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!