Show us your “molle latus” Richard Armitage!


I found something new to distract me from things I’m supposed to be doing for the people who pay me to do them…I now have a daily email subscription to a word of the day site that publishes for Latin.  I mean really, who *doesn’t* need that?!?

Always on the lookout for Armitage Classical connections, I couldn’t help but jump on the word for today:


 I love to use word association exercises in classes…it seems I also do it in my spare time.  In Latin.  Mollis popped up in my email and an image popped immediately into my head:

From S1, Ep4 of Strikeback, here John Porter (Richard Armitage) learns via video conference with his daughter of the unexpected death of her mother.  It’s not a terribly long scene…only a few seconds, but the tenderness is palpable – pictured here in the expression on his face as he tries to visually commiserate with his daughter from a thousand miles away.  For me, we miss the very best bit of this scene in the screen caps…that is, when he reaches out one finger and strokes it down the screen to comfort her.


In a very short collection of frames, Richard Armitage’s John Porter is heart wrenchingly showing us his latus molle (“soft side”).  I think it’s particularly effective because it stands in stark contrast to the preceding hour of John Porter – bad ass SAS commando on a mission.

Tenderness seems like an odd trait for such a person, in fact, Latin literature is full of pejorative uses of mollis in contexts that seek to characterize men as soft or effeminate.  In the case of John Porter though, the glimpses of mollis seem to be one of the biggest draws to a character who could have been really one dimensional. Throughout the Strikeback series, in little vignettes, Richard Armitage consistently brings a degree of mollis to John Porter that makes him a far more complex and interesting character.

Small wonder he’s still solidly in my top 5!

17 comments on “Show us your “molle latus” Richard Armitage!

  1. Guylty says:

    Porter was a real slow burner for me. Initially I was non-plussed. (Really, how could I???) But for the last while he has been a stalwart in my Top 5, too. I think it is due to exactly what you describe. He is this “super-lean, mean fighting machine”. And then, almost at second glance, he shows a tenderness and sensitivity that you don’t expect. Actually, that is a bit unfair – even in the very first 10 minutes of SB, it is his sensitivity that allows him to understand the young Arab boy is not a fanatic killer, but a victim worthy of saving. But it gets buried under the action and other manly antics.
    To the two screen caps you have provided, I would definitely add the scene between him and Katie.
    Oh, and please continue subscribing to this “Latin word of the day” malarkey. Looking forward to your digression on venerus and persici…

    • obscura says:

      Yep…I haven’t read the original novel myself, but I’ve gotten the impression from other’s that Ryan’s Porter was a considerably less nuanced character. I would have lost interest in that pretty fast.

      The script, and the way RA inhabits this role…walking a fence between the detachment it takes to do his job and the tender soul that seems to live under bulging biceps is what keeps me watching it again and again (and inspired me enough to write something like 10o,00o word fan fic :D)

      • Guylty says:

        Oooh, nice reminder. Should read that again. AND other fiction by you…

      • Servetus says:

        He was a really different character, I think. For one thing he was actually homeless and alcohol addicted. He was implicated in more violent situations. His relationship with his daughter was really different. I wouldn’t say he couldn’t be tender; in the original novel he saves at least one woman from a horrible fate — but just really different.

        • obscura says:

          Good to know…it was my overall impression from the bits and pieces I’ve picked up that the TV character was scripted very differently than the original novel for a variety of reasons I’m sure. Thanks for the intel!

          • Servetus says:

            I’ve got the book here somewhere … it has a couple of fun moments in it. I think the same loyalty is very much at the core of both versions of Porter, though.

  2. Esther says:

    Exactly, nicely put! It’s why he’s one of my fave Armitage characters as well!

  3. Very nice! The bold and brave protector is also loving and tender. What is not to love there? Sighhhh! And though some might think Porter’s/Richard’s arm muscles are too big, They are marvelous! *wink*

    And that word of the day reminded me of grad school where we posted them on our office doors each day. Ha!

  4. jholland says:

    Oh yes, I think RA’s ability to do portray those little nuances are at the core of his appeal.

  5. Hariclea says:

    oh what a great cap and word! back home we still call that ‘moale’ 😉 I’m a sucker for remembering the Latin mother of many words 😉
    And he can do that shade so well, and in Porter it is particularly endearing (as i also found it in Proctor), something about the strong man with a soft side.. sigh.
    This was the perfect thing to see/think about just now, thank you! 😍

  6. […] of kittens all over the world preclude the possibility of us using modern slang to translate Latin phrases?  Isn’t it possible that Cicero’s classic masterpiece De Re Publica, […]

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