Thornton Ramblings

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.

Thornton reads a letter
who is Harry Kennedy and what is a “sweater”?

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.

Thornton and Margaret kiss gif
actions speak louder than words

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!)

you're coming home with me? gif
it’s the least you can do

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.

North & South handholding gif

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…

Higgins and Thornton share a word
what goes around comes around

17 thoughts on “Thornton Ramblings

  1. I loved “Brassed Off.” You would have had a lot in common with Skully, I think — she came to Armitage via Spooks and she really never warmed up to Thornton, ever. Watched it once and said, nah, he’s one of the bosses.

    I totally agree about the way in which someone came to the fandom mattering a lot — I have wanted to say less so but I think that The Hobbit exacerbated that factor rather than minimizing it.


    1. “Brassed Off” affects me in a personal way every time that I watch it. I laugh, I cry, I rage; by the end I’m exhausted! the politics of N&S don’t affect me in the same way. I have no problem being on Thornton’s “side” throughout the story, I actually have a hard time believing Margret’s ideas were accepted and implemented so easily. I think Margret annoys me b/c I’m more like her than I choose to believe 😉 whereas her father indulged her though, my father didn’t quite know what to do with me. I challenged him constantly but I did it in a very passive-aggressive way, which just confused the heck out of him.


      1. I think the book makes Margaret even less sympathetic than the middle of the series does. I never identified with her — but you know my story. I just find that whole character much less interesting for most of the series / book. I was also never in the group of people who thought Daniela Denby-Ashe was the most amazing actress; I thought she was the weakest lead in the piece and in some scenes I really thought she had been miscast.


        1. I really appreciated the girl-next-door look of Margaret in the series but I felt that the pouty lips and wide-eyed innocent look was often overplayed. she ended up looking just as spoiled as Fanny.


  2. I loved reading your reflections on NS – or rather: the doubts and the worries about it being as good as everyone said it was. I can relate to that (because he is not my favourite chaRActer, and the love story in NS the book for me suffers greatly because of the patronizing tone of the piece). And I think this is a nice and honest way of marking the anniversary. Wish I had thought of that 😉


    1. I’m relieved to hear you say that! I often feel odd b/c Thornton is not at the top of my RA character list. I like him and I do think he’s swoon worthy but he falls down more towards the middle of my list if not lower, depending. (sometimes I forget about him completely when I’m going through characters in my mind 😯 ). I wanted to mark the anniversary, so I just went with honesty: even if I’m not head over heels for Mr. Thornton in quite the same way that I am for other RA characters, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate him 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. Yes. Mr. Thornton started the AArmy. As you know, I am with you on finding Mr. A. through The Hobbit, but I think Thornton is the ultimate fangirl test. Love him!


  4. I came to the Fandom via N&S but much later than most. I remember watching the first episode when it first aired and turning off in horror when Thornton beat Belcher. It was a huge trigger for me because of a personal experience of abuse at the hands of someone from the north of England. I then watched Cold Feet, Robin Hood and series 7 of Spooks without taking the least interest in RA (well I was quite interested in Gisbornes leather pants, truth be told) before my daughter got the N&S DVD because she was studying the book in school. I sat down to watch it with her and was completely stunned by RA. And, as they say, the rest is history but I certainly put my ability to hear a northern accent without recoiling down to RA.

    I sometimes wonder if I would ever have become a fan of RA without that second viewing of N&S because a lot of the projects he has chosen have not been things I would have ordinarily watched. My favourite character is John Porter but SB was absolutely something of zero interest without RA in it. And I’m afraid the whole LOTR franchise leaves me cold without RA.


    1. I do this a lot with movies and music, even books sometimes too; that first initial exposure just passes me by but then at a later date it will resonate with me deeply. I guess it’s all just a matter of “right time, right place” 🙂


      1. I caught it on second viewing, too — but I think that has more to do with me than with N&S. I was in a much more vulnerable place. I totally agree with the insight that I watch stuff b/c of him that I would normally never watch. Vicar of Dibley, Strike Back, Robin Hood would all be on that list …


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