B is for Beard-Love

We’re in Day Three of FanstRAvaganza 3 in the freeform tagteam chain! If you missed day Two, check out the posts at Melanie’s MusingsAn Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. Also in Day Three, see my partners’ posts at FunkyBlueDandelion and I Want to Be a Pin-Up.

For the second instalment of the Armitage Alphabet we’re talking beards. A gorgeous 6”2’ man playing a valiant dwarf king undoubtably requires a good deal of make-up and prosthetics, or at least a credible beard. So, when Richard appeared at the Hobbit press conference in February 2011, he’d already started what he termed ‘a little facial hair experiment’ to try to limit the amount of artificial fuzz required to reprise the role of Thorin Oakenshield.

I must admit that I was in two minds about this new look. I’m not usually a fan of beards so when a new picture emerged some weeks later showing a wonderfully clean-shaven Richard at the Christchurch earthquake fundraising event, I secretly hoped he’d given up on the idea. I was wrong, of course, and a bearded Mr Armitage walked the red carpet at the Captain America premiere in New York. The gorgeous Recognise Magazine and Project Magazine photos that followed, not surprisingly, had fans all over the world declaring their beard-love.

So, what is it about beards that attracts women? Charles Darwin reckons it’s the actual process of sexual selection that may have led to beards and modern science seems to back this up. Modern biologists conclude there is evidence to show that a significant enough majority of women in the past have found bearded mates more attractive than smooth-skinned competitors. In other words, it was a simple game of numbers. Evolutional psychology thinks the beard developed to indicate sexual maturity and signal dominance, by making the jaw look bigger than in really was. Hmmm… I can sort of see what they mean!

Beards, of course, are imbued with meaning. On the up-side there’s wisdom, sexual virility, honour, masculinity and higher status. On the down-side, there’s lack of general cleanliness and loss of refinement. Dreaming of bearded men, apparently, is a good omen and good luck will follow! Yeah, I can definitely see that!

The bible is positively brimming with beards; Moses, Abraham, St Peter and Jesus all had beards. But although in some religions, such as Islam, beards are obligatory others prohibit the growth of facial hair.

History is full of beards too. From the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to the princes of present day, beards have graced the faces of many a famous figure.

Beards have come in and out of fashion though. With a smooth face being regarded as a sign of effeminacy, beards were the done thing until Alexander the Great decided against them on grounds of health and safety and introduced the custom of smooth shaving. Alexander feared that beards could serve as handles for enemies to grab and hold a soldier as he was killed and thus ordered his troops to be clean-shaven. Maybe Thorin should take note!

However, philosophers retained their beard as a badge of their profession and all throughout history beards were grown in protest too. Men grew enormous beards during Queen Mary’s reign, for instance, which was a time of reaction against Protestant reform. However, the popularity of the beard declined in Western society and during the early eighteenth century most men of standing were clean-shaven… with perhaps a nice set of sideburns?

By the early twentieth century the beards fell out of fashion altogether and gave way to the moustache…

Or the goatee…

The American film industry with its clean-shaven, close cropped-haired heroes and the consequent mass marketing of the Gillette Safety Razors did for the beard until it was reintroduced to mainstream society by the counter-culture of the 1960s and ‘70s. The fashion for beards since the turn of this century was limited to the ‘two-day shadow’, no doubt inspired by Miami Vice (and, yes, I am old enough to remember being glued to the family TV set to watch that!).

I love designer stubble. Did I tell you Lucas North is my favourite RA character?

Designer stubble vs beard? Mmm, let’s see….

So, in the interest of scientific research, I thought I’d add a little poll to see what the favourite Richard Armitage facial hair style is.

No prizes for the winner, I’m afraid, but to feel virtuous knowing you have contributed to the gathering of some very important consumer data which may help avoid Richard to pick a facial hairstyle like this…

Heinz Christophel, Winner of the World Beard and Moustache Championship 

I’m afraid my inner jury is still out on this beard-thing. Although I’ll admit it gives Richard a certain gravitas, I think it obscures his good looks too much. I really miss seeing that delightful little smile of his  play around those gorgeous, cupid-bow lips and much prefer having a unobscured view of that wonderful strong jaw line. But, for those of you who are totally into Richard’s new look, I’ll leave you with my favourite beard-shot from the July 2011 Project Magazine photoshoot.

For more freeform contributions to FanstRA 3, see my partners’ posts at  FunkyBlueDandelion and I Want to Be a Pin-Up. Yesterday’s posts are at Melanie’s MusingsAn Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. Tomorrow, the freeform tagteam continues at Something About Love (A), Me, My Thoughts and Richard Armitage and Do I Have a Blog?. All FanstRAvaganza 3 links can be found here.

[RA screencaps courtesy of RichardArmitageNet; Heinz Christophel photo courtesy of the official World Beard and Moustache Championship website]


A is for Action

In the beginning, Richard Armitage made scores of fans – and he keeps on making them! Welcome to the first day of FanstRAvaganza 3. A is for Armitage is proud to kick off the freeform chain in the excellent company of White Rose: Sincere and Simple Thoughts and FunkyBlueDandelion.

For my own contribution to this year’s event, I took a cue from the name of this blog and reasoned that a single letter to describe such a diverse & talented actor like Richard Armitage simply wasn’t enough. The man ought to have his own alphabet and what better occasion to launch the Armitage Alphabet than the illustrious FanstRAvaganza 3?

I’ve always enjoyed watching Richard in action, so to speak. On the small screen he wielded a sword and handled a longbow as the tragic but lusciously leather clad Sir Guy of Gisborne. Who could resist!

As the gorgeous and enigmatic MI5 agent Lucas North he kept us safe in our beds for years by chasing terrorists and other nation-threatening thugs around London, taking them out with his Glock 17 or some good old-fashioned hand-combat techniques.

As the marvelously muscular John Porter he toted some seriously big guns in Chris Ryan’s Strike Back only to come to a sticky end in Project Dawn (which I still can’t bring myself to watch!).

Richard’s move to the silver screen seems pretty action packed too. Heinz Kruger may have taken less than 5 minutes to fail in his attempt to assassinate Captain America, but he packed a lot of action in that small slot. Gun fights, a car chase, hostage taking, a submersible escape, a near drowning and a suicide. Phew! I get exhausted just thinking about it!

And as we speak, Thorin Oakenshield may well be strapping on his heavy armour and picking up his mighty blade to reclaim the treasure and his kingdom from Smaug the dragon.

I’m being slightly facetious of course, but I do think Richard plays these action parts so very well. I’m not one for gratuitous violence on screen (or in real life for that matter!) but what sets his performances apart is the fluency of his actions and the credibility of his characters. From what I can gather, he meticulously prepares for his roles and likes to do his own stunts. If it was just guns and muscle I really don’t think I would have been this impressed but by fully immersing himself into the world of his characters, Richard manages to really get his head around what makes them tick.

To prepare for the part of John Porter he trained with ex-SAS soldiers and it really shows. Not just in the physical aspect – although the muscles are indeed very impressive – but with regards to the psyche too. What makes John Porter work for me is that he really moves like a trained soldier. The fighting scenes are fluent and instinctive. When he has to kill, he doesn’t hesitate and his movements have the agility and efficiency that comes with years of training and experience.

What makes this character credible though is that Richard gets the emotional part right as well. John Porter doesn’t go back to fight for the sheer hell of it. He fights to win back his family. He fights for love. These are the things that are not directly written into a script. There is no text to tell an actor what his character is all about. He’ll have to ferret it out for himself and, more importantly, get it across to the audience in action, not words. And that’s the kind of action acting I admire so much in Richard Armitage.

All of this had me wondering though. With so many great action scenes under his belt and following the example of the ever popular Little Guy, isn’t it time Richard Armitage was given his own Action Man figure? Perhaps it could even be marketed as Armitage Man?

For more freeform contributions to FanstRA 3, see my partner’s post at White Rose: Sincere and Simple Thoughts and FunkyBlueDandelion. Tomorrow, the freeform tagteam continues at Melanie’s Musings, An Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. All FanstRAvaganza 3 links can be found here.

[Screencaps courtesy of RichardArmitageNet. The ‘Armitage Man’ artwork is my own and is based on a screen cap from an Action Man review – source unknown]

FanstRAvaganza 3, 2, 1….

We’re only just over a day away from the most exciting Richard Armitage event of the year, bar the premiere of a certain film, of course! FanstRAvaganza 3 is just around the corner. For those who haven’t come across this phenomenon before, FanstRAvaganza is a yearly event that celebrates the British actor Richard Armitage through a week-long, coordinated blogging relay. It all kicks off on Monday 12 March and concludes on Sunday 18 March.

Although I’m less prepared than I’d like to be, I’m so looking forward to taking part in FanstRA3. I’m scheduled to post on the first day (yikes!) but as I’m still sworn to secrecy and can’t tell you what I’m planning to write I’d like to use this post to give a final, unashamed plug for this event using one of bccmee’s wonderful graphics. Well, any excuse to post that gorgeous picture of a smoulderingly sexy John Thornton on my blog really!

FanstRAvaganza 3 will be led by the eight anchor blogs listed on the right and will have a staggering 24 participants blogging in tag teams. With so much online cReAtivity happening, this promises to be a truly mind-blowing week! My fellow tag team bloggers are:

Last but not least (and so very last-minute!), I thought I’d test the polling facility on my blog. With such a frenzy of blogging activity about to be unleashed on us, I’m really curious if what they say about books goes for blogs as well and if there’s an RA blog inside each and every one of us. Do you already blog? Would you like to blog? Are you read-only? Please feel free to vote!


See you all on Monday!