I’ve had the banner on this blog’s sidebar for a couple of weeks now — just what is a FanstRAvaganza 3, you ask? It’s the combined efforts of 34 different bloggers to celebrate the talents of a British actor you may not know, but you should: Richard Armitage.

Perhaps you’re saying to yourself, now there’s a nice bit of eye candy. You’ll be forgiven by the bloggers participating in this blogfest, who know perfectly well that one of Armitage’s great gifts is looking good. Just don’t underestimate his acting skills. I know him best from North and South (stay tuned for more on that subject), but he also starred as Guy of Gisborne in the British TV series Robin Hood, Lucas North in Spooks (series 7 & 8), and John Porter in Strike Back; he’ll appear as Thorin Oakenshield in the forthcoming The Hobbit films.

Blogfest organizers have found a way to do something quite innovative (and organizationally complicated): each post will link to another post via what they’re calling a tag-team, allowing readers to move through shared ideas from blog to blog, almost as if they’re conversations about a theme or a performance. Because, of course, it’s intended to be a conversation: a way for 34 different writers and their many readers to chime in and think about these topics. What a terrific idea, and what a nicely democratic way to get everyone talking to everyone else.

Maybe the whole idea a fan-oriented blogfest makes you want to vomit: maybe you’ve never heard of Armitage, or you look down your nose at fan blogs. Again, let me suggest you pop in on this one anyway, because these writers run the gamut of great weblog philosophizing. They might admire his shoulders in one sentence and ponder the nature of objectification in the next; sing the praises of his sensitivity in a scene and then think about why the dynamics of that particular scene might speak so profoundly to a viewer dealing with the crap and trauma that life throws at us. Readers of this blog know that’s my own impulse as a writer: the personal is political, and the filmic is both personal and political.

Starting March 12, the following bloggers will start tag-teaming and conversing — join me in the chat, won’t you?

A is for Armitage
An Obsessed Fanatic
Avalon’s Realm
C.S. Winchester
Cerridwen Speaks
Crispin’s Eclipse
Do I Have a Blog?
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Country Life
Fly High!
Funky Blue Delphinium
I Want to be a Pinup!
Just Another Armitage Fan
La Loba
Me, My Thoughts & Richard Armitage
Melanie’s Musings
Mr John Thornton
Musings & Other Enigmas
Phylly’s Faves
Searching for MY Mr. Darcy
Something About Love (A)
Thearmitageeffect
White Rose: Sincere and Simple Thoughts
Y que iba yo a contar

And the whole thing with be anchored by the following:

Confessions of a Watcher
Bccmee’s Fanvids & Graphics
CDoart: Richard Armitage & History & Spooks
Distracted Musings of One ReAlity
Jonia’s Cut
Me + richard armitage
RA Frenzy
An RA Viewer’s Perspective from 33 0′ South of the Equator
Richard Armitage Fan Blog
The Squeee

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Darkness

9 March 2010

At the urging of a friend, I’ve watched four episodes of the BBC show “Robin Hood” and find myself frustrated with it. And after advancing a series of arguments about how it could have been better, I find myself at the bottom of a logical rabbit hole. It has to do with darkness.

First the obvious: The star, Jonas Armstrong, is hopeless. He’s a twerp — smug, skinny, twitchy, lacks gravitas. He’s Robin as a skater-dude with all the sex appeal of a Jonas Brother (how fortuitous the name). After a single scene you’re convinced that you have no desire for his lips — so it’s no surprise that Lucy Griffiths, as Marion, doesn’t either. Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, on the other hand, possesses everything Robin lacks, as my friend here ably argues. Not to mention three dimensions and an appealing set of inner conflicts between greed, ambition, and that luscious Lucy Griffiths.

So what is this show doing? It’s not merely another retelling of Robin for young viewers, although I can see that kind of appeal. Armitage is too good and the references to a larger War on Terror are too frequent. It’s a show that hasn’t found itself, or at least not in its first season. It’s trying to please the Disney viewers with a preteen idol like Armstrong but it also wants something more — I can’t imagine how much the writers argue at their meetings.

Here’s my train of thinking: First I found myself arguing that it needs more “Dark Knight”-style long, elegant explanations of Robin’s motives, inner conflicts, experiences overseas on the Crusades, etc. Then I decided to abandon Robin entirely, making an argument that the real protagonist should be Gisbourne — turning it into a kind of “Wicked” take on the Robin Hood classic. This led me to think about all the dark heroes we have now, from the Christian Bale version of Batman to Harry Potter wrestling with his own dark impulses and fuzzy morality. Even the wide-eyed Tobey Maguire turned Spider-Man into a complicated man by the end.

In an age of terror, we’ve turned our heroes into dark figures. None of them wear white anymore. “Robin Hood” is sophomoric because it refuses to engage fully with our new, bleak canon. (But I’ve only seen four episodes. And even though this promotional image looks, to me, like Robin in a hoodie, it’s grasping at something darker.)