A whole new world… and freedom of speech

I started my blog a while ago but only recently have I decided to go more public with it. I’m tentative that way… I love to write but am afraid to share it with anyone else. Do I really want to put myself out there with what I really think and feel? I decided to just take the plunge and see where it leads me, so here I am…

I blog about things I love and one of the things I love is Richard Armitage (although he won’t be the only subject I blog about!). I have loved his work for 9 years now, have followed all he does online through C19 and RichardArmitageNet and more recently through some blogs that I enjoy (Me+Richard Armitage foremost) and I thank these bloggers (although they don’t know it!) for giving me the courage to start this adventure…

Bilbo going on an adventureWithin the first days of my blog going public I saw a whole controversy erupt over the interviews of Marlise Boland from the Anglophile Channel with Richard Armitage! “Oh my goodness, what is happening?” I thought. I follow some more blogs now than I did before so I got to see more of the controversy going on than I maybe wished for. Like watching a train wreck but not being able to tear your eyes away. “I also have my thoughts about these interviews that I was going to share,” I thought, “but I don’t want to get caught up in any controversy!” And so I decided to keep out of it, just read what others said and wanted to move on. But blogging is about writing about something that moves you and it turns out that this controversy somehow moves me. And so I write after all…

So, to start off this topic: let me complicate things more and bring religion into it. I am a pastor’s daughter but the daughter of a critical pastor who has faith but has always always remained critical but also very open at the same time. This critical mindset is probably what caused all of his children to either become non-religious (like me) or become Jewish (like my brother and sister) while he remains Christian. What I have learned from him and from my mother is that tolerance and compassion for others is key to anything you do! So, what I truly hate HATE in religion is when people of one faith try to convert others to their way of thinking and to their own faiths. Yes, I welcome open discussion. In fact, I love discussing religion and trying to understand what the other believes and feels to be true to their core. In return, I would like to openly be able to say what I believe and feel to be true in my core and we each need to respect the other for their own beliefs. Through open discourse you can truly learn from the other and who knows, maybe learn something for yourself along the way. You can talk and critique but still be respectful but when something goes to the core of what you love, like in religion, it is hard to stay objective. Hence all the wars over religion.

The Richard Armitage fan world is a religion of sorts, I am finding. Well, any fan world is, really. Come to think of it, I guess Christianity grew out of a Jesus Christ fandom… In Christianity there are sooooooooooo many different ways of believing and in comparison there are soooooo many ways to be a Richard Armitage fan or well-wisher or whatever. There is no one single kind of fan but the one thing we do have in common: we love the man. To make the comparison to religion even stronger: I have even heard the word “gospel” referenced to in relation to Richard Armitage! Not in a serious way, but still… One blogger (I apologize, I can’t remember who!) even referenced “The Life of Brian” (one of my all time favourite films) stating how people give meaning to Richard’s comments just as the throw-away shoe gains importance for the people who decided Brian should be followed. Brian was just a man who found himself in a public position, Richard is just such a man too.Β  No more, no less. What we learn from The Life of Brian is that we remain critical, that we not get carried away and that we don’t take things too seriously. Free speech and free will matter!

I’m trying to make a point here. The question is whether I am getting to it…So, in the interest of free speech and room for open discussion….(deep deep deep breath!)…. the Boland interviews… my two cents….

I thoroughly enjoyed the first interview in, what was it, February? Richard seemed very relaxed, he was very humorous and while I don’t think it gave us that many new insights into Richard Armitage it did show us his fun side. I am not a huge Marlise Boland fan, I found, even in that first interview. She was too flirty for my liking and quite self obsessed but that had it’s positives too: I felt that the drawing attention to herself and away from him made Richard relax in a way I have rarely see him relax before in interviews. Apparently her flirty and self centered style did bring out Richard’s flirty side, which, admit it, we all like to see. πŸ˜‰ So, I thoroughly enjoyed Richard in these videos and didn’t pay too much attention to Marlise and yes, hoped she would be able to do more interviews with him in time. And then this new interview appeared last week. In honesty, Marlise Boland seemed even more touchy feely and flirty than she did in the first interview and it did make me cringe. But again, she brought out his playful, relaxed side and we saw more of him than we usually do in the 4 or 5 minutes we get in all these press junket interviews. So, while I sometimes cringed over Marlise, I enjoyed watching The Armitage in action and he seemed relaxed. He indeed adapted to the interviewer who was ‘light’ and so he was ‘light’ as well.

Will Marlise ever be a hard-hitting journalist? I don’t think so. She is a fan of all things British (and now also of all things Armitage) and has been able to make a living as journalist of sorts out of it. Good for her! It is always wonderful if someone can make a living out of their passions! And that’s just the way I see Marlise – as a fan trying to earn a living by doing something she loves and hopefully learning more about professional journalism as she goes along. Do I prefer to learn something new with each interview? Sure! Is that realistic? No. If you really want a hard-hitting interview, the Anglophile Channel isn’t the place to be.

The one recent interview that really told me something new about Richard was this one from the Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/12/19/how-richard-armitage-let-thorin-become-unhinged-in-the-hobbit/. The interviewer really listens to what Richard has to say and when she hears something interesting tries to explore it deeper and she gets new answers! Or at least answers I had never heard before.The father-grandfather question and the following questions about family illustrate perfectly that the interviewer was listening and truly curious to delve deeper. I missed that in the Boland interview (and in MANY other interviews I have seen as well, by the way!). Marlise Boland missed a few opportunities to delve deeper into something Richard Armitage was saying. There were several times when I thought “ooh, ask him more about what he’s saying now!” and she didn’t. A great pity, but, again, that is not what I expect from her. I expect her to stick to the lighter side, just like a late night chat show host, and that is what she gets: the lighter side of Armitage and I enjoy the interviews because of it. You don’t expect in depth interviews on those late night talk shows. You expect fun and those shows are fun to watch. I love watching Graham Norton, for instance! Now there’s a show I’d really like to see Richard on… πŸ™‚

Anyway…. I read with great interest the blogs that addressed this fan versus journalist discussion. Marlise in my eyes isn’t a great journalist but she does bring out fun Armitage, so I concentrate on watching that and the interviewer just becomes something on the side (even if she is very present). If I commented on every annoying journalist I have seen these past few weeks I could write a book! So, what makes Marlise Boland special in that she needs to be singled out and critiqued? It probably is the way she presents herself so publicly as an Armitage fan and the way in which she presents herself speaking for fans. Because of this she draws attention from the Armitage fans in a way no other interviewer I know of does and so she also draws comments. In that first interview Armitage said something like “She is the best interviewer ever” and (to come back to the religious aspect), his word has become gospel so it seems: many fans agree and Marlise Boland is flattered and has become even more emboldened in how she approaches Richard Armitage like an old friend. And that is totally fine! To each their own and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Richard is a grown man and can handle himself and everyone has a right to like or dislike, agree or disagree.

So, in the midst of all of this approval of the Anglophile Channel interviews I have to say it was a breath of fresh air to read some points of critique as well! And while I don’t agree with all the points made I do agree with many of them and I thought it couldn’t hurt to discuss it. Just as I was thinking of jumping in and discussing (as a new blogger you have to jump in somewhere, n’est-ce pas?) this turned into one big controversy and I totally shied away. I was amazed at the harsh retaliation by The Anglophile Channel. Aren’t communities allowed to discuss points of critique? What happened to freedom of speech and professing a critical opinion? Suddenly bloggers were hiding behind ‘anonymous blogs’ and being negative and irresponsible? An unnecessary over-the-top reaction, I felt, and of course an uproar followed! People were touched to their cores and to reiterate what I said earlier: when something goes to the core of what you love it is hard to stay objective.Β  And so now it seems like two camps have formed: pro-Boland and anti-Boland and there is no more room left for true and open discussion so that we can learn from each other and learn to understand the other and accept a differing view. We do not have to agree with each other, but we can respect the other’s opinions. And we can try to explain what we like or don’t like about a certain issue and then remain friends and each go our own way. Right? I hope we can. I don’t want to get caught up in any sort of Armitage religion where one side tries to convert the other side or vice versa. I hope room remains for open and honest discussion and then you agree or agree to disagree and move on.

A whole new world is opening up to me in this first week of being a blogger. Secretly, I think more than enough has been said about this whole interview business and that includes my sermon here. In the whole scheme of things it isn’t that important. What is important, however, is that such a controversy should not keep me from saying what I feel. I want to feel free to speak of matters that catch my interest! So, I have now addressed what I wanted to say but had shied away from due to the blow up and I feel better now for being brave and speaking my mind. πŸ™‚

I hope to move on to more joyful blogging times now. I would like for this new blogging world to bring me the fun, tolerance and open exchange that I hope for.Β  I am a little afraid now (controversy really isn’t my thing!) but I will boldly say that I am still looking forward to this blog-ride.

I have a busy few days ahead so doubt I will be online much but let me leave you by wishing you all happy, peaceful and stress-free holidays and in the wise words Eric Idle: “Always look on the bright side of life!”

XO

Esther

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16 thoughts on “A whole new world… and freedom of speech

  1. Great post. (and hi from a fellow convert to Judaism). It is absolutely a religion, or rather, that’s certainly one great framework for interpreting it. It has relics, shrines, dogmas, rituals, and its own special theological vocabulary.

    Critique of journalists (both positive and negative) is pretty standard in my experience of Armitageworld. And as far as I am concerned, there’s definitely still plenty to be discussed calmly there — a pretty interesting discussion was going on on my post until MB’s command to be positive. There’s plenty left to be discussed, not least because many people were shutting up about their reactions to those interviews for so long and probably have stuff to say. One reason people were quiet was that the first negative reactions to her upon the appearance of the review were so vehement as to make the people who expressed them appear totally unreasonable. I think a lot of us thought, when we saw that, well, I don’t like these interviews but I don’t think it’s all quite that terrible. FWIW it’s my opinion that what pushed this into tilt was not MB’s Facebook post, but rather a serious of remarks that MB made on Twitter that could have been interpreted as gloating, and which made it appear that she was going to be the sole proprietor of Armitage’s Christmas message to fans. That issue (the perception that he was closer to one group of fans or another) has been a powder-keg one before, and the transition this year away from Richard Armitage Online.com was going to create some anxiety anyway, but the fact that according to her, he was appearing to place it solely with her, was troublesome for a lot of us including me.

    We’re actually very reasonable and we’ve got a pretty high level of discussion going on, I find.

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  2. I think it’s a great post, too. The explosion is probably over, but the cost of that? The legitimate discussion is also probably over.

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  3. Hello to The Book of Esther! I have enjoyed your post, it was very enjoyable and has some interesting points and ideas. I too liked the Anglophile interviews as they drew out RA’s more playful side but I was hoping for her next (this) round of interviews that she would have calmed down a little and be a little less grating on the nerves with the primping and preening. My only real issue is she says things like ‘your fans think this’ and ‘your fans want that’ etc. I don’t recall her asking me what I think, feel or want. She needs to leave the fans out of her interviews…..that is my pet peeve. I am looking forward to reading more of your writings and I hope you have lovely holiday season.

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    • Thank you, Sparkhouse. πŸ™‚
      You know, those fan remarks – I let them slide, they don’t bother me so much as I don’t believe all fans are the same and therefore no one can speak for all fans. anyhow.. and I’d think that Richard must realize too that there are all kinds of fans out there, he’s met enough of them in the past 10 years to know they aren’t all the same.

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  4. Well, I’m not the convert to Judaism… my brother and sister are. πŸ™‚

    I have to say that that Faceboook post irked me far more than anything else. Through which channel the Christmas message would come didn’t really matter to me and somehow that never really worried me either. I see Marlise Boland as someone who is just overly enthusiastic and likes to promote her channel and I saw it as her being excited about a Christmas message, nothing more. That Facebook post however…….
    I think Richard may be aware of some of this controversy as he referenced in his tweet today that there is “no favouritism”. Good man.

    On another note, can I just say that I have enjoyed reading your blogs for quite a long time now, Servetus. Can’t say I always agree on everything you say or the depths you go to in your analyses but I do value your insights and your honesty and openness. And I like that you are Jewish and have lived in Germany. I spent my childhood in Israel (so in a Jewish environment) and have lived in Germany as well, so that kind of forges a bond. πŸ™‚ Anyway, your blog was one of the blogs that inspired me to try this blogging thing for real. Now that I am “out” I just want to say thanks….

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    • Oops, sorry, misread re conversion. I didn’t mean to imply that I liked her FB post, only that there were a lot of different readings of that, including the assertion that she was taking the high road by urging us all to be positive. Some people including people in my circle of friends really liked that post. Anyway …

      Thanks for the kind words. No one will always agree about everything (see above)! We hope you’ll be around for a long time.

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  5. Esther, in many ways, I could have written this post! Well said, from someone else who’s just somewhere in the middle, with mixed feelings. I didn’t comment on any of the Marlise Boland Controversy because while it was happening, I hadn’t had time to watch the interviews in question. I finally did so last night, and didn’t find them to be so disturbing as many others apparently did. For whatever reason, Richard seems to relax a bit when he’s with Marlise, and if I’m remembering the Stage Door interview correctly, he initiated the hug with her there, as well as at the end of this latest interview, rather than vice versa. To me this implies that he does feel comparatively at ease with her, and he spent some time chuckling and laughing during that interview, which gladdened my heart. I like seeing that side of him, and more power to her if she is able to elicit that lighter side. I felt that she spent an almost an awkward amount of time discussing her personal reactions and impressions of his work, and she asked some questions that we’ve heard his answers to time and again, so it wasn’t a stellar interview in that respect. And I totally agree that her response to valid criticism was overblown. I don’t fall into either camp “Pro-Boland” or “Anti-Boland”… I do think of her more as a fan than as a journalist, although in time, my opinion may change in one direction or another, depending on the quality of future interviews that she conducts. I’m basically ambivalent about the whole situation. I don’t want him to stop interviewing with her. My hope is that she will, after some time cooling off, take some of the criticisms to heart and make better use of her access to him next time.

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  6. Liebe Esther,
    I have only stumbled across your blog and this post today but I would still like to comment. I share your view and feelings concerning the ‘MB controversy’. I sort of enjoyed the interviews because they seem to have been held in a largely relaxed atmosphere. I consider MB to be more of a fan or perhaps an entertainer than a journalist. I think you refer to the Late Night Chat shows in comparison to what she’s doing and that was my initial thought to although MB is not in the same league as Graham Norton.
    Unlike you I am not a great fan of these shows as all too often the interviewer seems to be more important than the guest. To me that isn’t journalism but entertainment and I have often felt embarrassed when watching a Late Night Show.
    However, that is just me and I know there are millions of people who thoroughly enjoy those shows.

    I am not interested in MB enough to follow her on twitter or FB which means I haven’t witnessed her negative reactions to the criticism, and I won’t read up on it now as frankly I can’t be bothered to do so. The whole thing is just not important enough for me to do so. I am a fan. MB doesn’t speak for me. If she manages to get and tape another interview I might watch it. The End… πŸ˜‰

    I very much enjoyed reading your post (and in fact the other posts in your blog as well). Always good to see a new blogger on the scene. All the more so a Dutch blogger. I am German and really like the Netherlands, not the least for your phantastic cycle path system. I cycle on a daily basis and really envy all Dutch cyclists but that is of course an entirely different subject πŸ˜‰
    I wish you and yours a Happy New Year!
    Suse xx

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    • Hi Suse!
      So nice to have some people from Germany read my blog! I lived in Germany for 6 years in my teen years, which was quite a long time ago…. πŸ™‚

      As for chat shows – I totally agree, they are more about the interviewers than the people being interviewed. I don’t really watch chat shows for that exact reason. I can’t watch an hour long show with the presenter doing stand up and only interviewing the 2 or 3 guests they have for only 5 minutes at a time. But: I do catch up on interviews with people I like after the fact (on YouTube for instance) because those 5 minutes of interview time sometimes do bring out unexpected sides to a person, For instance, quite a while ago another actor I like, Simon Baker from The Mentalist, did a very good Mick Jagger imitation on a chat show. Loved seeing that, totally unexpected. So, sometimes, if the chemistry is right, these chat shows bring out unexpected or fun sides of the people who are interviewed. The only chat show I really do enjoy watching from beginning to end is Graham Norton. His show is all about story telling and I love story telling. Yes, he is center of attention and that’s OK because I do quite like him, but he can let go as well and hears people out. I like him much better than the other UK chat show presenter Jonathan Ross who annoys me to no end. GN really seems genuinely interested in his guests and their stories, especially their quirky stories and gives them more room for telling things than I see on US talk shows. Also, when they get to the red chair bit at the end of the show, it is fun to see how his guests react to that. Had me in stitches many times. So, no, these interviews aren’t hard hitting, but they can be fun anyway.

      In the MB interview, I think she brought out a relaxed looking Richard Armitage, which I really enjoyed and it does her credit. I know several chat show hosts that do fun interviews and bring out the fun sides of people but I don’t necessarily have to really like them, right? To me, MB is very American in a bit of an over-the-top way, but that’s OK, to each their own style. I don’t have to be her fan, I am Richard’s fan. Also, I don’t in the least perceive her as speaking for me either even though she does reference herself as speaking for fans. No one can speak for all fans and I think Richard must realize that too. I have to say, though, that MB does like what I also enjoy (Colin Firth, for instance!) and I see her as a fellow fan with some good taste. So, I do look at the stuff she has to say (via Twitter) and I pick and choose what I read or what I skip, but I do read… and sometimes I like what I read and sometimes I don’t. And if there’s ever a new Richard Armitage interview I really will watch it, for sure. That’s enough said about that, I guess. πŸ™‚

      And last but not least: bike paths in The Netherlands! I love that we have that here too. My kids bike to school and I bike to work each day. Although, Germany seems to be getting better on that front too, no?

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    • PS: wow that was a long reply! Sorry! I’m not always good at brevity… . πŸ™‚

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  7. How did I miss this post? I really liked your balanced and diplomatic discussion of the “controversy”. Actually, I hesitate to call it a controversy – that would give the storm in the teacup far too much weight. MB is an entertainment journalist – one among many. Her style appeals to many viewers, but not to all, just like Dunn’s pics appeal to many, but not to all. Even Richard – appeals to many, but not to all πŸ˜€ In any case, kudos to you for debuting with your own take on the latest goings-on in the fandom. It’s great to hear new voices in the mix, especially when they are so eloquent and entertaining. Followed πŸ˜‰

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