Richard Armitage ἠθοποιοφόρος

In classical sculpture, there’s a lot of “bearing” going on…

There’s the Doryphoros (Δορυφόρος)  – The Spear Bearer (the spear is lost)

More literally, we have the Moschophoros (Μοσχοφόρος) – The Calf Bearer

and the Kriophoros (Κριοφόρος) – The Ram Bearer

As it happens, Richard Armitage emerges as Ἠθοποιοφόρος (eeth-o-poi-o-four-os) – The Actress Bearer in numerous roles…

From Robin Hood S3 E9 we have Meg-phoros…

and Strikeback S1 E2:  Katie-phoros

Last, but certainly not least, there’s Hannibal S3 E11…Reba-phoros (in motion!)

Interestingly, in every instance I’ve seen, Armitage Ἠθοποιοφόρος is carrying the actress in question bridal style…arguably the hardest way to carry an adult human.  It’s fascinating to me that women being ported around is still such a romanticized element in contemporary performance – that it’s also referred to as princess style is plenty telling…the whole “sweep her off her feet” thing.  I’ve been tossing the notion around from a variety of perspectives for a few days.

Even considering the strength differential between genders, carrying an adult is not something most men I know undertake on a regular basis.  I was recently watching a standup routine in which comedian Bill Burr joked about this very topic.  In an extension of a bit about the impracticality of sex scenes in rom-com – you know the ones…where the impossibly handsome leading man sweeps the willowy leading lady off her feet, bearing her effortlessly to the bedroom where she practically floats out of his arms to lay on the conveniently turned down bed – Burr points out to the women in the audience…“You’re heavy!”  At a chorus of female gasps he says something like, “What?  When did you stop carrying your kids around?!”  He goes on to qualify by pointing out that even on the low side, the average adult woman weighs something over 100lbs (45kg) and more to the point, that this weight is not evenly distributed when carrying bridal style – “you don’t go to lift weights with 20 pounds on one side and 80 on the other.”

He’s got a point there…remembering back, I think I stopped carrying my kids around when they reached about 40-ish pounds.  Unless they rode piggyback or on my shoulders, they were just too heavy to lug around – I don’t want to carry the 40lb box of cat litter either, but at least that’s got a handle!  It’s clear that this operation is fairly impractical, yet it is quite common in dramatic performance. I assume dramatic performers learn ways and means to make it appear more effortless than it actually is.  I also assume that actresses don’t just hang there like a sack of potatoes, but actively assist in the carry.  Interested, I reached out to my in house drama advisor regarding actress cartage.

Showbiz Kid is 6’0″ tall 220 pounds and is regularly called upon to lift and carry his female colleagues around on stage.  He confirmed that some of the girls are much easier to lift and carry…even if they are heavier.  For instance Eliza, though very slim, “just schlups about like overcooked manicotti when anyone tries to lift her” while Lily, who outweighs Eliza by 40 or so pounds, “carries herself” and is much easier to lift and carry.   It’s probably worth noting that Eliza has had tap training – emphasis on connection to the floor, while Lily is schooled in ballet.  It’s not a very long leap to assume that if high school performers are schooled in lifting, so are professional actors.

If you watch the above gif again closely (*cough*) it looks to me as if Rutina Wesley is plenty involved in this lift…her feet touch the floor and it seems that she pushes off to kind of “jump” up at the same time as he’s lifting from below.  (I love the repetition of the gif…I wonder how many takes this scene needed- maybe that stomping out of the room wasn’t characterization as much as muscle fatigue?)

Practicality aside, I also wondered about why this is such a persistent image in dramatic performance.  In the images above, two depict Armitage Ἠθοποιοφόρος bearing a wounded character…a woman who could not carry herself from point A to point B…this is self explanatory.  Guy and Porter couldn’t just throw Meg, recently speared by a pike, or Katie with her severed hand, over the shoulder in a fireman carry and be on the way.

The scene from Hannibal where Dolarhyde sweeps Reba off the sofa is something else entirely. Here, there’s a clear fantasy element playing out…the notion of her being so desirable that he can’t wait for her to walk on her own, or risk that she’ll walk away, so he wisks her up off her feet and rapidly bears her away.  I’d be a giant liar if I didn’t admit that this was an evocative scene to watch in the moment.  For me, it’s a weird thing…the “I can do it myself” side of me wants to be in control of my own business, while the fantasy side of me is drawn to the display of power depicted here.

While I was pondering this whole question, I also wondered if petite women get tired of people (particularly men) trying to carry them around.  On some level, it seems like it could be perceived as infantalizing.  Truthfully, I’ve known more than a few petite women who’ve complained that they hate it when people pick them up and move them from place to place – that they may be small, but they are not children who’s will is often subordinated to that of an adult.  Conversely, I’ve also known many non petite women who would cheerfully elect to be boiled in oil before having anyone lift and carry them anywhere.  Curious.

Carry On Armitageworld! 





19 comments on “Richard Armitage ἠθοποιοφόρος

  1. Guylty says:

    Great post, Obscura, and something I have often wondered about myself. Proper comment later, at a book launch right now

    • Guylty says:

      Right, back from my event (not without an embarrassing interlude that will make a great anecdote in decades to come), and now finally able to comment. What is it with men carrying women? Is it a caveman strategy – grab, grunt, go – or is it reverence (“the ground is not worthy of your feet”). It could just be a little ploy to get up close and personal, a bit like dancing – after all he has to hug her to lift her, and it helps if she hugs back.
      I have often had the same thoughts as you – how are the guys able to lift all that weight? I certainly gave up pretty quickly when it came to carrying the kids, just like you said. But I had never looked at it from a technical POV; or that there even *is* such a thing as technique. It had not occurred to me that the actress may actually push herself up in order to help, but I do think that it really depends on her body tension how “lightly” she will carry. It probably also has to do with shifting her own weight in his arms in order to balance the weight a bit more evenly.
      What I admire more, is that the woman-carrying actors not only lift the ladies, but usually also have to walk, possibly even up steps. Work out!
      As for myself – being lifted by a man is one of my turn-offs. And not because of some sort of feminist “I can walk myself, thank you” attitude but because I have always been embarrassed about my weight, all my life, and rather than have a guy collapse under my weight, I’d forego the pleasure and intimacy of that gesture and put him off. I don’t even like sitting on a man’s lap, for that reason, however innocently it might be. (Serious issues here… therapy, here I come.)

      • obscura says:

        It’s such a weird thing to me…OTOH, I’m oddly attracted to the show of superior power, but on the OTOH, I learned first hand that the same strength the could fling me around the dance floor, could also hold me down and negate my wishes.

        I’m always somewhat in awe of the kind if upper body strength even an unmuscular kind of guy possesses. Even so, it’s got to be fatiguing to repeat that action over and over to a directors satisfaction!

  2. Esther says:

    Actually, my husband at the beginning of our relationship has wanted to lift me (often as a joke) but I have adamantly refused him every time. I’m not small (5ft7) and always feared he’d just buckle if he tried to do so (even though he is about 6ft2), although he insisted he wouldn’t. He is more than aware now that he should never attempt lifting me again. 🙂
    Like you, I always wonder how the actors can make it look so effortless, how many takes do they need to get there and how much is edited out of a lifting take.

    • obscura says:

      I rely do wonder what that is about…a kind of latent biological urge to exhibit strength to one’s mate?

      The technical aspect is one of those things I want to know but don’t want to know

    • obscura says:

      I rely do wonder what that is about…a kind of latent biological urge to exhibit strength to one’s mate?

      The technical aspect is one of those things I want to know but don’t want to know??

  3. Great post, Obscura! Always love your essays!

    And I wonder if the guy’s have a reverse fantasy–with them doing an anti-firefighter carry, via the sweep you off your feet carry mode. Ha! My hubby says every once in a while that he would carry me somewhere if I needed it. But I’m with Guylty on this one. Though I’m petite at 5ft 2in, my 6 ft 4 in hubby has delusions of grandeur if he thinks that he can pick me up and not get a hernia. Ha!

    And this household doesn’t need anymore strained muscles. When I go back to PT this week for my hip and lower back, I need to come up with a plausible reason for my strained groin muscle that doesn’t involve any Cirque du Soleil moves. Ha! Let’s just say that my leg muscles “Charlie horsed” at an “inopportune moment” this past week. And in trying to “shake it out”–before the leg muscle strained all the way (which is very painful)–I managed to relax my leg muscles, but at the cost of other muscles. *shakes head in embarrassment*

  4. wydville says:

    Could he become wydvillephorus, please?

  5. linnetmoss says:

    Great post, Obscura! I love that you looked at it from the man’s POV. It is indeed the most impractical way to carry someone, but it’s also visually appealing and an impressive demonstration of strength. In fact I just watched “Jane Eyre” with George C. Scott in which Scott picks up the wounded Mason in his arms (bridal style) and carries him from the room. It was seemingly effortless, too. I have to admit I was impressed!

  6. Camassia says:

    I enjoyed this post very much, thank you!
    This way of carrying a woman is quite romantic, imagine, if the hero would bear the lady like a ram. You can see this carrying style sometimes in war films when the hero carries the wounded comrade away from the battlefield, out of danger, but never in romantic situations.
    Yes, and I agree with the other commenters, it reduces the woman to a helpless and weak subject, but enhances and idealizes the tension between passive female and active, strong male. Congenial for movies but in real life mostly embarassing for the woman…

    • obscura says:

      Welcome, and thanks for commenting!!

      Yeah, nothing says “I love you” like being heaved over a man’s shoulder like a sack of grain!! 😀 (or worse…her personal romantic hero groaning under the effort of carrying her five steps….eek!!)

      I’ll stick with the lovely fantasy movie version too.

  7. […] had intended to answer all of the great comments on the Armitage ἠθοποιοφόρος post this afternoon but then this […]

  8. Hariclea says:

    Great post! It is something i have always wondered/worried about, men carrying women round. Mainly because i love ballet and always feel sorry when in some ballets men are reduced to the role of carrying the ballerina around. It is probably where best technique can be best observed, They virtually never lift them with leg together, always legs apart to give more stability and spread the weight and strain the back less. Still i know for roles which are more demanding in terms of lift and moving around most of them do additional training to strengthen their backs.

    I know one in particular who is a great example of this, we are used to ballet dancers with strong feet, particularly thigh muscles. But actually for partner dancing and those principal roles what you need equally and sometimes more is strong arms and shoulders and back, eg Edward Watson:

    He’s particularily know for a role which is extremely physically intensive, plays the role of a crazy unhinged prince who tends to throw and carry his lover about 🙂

    But anyway, familiar body build, no? 🙂

    And all those health and safety courses about lifting objects also tell us that lifting from the back like that is possibly the worst thing ever. And still, the tradition remains.. i guess because is spells protection like nothing else, the almost face to face intimacy, fragile women, big man.. roar LOL. I think that position is romantic in static, ie in their lap or some variation of it.. the carrying off bit is for me too damaging to anyone’s back. I’d never impose my weight on anyone and i always worry when i look at my favorite ballet dancers straining with the effort (enlarged veins along their arms are just some side effects of all that weight lifting their end up doing).

    Personally i like that face to face or face to shoulder intimacy, but no carrying necessary 🙂 And i wish in film they’d learn from dance.. there is so much variation possible without giving anyone a bad back 🙂

    i have to wonder what is hard wired in our brains?? Because i undoubtedly find broad shoulders, powerful arms enticing, even if i don’t want to be carried.. but then why should those qualities be so attractive to us? 🙂

    I also always wondered in that scene why he is so broad-paced. I don’t think it is her weight at all. I agree with you she almost jumps in his arms, making it easier for him to lift, so nice of her 🙂 And probably well choreographed. I’d bet that his natural instinct as a dancer would then have instinctively guided him to walk away closing his legs, almost stepping one foot in front of the other. It is only lifting which requires the spread of the legs, once balanced a dancer will instinctively seek elegance of movement. I think his broad steps were intentionally inelegant, to make him rougher, physical, a bit overcome and animalistic 😉 ‘Natural’ RA has as close an elegant walk as i have seen in dancers, seems to be very deeply ingrained 🙂 I love to watch him walk…

    I don’t think our general fascination with the lift will disappear, but maybe it is because it is a more protective version of what is essentially an embrace? i don’t know..
    Sorry about the long response, i’ll leave it with another image i really liked from the same ballet:

    Lift? embrace? 🙂

    PS At least we can be sure RA has the right body type and tone to be able to do it without much damage 🙂 once per series that is 😉

  9. Hariclea says:

    sorry couldn’t resist some photo examples so the other comment is off to moderation 😉 Thanks again for the lovely theme, once which has always preoccupied me

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