Wet shirts and bare chests

Oh wow, Armitage world erupts again, because of these…

armitage proctor @washbasin

A whole controversy has emerged over whether it is OK to ogle these, whether it doesn’t objectify Richard Armitage/John Proctor. Well, these are public pictures, everyone involved in the production must know the effect such images can have and it takes nothing away from the absolutely electrifying performance by Mr. Armitage. In fact, it adds to it! A state of undress like that may seem sexy (and believe me, I like to look) but it also shows a vulnerability and that’s what these images convey to me as well – a strong, sexy man at a very vulnerable stage in his life.

As soon as I saw these pics of a bare chested Armitage at the washbasin it made me think of this:

Darcy wet shirt 2

Darcy wet shirt 0In 1995 Mr. Darcy emerged in a wet shirt from a lake, with nipples showing and everything, and the world went gaga… He too, at that moment, was at a very vulnerable point in the story and the “less formally attired” look added to his desperation. What makes these pictures so sexy? I don’t believe it’s just the look that makes it sexy, it’s the context in which this scene is placed as well and the character of the person! Of course, things get taken out of context, and that has happened with the Darcy wet shirt. It has become a legendary, stand-alone image. But Colin’s name is attached to that, so that’s not bad PR… you can have a worse image than being considered sexy.

So, was Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy objectified for this scene? Er… yes, I think so! And even now, almost 20 years on, this may be the most famous scene from the whole 1995 Pride and Prejudice production. So much so that it has passed into legend and is referenced endlessly. For instance:

In a time travel romantic comedy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice called “Lost in Austen” (things work out quite differently than in the book – loved it! Oh, and check out the Mr. Darcy and Tinky Winky scene), the actor Elliot Cowan was specifically asked to step into the lake, to recreate the Darcy-wet-shirt look:

wet-shirt Lost in AustenLizzie Bennet appreciates Darcy in a wet shirt just as Amanda appreciates it in Lost in Austen:

Lizzie w Darcy in wet shirtAmanda w Darcy in wet shirt

There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to Darcy’s wet shirt: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mr-Darcys-Wet-Shirt-Appreciation-Society/150114028390072

In 2013 a statue was made of Mr. Darcy in a wet shirt and it was placed in a lake in London, it even toured England!

Colin Firth wet shirt statue

More recently I came across this:

benedict-cumberbatch-colin-firth-460x272Even Benedict Cumberbatch gets in on the wet shirt action! http://www.unrealitytv.co.uk/showbiz/colin-firth-vs-benedict-cumberbatch-wet-shirt-competition/

Colin Firth answers questions about it in interviews and has a good laugh with it. He has recently even said he should have been naked in the scene! My, what a fuss that would have caused! http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/553741/Colin-Firth-wet-shirt-Pride-and-Prejudice

And in the extras of the second Bridget Jones film, Bridget Jones interviews Colin Firth, the actor (so not in character as Mr. Darcy), about the wet shirt – this interview cracks me up and Colin plays along so brilliantly!

I follow all this with great amusement and yes, I ogle as well. So, are we objectifying? I guess we are to a certain extent. But is that always wrong? I don’t think so. Believe me, there are times when I very much objectify my husband and in those moments I am really not thinking of his other wonderful characteristics and all the wonderful things he does… It’s OK to zoom in on certain attractive aspects of a person, doesn’t mean that is the only thing you care about.

So… if anyone ever decides to do a statue of Richard Armitage with his bare chest so that he too can pass into sexy-man legend, then I hope they choose this image, it’s my favorite one:

armitage proctor @washbasin 5

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22 thoughts on “Wet shirts and bare chests

  1. Well said! Never be ashamed to admire that which is Beautiful. Beauty is by no means confined to the physical, but there is nothing wrong with appreciating these photos, whether within or outside of the context of the play. As to objectification, to me it’s a problem when a culture encourages an empowered class to view a disempowered class as objects without feelings, to be exploited and tossed away. This is a phenomenon visible in some forms of porn. But I question whether it is even possible to objectify males in this sense, given their membership in a group that still holds most of the power in this world. The day women start running things is the day I will start worrying about objectifying men.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL… I think my Hubby would argue that the day has come, at least in his household!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good point on the empowerment issue! Still, in a non-controlling way, men can be just as objectified as women in that they are only seen as, well, sex-objects. That’s fine but I do have a limit for myself in how far I’ll go with the objectifying. There are things I do not feel comfortable with but I am aware that has to do with me personally. I have never been one for The Chippendales, for instance, but nothing wrong with other women enjoying that. I have also seen images around that I’ll smile at but I very consciously choose not to engage in the discussion of. I don’t mind if others do, it is a personal choice that I don’t. These pictures, however, I find I can quite happily look at without any issues. Just enjoying the view. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I agree that it is possible for images of men to be reductive or disrespectful, so there is a grey area that is, as you say, a matter of taste. As to the Chippendales, to me they seem more laughable than sexy.
        Enjoying the view–one of life’s greatest pleasures 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I tend to agree… I don’t think most male actors would take offense at being ogled or “objectified” by a fandom… it helps their career immeasurably. Likewise, Hubby seems to enjoy it when I get my objectification on, and target him.

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  3. I think we’d need to have a definition of objectification on the table before we could call anything that has happened recently by that name. Looking at a cap or still of Richard Armitage on stage and getting a thrill out of it is not — without knowing a lot more about what’s going on — objectification. The negative aspect of objectification when it occurs does not lie in the looking in itself.

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    • Yep. agree. But I believe it can be seen as objectification. From wikipedia: “Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person as an instrument of sexual pleasure. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object, without regard to their personality or dignity. Objectification is most commonly examined at the level of a society, but can also refer to the behavior of individuals,”

      What I’m trying to say, is that even if it is objectification – it doesn’t always have to be so bad and we all do it to a certain extent in our daily lives anyhow! Nothing wrong with admiring an object of beauty and commenting on that. It’s when the objectifying takes over and influences behavior in a negative way that it gets serious.

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      • Yeah, I know, I’ve read the wikipedia definition, and I think it misses a lot as soon as we start to talk about the levels of reception that are involved in what we are seeing here. In essence, any decision to represent anything involves an act of objectification, because it turns a thing as it is (assuming we believe in that) into something else for a different purpose than its original one. On that criterion, the play itself is an objectification of the people portrayed in it, because their stories were taken away from them and retold for the entirely separate political purpose of the author, who lived centuries later. (Speaking as a historian, this offends me miles more than anything I’ve ever read or heard a fan saying about a picture of Richard Armitage, who in fact chose his profession, as opposed to Proctor et al, who never asked Miller to write anything about them. Do we ask what Hathorne would think of the way he’s depicted in this play? Or Danforth? Yet they are objectified here — made into metaphors that demonstrate a point Miller was trying to make.) Miller’s objectification of these historical people can potentially only be justified ethically by pointing out that the characters of the play are so different, in some cases, from their historical originals, as to be entirely different beings.

        Moving on, the play was put on in London for the purpose of augmenting the reputation of the theater, making money and attracting spectators. Using the broad definition of objectification above, putting the play on was a potential objectification as an artistic work was changed into an event that was used to generate income; the talents of the actors involved were instrumentalized for the same purpose (indeed, we assume, that’s why they were hired). Subsequently, the play was filmed, at least in part so that it could be shown and sold to people who wanted to see it — again changing the purpose of one thing into yet another. And every reaction of any viewer to seeing any of these media also involves a potential objectification of some kind or other, whether or not it involves sex. On these broad criteria, escapism is also a form of objectification.

        The problem with objectification is not the fact that we treat people in ways that are independent of their original existences and purposes — or that we look at pictures of them and think thoughts that are unrelated to the original purpose or essence of the thing pictured, even sexual ones. The decisive issue is its use as a technique of oppression — a manifestation, not a cause. This is why the page 3 girl in the newspaper is a problem — not because she’s naked, or being sexually objectified by the photographer or the paper or the viewer, but because those actions make up a part of an entire cultural pattern of male domination in patriarchy that leads to the systematic disadvantagement, oppression, and subjection of women.

        IMO that is not what is going on when a fan looks at a picture of Richard Armitage and gets a sexual thrill. He signed up to play the character; whether or not it was his idea, if it wasn’t, he presumably had some reason for agreeing to it; he is aware, as he has stated many times, of the way that actors’ bodies are perceived and how this relates to finding work. The fact that pictures of him topless — or dressed, for that matter — are passed around by fans for fans to enjoy is not a symptom of a system of power created in order to disadvantage, oppress, or subject men in general or him specifically. In fact, arguably, a male actor profits from this sort of objectification in ways that a female actor never can — precisely because we live in a heterosexual patriarchy. No one will ever call Richard Armitage a slut for taking his shirt off — and this difference is decisive.

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        • @Servetus. Thanks for your detailed reply! I knew I could trust you to delve into this deeply with your analytical academic mind. And I mean that in the very best way. 🙂

          I went through this quickly (don’t have much time) but you are basically saying in a detailed, more eloquent way what I think I mean: yes, objectification is around everywhere, not just in pictures of people who are scantily clad! However, it is what you do with it and within which context it takes place that makes the objectification negative, not the looking/admiring in itself. I sort of know and feel what I mean but can’t always labour the point like you do and get to the actual gist of it like you do, so really, thanks for this. I totally agree with: “This is why the page 3 girl in the newspaper is a problem — not because she’s naked, or being sexually objectified by the photographer or the paper or the viewer, because those actions make up a part of an entire cultural pattern of male domination in patriarchy that leads to the systematic disadvantagement, oppression, and subjection of women.” It’s what Linnetmoss said as well.

          Having said that, there are certain things I can get uncomfortable with in discussions of these pictures (wrote about that in my response to Linnetmoss as well). Not just with these Armitage pictures, also with Colin Firth’s wet-shirt pictures and many others like it! Some people in their discussions will go further than I would want to go and I choose not to go there (not in my mind and not in what I read or see/watch). I don’t mind others doing it, by all means have fun! It’s just not for me to participate in. I fully realize that these qualms have got everything to do with me as a person and have nothing to do with admiring the images themselves.

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          • I didn’t think we disagreed, but I think it’s worth elaborating because to greater and greater degree in our world, the fact that most people have such a broad definition of objectification operating in their discourses makes the concept useless as a tool for any kind of moral or ethical critique. We all know objectification is bad, apparently, but we don’t really know what it is and so we often assign feelings of discomfort the label “objectification” to justify our discomfort.

            The whole time I’ve been observing the Armitage fandom (and potentially before), it’s been enough to say “don’t objectify Richard” to shut down a conversation (or threaten to shut one down), because people think “don’t objectify Richard” means “it’s not okay to look at pictures of him and / to get a thrill.” If this kind of activity were truly objectification, more or less most of human sexual activity would be ethically objectionable, because all of it involves some level of instrumentalizing another body for pleasure. In my experience — given that I have still seen no evidence that this kind of activity is oppressive to Armitage or part of a system of subjection — what most people communicate when they say “don’t objectify Richard” is something like “don’t reveal that you experience a thrill from seeing these pictures to an extent that embarrasses me if I find about it.” Taste thus gets built into a moral issue, and the overloading of the moral with trivial issues makes ethical / moral discussion increasingly difficult simply because of participant fatigue.

            So I guess I’m saying — it’s really worth it to limit the non-ironic use of this term to things that it really applies to in a meaningful way.

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  4. Very interesting discussion, Serv, as usual. Your comment about a heterosexual patriarchy brought to mind this political cartoon.

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  5. Really enjoyed the comparison with THAT Darcy scene, i too just read the latest interview, can you imagine that? naked Darcy would have cause a riot! I actually think it was more interesting this way. It’s not done any damage to CF’s career, quite the contrary 🙂 The other one i am sure works hard to keep his body in this shape so nothing wrong with saying he is beautiful 🙂 And i like that last image too for the very vulnerable look in his eyes, But i like 1/2 and 2/2 as well. Otherwise i am totally with Linnet 🙂

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  6. Hope you don’t mind a guys perspective on this. Technically this would be objectification but I think it comes down to how you treat people and consent. From a personal perspective I’m a bartender working in a small private club that was started by an acquaintance of mine from college after she graduated with a business degree (She was a senior student on her second education). Last summer we did a charity ladies night where the guys were shirtless bartenders and this concept will probably become a monthly event from next summer after the huge success. Sure I realise that we were not asked if we were willing to work shirtless because of our intellectual skills but to be easy on the eyes of our female patrons, however I can’t really see why this is so bad. It’s not as we’re oppressed as sex objects outside the workplace (as has been the situation for female models/strippers/topless bartenders etc. throughout the history) which is the important difference between men and women.

    We’ve had a few comments and the mother of one of my colleagues even said it was inappropriate “for a women in the beginning of her fourties to have shirtless men 10 years her junior”. Of course no one mentions that men have run businesses with scantily clad women for decades and not just for charity. Also what people don’t realise is that she’s one of the best manager’s I’ve had. I’m hoping for this club to remain a profitable business and if I can boost sales and support a good cause at the same time I’m willing to throw the shirt when needed.

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    • Thank you very much for your insights! It’s very good to read a male perspective on this. And yes, I totally agree with the fact that how you treat people is key.

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  7. […] Most comments: My Wet shirts and bare chests post, which I still like to look at occasionally. 😉 Most “likes” were for the A […]

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