Reflections on Recent Fandom Drama

shoulder

Richard Armitage as John Proctor, shirtless, The Crucible official poster, Old Vic Theatre, London, 2014

 

The post that caused recent uproar:

“Folks, as the creator of this page, I had and *have* a vision: to 1) celebrate RA’s *performance* in The Crucible, and 2) to show respect for Yael Farber’s astonishing production of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece (staged at The Old Vic in the summer of 2014).
PLEASE, respect these two things.
The play is not about a shirtless RA, shots which occur for brief moments in a 3.5 hour-play
Rather, The Crucible is a play about hysteria, mob-thought and mob-violence against good, innocent people, and it is about integrity.
So, these bare-chested shots of RA seen elsewhere will have to wait until after the download has been released in the States, and most of us have seen the entire play, and registered its powerful and timely message.”

And her comment under the post:

“… What can I say? I’m a theater purist. I like a shirtless RA as much as the next person, but it seems a shame that these “beefcake” screen-grabs are the first to make the rounds. I have a home-school subscription to Digital Theatre Plus (sharing with small groups of local students, and a teacher or parent, through screenings in my living room). The Crucible is one of those plays that so powerful and so stunning – especially this production – and Miller includes so many heart-breaking, beautiful, terrible, horrifying, and/or poignant moments that I’m just sad to see these shots come out before those…” Richard Armitage US, Facebook, ‘Richard Armitage in THE CRUCIBLE’ Appreciation Page

Hmmm.

Maybe she didn’t intend to sound condescending, but what I felt, upon reading this, was this: Those of you who have shared, stared at, discussed, enjoyed, or drooled over the screencaps of shirtless John Proctor have completely failed to not only admire RA’s critically acclaimed performance in the role, but even to comprehend or appreciate the important themes in Miller’s work. So shame on you.

I also didn’t quite understand, from this post, whether she meant that after the download has been released, will we, the oglers, then be allowed to appreciate, share, stare at, discuss, enjoy, and drool over the screencaps of shirtless John Proctor? After we’ve contemplated the deeper, disturbing messages, that is? How long should we spend on our contemplation before it is ok to appreciate the shirtless Proctor? Or should that be never? Perhaps that scene should, in fact, be cut. Maybe it was a mistake on Yael Farber’s part to add such a distraction into the mix.

The truth is, I 100% agree with her assessment that the production was stunning, heartbreaking, beautiful, terrifying and all the rest. Indeed, I was not myself for a couple of months after I saw The Crucible performed three times. I was profoundly moved by the play, devastated even, and couldn’t get any part of it out of my head. I couldn’t get involved in a new book, I had little interest in TV or movies, and those deep themes and disturbing subject matter haunted me. The fact that I can now look upon John Proctor’s form in the firelight, and appreciate the rough, masculine elegance of a farmer, washing, does not reflect poorly on my understanding of The Crucible, or in any way diminish its powerful message. On the contrary, the moment I saw the images, I was taken back to those moments, in London, when I watched him, in all his vulnerability, perform this scene. I experienced that intimacy, and the shaky, light-headed, breathless feelings that it effected in me, anew.

Yes, he’s powerfully attractive. Yes, my ovaries combusted. So, apparently, did Abigail Williams’ ovaries, at some point. John Proctor was (to his ultimate shame and regret) a sexual creature. Ironically, the washing scene was actually one of the least sexually charged moments, in terms of on-stage chemistry. This scene did allow the audience a chance to appreciate John Proctor’s form, and his appeal, yes. But it also set the stage for the Act 2, in which we see John Proctor’s reality in the privacy of his own home. He puts the shirt back on, you see. He is vulnerable, and alone, as he washes. When his wife enters the room, with coldness and a hint of accusation in her tone, he puts the shirt back on, and with it, the weight of his struggling marriage.

At any rate, I don’t have a problem with Richard Armitage US controlling what is posted on a page she created. It is her prerogative whether or not she allows images of shirtless John Proctor to be ogled, discussed, admired on her page. However, I do think she might reflect on her own words a bit. She states that the purpose of her page is:

1) to respect RA’s ” *performance* “: Huh. I must say that I did admire his performance in that scene… he embodied the exhausted, hard-working, lonely farmer completely, from his posture, to his facial expressions, to the little noises he made as he washed… and yes, I did also admire his form… what’s not to love? Is the fact that he took his shirt off a problem here? Can he not perform as well without his shirt? Enlighten me!

2) and also to respect “Yael Farber’s astonishing production of Arthur Miller’s masterpiece”: So… was Yael Farber somehow not involved with or aware of the inclusion of the wash basin scene- did her vision for the production not include the audience’s inevitable appreciation for the stripped-down farmer? Was there no purpose, from Yael Farber’s perspective, for that scene? Should looking at the screencaps of that scene therefore diminish our respect for Yael’s work?

In other words, why should our appreciation of and discussion of the shirtless scene be automatically disrespectful, or somehow minimize the impact of the production as a whole? It honestly makes very little sense to me. I agree, The Crucible is not just about a shirtless RA. But is the admiration of a shirtless John Proctor really disrespectful, or indicative of a failure to appreciate Miller’s themes, or the ensemble’s performance? Is it necessary to prescribe for other fans what facets of The Crucible are acceptable to appreciate, and in what order we should appreciate them?

I say no.

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19 comments

  1. Perry · January 28, 2015

    Reblogged this on Armitage Agonistes and commented:
    JHolland has more to add to the discussion. No, it’s not a limerick – yet.

    Like

    • jholland · January 28, 2015

      *Cough* I did think about entering limerick mode. Still might. =)

      Like

      • Perry · January 28, 2015

        Now that you (I’ve) mentioned them, before you came on board, I offered a limerick or two, but I bowed to your rhyming stamina and ability to offer more than one stanza.

        Like

        • jholland · January 28, 2015

          Rhyming stamina! ROFL

          Like

  2. June · January 28, 2015

    Beautifully articulated! ….. After seeing the play twice in September which included one of the filming nights and the last night I was sorry that I had not allowed myself more performances. Even now it still seems like a daze. I actually bought tickets for my two sons(one of whom is an actor) and myself in the third row which was what was available when I finally decided to go. For the filming they decided to put the camera in the place of two of the seats and since we wanted to sit together they gave us seats in the sixth row. Thus it happened that we were seated next to Yael Farber who is lovely and unassuming and took notes throughout the performance. I’m sure it was not lost on her the breath intake gut reaction to beautiful Richard washing over the basin (and he is so gorgeous in real life <3) That instance in the play was remarkable and spell binding but it was the whole play and Richard's magnificent acting that has stayed with me up until this day; and yes, Richard's exposed beautiful upper torso was the icing on my cake <3.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · January 28, 2015

      How thrilling, to be seated next to Yael Farber! I wonder what notes she was taking… maybe ideas to share with the Digital Theatre team? It really was the best theatre performance I’ve ever seen, and I harbor doubts whether anything could ever top it. Unless it was another collaboration between Yael and Richard. I can’t help but believe that Yael knew exactly what she was doing, including the shirtless bit. I would dearly love to hear her ideas about it and why she thought to include it. I don’t believe that question has been asked and answered… let me know if I’ve missed something. =)

      Liked by 2 people

  3. jazzbaby1 · January 28, 2015

    I agree with you. My post was not about that FB page but about another page that caught heat for sharing the screen caps. As others have pointed out, photos of that sequence have been floating around since the summer so why are they now unacceptable?

    Liked by 2 people

    • jholland · January 28, 2015

      I’m completely baffled as to why they are now, or would ever have been, unacceptable. Or why they should somehow be unacceptable before everyone has had a chance to view the play in its entirety as well as properly appreciate the thematic brilliance of Miller first. If photos surface of half-naked Dolarhyde, would it be an issue to view those before everyone has the opportunity to view Hannibal, and properly digest the horror of it? =)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Servetus · January 28, 2015

    I don’t understand why everyone has to take the same thing away from any play or image. Or only one thing.

    Being a “theater purist” doesn’t really work as a justification. There are plays where nudity is part of the stage directions (Equus comes to mind). Does that prevent the audience from appreciating the play?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jholland · January 28, 2015

      I’m not sure what was meant by that “theater purist” remark. I think of a purist as one who insists on strict adherence to traditional precedents. Which Yael Farber doesn’t exactly do. Lol. And no, that’s the beauty of theatre, or any form of art… we all take away our own impressions, positive and negative.

      Like

  5. zan, O1C · January 28, 2015

    Beautifully written! In total agreement with you.

    I have a question for that particular arm of the picture police … will they prevent ALL images from The Crucible being displayed until the download is available to the rest of us mere mortals? Or only the ones they deem detrimental to the “purity” of the production? Hmmmm?????

    Like

    • jholland · January 28, 2015

      Welcome, Zan! Well, there is this:
      Definitely a detrimental train of thought I had there. Very, very impure. Lol

      Liked by 3 people

      • zan, O1C · January 28, 2015

        *roflmao*
        Soooooooooooo many inappropriate remarks spring to mind.
        *snicker*

        Liked by 1 person

  6. linnetmoss · January 29, 2015

    Yep, Yael put that scene there for a reason. She knew very well the impact it would have. And she also knew, as you point out, that Proctor’s sexuality is integral to the play.

    Like

    • jholland · January 29, 2015

      Yes, it is. And Proctor is conflicted about it. That made RA perfect for the role, as he does conflicted so very well. And is massively sexy, when he dials it up.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. armitageitus · January 29, 2015

    Beautifully said. To be honest I am becoming pretty exhausted with the constant bickering and drama that seems to consume the fandom…And especially those who like to chase antagonism within it… Can’t we all just have respectful debates?…It’s madness, really… imo, of course…

    Like

    • jholland · January 29, 2015

      There is a ton of drama, no doubt about it. I do find it interesting to some extent, but then I’ll see something downright mean, and it bothers me.

      Like

  8. armitageitus · January 29, 2015

    oops I meant “cause” not “chase” but chase kinda works too… lol…

    Like

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