As I tried to break free from the mundane mood I’ve been in lately, I took your suggestions to heart and started revisiting some of the gems that brought me here in the first place. Guylty suggested rereading the messages that Richard has written to the fan base. I’ve enjoyed their lightheartedness in the past, so it seemed like a good place to start.
I’ve talked about the fan messages before and how I appreciate seeing the silly side of Richard that shows up in many of them, particularly during the filming of Robin Hood and Spooks. This time around though a different angle grabbed my attention- the progression of a newly recognized actor, as he moves through the frustration of celebrity, into a more balanced individual.
The messages start with short, postcard type snippets of what Richard was working on at the time. it didn’t feel like promotion, but a casual and warm way of relaying what had been occupying his time. soon an undercurrent of apology ran throughout that picked up speed as the messages went along. apologies for not churning out notes of thank you and requested signed photos at a fast enough pace, apologies for the aesthetic look of characters he was portraying and the quality of programs they were part of, even an apology for his charity doodle not being up to par. I suspect some of this was due to inherent insecurity but also a result of fan reaction.
As time moved on correspondence, while often humorous, also seemed to reflect frustration. poking fun at the lack of timely communication with the “fan abandonment” theme, walking the fine line of what to say and what not to say by using a fictional “spokesperson”, and touching upon skepticism about the author of the messages with self-depreciation. the signatures also changed from “Richard” to the shortened “RA, with some messages not including a signature at all.
The messages were regulated to once a year after that, which isn’t surprising considering the filming of The Hobbit and all that entailed. the Richard that appeared in the messages that followed seemed more contemplative, and possibly wiser, as he pulled back from making himself openly available in that way. soon he switched over to Twitter, where communicating in 140 characters and photos has it’s own set of challenges.
I find the earlier messages endearing in their postcard simplicity, and the later messages interesting in their contemplative depth, but the middle ones resonate with me the most. on the outside they’re humorous and creative, yet underneath they hint at struggle (I may have just described myself…). I find that comforting because it says to me that my struggles with similar issues are not a beat-yourself-up weakness. and that’s okay, because Richard has been there, done that too.
No matter which way you view the messages, I think we can agree that they’re special in the glimpses they provide into who Richard was before. from that first contact post in relation to the BBC North & South message board, through the ups and downs of fandom praise and disagreement, to the checking-in-with-old-friends quality over quantity.
I’m reminded of the end scene from the movie Field of Dreams, when the Kevin Costner character sees a younger version of his father walking across the baseball field, and remarks:
Look at him. He’s got his whole life in front of him and I’m not even a glint in his eye.
The messages Richard wrote to his fanbase not only give me a peek at who he was before I knew of him, but they also remind me of who I was when I first read them- a newbie with no boundaries or expectations.
“Hey, is this Heaven?” No, it’s Richard Armitage fandom.
“enjoy the typos!”