After a conversation with a friend last night this post began to percolate in my mind. The more I think about what exactly it is we do when we look at Richard Armitage, the more I come to believe that there are primarily two schools of thought:
Objectification versus Appreciation
Objectify: to treat as an object or cause to have objective reality.
There are those who believe that when we look at fan videos or photographs of Richard, we are objectifying him by reducing him to a two dimensional being. That by looking at him in a context that doesn’t include his acting or his personality, we are somehow dehumanizing him.
On the other hand we have those who see what we do as appreciating his beauty.
a: to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of<appreciate the difference between right and wrong>
b: to value or admire highly <appreciates our work>
c: to judge with heightened perception or understanding : be fully aware of <must see it to appreciate it>
d: to recognize with gratitude <certainly appreciates your kindness>
As with most things, I don’t think this issue is black and white. There is probably a spectrum between the two categories. However, I tend to believe that most fans fall into the “appreciation” category.
For instance, when we look at a photo, gif or even when we take extra notice during a scene in which Mr. Armitage takes off his shirt, I would say that we are in fact grasping the nature, quality and significance of all of the hard work it took on his part to get his body into such shape.
When something about a particular image grabs hold of our attention, is it not because we in some way highly admire the beauty of it?
In particular I like the third definition of appreciate, along with it’s example…”must see it to believe it.” I would relate this to the audiobooks that Richard Armitage has read. Numerous times I’ve seen where fans have said that they would love to see Richard play Lord Damerel in Venetia. The ability to watch and see him as the character would indeed heighten the experience.
And the last definition…”to recognize with gratitude.” I would argue that most of us are in fact grateful for the beauty of Mr. Armitage. Sometimes when I’ve had a bad day, just looking at a picture of him smiling lightens my spirits. It isn’t just the image itself that causes me to smile though, it is the fact that when that particular picture was taken, there was something going on that caused him to smile.
For myself, I find, especially after looking at my examples, that I rarely just look at images of Richard without some other thought besides, “ooh pretty,” and I would imagine that the same is true for most people.
Ultimately, I think the perspective one has is a matter of worldview. Those who look upon what we do as objectification probably hold a worldview in which admiring physical beauty is something shameful, something for which they should feel guilt and remorse. When such people speak in absolutes, I find it frustrating, as though they are trying to force their worldview onto the rest of us. However, when I’m able to step away from the frustration, I find that it makes me sad–sad that instead of being able to appreciate beauty, they take something that should be good and instead turn it into something dirty, something objectionable. It seems a pitiable way to live.
*Definitions are from Merriam-Webster