Speaking of the Fourth Wall

Recently people have sent me notes about some faux pas an interviewer made where I understand she somehow facilitated the breaking of the fourth wall by publicly reading some fan fiction to the principal actors featured in the fiction or having them read it (I’m still not sure), and then asking them some questions about it. The fiction was slash of course and wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun for her if it had been anything but slash. I also understand the author of the slash was upset. I don’t really care that any of this happened, and I’m not going to cover it much here except to say 1) if you put something on the Web, you never know who’s going to pick it up; 2) if an interviewer is dumb enough to purposely humiliate her interviewees when it’s not expose’ journalism, she deserves what she gets from it. End of story on that one. Unvarnished thought: big girls don’t cry.

Onto the main point of this piece.

The notes reminded me that I had not finished a blog series about those who possibly influenced Richard Armitage. My plan had been to cover Constantin Stanislavski, Edward Gordon Craig and Bertold Brecht during Fanstravaganza 3 in 2012. I wrote about Stanislavski and Craig, but I never got around to Brecht. Mainly because it would have taken us too far off topic to be worth it at the time.

Brecht was a German playwright of the early 20th Century and one of the most noted adherents to the concept of breaking the fourth wall. The fourth wall, in case some of you missed it in the discussions of the last week or so, is the imaginary wall separating an actor or actors from the audience. To break it is for a performer to communicate overtly to the audience. This was one device in Brecht’s repertoire of alienation or distancing effects which were designed to startle the audience so as to interrupt any identification with the characters or the story being portrayed. The aim was to make the audience become aware they were watching a drama and thereby make them aware of reality. The ultimate objective was to ameliorate the social conscience. From Brecht’s perspective, that meant creating sensitivity to the working class and reception of the solutions propagated by Marxism.

No, I don’t think Richard Armitage is a Marxist. And at first I didn’t associate Brecht with him at all, and mainly because Brecht is a glaring antithesis to Stanislavski who preached identification with a character in portrayals to the point of an actor not only inhabiting the character but the character inhabiting the actor, and all of it designed so the actor could establish an unbroken line of thoughts and feelings with the audience but never with overt acknowledgment. This is clearly the approach Richard Armitage is following when he’s described his character biographies (more accurately autobiographies when he’s working) and his distancing himself from the cast during breaks to keep from breaking character. And this unbroken line of thoughts and feelings is such an apt description of what so many feel while watching his performances. To think of him employing something startling to break that is, well, unthinkable.


But not so in his communications with us. They are in and of themselves overt and they always startle me when they come. How about you? :D And for about six years many of them have included verbiage designed to make us think on things for the betterment of society, make us pause long enough to maybe break the unbroken line. And look at the result. There is usually a flurry of amens (yes, I include myself in that chorus most times) when there’s instruction on behavior and usually there’s some action as a result. Brecht would be proud. ;-) Certainly, the cynical part of me almost finds the response laughable, but thankfully, the better part of me appreciates it for what I hope it is – a move to rise above the workings of a fandom and above the possible worship of a human being to something more important.

And maybe Brecht in no way influenced Richard Armitage. This is all speculation (thin speculation) on my part and not a definitive statement in case it’s not clear. And none of this is to say Richard Armitage is putting on an act or faking it when he sends a message, but never think communicating with the public is not a performance. And that’s not a criticism to call it that. It’s just characterizing his dealings with the public the last few years as something more than a simple conversation with a few people who admired his performances as his first communications seemed to be — the fun loving, easy going ones where he was like a giddy kid after Christmas and even acknowledged each gift he received. There also didn’t appear to be any awareness of fans being hyper focused on him, so no need to sublimate attention.

Candidly, I hate I missed out on that exchange because there was a vulnerability and natural quality to it that’s impossible now, and for those of you who participated, how cool. I’ve always thought that and wanted to say it to you but never have.

For the rest of you, if you haven’t looked at those earlier messages, do yourself a favor and read them here.

Screencap courtesy of RichardArmitageNet.Com

note: I guess I’ve said enough about the messages for now. Onto the next thing.

edit: and no, I wouldn’t be in an uproar if Richard Armitage were conned into reading some fan fiction like that. He’s a big boy. :D

1 Comment

  1. […] second edit: I eventually talked about Brecht here. […]

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