Verbum Latinum Hodie: Non INTELLIGERE populo!

The Latin word for today is INTELLIGERE, a third conjugation verb (in the infinitive form) meaning to understand or comprehend.

wait what
After the past few days, the phrase non intelligere populo, the idiomatic Latin for “I do not understand people,” may become my new fandom mantra.  I’ve been observing the dynamics of this fandom for about four years now, and it has become very clear that certain patterns of behavior are quite predictable, and they inevitably provoke the same response from me.  This week, the predictable behaviors and my inevitable response have grown to the point of acute distraction, so I’m prompted to go on record in an attempt at some cathartic relief.  Please note that while I am remarking on general trends in the fandom, my reactions to them are mine – you may agree, you may not.  I am at no point saying that other fans do not have the right to feel the way they do, but their rights do not by definition negate mine or anyone else’s. 

My current declaratory mood vis a vis fandom might also be influenced by the fact that I’ve been reading Locke and Voltaire with my Aesthetics class…The Englightenment and the Age of Revolutions (July 4th is just around the corner…) that followed seem to have left a mark, so following is my Declaration of Fandom Independence…

When in the Course of fandom events, *ahem*

One of my major personal issues with the notion of fandom is the sort of artificial hierarchy that exists within it.  Obviously, as the expressed object of affection, Richard Armitage sits at the top of the hierarchical structure, and I acknowledge that in the sense that he is a remote figure of admiration for a lot of people to whom he is otherwise unconnected.  The problem is how this relates to me (and all of us) as a fan, but more importantly, as an individual.

Among the things that have been bugging me this week, and many times in the past, is the notion maintained by some fellow fans, whether it is implied or explicitly stated, that Richard Armitage is somehow better than the rest of us and as such, above question or reproach.  This is a notion that is central to my issues with hierarchy and I have fundamental problems with it and fan reactions that stem from it insofar as they often seek to discipline the reaction of other fans.

we're not worthy

Obviously, Richard Armitage enjoys (?) a celebrity status that I am unlikely to ever attain.  It’s a status he’s earned as a practitioner in a workplace that generates celebrities and it’s what drew me to him in the first place – he’s a talented, compelling actor.  He also appears to be a genuinely decent human being in a celebrity landscape that is known for a fair amount of questionable behavior.   These things make him stand out and are at the heart of why I have spent a whole lot of hours in the past four years offering accolades to his acting talent and admiring his humanitarian spirit.  I don’t put that kind of time into people and things I don’t care about.

The thing is, in my universe, these qualities alone don’t serve to nominate him or anyone else to the seemingly infallible, quasi-divine status that some fellow fans insist he is owed. (BTW…I am not saying that he believes this to be true of himself, nor that he can control the reactions of his fans)  While I can and do admire Richard Armitage, I don’t believe that celebrity, talent and basic decency make him better or more worthy as a human than me (or us).  I know dozens of people who are talented in their careers and who are decent human beings, so those qualities alone are not indicative of perfection or divinity.

I’ve never considered myself to be brimming with self-confidence, but here is what I know for sure in terms of my equality with Richard Armitage…I am of a similar age, of a similar socio-economic upbringing, better educated, well traveled, successful in my career and actively engaged in charitable and humanitarian work.  I suspect that I also share a fair amount of similarity with him in terms of social and political leanings.  In that sense, I put him basically on the level of a peer.   That is, while he is superior to me in wealth and celebrity, he is not in terms of age, education or human experience.  As such, while I would never argue that I am “better” than him (seriously…apart from being unsupportable, that is just plain rude) I also reject the notion that I (we) am inferior.

This putative Armitage Superiority Syndrome (I wonder if there is a catch acronym there?) is also at the heart of the other issue that is really getting under my skin lately…that being the increasingly pervasive notion (especially in the Twitterverse) that no one should ever, EVER dare to question or disagree with anything Richard Armitage utters.  Apart from being dangerously close to sycophancy of the first degree, this is neither realistic nor healthy within a community.

Since I’ve already established the reasons why I don’t consider myself (or any fan) to be inherently inferior to Richard Armitage, I’m puzzled as to why I (we) must not ever question or disagree with him.  Healthy discourse must include both questioning and reasoned critique.  I can’t imagine, that as an actor, Richard Armitage has never been on the receiving end of critical analysis of his performances from outsiders.   Constructive criticism is key to growth in all manner of areas and is not inherently indicative of censure, disapproval, or disdain (or disrespect, “hating”, etc).  

For instance, as a mother, I love my children unreservedly, but my unreserved and unconditional love for them does not mean that I abstain from telling them when they are being idiots.  My children are bright, clever and accomplished, but they are far from perfect in their behavior, in fact perfection is a horrible burden to impose on anyone.  I consider it my most important job in life to make sure that they understand that while I love them regardless, sometimes their behavior will draw my criticism.  When that criticism is offered, it is not out of malice or disrespect, it is to teach them how to make a better decision the next time.

I am also an educator, and a very large part of my job is offering constructive criticism on student performance.  Thus, reasoned critique is a central part of both my personal and professional life – both giving and receiving.  I don’t seek to humiliate or disrespect anyone, and I don’t think that I’m always right, but I do believe that we all have the right, and perhaps the responsibility to respond or disagree when something seems off to us.  This includes when that something is something related to Richard Armitage, yet I have regularly witnessed certain groups of fellow fans who stridently insist that no one has the right to do this.

Here’s where the situation gets out of control for me…increasingly often, the very same fans who insist that Richard Armitage must be sacrosanct from any disagreement or criticism, often labeling even the most benign comments as abusive or bullying, have absolutely no problem with turning right around and launching abhorrent, ugly invective at fellow fans.  The circularity of the logic is dizzying!

Here’s what it comes down to for me.  Everyone has the right to state their opinions.  That means everyone, me, you, Richard Armitage, everyone.  However, the right to state an opinion does not negate the rights of others to disagree with that opinion.   This applies to everyone as well.  Disagreement is not the issue here.  Disagreement and reasoned argument are central to healthy discussion.  It is when differing opinion morphs into vitriol and attack that discussion dies…and this seems to be happening far too often in fandom these days.

At the end of the day, I can only control my own behavior.  I know that there will always be a certain level of dispute within such a varied and diverse group as this fandom, but I might hope that we can all find a way to co-exist without intermittently beating each other up verbally over our varied expressions of regard for the same person.


118 comments on “Verbum Latinum Hodie: Non INTELLIGERE populo!

  1. Servetus says:

    There’s something inherently hierarchical about one’s vulnerability to one’s feelings in the situation of fandom. I don’t like to use the word “healthy” because it’s so value-laden, but this is a great common sense reminder that Armitage is only human. I would definitely ask him for advice about acting if I wanted to do that but I’ll trust to my own competencies on a number of other things.

  2. Perry says:

    Couldn’t agree more.

    • obscura says:

      Thanks for the reblog Perry.

      I don’t have the time or the energy to “throw down” every time this flares up, but I felt like I had to go on record for my own piece of mind.

  3. Perry says:

    Reblogged this on Armitage Agonistes and commented:
    A good an important read for Armitage fans.

  4. Esther says:

    Very well said, Obscura! Thank you!

  5. Guylty says:

    This is a fantastic contribution to the debate, Obscura. You have perfectly put into words what worries me about fandom these days – and what I find extremely hard to deal with to the point of feeling silenced in order to preempt prescriptive reaction to what I might have to say. A fandom is a complex, incredibly heterogenous group of people. To expect people of so many different backgrounds, experiences, ages, situations in life, to all have the same POV, is simply impossible. I do not see any problem with differing opinions on individual aspects of our admired actor’s work and conduct or opinions because we are all united in our shared admiration of him. For me, that has always been the guiding theme – “I may differ with you on THIS point, but I agree with you on admiring Richard Armitage”. More in common, than things that separate us.
    The hierarchy issue is an interesting development that has really come to the fore ever since Mr A premiered on Social Media and the illusion of direct communication has been established. With the OOA now present, one is torn between being honest and oneself – or keeping silent in order to not upset him and his most vocal fans. My most interesting conversations nowadays happen behind the scenes. I miss the long debates that were had on blogs, years ago, even though prescriptive interventions and trolling happened there, too. But somehow it seemed more diverse and free then that it is now.
    I like to think that as a fan I am “favouring” Mr A with my attention. When I voice a critical opinion on him, that is also a form of attention. It means I am taking him and his opinion seriously, I am devoting time to contemplating what he says and formulating my response, and I am open to his POV. It does not mean that I am deliberately hurting him or disregarding his opinion. If that were the case, I would call him names or ignore him. Critical debate of his opinion is ONE way of being a fan. As is praising everything he says and does. There are many ways to fangirl. And everyone should be allowed to do it their own individual way without fear of being called out on it.

    • Servetus says:

      Good comment. I definitely think that there is now a much more consciously propagated rule about the proper way to appreciate Armitage than there was in those days — and I miss those very open discussions as well. Obviously not everyone was present in those discussions (as you say) but I felt like we used to be a much broader church.

      This comment hit me hard because I too have most of my discussions these days behind the scenes, yet I also mourn the fading of the Armitage blogosphere — but I think those two things are related. I am less open so fewer people speak to me. I want to change this.

    • obscura says:

      I think you hit on something really important in terms of this fandom relationship…it is a kind of symbiotic one where I think both sides benefit, but neither OWES anything to the other. Somewhere along the line, that gets twisted up.

      I also agree with you that expressing a critical opinion (as opposed to an insult which is not the same thing) I’m indicating a level of engagement and interest that is beyond superficial.

      I’m open to all points of view…I won’t always agree, but neither will I ridicule or attack.

      • Guylty says:

        Yeah, I don’t really see that there is a transaction between me and Armitage – or the fans of Armitage and me. I am not getting anything from Armitage for extolling his virtues. I don’t think he expects me – or any other fan, for that matter – to agree with everything he says and promote his opinions. But maybe I am wrong.

        • obscura says:

          Certainly nothing so tangible as to create a scenario that we as fans OWE him anything. By his own admission, acting is part of who he is, a part of his place in the universe. We all have something like that, but it just doesn’t follow that the universe and those in it are in debt to our very existence.

          He doesn’t strike me as being so closed to debate. He may not like everything he hears (but then who does?) but Ive never gotten that he can’t deal.
          But, as you say, we cant really know much for sure (and by WE I mean all of us, not just the people who might agree with me ☺)

          • Servetus says:

            I have observed a noticeable connection sometimes in the expressed position that Armitage is vulnerable and must not be disagreed with and fans who themselves have life positions that might be called extremely vulnerable. In the end, we extrapolate as to what is reasonable based on our own notion of what is normal — so if I feel comfortable with disagreement, I tend to think of that as the average position and assign it to other people. It underlines the extent to which all of these ideas about Armitages are essentially identity constructions.

          • Guylty says:

            Very good point – yes, vulnerability is used as a sledgehammer argument that kills all debate. I agree that vulnerability has to be taken into account when engaging in an argument – and that is where empathy comes in – but to shield a vulnerable person from debate imo is patronising and belittling them.

        • Hariclea says:

          I am sure you are right. In my experience fans mostly baffle the object with their admiration and there is zero risk outside comments on the objects professional work to attract detailed attention. I think as fans we always overestimate the amount of attention, interest and time the object dedicates to and engages with fandom. It’s sort of evident RA dislikes squabbling I would say while as other objects would see it as none of their business or responsibility and ignore it. He’s much bigger in our lives individually than we are and will ever be collectively in his.
          And as I think I mentioned before in my experience the deification of the object and vilification of any critical views are common amongst fandom. There are the ‘good ones’ and ‘the bad ones’ and ‘the number ones’ in ALL of them. And there will always be those who will try to set out rules of behaviour and govern the herd and try to bring the ‘naughty’ ones in line etc. If you think fans are abusive to each other you should see some of the reactions critics get if they dare to deem the object anything else than utterly splendid on a given day😊
          I don’t know why some fans are some way while others are different ways but this is suspect is as old as fandom exist. I don’t believe in absolute harmony but I believe in respectful or at least paralel peaceful coexistence is perfectly possible. Notice paralel does not require interaction.
          We should each be free to be the kind of fan we feel and want to be. We may never understand why others ‘fan’ in very different ways but why should that stop us fan in our own way? I’ve seen it aaaallll before and it’s just boring and old. I know it’s there and I also know that from the pov of object there are no hierarchies of fans, object has no desire or time to waste on dissecting, analysing and categorising us, they’ve got better things to do with their lives, I’m sure of it. So be your own fan and don’t waste energy on the unavoidable and unchangeable.

          • Guylty says:

            I am completely with you on the issue of how much importance a celebrity ascribes to his/her fandom. We are not nearly as influential/interesting/real to them as we think we are. And that is actually a good thing. I don’t think it is healthy for a celeb to engage too closely with a fandom – depending on their personality, it could lead to a sort of dependence that will cloud their ability to make their own career choices. As much as I am lobbying for my favourite actor to play the hero of a rom-com, I am glad he has his own mind and may have decided that that is not what he wants. It shows he is independent and not pandering to the audience.
            Peaceful coexistence is exactly what I wish for. I would like to fangirl the way I like it without others telling me it is wrong to fangirl like that. Just like I do not tell *them* they are wrong the way they are doing it.
            With your experience in another fandom, Hari, and the fact that you had some personal connection to the star in question – did you ever discuss star-fan relations with him? And what was his take; did he say how much he lets fandom influence him?

          • Hariclea says:

            Not at all basically, ie not influence. What people tend to feel is very grateful and sometimes surprised and i awe of the length people will go to follow one around the globe 🙂 Letters are read, presents received and donated on to appropriate charities or eaten if sweets 😉 No twitter activity as internet is just a drain on time and public messages usually come when there are cancellations and when speculations from fans and press run wild, then official statements are made. A secretary or similar peruses fb reactions from time to time but apart from the mentioned professional side no engagement of any kind happens. People may shake their heads and are of the firm believe that their professional decisions are their own and should not and are not influenced by anyone else. Basically, one is grateful for all the support in career goals and public appearances and everything else gets ignored, only critics or industry opinions are responded to. They don’t even want to know about any fandom politics and so on and make utterly sure that they stay as far away from anything like that as possible. There is a clear perception that it is none of their business, people are grown ups and responsible for their own stuff, the object is only responsibe for the quality of their artistic output and trying to attend as many as possible when they come out of stage door (which is not a must, it’s a choice of when and where depending on circumstances).

          • Servetus says:

            If we don’t try to change things, nothing ever changes. For some people in this fandom, free speech is a pretty central value.

          • Hariclea says:

            I’m certainly not implying it shouldn’t be, on the contrary, what i am saying is the particular phenomenon is typical of all fandoms and should not deter all other fans from expressing themselves. And i’ve long ago given up on the idea that anything that i can do or say can change that particular view of fandom; many people don’t stay fans for life, eventually their interest diminishes and they grow out of the absolute adoration but while their adoration is so intense hearing other views and accepting other ways of fandom does not come natural. Change for people in this passionate and intense phase who have strong beliefs in their own way of fandom can only come from within and any opinion to the contrary is only perceived negatively. I’ve tried in the past to no avail and in the end i chose my different way of fan behaviour as i didn’t want to be thrown in the same bucket just because i kept trying to change the ways or felt constantly conflicted by association and pressured into certain types of behavior i couldn’t agree with. It was just to stressful and i considered just giving up and moving on, but then i decided the object was too important to me to give up just because i had problems of association and was struggling for freedom of choice of own behaviour. I liberated myself 😉 and found a much calmer but much deeper pleasure in following the object 🙂 But i have never again let anyone tell me how to behave as a fan.

          • Servetus says:

            I’m not questioning what you should or shouldn’t do; what I am pointing is that there’s page of people here who are discussing how to address a particular problem because we’d like to change something about our blogosphere and how we are behaving. That probably involves articulating the problem so that we can talk about how we will deal with it.

          • Hariclea says:

            i was just trying to be helpful by pointing out that this problem is not unique to us, in case that take a small element of stress out of the equation, ie maybe feeling that something is wrong with this particular fandom that such conflicts are happening. I was just trying to point out that nothing is particularly wrong with the fandom as a whole, it’s a common occurrence. Maybe knowing that will encourage people to speak up more and ignore some unavoidable negative reactions. I think you mentioned in one instance that maybe if more people speak up and speak their mind this will help those who felt intimidated or overwhelmed by negative reactions. If some of the people who have face some conflict repeatedly manage to show that they still want to speak up and hopefully manage to ignore more of the negative reactions to them this will open doors for the ones who felt less secure and we can make some space for more fans to engage and speak up even if their think differently? Hope that makes sense. It is what helped me when i felt stuck, i gently asked around, people i knew less and so on or hadn’t spoken to before and i found i was not alone in feeling stuff dissenting from the ‘hard line’ 🙂 That gave me the push i needed to also do my own thing.

          • obscura says:

            While I can only speak for me, I hope that will be a result…that is, that people become aware that the most visible opinion isn’t the only one out there and that they aren’t alone in their thinking…there are other people who feel the same way.

          • Hariclea says:

            🙂 same here! Which means i have to do my bit and pipe up too, too bad i can’t take laptop with me as off on a 3 day trip with backpack only but maybe i can type on phone and post when back Wed, we’ll see. I have thoughts though probably not in any way original at this point and i admit to being very distracted with the referendum but there won’t be all that much to do in the evening at the B&B.

    • Esther says:

      Very nicely put, Guylty!

  6. Kathy Jones says:

    Loved the post and the comments following. I have always thought being a fan of anyone does not mean you have to love everything the person does/tweets/promotes/says/writes/performs/etc.However, I do not visit enough blogs or follow twitter to go into the storm of the fandom’s dark side. .And I sometimes feel that overlooking much of the negative aspects of the fandom makes me a semi-fan. I am only seeing half of it. The fun, nice friendly half. I wonder if I would stay in it if I knew more about it. I use it as a “happy place” to relax and interact with interesting and imaginative people. But if I was involved with any group in RL. I would become aware of the positive and negative aspects of the group naturally. Then I could make an informed decision about staying or moving on. No way. I am still having too much fun with it. For me ignorance is bliss, but OTOH, ignorance is just ignorance.

    • obscura says:

      Thanks Kathy. I have wondered if the amplification of this has to do with the change in platform, or generational shifts in the fandom (my own millenials often perceive things in a much more black vs white way than I do) or perhaps because he can “see” fans in a way he couldnt before…I can’t really say for sure.

      I think we are all allowed to protect our happy place (I noticed that this post links back to a post here from last year by exactly that name), whatever it is…the problem is that no one’s happy place is more important than anyone else’s, so we have to be aware when defense of our ideal is trampling someone else.

      Self awareness…is that a thing?! 😜

    • Servetus says:

      A few people tweeted me yesterday (legacy fans) and said essentially that they agreed with Obscura’s post but that it wasn’t at issue for them anymore because they had stopped engaging with other fans and they were happy about the reduced level of drama. I’m not criticizing that stance, but I do think ultimately the engagement with at least likeminded fans is somewhat important to me (maybe not so important as it is to others of my friends. I’m looking at you, Guylty :)). It’s a bit like being a Christian — you can be one in your thoughts and never go to church and thus never experience the hassle of community; or you can go to church and experience community but not get involved in the nitty gritty; or you can join your church’s governance system and then you hear every single problem, complaint and tension. These are all legitimate. I’m somebody who tends to get very involved in whatever I am doing.

      • Hariclea says:

        But hopefully there are plenty of like-minded ones around, I should think so. Did they mean stop engaging with all fans? I wouldn’t be happy as a single fan but I’m happy to interact mostly and maybe sometimes only with like-minded ones. Nothing wrong with that and there are always opportunity for larger debates should one feel the energy to dive in, which I still sometimes do. Overall much less agro….. I choose my anxieties to come from the OOA himself lol 😋

        • Hariclea says:

          There is opportunity agr! Can’t see the phrase on my mobile

        • Servetus says:

          i think they went from exchanging with likeminded fans to leaving the fandom while remaining fans. I know both of the people well and I understand why they would each have made this decision.

      • Guylty says:

        Totally guilty/Guylty in that respect, Serv. The exchange with other fans is somewhat essential to my personal fandom experience, and being a rather harmony-dependent person myself (call me people-pleaser), I find it difficult if I have to disguise my real thoughts in order to maintain harmony. Taking the critical analysis behind the scenes, is an unsatisfying solution for me because it seems to amplify my criticisms and takes away the filter that I would usually put on when I am discussing things publicly. I.e. I lash out even worse. Which creates negativity. A bit of a vicious circle.
        Your legacy fan connections are right though – I have experimented with muting people, and it makes the experience slightly easier. But somehow I find that unsatisfying as it consciously ignores a large part of the fandom. Like you, I don’t do things by half-measure. If I am in, I am in 100%. For the last couple of years, it feels as if I have been in only 75% (or less), and that grates with my own expectations of myself.

        • Servetus says:

          yeah, I agree — saying things publicly means that I am forced to consider them much more critically than I would if I just was venting to a friend. This is an important process.

          And the academic in me always wants to know “what is up.”

  7. zan says:

    WARNING: extensive misuse of parentheses below

    *applause* Obscura!

    You have explained my view of fandom and interaction with the OOA (nice acronym, Guilty!) to a ‘T’.

    I do roll my eyes when I see fans foster “Armitage Superiority Syndrome”. (*snicker* I see what you did there.) Understanding their logic doesn’t completely escape me, though. Some — not all — that dabble in these practices, at least those that I have come in contact with personally, seem to be of the (much — to this older fan 😉 ) younger variety. I think back to when I was around their age (yes, I can remember *back then*), having similar feelings for a celebrity who was somewhat older than I was. Everything about the crush was sharp and important and required immediate dedication proving they were above us all and we were but mere admirers. Except me, of course. We had a ‘spiritual connection.’ (*snort*) Nothing he did/said/thought was wrong, and don’t you dare talk about him like that! That was before the days of instant social contact, when it took a cycle or two for reactions of fans to be published in the fan rag — oops, I mean mag.

    I’m not making excuses for the behavior of these fans, just looking at it from a different perspective. One that time has shaped. (Dear heaven, I sound like my grandmother!) Nor do I condone their double-edged stances. Unfortunately, rationality about a celebrity near and dear to one’s heart is an emotion that is one of the last to mature (if ever).

    Although most of my RA-centric posts since I started blogging have been somewhat fluffy (or objectifying, depending on who reads them 😉 ), I have found (and still do find) myself second guessing what I post about these days. There have been more times than I care to confess that I had something written, something that might have hit sore spots for some or taken things deeper than just surface admiRAtion, that I self-censored and didn’t post simply because I didn’t want deal with the fallout. IDK, maybe I’m just a lazy — or laissez faire — fan now. (Perhaps it’s that whole retirement thing.)


    Truth be told, I do the eye roll thing when I read the same sentiments being expressed in the syndrome you describe here in ArmitageWorld happening in the one other (*really*) long-time fandom I’m involved with (mostly peripherally now). As new fans come aboard, the cycle of starry-eyed/don’t criticize him/you’re not a true fan/how dare you/{insert offensive name here} starts all over again. Fandoms are frightfully similar in their ebb and flow.

    (I spend a lot of time trying to re-center my eyes these days. *giggle*)

    Sorry. The above turned out to be a long-winded thank you for seeing inside the fandom part of my head. (The rest is far too scary to share. 😉 )

    OK, time to don my red hat and purple dress … 😉

    • zan says:

      Ummm … autocorrect autocorrected “Guylty” to “Guilty”. Dang you, autocorrect!

    • obscura says:

      I definitely think that some of this is due to differences in cognition between various groups within the fandom…if people are in a cognitive place where any and all criticism is seen as personal attack, they respond what seems to them accordingly.

      Clearly, this fight response is an issue for those of us who don’t process all difference of opinion or critique in that way.

      It’s a thorny issue. I don’t want to put myself in a school marm position, ’cause honestly…how condescending is that?

    • Hariclea says:

      Nodding along 😊 or should I say rolling along?

  8. valsgal1999 says:

    Very well said!!! While I don’t agree with everything he says and his political leanings, I also know that he is allowed his own views and who am I to impose mine. From what I have observed or read about RA is that he doesn’t seek out attention and likes his privacy. Something refreshing in this current “fame whore” society we live in. I like that he uses his “celebrity” to make things better in the lives of other people. As a slightly older adult than he is, and a women as well, I take my enjoyment in the roles that he plays. I don’t have the time or patience for all the drama that occurs in the “fandom”.

    As a mom, I love what you wrote about being a parent and teaching our kids. I am trying to teach my son to treat others as he would like to be treated and to “admire” people based on their actions and not solely on what they say.

    • obscura says:

      Welcome! I think the ability to acknowledge differing points of view here is key. I have mine, he has his, you have yours, other fans have theirs and the are all equally allowed to exist. As sentient adults we have the ability to discuss things…when opinions diverge, this might result in debate, but debate which is fine, but aggressive attempts to muzzle is not so fine.

      I want my kids to grow to be confident independent thinkers, but I need them to understand that they must temper that so that they don’t allow their confidence and intellectual gifts to bulldoze other people. Effective communication is (at least) a two way street and it can be done without flame wars and invective ☺

      • valsgal1999 says:

        I am dealing with my son using the term ‘What other people say” when he tries to defend his idea. I am trying to teach him to do his own research and come to his own conclusion. I’m trying to teach him that if he relies on what other people think then he will not independently come to his own conclusion. He is also at an age where he is aware of the current Presidential election. Talk about a bad example to teach him about politics and learning why people vote for a candidate

        • Servetus says:

          That’s for sure — the current political atmosphere is not on our side with communicating this issue.

  9. sinnaminie says:

    Beautifully written, Obscura!

    Not only are you not allowed to disagree/roll your eyes/question him, based on messages I’ve received over the past couple of days, you’re also not allowed to not say anything about him. Since “Richard is gracious enough to allow many of you so called artists to make money off him, the least you can do is protect, support and defend him.”

    • Servetus says:

      That sounds like the oath to join the actual (US) Army: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”

      • valsgal1999 says:

        hehe…. And we wouldn’t want to cause a stir by adding the “so help me God” at the end. Just to clarify, coming from a military family with past and current members, all branches of military recite this oath.

        • Servetus says:

          “support and defend” was the phrase that got me, lol. If Richard Armitage needs my support (beyond movie ticket purchases, etc.), he’s really in trouble.

          • valsgal1999 says:

            I saw that and thought, OMG, but I am not surprised!!! I’ve read several of your postings today and they have been mulling around in my head. I guess these responses are a result of our “me-centric” and “entitled” society. I work with the public and see this bad behavior all the time.

          • sinnaminie says:

            If Mr Armitage needs a bunch of women to support him against negative comments on Twitter, I feel sorry for him ;D

          • obscura says:

            I have always assumed that he is perfectly capable of “defending” himself against a whole lot if he so chooses. That he chooses not to doesn’t mean to me that he has invested that duty to anyone else.

            Honestly, while I can’t speakbfor him *nudge* as a full grown person of a similar age, I prefer to speak for myself. Frankly, I find the whole practice of jumping to his defense over the most pedestrian things infantalizing. But that’s just me *shrugs*

          • Hariclea says:

            Not just you and probably many are still quite young 😊and sadly never learned from either school or family differently. But I hope / think with age many will grow out of it but not all … Sadly.

          • Hariclea says:

            Yes indeed poor Richard 😋😉

    • Perry says:

      ” support and defend”? I knew I disliked the term Armitage Army, and someone thinks we’re artists making money from this?

      • SHeRA says:

        I’ve always hated the term Armitage Army because it seems, to me, to encourage this lockstep, Stepford mentality that causes so many problems. “Stand in your approved formation, recruit!” lol… I remind myself to be calm because I’m sure it’s really intended as 1) just a cute alliteration and 2) to indicate we are many and powerful! 😀 But I still bristle if I’m referred to as a member of it….

        • Perry says:

          Me too. I’ve written about it quite a bit, but I realize that outsiders, like the press, are always going to lump all fans in as The AA. It’s a hook for them to write about.

        • Servetus says:

          You know the origin of that term, right? It was actually made up by a bemused husband whose wife was spending all her time on the computer.

          • SHeRA says:

            That sounds familiar, now that you mention it 😀 So there IS actually an edge to it, lol!

    • obscura says:

      I’ve seen at least one of the things you posted – that is so out of the ballpark! My bafflement with the behavior that rejects any disagreement with even a letter that he types yet has the audacity to flip 180 degrees and not only disagree, but attack the person standing next to them with insult and venom was the catalyst of this post. I don’t have high hopes things will change dramatically, but maybe one or two people will stop to consider how their actions affect others.

      Dum spiro spero…

  10. Rafaella says:


  11. Chazak says:

    I have visions of Sidney Poitier singing “Amen” with the nuns in “Lilies of the Field! ” 😁 I couldn’t agree more on all counts, Obscura! I am with you on the parenting and teaching as well. I’m guilty of fellow worship of teachers as well, as I feel we are a breed of intelligent, reasoned people who seem to see through the mire of nonsense in many circumstances, especially in this fandom! Now, of course, that doesn’t exclude other people from other professions but I am entitled to my opinions and bias on who I admire, defend, support and protect! Hahaha!

    • obscura says:


      LOL…something like this?

      Perhaps the similarities to challenges as an educator and a mother are contributing to my being kind of done with this behavior? Food for thought!

      We have Enlightened views on free thought here 😀

  12. […] Ancient Armitage‘s discussion of fandom in the light of fan reaction to Armitage on Social Me… […]

  13. SHeRA says:

    This is a really wonderful blog, Obscura, I RTd you on Twitter. I keep hoping that enough common sense voices might eventually wear down the “demigod” viewpoint of Armitage, because it does seem to underlie many of the worst fan on fan attacks. And if we know ANYTHING about Richard, I feel sure he would not support that view of himself.

    It’s also becoming more clear (unfortunately) that Serv is correct that we identify more closely with our view of RA (or tend to) than with our fellow fans… I wish that could change too. Again, here’s hoping ❤

    • obscura says:

      Thanks for commenting SHeRA!! (And for the signal boost)

      I’ve thought about these kind of issues a lot the past few years (and not only within fandom) and it seems like society in general is less and less able to tolerate diverging viewpoints. There is an increasing cultivation of us versus them mentality.

      I may be overly idealistic (*snort*) but I’ve always tried to live and let live. There is a lot of stuff that goes down in fandom that I just don’t get, but I’ve always thought it was my job to just shake my head and move along. Increasingly though there seems to be this aggressive stance that if I am right you must be wrong and wrong is not tolerated. It begins to feel quite totalitarian.

      I truthfully, if there are those who want to deify Richard Armitage, rock on…just understand that your desire to deify or infantalize or sexualize or whatever doesn’t give license to stomp on anyone else.

      • SHeRA says:

        I so agree that our society, maybe especially in the US, seems more polarized than ever. I think this election cycle is more a reflection or effect of that than a cause, though things do seem to get worse. As a person either blessed or cursed by usually seeing both sides of any question, it gets disturbing.

        The fandom reflects that too, except probably worse since #1 we’re predominantly women, and I think women do tend to personalize conflict more than men do. Also #2 our emotions, on some level, are all pretty engaged 😀 which is harder to manage! lol

      • Hariclea says:

        I think it’s the unfortunate collusion of reality and political turmoil and debate of the worst kind with another fandom drama which felt just too much. It felt like that to meet too but reality won out I just don’t have the batteries for the fandom waves with the storm raging outside. It’s certainly somewhat similar behaviours…. but maybe our worries about reality piled on the anxiety… in my case that’s how I felt and basically I’ve decided I’ll deal with Cybersmile once reality is done with me in a few days time. I feel for you as the circus will keep going for a few more months…

    • Servetus says:

      I’m skeptical that the view can be worn down, insofar as at least some of the people who voice it most persistently came to the fandom with that view, i.e., it wasn’t that Richard Armitage changed their view of celebrities in general (as it did for me); they already were inclined to think of celebrities as more important of consideration than the rest of us.

      • SHeRA says:

        I imagine you’re right…this attitude just seems to have such harmful, distorting/distorted results, I suppose I can only wish….

  14. Truthseeker says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much what you say here resonates with me and my own experience of being a fan of Richard and of expressing my OPINIONS to him and being witch-hunted and hounded for it by other fans on an ongoing basis. I am still hanging on, but only just. Thank you so much for sharing this and having the courage to write it. Personally, I was very disappointed by Richard’s piece yesterday. It reads beautifully but lacks commitment. I am convinced he is perfectly aware of all the issues you discuss here and how some of us are so unfairly and viciously treated at the hands of the “police squad”, but he cleverly skirted around all the controversial issues. For me his piece was a nice, safe piece, but you can’t bring change that matters; you can’t empower the victims of bullying by being nice and safe, by always trying to keep the peace. Hate is taking over our society and tipping the balance of humanity. I believe it must be tackled at its root and what better place to start than social media. I don’t think his piece yesterday had the courage required to fight this monster head on, and I think if you take on the role of being an ambassador for such an important cause as fighting cyberbullying is today, you have to take some risks and put yourself out there. Thank you for allowing me to comment and vent out on your site. Truly comforted by learning that I am not alone in what I see and feel about the sinister side of the Armitage fandom.

    • obscura says:

      Welcome, and thanks for commenting!

      If nothing else, I hope to establish that there are still some safe places to speak openly.

      I haven’t fully digested his piece from yesterday, but I will say that I don’t think he fully comprehends the complexity of the issue…not surprising if he is relying on Cybersmile’s vague dedinitions…and that just “being nice and positive” cyberspace is not enough. Oh dear…was I just negative? (Funny how that works isn’t it?)

      • Servetus says:

        to me, this has been a chief problem from the beginning. Every disagreeable behavior is not bullying. Humans get angry at each other on the Internet as in real life, they say aggressive things, they argue vehemently, they yell (metaphorically), they end friendships. None of that is bullying, either.

        • Truthseeker says:

          Hi Servetus,

          I was not talking about any of those things you mention when I used the word bullying amongst fans. My personal experience has been to express my views on a particular role Richard took on and since then, a year ago now, I have one particular person who no longer addresses me by name specifically but by allusion (I think we all know when someone is referring to us in their tweets), mocks practically everything I say, insults me regularly and puts me down by slandering me to others. The purpose of this person’s behaviour is to emotionally wear me down, destroy my confidence and in essence, drive me out of twitter. She achieved this once but she will not get her way again. That, in my book, is bullying. If that took place to a youngster in a school environment, nobody would be in any doubt as to what it is and the damaging effect that abuse is having on that particular kid. In my opinion, just because it happens between grown ups, it does not change the nature of the offence or the intent in the person carrying that offence. I know how it has affected me and I am a pretty determined, fiery character who does not cave in easily but I can assure you, this has been pretty hard to bear. I insist, I have found this behaviour to take place a lot in Richard’s fandom. This is not a behaviour I would class as disagreeable but scarring, ugly, scary at times and down right nasty.

          • Servetus says:

            I should have been clear that I was responding to Obscura’s comment re: vague definition of bullying, not to you.

          • Truthseeker says:

            Oh. I beg your pardon. My apologies. It looked like your comment was a follow up from mine. Take no notice of what I said then. M

        • valsgal1999 says:

          Serv, Bullying is one of those thoughts that have been mulling around in my head. The word is being used so broadly that for some people you are bullying them if you express an opinion different from theirs.

          • obscura says:

            Very true, and I think this is a major issue both onside and outside the fandom. It’s also not particularly helpful when an organization like Cybersmile comes along and is either unwilling or unable to articulate what actually constitutes bullying in general. How can anyone combat it if the dont know what IT is I wonder?

          • valsgal1999 says:

            Obscura, I worked at a local elementary school for years and the word “bullying” was so overused. I would have a kid crying because another kid called them a name and they said they were being bullied. During lunch out on the play yard the kids spent so much time worrying about what the other kids were doing or saying instead of playing. Kids relished telling on another kid to get them in trouble. After an hour I was so emotionally drained trying to put out non-important fires. My time would have been better spent watching kids to prevent injuries and keep them safe.

          • obscura says:

            My youngest is in middle school, so I know of what you speak 😔 I agree…the misuse and overuse of the word is a huge problem on many levels, the most important being that it muddies the waters and makes it far more difficult to find actual bullies and their victims.

          • Servetus says:

            I feel like we see this in the fandom. Maybe it happened before Twitter, and we just didnt’ see it (in fact, I know it happened at least twice before Twitter, come to think about it), but because Armitage has articulated this value, there are some fans who want him to arbitrate in fan disputes.

      • Guylty says:

        Cybersmile’s involvement in the fandom discussion (or Armitage becoming spokesman for CS) has really complicated the whole issue. As a victim of bullying (not online but in the workplace), I get quite angry when I see the inflationary use of the term “bullied”. The occasional word of criticism that RA is subjected to online (which is de facto drowned out by the majority of positive response he receives) is nowhere near the psychological warfare that bullying constitutes.

  15. Lovely post! ASS? LOL! God save us from anyone claiming they or others are perfect. Those “pedestals are harder to climb up onto these days, what with the internet relaying everyone’s business instantaneously and such. Ha!

    And I especially liked this paragraph in your essay:

    “Here’s what it comes down to for me. Everyone has the right to state their opinions. That means everyone, me, you, Richard Armitage, everyone. However, the right to state an opinion does not negate the rights of others to disagree with that opinion. This applies to everyone as well. Disagreement is not the issue here. Disagreement and reasoned argument are central to healthy discussion. It is when differing opinion morphs into vitriol and attack that discussion dies…and this seems to be happening far too often in fandom these days.”


    As a matter of fact, someone approached me recently, her wondering if she should post what she wanted to post–given the negative comments flying about regarding some aspect of the Richard Armitage fandom. I told her that what she shares online is her personal expression, and thus it is her choice to share it when she wants to. Basically, I told her not to let others squelch or stifle her voice and personal expression.

    That being said, we do all have to be careful not to cross the line, as you state in your essay and as excerpted above: “:It is when differing opinion morphs into vitriol and attack that discussion dies.”

    I’m linking your essay here in a comment to essay about the essay. Cheers!

    • obscura says:

      Thanks Grati!

      There are a whole lot of things at play for sure. What I know for certain is that while I admire many things about Richard Armitage, I do not look to him for moral guidance. Ive had that instilled in me by my parents, my church, my philosophical growth.

      What I’ve seen happening recently has been kind of frightening (given the historical precedents of this type of behavior on a wider scale) and it really is becoming censorship which I can’t abide.

      I made a deal with myself when I started bloghing that I would be guided by my own values in what I wrote and if ever Richard Armitage took issue with something I’d said, he knows where to find me. Three years later and nary a word.

      I can offer two things..1. differing points of view are welcome 2. Venom and aggression are not.


      • Well said! And I think that–as you indicated for yourself–my growing up with solid values of ethics and compassion for others is my moral compass.

        So it is lovely when I find someone like RA whom I admire for his talent, and personal integrity who also espouses compassion–as well as the many fans, such as yourself, whom I admire for those very same reasons. Cheers!

  16. Thank you!

    A very thought provoking post. I can relate to the parenting issues and have similar ideas. One thing that has happened with my son becoming an adult is that we also disagree about some things. We have different opinions on gun control but we openly discuss it and try to understand the others viewpoint. We also have political opinions on which we agree (and discuss those as well.)

    I am frightened to openly discuss controversial subjects in the fandom (which unfortunately seems to be a longer and linger list of topics.) I also find many of my behind the scenes conversations to be the most interesting and enjoyable. I admit to being someone who prefers not to make waves. It doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts and opinions, it generally means I’m just not willing to be vocal about them. I admire bloggers who have the courage to speak up.

    • Servetus says:

      I think this is a smart comment (although I’d add that some issues of high controversy six years ago are no now longer at issue, e.g., does Richard Armitage have chest hair? which used to be a biggie). I frequently find myself explaining to someone who objects about the discussion of Armitage’s spelling that in act, we have been joking about this for years already. When I first started writing about that, it offended one person enough for them to comment. Maybe it offended more people but I didn’t know about it. Now it seems to be a coherent position that it’s controversial to joke about Armitage’s spelling.

  17. Servetus says:

    On the whole self-censorship issue: as many of you know, I feel that too — the question when I am going to say something I know will be controversial is often “do I have time to deal with this today?” and more often that not, lately the answer is “no.” Fatigue is a piece of that too, for a long time fan. Cycles repeat themselves and I found them interesting the first time and maybe the second time but I’m past that stage now.

    That said, I think there is a difference between even a high level of anticipated (or even unanticipated) controversy in response to something a blogger says (in that case, my reticence is my problem, and I need to work through it myself) and a situation where conditions are being created that are so vitriolic that they prevent people from speaking either entirely or except with extreme difficulty. I don’t think most of us are experiencing that; what bugs me is the sentiment vs the intensity of it. It seems sometimes that someone who says that I have no right to speak now could turn into someone who is actively trying to prevent it down the line.

  18. […] Obscura: Verbum Latinum Hodie: Non INTELLIGERE populo! (excellent post about fan reactions to Richard Armitage on social media, not particularly about the […]

  19. obscura says:

    I think the main issue is that i have to stay away from processed foods more

  20. obscura says:

    Oops…not bad advice, but I got my windows crossed 😛

    • Servetus says:

      That will totally solve fandom digestive problems, though.

      • SHeRA says:

        You both made my night! 😀

      • Chazak says:

        If we keep discussing this, we can start a fandom war over having cupcakes at school birthday parties vs non-treat celebrations! Let me tell you, this actually took up a WHOLE YEAR in the PTA Council meetings! Got pretty ugly, I’ll tell you! Those healthy vs processed food people can get pretty snappy! 😅

        • Servetus says:

          Who won?

          • Chazak says:

            Lol…healthy, non-processed peeps won. It was a bitter war. But sadly, they took the fun away. It could’ve been done more wisely so that since we were removing a food based celebration , we could make it centered on the birthday child with a birthday book (as I did in my classroom ). However, it took on ugly proportions and became a “since we can’t have it all, we’ll have nothing” which only made it terrible for the children. Between allergies, working mom vs non-working moms (who didn’t have time to bake) and the whole killjoy vibe, it’s the kids who lost in the end. Then came the mandate of having to invite the whole class to an outside birthday party. I just tell you…political correctness, people shaming and “Superiority Sisters” are in force not only online! Where/how do these people find themselves so “ultra virtuous” as to instruct we “lesser mortals”? It’s a form of Divine Right, I fear! Just as a side note. ..I am a non-processed, healthy eater 99% of the time, but moderation is a part of my psyche. When it comes to children, balance and respect trumps all things…sports and exercise, studies, eating, socializing, etc. Childhood is no place for extremism. When parents/other adults impose their views so strongly on others, it makes me wonder how the generation we raise suffers because of our shortcomings.
            Oooh, a little philosophical for cupcakes, huh? I got carried away!

          • Servetus says:

            It’s interesting to see the organic crowd get so (for lack of a better word) fundamentalist. One of the key things that religious conservatives are discovering today is that despite their attempts at perfect parenting, adult children leave the evangelical fold at very high rates. Some of this would happen anyway, but a lot of it happens out of rebellion.

            This is another instance where I think people use empathy as a weapon. Well, if I were you, I’d want my kid to eat only organic food, so that must be what you must want, too. It’s the Golden Rule gone haywire.

        • Guylty says:

          So glad that my kids are not in primary school anymore – I feel for you on that issue.

          • Chazak says:

            Yeah, actually, my kids are in HS now, actually one graduates on Saturday! But, in my classroom and in others I represent district wide , this happened about 5 years ago. I’m still scarred…lol, talking about it this many years later! But, the underlying issue is others exerting control where they really have no place. It happens many times in many forums. I’m sick of it.

          • Guylty says:

            Some of that went on in my kids’ classes, too, especially the notion that birthday parties had to be celebrated with ALL kids. As you said – the point is, in the end, all kids suffer from the stringent rules applied to something that is meant to be FUN.

          • obscura says:

            Oh Lord yes..arranging birthday parties is like a scene from Spooks if you are not hosting a 10yr old party for 30!

        • valsgal1999 says:

          Wad of cotton candy??? Give me the whole bag. 😇 I was at an amusement park waiting for my son to get off a ride. While sitting there eating my cotton candy there was a 10ish boy sitting next to me eyeing my cotton candy. He was eating organic dried and puffed green beans because he wasn’t allowed crapola food.

        • valsgal1999 says:

          I so understand. Same thing happens in my progressive, gluten free, organic, all inclusion, we must have diversity, part of the world. We have a couple charter schools here that follow this mantra. Cupcakes and Halloween celebrations are bad. No Valentine’s either. They are all for diversity, but when it comes to educating their kids in a school with a higher minority presence, forget it. I once heard a discussion between a mom and her young daughter. The girl was upset that the store didn’t have any of the organic lemonade she was allowed to drink. And no. No other lemonade would do.

  21. obscura says:

    I was reading an article about Tom Brady and Gisele Budchen and their off the chain diet (which i maintain they can only do because someone else cooks it all and puts it in frobt of them) and I felt for their kids. Super healthy eating is great, but so is a wad of cotton candy once and awhile. I’m with you on moderation (the Greeks call is sophrosyne)!

    • valsgal1999 says:

      Wad of cotton candy??? Give me the whole bag. 😇 I was at an amusement park waiting for my son to get off a ride. While sitting there eating my cotton candy there was a 10ish boy sitting next to me eyeing my cotton candy. He was eating organic dried and puffed green beans because he wasn’t allowed crapola food.

  22. […] This post disagrees with Richard Armitage. Anyone is allowed to voice reasoned disagreement with Armitage. Like Perry, I do not question his good will. The fact that one means something from the heart, […]

  23. […] Third, in terms of the fandom, I hope that watching the fans in play around these tweets will convince people that Armitage is entirely capable of tolerating controversy. The more willing Armitage shows himself to be controversial, I hope, the greater the acceptance in the fandom for opinions in the fandom that diverge from Armitage’s and hopefully a lessening of a need among some fans to consider his opinions more important than the rest of ours. […]

  24. non intelligunt! LOL non-latin people will never understand!:)

  25. […] asked me whether she should attend the Love, Love, Love stage door. We talked a lot about what Obscura has referred to as the problem of the artificial hierarchy in fandom, and the way that the stage door situation foregrounds that aspect of the fan experience. I […]

  26. […] most visited post of the past year where I spoke my mind about speaking my […]

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