North & South weekend, when everyone tells their own stories of what viewing North & South for the first time meant to them and how it launched them straight into a fascination with Richard Armitage. Lovely, lovely stories, all of them. but I didn’t come to Richard Armitage through North & South, that honor goes to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey instead. and although I greatly enjoyed North & South, once I finally got around to viewing it, it didn’t have a significant impact on my life. This often leaves me wondering how much those small differences have to do with the way I view things in relation to Richard, the choices he makes, and the reactions to them.
In large part, that is why I avoided viewing North & South for so long (5 months is an eternity in obsessive fangirl reckoning!). The hype was so strong…it scared me. What if I didn’t think Richard as John Thornton was all that? I hadn’t been disappointed so far with the likes of Thorin, Harry, Lucas, Porter, Mulligan, and Andrews but what if this was the one to dull the shine? and if I didn’t think North & South was anything to write home about, just another period piece with another misunderstood Darcy, how would that reflect upon my growing relations with the fans who absolutely adored it? So much pressure! It was the role that launched the fandom, after all.
It all worked out in the end, of course. Viewing “the kiss” on youtube before I watched the actual series is what finally prompted me to give in. That kiss was… I think “holy f*ck” were my exact words upon my first viewing! I had never seen, and have yet to see, a better kiss onscreen e-v-e-r. My impression up until that point, not having viewed the series itself, was that the story was a classic denial piece, full of stubbornness, misunderstandings, and UST (unresolved sexual tension); so basically every dime-store romance novel ever written. Prideful, outspoken female characters get under my skin (the one I see in the mirror each morning is hard enough to handle…). I won’t say my assumptions were entirely wrong but there was a vulnerability on screen that softened the harshness.
My people, working class coal miners and steel workers, came from the same stock as the workers in Milton. Some even from the North of England itself. My childhood was full of company strikes and Scabs and the devastation it brings to a community when it’s main places of employment shut down. different from the time period that North & South was set in but similar enough to make an impression on me (Ewan McGregor’s “Brassed Off” is a movie that touches me deeply in this regard). now, because of John Thornton, I was empathizing with Management (my Union loyal family will disown me!)
So I’m not saying that North & South leaves me unaffected, it was just never a turning point in my “fan path” the way it has been for so many others. I’m kind of envious, in a way. To be struck by lightening from one project, one performance alone, must be a powerful thing. These things tend to come to me more softly, they rattle around my subconscious and tap on my shoulder, until the day that I finally decide to acknowledge them. When I do, they’re already there to stay. That’s what my discovery of Richard was like. One day I had never heard of him or seen those piercing eyes, and then I had. There were a few weeks in between where I tried to put him on the back burner and convince myself that he couldn’t be any different from the others. but he sat there and simmered…and smoldered…and without really realizing what I was doing, I started to research him; slowly, then obsessively. and once he came into focus, it felt like he had always been there.
In a way, I guess that’s how John Thornton is for me too. He’s the face of this fandom, the founder, if you will. You can’t be a Richard Armitage fan without at least being aware of Mr. Thornton. So although it wasn’t because of him that I joined this fandom, and it took awhile before I even “met” him, I felt like he was always there. watching. Thank You for stalking me Mr. Thornton, no good deed goes unpunished…