See Diary Part 22 here, or to access all entries, hit “The Diary” tab above.
Entry — Still Fall, 2008 + a couple of days later:
I guess I can’t stop thinking about Richard Armitage in ‘Between the Sheets’. I haven’t watched it again. I’m really trying to forget it. The graphic sex scenes that were like a hot poker to my adrenal glands are still somewhat vivid but thankfully receding a little. Now I’m experiencing something less visceral and a little more thoughtful. I just had to get past the shock of seeing John Thornton in all his glory. LOL!
A long time ago I fancied myself becoming a great photographer. Eventually I “wised up” and let that go like I have a lot of other things I enjoy. I’m not sure I’ll ever get back what I once had, but there are things I learned and can’t forget. My first mentor told me to ditch the color. Once the color was gone, I learned how lousy my photos were. It was the first time I really considered composition and contrast, and they needed work. But I was glad I knew the truth. Sex can be like that. It can color everything — for a while. But when the euphoria of sex is gone, people look at their partners and ask themselves, “Do I really care about you?”
In ‘Between the Sheets’ the character Alona seemed to need the euphoria. Almost like an unbroken drumbeat she lets Paul, her partner, know how she needs sex from him and not much else. It’s plain that Paul was little more than a prop in her world.
After the dip in sex and some tense therapy sessions, she seemed to be fighting the urge to dismiss him and move on if he didn’t satisfy her. From talk about her son, to her job, to her dead husband, to her relationship with Paul it seemed that everything revolved around Alona. From the moment she learns about Tracy, she is suspicious of Paul and tries to control the outcome. Too late she realizes she might really care for Paul only to be startled by the final revelation. I would have loved to have seen another series to see who Alona really was. Part of me thought of her as a narcissist, and narcissists can be intensely fascinating — when you don’t have to live with them. In fact, they are sometimes the most interesting people. Self absorption that intense always has me wondering what created it and if it can survive.
My friend Leah was this self absorbed, and I have to admit she was extremely fascinating. In hindsight she was so obsessed with herself and getting her way that it was frightening, but at the time I alternated between admiration, humor, and a little fear about her desperation. By day she was a very capable physical therapist, and in her free time she trolled hardware stores for guys who could flip her in bed and install a hot tub or track lighting, or maybe a security system on the side. I actually laughed at this when I wasn’t horrified. There was no hesitation in her about using other people. Oh, she was smart, and frequently said things I thought, and now I’m wondering what was wrong with me that I wasn’t more appalled at the time.
I guess I wasn’t that upset over her selfishness because I didn’t realize how much it hurt others, and I figured she was just lashing out about things in her life that were unfair — alcoholic parent, untimely death of her husband. There was also her well ordered life, which seemed to say she was in control but just battling some demons on the side. She had a great job, her house and her bills were in perfect order, her 14-year old daughter was very pleasant and a good student. But when her daughter tried to commit suicide, all Leah could talk about was how stressful it was for her and how she needed a damn vacation. She flew to Mexico for 10 days. Meanwhile the kid was on suicide watch at a mental hospital. I never saw any concern for this kid. I mean nothing. Any concern for the kid was left for others. Leah wrung her hands a little, but she was never there for anyone but herself. She did not know how to feel any kind of empathy or real remorse. She only reacted to being inconvenienced and then moved to take care of herself. I can hardly think about this without wanting to knock myself silly for not being more horrified and doing something. I’ve always prided myself on knowing what was going on, and thinking for everyone in the room. I am an idiot.
I think maybe I couldn’t see it because I couldn’t see myself. SO has told me in his quiet way to get over myself. But sometimes he’s gotten exasperated. When we were first together he said, “What happened that you think everyone in the world gives a f*ck about all of your opinions?!” He’s so right, and here I am journaling for the first time in my life and feeling like a putz. But didn’t he want me to do this? Maybe he just wanted me to write so I didn’t have to verbalize all of it to him. What the hell did he ever see in me? Only the pretty girl of 21? Does any of this shit I’m writing mean anything? What was my point? Yeah, Alona’s character brought all of that back, and as badly as I hate to admit it, somehow I saw a little of myself in her. Trying to control everything and controlling almost nothing. Faking myself out and sounding like I know what I’m talking about while I’m doing it. Maybe.
And Richard Armitage once again completely became someone else. I was actually dreading this performance and expecting it to be the one that disappointed me in his abilities, but from the first scene I saw Paul Andrews, the probation officer, and not Richard Armitage, and there was a suspicion about him at the periphery of my mind that wouldn’t come to fruition. He seemed to care about Tracy, but he was unsure of himself as a mentor, and his voice, which was so different from all of his other roles, did a lot to convey this. At times his contrition was almost too much and screamed he was guilty of something, but he stopped short and had the perfect intonation for nailing passive/aggressive. These made his fatal flaw believable. I loved the scene in the therapist’s office with Alona where he sounds like a boy lashing out at her. Plus, that sounded like some real shit that goes on between dysfunctional couples. Hell, aren’t we all dysfunctional? LOL! SO’s never sounded like a little boy, but he’s got his issues as well, and I could believe Richard Armitage has had a dysfunctional relationship; otherwise, what did he draw on to capture something that realistically? If not, then damn he’s good. He certainly had the whine and the subtle manipulation down, and I was never quite sure of the extent of the latter until the end. Usually I can quickly see things like that coming in real life as well as in a drama. In fact, my horribly arrogant, impatient nature often wants to bring things to their logical conclusion in an instant, so I can move on. I missed it this time, but I’ll blame that oblivion on his naked ass.
And I’m still trying to rationalize his naked ass in this show. It really wasn’t gratuitous sex even though on some level it felt like it. Rather it was a couple being intimate, and I was in the room with them.
I have never felt more like a voyeur. It was too much, and I came away asking: why did he do it? And when I think of it, I come to that question and can’t move on. I wonder about Julie Graham as well, but hell, I don’t have time to really ponder her when I’m wondering about Richard Armitage’s motivations. Was he that insecure about working? This is the most obvious answer. He had not made it big with North and South yet, so his offers had to be less. That makes sense, but maybe I don’t want to think of him prostituting himself to be working although the answer may be that simple. Or was he honestly unsuspecting of how the scene was going to be filmed, and he’s so biddable that he just went along with it when he found out? I’ve heard that reason floated by some, which makes my bs detector hit alarming levels. Surely actors aren’t that naive. Don’t they have agents who are supposed to be savvy, so they don’t just stumble into things like graphic sex scenes? Didn’t he have a contract with some details? It just makes no sense unless the agents in the UK don’t have as much edge as the ones here. I really doubt this. People are people, and negotiators no matter where they are have an uncanny awareness of how someone can get screwed.
So what was it that motivated him? Maybe I’ve invested in watching him so much that I will not let myself be disappointed by thinking he might be shallow or God forbid, a hedonist. So maybe he felt some artistic challenge? Maybe he really is interested in the human condition and the stories that come from it to the point that he could suspend any compunction about getting naked? Damn, that’s a pretty big step. It’s not just being without clothes. It’s the intimacy portrayed that will be forever captured on screen for his present and future loved ones to see and wonder about to a much greater degree than I’m doing. That’s something he can never take back. It’s out never to be private again and will have to be confronted again and again. Was he that thoughtless?
Or was there such a relief in being naked that it didn’t matter about the consequences? When reading his comments about this show and his family’s reaction, the flippancy of it borders on disrespectful. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but that’s how it seemed. Maybe he seems too much like SO who chafed under the rigid mores of his parents and I’m assigning motives to him that are really SO’s. His upbringing does sound much like SO’s, and that upbringing is still so foreign to me. To be that inhibited about speaking of one of the most elemental things in life — sex? I can’t really wrap my mind around that. But then maybe I’m misreading his comments and maybe I’m a freak. I was at the other end of the spectrum — never inhibited from discussing anything, Mom and Dad really were not like other people, and I’ve fought that notion for a good part of my life. When I was a kid and my friends used to comment on how different my parents were, I blew it off as my friend’s ignorance of people. Years later I realized they were right. I certainly was aware of sex and a host of other subjects long before my peers. Even today I still shake my head in bafflement when I hear women talk about their mothers never telling them anything — even about their menstrual cycles — so that they freaked out when they finally got their periods. I don’t understand this kind of parenting. A friend of mine told me that her mother left a book out for her to read about periods, sex, and unwanted pregnancy but never said a word to her. My friend got pregnant as a teen, and it was the first time she had sex. Small wonder.
One of my many sex talks was Mom telling me that unwanted pregnancies and disease are certainly issues of indiscriminate sex, but the most important thing is how much sex affects your head and your heart. Those are what really matter. In one instance she ended with, “because there is nothing sacred about a p*ssy.” Mom always did have a way of putting things in perspective. LOL! So to think of some mom just leaving a book out that hopefully her daughter might find and understand and heed is… I don’t get it.
Maybe I do have issues with that kind of detachment, and I can’t help being curious about those who may have experienced it. We’re all inclined to seek intimacy. It’s hardwired into us. So I wonder what it would be like to seek intimacy when coming from a perspective where intimate matters can never be discussed with our intimates, i.e., with those closest to us who have our best interest at heart. Whom do you discuss intimacy with if not those people? I still marvel at the fact that sex was never a discussion in the house of SO’s youth. There weren’t even any implications of it other than his existence, and others outside their home who talked about sex were like aliens speaking a foreign language. SO is infinitely curious about life and people and how they work, and he’s also the most honest and forthright person I’ve ever met, so he felt like an alien in his own home. I was his relief, and to a lesser degree so were my parents. But what happens to people who get little or no relief? Where do they go? How do they make sense of things when they have never been able to talk of things that profoundly affect us all? And if they are curious about the truth, how do they seek it and convey it?
I know discretion was something I grappled with as I was coming to adulthood, and at times my reaction to my parents’ unabashed and sometimes brutal honesty has provoked me to such a circumspect posture that I’ve fairly strangled my emotions. I can’t help but wonder what went on in Richard Armitage’s head with respect to his upbringing and whether it played a part in selecting this role. Maybe I can understand his need to take the bark off the tree as it were. If I could not easily speak of elemental things to people who matter to me, I might also want to show my ass, just to know if it was real.
Naked asses aside, ‘Between the Sheets’ is so obviously designed to provoke someone to honestly examine their opinions about sex, and I guess I’m verbalizing my response to the show here since I can’t really talk about this to anyone. But it’s not the sex. It’s the fan odyssey I’m on. Sex is so easy to talk about. My need to watch some obscure British actor is not. I’ve enjoyed so many of his roles, but if I’m honest, something unhealthy is going on with me. The fact I’m writing all of this about some actor is….I don’t know what it is. Certainly it’s an escape, and the problem is this show wasn’t an escape. It was too damn real, and here I am trying to get in Richard Armitage’s head. I have to admit there is something satisfying about that. Certainly, I don’t know him, and to speculate that I do or can guess what he’s thinking really is one of my curses but then I always try to get inside people’s heads. I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. I can’t stop now. I never want to do it to exploit anyone, but I really do want to know what drives people, and isn’t that the point? Isn’t the point of me watching all of those characters to be curious enough to wonder what in hell’s name is going on inside their heads? And if it spills over to the actors themselves, isn’t that a normal reaction? Or maybe I do have CWS. Whatever is going on, I’m intrigued and can’t just turn that off.
I found myself feeling very sad for Hazel. All that angst over what? Some misguided sense of decorum? Yeah, yeah, I know that was the point of the show — more bark off the tree. It must have been hell to grow up in an era that didn’t allow you to speak openly about something so important as sex and Kay Mellor and company are definitely of that era (I think of them now as the British version of the Ephrons only less restrained). Hazel’s part practically screams it, and I appreciate what they were doing to show just how silly some of the mores of that generation were. Plus, abuse is still something that too often shames people and keeps them quiet. The muzzling effect of it can’t be exposed enough. So I’m glad they worked that in. But mostly I look at Brenda Blethyn playing Hazel and how she’s about the age of my mother, and I realize Mom was and is so open and honest about so many things — so much more than most women I meet and come to know. She’s always been honest to a fault. No sexually repressed woman unable to articulate what she thinks for her. Thank you, Mom. You are rare, and I realize it more and more every year. I’ll have to tell you this next time I see you.
I was a little uncomfortable with the use of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. My first reaction was, No! don’t use that. It’s so cliche’. It’s becoming nothing but a caricature of forbidden fruit for the repressed woman, and so unfair to D.H. Lawrence. I think I rolled my eyes a little, but Brenda Blethyn does a decent job. The cliché aside, I just liked Hazel. She was sincere even if she was a little silly acting at times. At first I was predisposed to dislike her since Brenda Blethyn can’t move two feet without emoting and usually plays someone a little silly. Then there were the times I felt some queasiness at her part, but that was coupled with my admiration for her guts in taking off her clothes. I guess all naked asses don’t bother me, but then I didn’t have to see Brenda’s naked ass while she was scr*wing.
Peter’s mother, Audrey, was a hoot, and thank God I didn‘t have to see her naked ass. But who couldn’t like Audrey? She was so gentle and earnest. I can hear my own mother talking like that when she gets to be Audrey’s age except my mother adored my dad when he was living and doesn’t seem to be the least bit interested in another man since he’s been gone. Of course she might surprise me, and that would be fine; nothing she might do would take away from Dad. As for Maurice, he must have had more going on behind closed doors. LOL! He was a little mouse of a man.
Georgia was fairly clichéd too, but I liked her as well. Where I come from Georgia would be called “a good ol’ gal”. They always have a heart of gold even if life has done them dirty. The only problem I had was a couple of times she started looking like Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke. It made it hard to keep a straight face.
Then there were the children. Kieran was a shit with an endearing quality. Maybe it was the twinkle in his eye that had the promise of someone with depth. Whereas Simon was just a shit. An angry shit but still just a shit. No, there was more going on; I just didn’t care to find out. If the series had continued, maybe I would have cared. Of course there was Fiona who got my pity for being caught up in this mess. Sweet looking little girl. I wonder if she’s ever watched this show.
But Peter was the one who got to me more than any other. I loved him even though he cheated on his wife and had a seedy profession that should have generated self-contempt. Yet he kept trying but getting things so wrong. Boy can I relate to that. I felt his remorse so much that I sobbed over the herons too. Even writing this I’m getting choked. I just wish the writers hadn’t wrapped up his and Hazel’s story in a neat little package. It was decidedly unrealistic in a show that seemed to wear realistic on its sleeve. It’s never that simple.
[note: spoilers in this video]
I had never seen much with Alun Armstrong, but after this, yeah, I’m a fan. I guess once that fan thing gets turned on there’s no telling where it will be directed.
There are so many more things to say about this show. It had a lot of layers. Why do I hear Shrek’s voice in my head? Yeah, it was like an onion. It had layers. But I’ve got to stop thinking about it or it will drive me crazy. Kay Mellor would be so proud.
Not sure where I’m going next with my Richard Armitage watching. Maybe I need to cleanse my mind with a little John Thornton.
See Diary Part 24 here.
Screecaps and clips are mine courtesy of a friend loaning me the DVD. Thank you, friend. :D
edit: I frequently get email about this post and specifically about the pictures. Just so you know, the screencaps untouched were not nearly so tame. I strategically cropped them to make this post “safe for work.”