maybe accept just this once that other people in this fandom are not like you?

We don’t all see the same interactions the same way because we filter them through our own experiences. My filter as a 46-year-old woman is slightly different than it was when I was a 20-year-old. During an interview on the first Hobbit press tour, George Stroumboulopoulos showed a fan made video, including footage of Cold Feet. My correspondent wrote that “everytime pictures like these are referenced in interviews, it is clear to everyone that he hates it. He even jumped on an interview host once because he made reference to women wanting to ‘make love to him’ because of his speedo’s scene.” I’m not really certain how it’s clear to “everyone” because it’s certainly not clear to me.

Surprised? Sure. Caught off guard? Absolutely. Hates it? That’s not how I see that reaction. I see that as kidding, kind of like when he told Kathy Lee and Hoda a few days later that he’d brushed his teeth because he thought he was going to have to kiss them, kind of like when he said during the following year’s press tour that he wanted everyone (yes, including you) to get naked, kind of like when he makes dick jokes. From my perspective, my correspondent was more embarrassed than he is and she was trying to make me responsible for her embarrassment at that moment. Twitter notwithstanding, there’s no way to take it up with him, so who gets the brunt of the discomfort? The rest of us.

What I find most disrespectful every single time this conversation happens is this notion that any of us has a better idea of what he should be doing than he does, including taking roles where he’s in various states of undress or less than heroic. Whether he sees these as a means to an end or as being artistically fulfilling in themselves isn’t up to us. He’s walking his own path, carved out by himself and his team. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the nonsense that some of us could somehow do a better job than his agent. The first time I saw it floated that he needed to fire his representation was right before his casting in The Hobbit was announced. Monumental screw up that was, right? Horribly irresponsible waste of his client’s talent, and look where it led? Right to John Proctor taking his shirt off approximately 101 times during the run of The Crucible.

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