Eureka Hephaestus!

Way back when, in the early months of Ancient Armitage, I frequently found myself comparing elements of Richard Armitage characterizations to those of the male Olympian deities….Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Apollo, Apollo, Apollo…as well as a few heroes and demigods along the way.  There are a couple though, who are absent from the list.  (I was surprised to realize that I haven’t ever talked directly about Zeus vis a vis the Armitage oeuvre…a rather obvious comparison sprang to mind immediately…note to self.)

The Greek god Hephaestus has been a rather difficult one to nail down…hehehe…Hephaestus, nail. Sorry – got ahead of myself with the mythology pun there.  Hephaestus was the Greek god of fire and the forge along with craftsmanship.  Metalworkers, stonemasons, architects and sculptors all benefited from his patronage.  Like many of the younger generation of Greek deities, Hephaestus’ birth story is varied.  Some sources record him as an offspring (along with Ares, Hebe, Eilethyia and Eris) of Zeus and Hera, but others tell a different story.  One of the most interesting birth myths for Hephaestus comes from the Theogony of Hesiod.  Here Hesiod recounts that Hera had been angered by the fact that Zeus had by himself ushered in “bright-eyed Athena” without a mother, so she decided to try a solo act and produced Hephaestus with no help from Zeus.

Greek mythology is a weird and wacky universe, but what happens next is tragic in an all too modern way.  All of the birth myths of Hephaestus record that shortly after his birth, his mother Hera cast him aside because he was born “lame” with a misshapen foot.  In fact, she threw him off Mt. Olympos…

“But my son Hephaistos whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and a disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods!’”

                                                                                               – Homeric Hymn to Apollo

With a mother like that, who needs a wicked stepmother?  Even so, as often happens with children and mothers, Hephaestus evidently forgave her, which only set him up for more agony – both physical and emotional.  In another prominent myth, he was back on Olympos and attempted to help Hera escape a punishment from Zeus.  His reward for this was to once again be flung off the sacred mountain – this time by Zeus himself.  All of these rocky landings left physical marks on Hephaestus.  He is the only one of the Greek deities who is consistently referred to as less than physically perfect and divinely beautifu – in fact, common epithets of his are Ἀμφιγύεις (the lame one) and Κυλλοποδίων (halting one) in reference to his damaged legs.

Even though he is the butt of more than one godly joke – including those about his constantly cheating wife Aphrodite – when the Greek deities want top quality workmanship, they turn to Hephaestus again and again – Hephaestus Χαλκεύς (coppersmith) or Κλυτοτέχνης (renowned craftsman).  From forging chains strong enough to contain Prometheus for his daily liver extraction to the delicate craftsmanship of the Armor of Achilles, Hephaestus was the god for the job.

hephaestus armor of achilles

I can’t recall what I was thinking about last week when it occurred to me that there was perhaps a similar figure in the Armitage repertoire of characters.  A character who was born imperfect, abused, neglected and ridiculed…like Hephaestus, at the hands of a powerful maternal figure.  A character bearing scars, both physical and emotional that would follow him into adulthood.

Hannibal’s Francis Dolarhyde, born with a cleft palate and victimized by an abusive grandmother, is clearly still impacted by the shame and ridicule of his childhood when we see him in the company lunchroom…buttoned up to the wrists and neck.  Circumspect.  Self-conscious.  Solitary.

Yet there is another side to this broken creature…a side that the people around him don’t see.  (and not the murdery side…)  

Leaving aside the grisly nature of the product that he’s working on, here is Francis Dolarhyde, skilled craftsman – complete in ancient Greek craftsmanship wardrobe – mostly naked!

Despite the increasing horror and madness of the man, there is no denying that there is also an enormous amount of skill and “craftsmanship” that goes into the planning and execution of all he does.  He couldn’t remain undetected so long,  then successfully fake his own death and nearly succeed in toppling Hannibal himself without being a master “craftsman” of sorts.

Eureka Francis Dolarhyde!


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! 





It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world Richard Armitage

I can’t help but notice that I seem to have an uncommonly long processing curve when it comes to Richard Armitage performances!  Although I watched Hannibal unfold in “live” network time, and I commented on the analyses of others, I’m just now getting around to analyzing it myself.


My brain works in mysterious ways.  I was thinking about something else entirely and *BOOM*  I’m thinking about how Francis Dolarhyde’s tRAnsformation into the Red Dragon reminds me of episodes of “madness” in the ancient Greek mythological and literary tradition.

Two famous instances of ancient “madness” popped immediately into my head.  The first comes from the later books of the Iliad (19-24) when Achilles’ anger transformed into a violent rage that he allowed to run completely amok…

“Nothing matters to me now

But killing and blood and men in agony” (19.226)

After learning of the death of his kinsmen and companion (probable lover?) Patroklos, Achilles anger, which is the driving thematic force of the Iliad, transformed into a homicidal rage that he never even attempted to control.  He went on a rampage and kills so many Trojan soldiers that their bodies clogged the local river.  His wrath was so unchecked that he violated all the rules of “civilized” warfare in his desecration of the lifeless body of the defeated Hektor.


Achilles looks bored as Priam pleads for the mutilated corpse of his son Hektor Source

While a modern audience might attribute Achilles’ uncontrollable rage to a variety of pathological conditions, the Greeks were having none of it.  Achilles was a paradigm of anger throughout the Iliad.  His personal anger as the “theft” of Briseis was the source of enormous hardship to the Greek forces at Troy.  His behavior was antithetical to everything the Greeks defined as heroic.  Homer, in the voice of Apollo, describes him below

Iliad XXIV.30ff

Iliad XXIV.30ff

To the Greeks, Achilles anger was his to control, and his inability or worse, his unwillingness, to do so was decidedly un-heroic.  It doesn’t really fit with how the Greeks defined “madness” either.

One of the best mythological examples of madness – particularly divinely “inspired” madness – was an episode in the mythology of Herakles.  While Herakles’ characterization as the super strongman who succeeds through brute force does not always gel well with Dolarhyde’s calm, methodical calculation, they do share a number of common elements that I found really striking.

The first is the presence of a highly malevolent maternal figure.  In Dolarhyde’s case it was the grandmother who devalued and terrorized him as a child, inflicting incalculable damage to his psyche. Herakles fell victim to a long attested trend in Greek mythology…

greek mythology

Herakles was the product of one of Zeus’ pant dropping episodes, and this earned him the everlasting hatred of Zeus’ wife Hera.  Hera had an incredibly acrimonious relationship with her philandering husband/brother…she hated him in particular, but it was his extracurricular offspring who usually bore the brunt of her malicious behavior.  Hera had an extra special loathing for Herakles, who was predestined to become a god, so she never missed an opportunity to take a poke at him.  She plagued him from infancy with a variety of attacks designed to destroy him or bar him from becoming immortal.

The worst episode of this was when Hera sent Lyssa, the goddess of mad rage to “infect” Herakles.  This scene is famously played out by Euripides in The Madness of Herakles (Ἡρακλῆς μαινόμενος) which is also known by the Latin title Hercules Furens after Seneca’s version of the play.  In this play, while Herakles is off on hero business, his family is seized and sentenced to death.  He arrives on the scene just in time to save them, but it turns out the the whole thing was a set up to get them all together in one place so that Hera could put her latest scheme into action.


Herakles goes berserk                                                                                                                     Source

When Herakles arrived on the scene, Lyssa was there – against her will, sent by Hera – to infect Herakles with her trademark madness.  Albeit under duress, she did it, and Herakles went berserk, killing his wife Megara and all of their children in a frenzy of divinely incited madness.  When he snapped out of it, he was devastated to learn what he had done – a seemingly unforgivable act.

Unlike Homeric Achilles though, Euripides presents Herakles as a figure to be pitied…redeemable Because, unlike Achilles, Herakles was not entirely responsible for his actions…clearly, the malicious madness sent by Hera was the real cause.  As such, Herakles was offered (and accepted) an avenue of redemption for his mad acts.

I found the whole scenario not unlike Richard Armitage’s characterization of Francis Dolarhyde’s “inspired” madness.  It’s fairly clear from Thomas Harris’ original text that the reader is to assume that Dolarhyde’s past treatment at the hands of this grandmother – his personal Hera – was at least in part responsible for the madness in his present.  While his original , malicious mommy dearest isn’t an active agent in his adult crimes, Dolarhyde has his own version of Lyssa, in the form of the Red Dragon, to inspire his madness.  While he doesn’t really show remorse for the families he’s “changed” his determination not to harm Reba – even though the Dragon demands her – seems similar to Herakles’ immediate horror at the realization of what he has done to his family…a possibility for redemption.

I take full credit for the cruddy screen cap above

I take full credit for the cruddy screen cap above

Unfortunately for fans of happier endings, while Herakles chose the path of redemption, Dolarhyde surrendered to the madness.




Well that sucks!

Saturday night….8:49pm…husband zonked on the couch…clear path to the big TV…silent SQUEE!  It’s time for The Hannibal finale!!!!   Change the station to NBC…and find..


The halftime report for the Packer-Eagles game (39-14 Eagles)

HALFTIME!?!?!?  What the what?!  It’s elev…no, ten minutes to the Great Red Dragon!!!   %}~>#*~|~?>><|}%#{]}#!!!!!



ὅ παῖς καλός: Power and Pathos (and a sprinkle of Richard Armitage)

If you’ve been scrolling around the neighborhood of late, you’d be hard pressed to miss mentions of how Richard Armitage is knocking it out of the park as Francis Dolarhyde on NBC’s Hannibal.  I don’t really have more to add to the general Hannibal discussion, but I will be tapping on a few Hannibal images hereinnothing gory, but there is quite likely to be quite a bit of skin. (Tattooed or otherwise…)

Before I get to the main event though, I thought I might also revisit an issue that I brought up way back when in the infancy of Ancient Armitage…artistic nudity.  In this link to my 3rd blog post, I pointed out that nudity figures heavily in the art of the ancient world, that it will appear here frequently, and that is that.  I think at this point, I can openly point to a fact that I was thinking at the time…namely, artistic nudity on the part of Richard Armitage is also fair game for discussion.

Back in the day (I’m trying that out…it’s a favorite of my students…I’m not sold) there were heated discussions about how it was disrespectful or voyeuristic or objectifying or whatever pejorative adjective fit the tone of the day to comment at any length (or at all) on Richard Armitage’s on screen nudity.  I haven’t seen much of this since some poo-pooing about a few comments made about the shirtless bit in The Crucible, but given the amount of nudity in his portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde, I think it is safe to say once and for all, that Richard Armitage is not particularly bothered by appearing nude on screen…perhaps apart from a desire to look his best…and he is very well aware that everyone can see him.  That is…he accepts and embraces that in some roles, his body, with or without clothing, is a potent part of his art form.  We’re not talking about personal pictures taken with a long lens through the blinds of his home…we’re talking about displays which are part of a larger context of public performances…ie he knows he’s nude, he knows people are watching.  Moreover, as a performer, he *hopes* people are watching.

By incorporating it as an artistic element, his body, how it looks, how it moves, how it evokes, is as much a part of his performance as his voice or his facial expressions, and as such is open for discussion as far as I’m concerned.  Although it certainly happens from time to time, and I’m not convinced that this is earth shattering in any way, discussions on the topic are not by definition prurient, disrespectful, objectifying, voyeuristic or whatever.  So there you have it.  If discussions that possibly touch on Richard Armitage au naturel are not your thing, that’s fine too…

Close the window and carry on...

Close the window and carry on…

Now that the preamble is on the books, let’s get to the good stuff!

You can see it yourself: J. Paul Getty Museum in LA from July 28 - November 1 National Gallery of Art - DC from December 13, 2015 - March 20, 2016

You can see it yourself:
J. Paul Getty Museum in LA from July 28 – November 1
National Gallery of Art – DC from December 13, 2015 – March 20, 2016

I was scrolling through the image gallery of this incredible exhibit…(I’ve mentioned that ancient bronzes are really rare right?  This exhibit has a good percentage of those currently extant…including a fave of mine.) when I came across a bronze I’d never seen before…

The Vienna or Ephesos Apoxyomenos (scraper) Source

The Vienna or Ephesos Apoxyomenos (scraper)

Isn’t he spectacular?   If you look closely, you can see even more amazingly, that he’s been painstakingly reconstructed from the hundreds of tiny pieces that he was found in at Ephesus, Turkey in 1896.  He is of a type of sculpture known as an Apoxyomenos or scraper….a nude athlete who is in the act of scraping the dirt and sweat from his body using an implement called a strigil (lost from his hands)  At 193 cm (6’3″) he is described as being slightly over life size in ancient terms.  I could not help but notice that he is pretty much exactly life size in comparison to a certain nearly naked someone.

Hannibal S3 "The Woman Clothed by the Sun" Source

Hannibal S3 “The Woman Clothed by the Sun”

I love how he’s even nicely positioned himself in almost the same way as the Apoxyomenos…it makes 1:1 comparisons ever so much easier!  (Thanks to jholland for having just the right screen cap for me to borrow!!)  Broad shoulders, defined deltoids and biceps, sculpted pectorals, taut, but not quite six-pack abdomen, lean waist, long, long, lean legs, more heavily muscled at the thigh than the calf…(I cannot speak to the bits covered by cloth here…)  It’s a striking physical similarity.  Francis Dolarhyde, as written by Tom Harris and portrayed by Richard Armitage is a fitness buff…a man who pushes the physical limitations of his body to build its strength and power.  The art historical discussions of the Apoxymenos have identified his body as most similar to that of an ancient boxer…another powerful physique.

As striking as the comparisons of physicality between the two are, that isn’t what first drew my attention.  In fact, the image from the exhibit catalog that first caught my eye was a detail of the head

This chin down, eyes down pose is one that has hit me in the feels before…what is he thinking about?

Chin up Francis... Source

Chin up Francis…

This is also a position that Richard Armitage uses to great effect in both print and film media.  It silently communicates pensiveness, contemplation, perhaps hesitance?  There are scenes, especially those with Reba in E10 where this pose is used with heart wrenching success.  All in all, I find a whole lot to compare between these two works of art.

Still don’t see it?

side by side

How about now?

ὅ παῖς καλός!


Variations on a theme…

I don’t know why it didn’t strike me sooner –

maybe because Blake’s dragon is so much more anthropomorphic, it didn’t trigger a visual memory for me?  I’m not entirely sure, but with all the talk of dragons in the neighborhood, I did want to point out that the classical tradition is full of both stories and images of dragons…and quite of few of them are noticeably ruddy:

When Cadmus slayed this dragon and planted his teeth, up grew a race of fierce, armed warriors known as the Spartoi.  Speaking of teeth,

This toothy sea dragon looks like more than a match even for the mighty Herakles (and his kind of tiny fish hook weapon…)

There’s also a Romanized mosaic dragon…

Once I started looking, I realized that I had gravitated toward examples with a decided display of red scale action going on – red is certainly common enough as a color in classical art – but I can’t help but think I’ve been distracted by the dragon du jour…

Richard Armitage morphing... My Screen Cap

Richard Armitage morphing…Hannibal S3 Ep9
My Screen Cap

This scene…the end of which I will admit to shaking my head at...made me think again of the sort of visually metamorphic quality that Richard Armitage is bringing to these phases of Dolarhyde’s transformation into the Great Red Dragon – no wonder I can’t get this particular dragon out of my head!


An aside because I’m to lazy to do it separately at the moment:  When I watched the opening scenes of Ep 8 where his body contorts as if something is moving inside of him,  I was thought of a burgeoning chrysalis as it contorts to reveal the new being within, but upon inspection, it wasn’t quite right.   An then it struck me…I know exactly what that sequence reminded me of…

This is not one of my very own emergent “dragons” but I do remember the feeling!


By the number of new posts in my reader (I turned off my email notifications because the buzzing was creating a numb spot on my leg) Richard Armitage and the fandom had a productive visit at San Diego Comic Con this weekend.  As always, I’m extremely grateful to all those who built an archive of the event by tweeting, posting, commenting, etc.

As for me, I find that I need to sit these massive media affairs out. (HeRAsy, I know…but keep in mind that I am a resident of Wisconsin who can easily pass by a cheese plate…I’m a rebel of long standing)   Basically, the rapidity and volume of information comes at me too fast and furious and I get completely overwhelmed.  It wasn’t always this way….I was all in for the 2012 Wellington Hobbit premiere…three different computers live streaming and live chatting during the event.  It was exhilarating.

Honestly, I’m not exactly sure what has changed…perhaps it is part of the evolution of my fandom, or maybe it’s just bad timing….that is, media events come up when I’m not able to free up the dedicated time.  (I have been anxiously watching the Greek debt talks, but after being spellbound by the new trailer, I did find some time to research how to download from my Hulu service so that I can access the series while traveling in August and maybe, just maybe do a solid for a good pal).

I marvel at those who are in the thick of it, but I’ve come to realize that it’s perfectly OK if the “highlights reel” of the event is more my speed…there’s no cut and dried way to be a fan…viva la variété!

I also learned that the latest Armitage/Hannibal news ran somewhat second to these bad boys today…no, I’m definitely not a vegetarian…

Hail to my dad who seems to have lost his knack for overlooking steak...mine was a perfect medium rare...its a wonder I'm sill alive!

Hail to my dad who seems to have lost his knack for overcooking steak…mine was a perfect medium rare…it’s a wonder I’m sill alive!

I imagine that I will get around to watching some footage here and there…or I won’t, and I’ll still be eagerly awaiting the big July 23rd debut and Armitageworld will keep on keepin’ on.  Armitageworld is awesome that way!!

Oh FUNK it!

When Richard Armitage is eventually interviewed vis a vis his role in Hannibal, I hope someone asks him about his Francis Dolarhyde/The Tooth Fairy playlist…I would love to know what he listens to in order to channel into that kind of darkness.  Music can have an enormous impact on mood, so to offset the curtain of darkness playlist, I’m going crib from my pard Jazzy and suggest a short alternative that is a massive upper for me…headphones at the ready everyone??? tired of tinkering with the headphones, but you get the picture... Original Photo:  Robert Ascroft

Sorry…got tired of tinkering with the headphones, but you get the picture…
Original Photo: Robert Ascroft

Lately, I dread getting into the car for the morning kid dropping run.  My children have effectively commandeered the car audio and isolated two stations of Top 40 hits and inane morning DJ chatter as supreme – let’s just say, not my preferred fare.  This morning I got in the car to find ShowBiz son already buckled in with the radio blaring.  When I turned it down to the less than ear bleeding level he said:

“Mooooom!!  That’s my JAM!! (I cannot, under pain of death, remember the song, but there was nothing Jammin’ about it!)   

We had a volume control skirmish for the duration of the track during which I established that the driver ALWAYS has the last say in car radio related policies…for instance, two engagement ring commercials later when the opening notes of MY jam thumped softly, I said:  “Now *this* can be loud!” and cranked the volume and commenced the car seat boogie….(with the added bonus of the opportunity to hear “Moooom!  Stop seat dancing in front of my school!!” as I drop him off.  🙂  )

Give it a listen…I defy you to sit still 🙂  I am not a huge fan of Bruno Mars, but I do like his funk chops.  (He leads the vocals and played the drums on the recording of the song.)  The first time I heard it reminded me distinctly of a song that first planted the funk seed in my dark little headbanging/alternative rock soul.

Morris Day and The Time circa 1984

Morris Day and The Time circa 1984

The first time I heard Jungle Love was in the context of the film Purple Rain,  a rock music drama released in 1984 centered around the particular talents of Prince.  Morris Day and Time played a musical role as the rivals of the new kid (Prince) named “The Kid” for top billing in a Minneapolis nightclub.  The film is sort of forgettable (sorry Prince fans…the music was great…the acting???), the funkalicious goodness of Jungle Love stuck with me.  It sprouted up in college when I followed a band on the leading edge of the local funk-rock fusion scene and the when the funk beat and horns merged together with the heavy metal guitar virtuosity of Nuno Bettencourt and the band Extreme in the early 1990’s in a darker, yet no less funktastic product:

My mood lightening recommendation…start by Getting the funk out and fall in Jungle Love on the way to Uptown Funk.  

(I can’t believe I might have missed the funktacular little gem that is Uptown Funk had my kids not forced me to sit through Taylor Swift and Jason Derulo everyday!)

In the words of George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic:

We want the funk!  Bring us the funk!

Go get your funk on Armitageworld!!


HANNIBAL AD PORTAS Richard Armitage!

That's Hannibal Barca of 2nd Punic War fame...There is a pretty nice Hannibal docudrama starring the fabulous Alexander Siddig whom Armitage fans might recognize as baddie Zahir Sharq from Strikeback

That’s Hannibal Barca of 2nd Punic War fame…There is a pretty nice Hannibal docudrama starring the fabulous Alexander Siddig (handy Armitage connection:  fans might recognize Siddig as baddie Zahir Sharq from Strikeback: Afghanistan)

HANNIBAL AD PORTAS!!….Hannibal is at the gates!!  This was a cry that struck fear into the hearts of the Romans when the Carthaginian general did the unthinkable:  He crossed the Alps and invaded Roman Italy!!  For fifteen years, from 218 – 203 BC Hannibal, his army and his famous war elephants maruaded around Italy, rarely enticing the Romans into open battle, but causing mayhem and panic nonetheless.  Hannibal became a boogeyman and the phrase HANNIBAL AD PORTAS sent a generation of Roman children running for the shelter of their beds.

I thought it quite apropos in light of the recent news that Richard Armitage will join the season three cast of the NBC drama Hannibal.  In this case, the drama centers around the serial killer Hannibal Lecter, a character featured in a series of novels by Thomas Harris, and most recently adapted into a television series by Bryan Fuller et al.  That Richard Armitage would play the role of Francis Dolarhyde aka The Tooth Fairy, a vicious serial killer, caused something of a stir throughout Armitageworld, including many reactions that ranged from ambivalence to downright aversion.  HANNIBAL AD PORTAS!! indeed.

My personal reaction was neither ambivalent or averse.  I was intrigued.  Excited even.   I love the exhilarating adrenaline rush that being scared produces.  Some people ski Double Black Diamonds (seriously dude, one word: avalanche.), I watch scary movies.  I don’t tend to like gory films, although I’ve seen the “classics”  (Halloween, Friday the Thirteenth, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc).  Rather, I love the buildup of creepy, edge of your seat ghost stories like The Sixth Sense or Stir of Echoes (Which is why I was totally pulling for the rumor about Richard Armitage in The Mystery of Casa Matusita to be true…IMDb lists the film as “In Development” so who knows?).  I also thoroughly enjoyed The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001) and The Red Dragon (2002).  There is some violence and some gore in all of them, but it is used as a plot device, not the entire plot. (Although I grant you…the bit with Ray Liotta and the brain in Hannibal was truly disturbing.)  I have not watched Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal as yet, but not because I have any underlying issue with the content…I’ve made my way through Dexter and The Walking Dead with little trouble. Truthfully, I just don’t like watching episode by episode network television anymore (Damn you Netflix and your whole series streaming!  You’ve ruined me for week to week network programming!!).  Richard Armitage taking on the role of a quiet guy/serial killer?  I’m all in.

Then I learned that many of my fellow fans…some of whom I know very well…were expressing varying degrees of ambivalence and aversion to the series and the role.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past week.  I wondered why the thought of this role, that bothers others so much, only intrigues me.  I’m not a violent person by nature.  My husband, who grew up in West Philadelphia, laughs at me because I have never, EVER hit someone with the intention of hurting them.  Goofing around with a sock in the arm?  Sure.  Punching someone in the face?  Never.  (Upon instruction, he informed me once that if I ever actually made a fist and hit someone I’d only break my thumb since I tucked it inside my fingers…thanks dear!)  You’d be correct if you calculated that I’ve also never shot, stabbed, sliced or dismembered anyone either.  I diligently teach my children, “we do not hit” (or shoot, stab or dismember) as a means of conflict resolution.  I have not been the victim of violent crime (neither though, I hazard to guess have the majority of people averse to the Hannibal role been affected directly by a serial killer).  My sort of detachment puzzled me.

Upon reflection, I suppose that part of my lack of sensitivity comes from the material I study.  Violence was a regular, ingrained component of the ancient world.  With none of the notions of sanctity of life that came with the spread of Judaeo-Christian traditions, life was precarious…frequently at the whim of one or another invading army, marauding barbarian or anyone more powerful whose way one stepped into.  Horrible death was all in a day’s reality for many in the ancient world.

As I thought more about it, I realized that there might even be a reason closer to home that fictional content like Hannibal doesn’t strike me as awful as it might others.  In the summer of 1991 I had just graduated from college and was living in Milwaukee.  In July of that year, Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested.  I, along with the rest of Milwaukee…later the nation, watched in mute horror as the full magnitude of Dahmer’s depravity was revealed.  A serial murderer with a predilection for necrophilia, dismemberment and cannibalism, Jeff Dahmer had been living and hunting among us for decades.

Jeffrey Dahmer at his trial in 1992

Jeffrey Dahmer at his trial in 1992

Looking at pictures of him today still turns my stomach, but if one didn’t know who he was, what he’d done, there is nothing superficial that says “cannibalistic serial killer.”  He looked pretty much like any other thirty year old guy hitting the bar scene on a Saturday night.  In fact, there is every possibility that my path crossed with Dahmer’s on any number of occasions from 1990-91 since his favorite “hunting ground” happened to be very near the neighborhood in which my friends and I hung out.   Being female, we were never in any danger from Dahmer, whose victims were exclusively young men, but the reality of it all is chilling nonetheless.  I frequently passed his apartment building when I decided not to take the freeway to my bestie’s house, completely oblivious to what was going on inside of it.

The scene of his crimes has long since been demolished…the lot is maintained as “vacant greenspace” by a private developer.  Jeffrey Dahmer is long since dead…sentenced to life in prison, he was beaten to death by another inmate in 1994.  Even though all of the physical evidence of his crimes has been cleaned away, the impact of them remains.  What I learned from the whole thing, perhaps what has somewhat desensitized me to fictional accounts of such events, is that true horror lives and walks undetected among us every single day.  Maybe a fifth row seat for the real thing makes television incarnations played by actors less troubling to me somehow?  I don’t really know.

Essentially, when it comes to Hannibal, each person must decide for his or herself what personal tolerance is.  Watch or don’t watch…it is totally up to the individual, and not a reflection of the depth of commitment to the career of Richard Armitage or a measure of the quality of one’s fandom.   This seems a simple thing, yet I was dismayed to see that once again rancor emerged in discussions of the role and people’s views of it.

Over the course of my 2-1/2 years in Armitageworld, I have seen this wide divide open again and again.  The topic doesn’t really seem to matter.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against energetic discussions of both sides of a subject.  On the contrary, diverse opinions and lively debate are qualities of a vital community.  What would we talk about if we all agreed about everything?   I guess my basic point is that it is neither a moral failing to appear in or to enjoy a show like Hannibal, nor is it a triumph of virtue to abhor it, and it serves absolutely no purpose to rip one another apart via social media on this or any other topic.

Come this summer I’ll be watching Richard Armitage in Hannibal…maybe I’ll see you at the watercooler!

“si vis amari ama”

 (if you wish to be loved, love)