The Hidden Role of Fantasy in the Lucas/John Aftermath

This was supposed to be a brief post, it ended up being over 2000 words. Sorry! This will probably only be of interest to active online Richard Armitage fans, most of whom I am at odds with over the Lucas/John story line in Spooks. Here I hold myself up for slaughter once again.

Today I’m going to way in once more on the tricky subject of Richard Armitage fan fervor that I’ve been blogging about periodically since starting this blog over 12 months ago. There is something that has been on my mind since the intensely hostile and borderline hysterical anti-Spooks writer sentiment that some RA fans were venting following the demise of Lucas North in series nine of Spooks (I anticipate getting into trouble for using the words ‘borderline hysterical’. I’m not saying that everyone who didn’t like the story was hysterical but SOME certainly erred close, so I stand by it!). I’ve chosen not to mention my thoughts on the blog until now because I suspected it would be an unwelcome observation. But now I feel that perhaps the time is right to bring it up.

In recent weeks I’ve noticed a changing tone in some corners of the RA fan community in relation to the acknowledgment that fantasy is an element of being an avid fan. Some have noted this in a positive sense, and others have noted it the worrisome sense. One commentator in particular expressed a concern that the distinction between the real life man and personal fantasy seems to her to have become increasingly blurred in the minds of some “obsessed” type fans. As I don’t visit RA fan discussions forums myself and only visit a select number of blogs, I can not verify that this is the case (it would be difficult to measure in any event). But the issue of blurring either reality or character with personal fantasy is one that resonates with the thoughts I was having during the season nine fall out.

At the time I fiercely (perhaps borderline-hysterically!) defended the Lucas/John story line in Spooks and later revealed its personal resonance. To the RA fans and critics I cheekily retorted that Spooks was not obligated to satisfy their latent fantasies about Richard Armitage and Lucas North. Although I said this in spirited jest, it masked some serious thought about the relevant deep interpsychic processes that my professional guise (as a social scientist) found hard to ignore. Knowing that fantasy proneness is significantly correlated with intense celebrity admiration in some individuals, my jesting was not entirely without a vague scientific basis!

So the subject I want to talk about today is fantasy. This is not something that many people will speak about openly. And in the world of RA fandom, it’s not one that I think people tend to talk about directly, at least not in my experience. One RA blogger, Servetus, to the best of my knowledge is an exception, and I applaud her honesty in conveying this aspect of her fan experience. Anyone who reads Servetus’ blog will know that she is a highly conscientious fan, who while freely admitting to being in the firm grip of Armitage mania, also has her feet planted firmly on the ground. She is also concerned with the ethics of being a fan and the murky aspects of fandom that the concerned commenter I mentioned before was alluding to.

When talking about this subject it’s important to stress that fantasy is a normal part of intrapsychic life, especially for those with creative and vivid imaginations. Fantasy can offer fun, escapism, comfort, new ways to imagine ourselves, or even provide a coping mechanism for when times are tough. I know for myself, having gone through years of chronic depression, that concentrating on creating a fantasy in my mind was one tool I used to give my head a break from the torrent of negative thoughts that accompanies a depressed/bipolar state (conversely, it was also a vehicle for expending some hypomanic energy in the form of writing fan fiction). As did watching various TV shows, like Doctor Who, Torchwood, Spooks and Robin Hood. Being able to escape into these fantasy worlds was a life line. And needless to say, fantasy and imagination is also critical to creativity, to be able to write, paint, and invent or create something new. In childhood as well, fantasy is important. A child who has imaginary friends is likely to have strong communication skills because this type of fantasy play fosters intersubjectivity.

So when we speak of fantasy, we should not do so with a sense of embarrassment or shame, but the reality is that most people are reluctant to acknowledge to others that they engage in fantasy for they feel to reveal such intimate thoughts would be humiliating. The idea of adults partaking in fantasy has some how been simplistically misconstrued in the public mind as being a lurid, abnormal or childish pass time. Fantasy, like anything (such as eating), can take on a pathological dimension but it in of itself is not an unhealthy endeavor. The reluctance to disclose fantasy is a notorious challenge for psychoanalysts in clinical practice. Once their clients begin to reveal some of their fantasies they know they are getting somewhere and have gained their patient’s trust.

As you might have gathered from the title of this post, I suspect that many fans out there might be consciously or unconsciously (I’ll explain unconscious fantasy in a moment) engaged in fantasies about RA and/or Lucas North, but this issue is largely hidden from view in the online fan community. Yes, people do write fan fiction, but this is the socially acceptable and visible form that personal fantasy takes, and we generally don’t speak of fan fiction as one person’s personal fantasy, we call it creative writing. By turning it into a creative piece of work, the fantasy is somehow legitimised (to be clear, fan fic is not necessarily always a literal expression of one’s personal fantasies). But for many people, their fantasies are not written, they do not become fan fiction, and simply exist in their own head, unknown to others. It’s a private affair, gleefully, or perhaps guiltily indulged in, and rarely admitted to others. Fantasy is a subject addressed indirectly via fanfic, fan art, jokes and gossip, and rarely directly in the manner that provides a serious detailed description of one’s waking fantasy. Some fans might joke about having a fantasy about RA or one of his characters, but do they share the intimate details? Usually not, for to do so risks ridicule and being judged to be one of those looney RA fans.

So what I wasn’t prepared to say before but will now, is that I think it’s inevitable that fantasy had some baring on how some people responded to the Lucas/John story. I suspect that the transformation of Lucas North into John Bateman disrupted the internal fantasy life of some Richard Armitage / Lucas North fans. Among other things, John Bateman put a big ole spanner in Lucas’ embodiment of the character of desire. Curiously, in contrast to Guy of Gisborne, John’s flexible, self-serving morality made him a confusing and arguably unsympathetic character. Loyal, admirable, virtuous Lucas was no more. Rather than being an object of desire, he became one of disdain who could not be redeemed. When fans said that the character of Lucas was “ruined”, what may have also been the case was that their fantasies of Lucas were ruined as well.

Now, I appreciate there are all kinds of reasons why one could “objectively” say that the Lucas/ John story line was problematic, but this is besides the point – it’s one thing not to like the story, it’s quite another thing to genuinely feel “completely devastated” by the revelation it held. For one to feel this way, as many fans did, surely there must be something else going on? To lay the blame for how one feels about the Lucas/John story solely at the feet of the writers is to ignore what the fan herself brings to the table.

In MY experience most of the disgust with the John/Lucas story came from those with an usual attachment to Richard Armitage and/or the Lucas North character. When I say unusual, I don’t mean abnormal in the “pathological” sense (although that probably exists as well). What I mean is that most people who watch Spooks do not analyse it in detail, write fan fiction, and discuss it on an online forum. For those of us that do engage in the online world of Spooks and RA, sometimes we forget this. We are not the majority. We are the usual minority who have been geeking out about Lucas North in our little internet bubble. Let me take a moment to remind you what it’s like outside of this bubble.

In real life I know many people who love Spooks. Now that series nine has been aired in Australia, I’ve been curious to find out their response to the Lucas/John affair. I can tell you that NONE of them had the kind of problems with the Lucas/John story that many RA fans have had (yes, I know that non-RA fans had problems with it too, there are plenty of those on Spooks Forum, for example). In fact one lady told me that she had never trusted Lucas from day one, and the revelation that he was actually John Bateman finally made the character make sense to her. When I mentioned that the Lucas/John story caused a great deal of controversy among fans who talk about the show online, many were incredibly surprised, some even laughed. These people, although all loving the show, do not have an usual attachment to the characters or actors in it.

Now, earlier I mentioned the issue of unconscious fantasy, this comes about by what’s called ‘taking the position of the other’ when watching drama. We all do this instinctively (except if you have Asperger’s / autism!), this is how we understand the implications of plot for each character in the show. For those with an attachment to a particular character or actor, however, taking the position of the other, such as those playing opposite the character/actor who is the object of affection, means that subconscious desires can be covertly played out beyond conscious awareness. Your involvement in the drama, the scene, could be operating at a deeper level, thus your reaction to drama involving the character/actor of interest will inevitably occur at a deeper level too. Just to tease this out a little further, on The Creative Experiences Questionnaire which is a psychological instrument to measure fantasy proneness, one of the items reads “When I perceive violence on television, I get so into it that I get really upset” – this item and others like it reveal that some people, more so than others, are prone to becoming more absorbed in the TV they watch than others. It’s quite possible that this internet community is largely made up of such individuals, and if so are probably more fantasy prone as well – it’s a hypothesis!

What I am suggesting in this post is that fantasy played a hidden role in the intensity of critical response that many fans had towards the Lucas/John story. Because of fantasy, some people were more personally affected by it and responded accordingly. To my mind there is a clear disparity in the intensity of the disdain for the Lucas/John story between RA fans, and Spooks fans who did not like the Lucas/John story but do not have any particular attachment to RA. To me this is not such a big deal to point out, it’s just how our minds work and how the dynamics of fandom influence perception. But to others it is an affront to their faith in their objectivity to point out that their latent (or overt) desires could affect their objective reasoning (to be honest I’m inclined to think that complete objectivity is a fallacy). For the social scientist it’s part of our job to highlight social and other forces that unknowingly affect our reasoning and social actions when we don’t realise it (such as how latent racism can impact judicial processes or clinician judgement) but when you point these things out in the real world, people can get defensive, because they don’t like to think that something they are not aware of is affecting their judgement.

What will probably happen once I publish this post, is that a bunch of people will comment saying that they hated the Lucas/John story, and have never fantasized about Lucas North, and imply that this disproves my “theory”. Or conversely, that the John Bateman revelation did not disturb their Lucas North fantasies. If you read this post closely you’ll have noticed that I used words like ‘some’, ‘maybe’, ‘might’, ‘possibly’ to convey the tenuousness of what I am proposing. You will also know that I made it clear that I was not suggesting that all people who were miffed about Lucas/John had a secret fantasy life about Lucas North, nor was the John revelation disturbing to all who engage in fantasy. I simply suggested it might have played a role in some people’s objections to the story, and contributed to the intensity of the overall fallout. If fantasy proneness is strongly correlated with getting overly absorbed in TV drama and intense celebrity admiration, then it’s not an implausible suggestion. All I’m offering is a bit-part to the story of the aftermath, not a grand theory that explains it.

What I have learned from posting about potentially contentious issues in the past, is that despite trying to talk about matters in shades of grey, my discussions are sometimes interpreted in black and white. Perhaps my writing it not clear, or maybe people skim instead of read, probably both. I’ve also learned that many readers who agree with what I write will message me privately instead of commenting publicly, and the commentary on the blog then becomes skewed and is not representative of the range of views that are actually out there. And this provides a case in point. Some aspects of being involved in an online community are hidden, and are not represented by what is visible and readable on our computer screens. As we travel around the online fanosphere, it might be worth keeping this in mind.

A related post: Richard Armitage Fan Fantasies #1023 – 1033

38 Responses to The Hidden Role of Fantasy in the Lucas/John Aftermath
  1. Lady
    June 22, 2011 | 8:25 pm

    *applauds*

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:44 pm

      Thank you ma’am!

  2. mulubinba
    June 22, 2011 | 9:54 pm

    I was interested that you linked to Blogilow and the article about the cws scaling they have in their library. I was going to publish a link to the same article over the past week while I have been contemplating my own ambivolent feelings with regard to parts of the RA fandom.

    I agree that the John Bateman/Lucas North story shattered fans’ perception of a heroic Lucas. I sense that many had been waiting for him to play a really decent character after Gisborne, John Mulligan, Percy Blakeney, Phillip Durrant. .. the list goes on. The character of John Porter appears to have satisfied a large number of fans’ need for RA to play a hero however. I really liked Lucas North, but I think knowing Spooks as well as I do, I did not have as much emotional investment in him being “squeaky clean”. Many RA fans only started watching Spooks when RA came into the series and I feel that some of them just didn’t “get” Spooks. A few of us have followed Spooks from Ep 1 S1 however and I guarantee that they are the ones less likely to have objected to the LN/JB storyline simply because they understand how Spooks writers have dealt with characters over the nine series.

    I love reading posts like this one and I think your perceptions about the fan reactions are very valid :)

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:47 pm

      I’m with you on the long-term Spooks fans who have been with Spooks from Ep1.1. Soon I’ll be publishing a post on betrayals in Spooks to put the Lucas/John story in the broader historical context of the show. It’s a pretty long list!

      Incidentally, I will NEVER understand Barry Manilow fandom! ;)

  3. Traxy
    June 22, 2011 | 10:52 pm

    Wow, what an excellent post! Thoughtful and very interesting. :) A friend of mine says that if you throw a bone into a kennel, the dog that it hits barks. (Hrm, it doesn’t translate too well from Swedish.) Meaning that even if you say “maybe” and “perhaps” and “some”, the person who feels “hit” will just ignore the “some” and start barking because how very DARE you talk about them like that, and so on. Sometimes it’s just worth taking a step back and realise that actually, you said “some” and not “all”. Just because SOME fans were completely over-reacting, doesn’t mean you’re saying I personally over-reacted, or that I personally have had my fantasies about Lucas destroyed – or even that I should have any fantasies about the guy at all.

    People are funny.

    I agree with mulubinba, your perceptions about fans’ reactions are indeed very valid! A great psycho-social (?) analysis.

    Personally, “Spooks” is just a (very good) TV show and I happen to be a fan of one of the actors. I didn’t like how they went 180 with Lucas as a character, as I felt they were creating a massive plot hole with what had been going on in the previous two series, but I’ve not exactly lost any sleep over it. With regards to fantasy, I think I’d be more upset if RA himself did a 180 and turned out to be like John, as that would ruin the idea of RA being some sort of Perfect Man.

    Maybe it’s time to take out the “Reality/Dreams” chart from Father Ted, eh? ;) (http://intepid.com/res/417.gif)

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:50 pm

      Yep, when you hit a nerve with some people they read it like you’re talking about them personally. It’s frustrating!

      Indeed, if RA turned out to be a John Bateman type character, that would be alarming!

      Hahh, bless Father Ted!

  4. Servetus
    June 23, 2011 | 1:31 am

    This is SO good. I’ll be back later to say more, but I am not just saying that because of the support. Part of Armitagemania for me has been realizing that I can use my fantasies to help me, and that I don’t have to be automatically afraid of them, even if they often disturb me. The point about fans and the disruption of their implicit fantasy lives is really interesting and I want to reread this before I say anything else. (Also want to get off my parents’ computer before I logon as myself.)

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:57 pm

      Thanks, Servetus! What I forgot to add about fantasies is that they can help us process stuff. They can be like dreams in that sense. There’s no law that says we have to always work things out / think things through logically, we can do it creatively too – which can help us in ways that logic might not.

  5. Servetus
    June 23, 2011 | 2:47 am

    There’s a subsidiary point here I want to make, but I think I’m going to blog it myself and link back here. It may take a day or two.

    But I also have a question for you as a social scientist: why is that some fantasies are ok whereas others are tabu? (I realize that’s a big question.) There are a few things happening in Armitageworld right now that seem to me outgrowths of fantasy or attempts to realize fantasy IRL that no one makes any negative comments about (although maybe people think negative things about them privately), whereas although I haven’t been doing anything to realize any of my Armitage-related fantasies, I’ve been under fire lately simply for writing down my fantasies and saying explicitly that this is not fanfic, these are things I fantasize about. Similarly, if we follow the line of fanfic as a “making safe” of fantasy (something that’s underlined for me by the significance in the community for some readers of having fanfic labeled by genre, as if some fantasies need to be tricked out with the warning that “this fantasy may not be safe for you”), why is that people are so critical of each other’s fantasies? This tendency seems to me to go not only in the direction of moral criticisms of things commonly thought to be risky (“it is wrong to write BDSM fanfic”) but also in the direction of things that are not dangerous at all (“it is wrong –or at least trivial– to engage in lightly fluffy romantic escapism”).

    Do you know the story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”?

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 11:52 pm

      I’ll have to answer this tomorrow. Can hardly keep my eyes open right now!

    • Skully
      June 24, 2011 | 4:46 pm

      Here goes some thinking out loud..

      The correct answer to your question is – I don’t know because I haven’t investigated it yet ;) But in order to answer it we would have to find out: what are people’s preconceptions of fantasies and people who have them? These preconceptions are undoubtedly numerous and we could probably trace them to the dominate discourses about adults and fantasies in things like film, literature, comedy, news etc. What are the contexts in which we ordinarily talk about adults and fantasies? Possibly in the context of sex and sexual deviancy and/or mental illness / questionable personalities would be my guess. These dominate discourses then get applied to micro scenarios which may or may not have anything to do with sex and/or mental illness. The notion of fantasies is sullied by these associations. Sex and mental illness are subject to taboos, so if we associate fantasies with these things then fantasy will be taboo as well. Or something like that!

      The other thing is that many people might assume that fantasies are something that people wish to enact in real life, which is not necessarily the case. Also, we tend to speak of ‘dreamers’ in the negative sense, slackers etc. Fantasy without a constructive outcome (like fanfic, which is more or less constructive in the artistic sense) is seen as self-indulgent? “Aspirational” fantasy is ok because its about self-improvement. Fantasy is the pass time of the idler?

      My suspicion would be that age stratification is relevant here, where by fantasy is viewed as an acceptable thing for children to do but once you reach a certain age it’s no longer seen as OK. You have to be an adult! So we’d have to look at how we construct childhood and adulthood differently and see how that interfaces with our notions of fantasies. I imagine fantasy in childhood would probably be considered ‘innocent’, where in as adults the notion of fantasies becomes more murky. This would be a false dichotomy though for a range of reasons, one being that some children DO in fact have fantasies of a sadomasochistic nature.

      I’m not familiar with “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, not a literature buff :)

  6. Jane
    June 23, 2011 | 3:45 am

    Agree completely about the John Bateman problem. While being a long-term RA fan and having greatly enjoyed all series of Spooks I never managed to grow very attached to Lucas. The passionate dislike for the series 9 storyline, the total refusal to suspend disbelieve, baffled me from the beginning. From the moment it was announced that Lucas had a “love of his life” before he met Elisabeta people were complaining that they don’t buy it! I only thought that he probably met E. in his late twenties and that it would be completely natural for him to have loved someone else before that. And that meeting an ex-partner again can affect people. But I think this idea was enough to destroy what you so aptly call “the character of desire”, long before Lucas/John did anything dishonourable.

    I’m very willing to admit that on a logical and psychological the whole John/Lucas business was quite far fetched and that the writers of series 9 probably weren’t very familiar with the character created by a different team in series 7 and that in a really well made show this shouldn’t happen. But I didn’t found it hard to accept and separate the three series and enjoy it anyway instead of going on and on and on about how terribly bad it was.

    I think the outrage this caused was similar to what happened when Guy killed Marian, love of his life with the potential to make him a better man.

  7. Jane
    June 23, 2011 | 4:31 am

    BTW on the subject of fanfic. I think you can’t separate fanfic and fantasies. There are so many fanfics around that are clearly wish-fulfilment. They may be annoying to read for those that don’t share the particular fantasy (the much hated Mary Sue FF) but a great read for those who do. I don’t blame anyone for writing them, though some surely do. I have had a vivid fantasy life evolving around fictional characters from books since my childhood (though I have always been more interested in female characters to identify with than male character to swoon over) and was VERY relieved when I found that there is something called fanfic that is acceptable and other people have a similar fantasy life and that I’m not mad!

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 8:19 pm

      Thanks for your comments Jane! I think fanfic can also be an exploration of ideas, and not necessarily personal fantasy. Although the RA fanfics are probably more fantasy-based!

      • Jane
        June 23, 2011 | 8:38 pm

        I supposed the fanfics I’m referring to are those where Guy or Lucas find the right woman they were denied in the series (and if it is adult fanfic, spend most of the day in bed with them). Surely there are other stories around that don’t necessarily focus on romance or on correcting the mistakes the writers have made.

        I don’t think it is a “mistake” by the writers if a character takes a turn the fans don’t like or shows weaknesses that aren’t considered attractive or fall for a woman that seems unworthy. It may not be what a viewer attached to the character likes to see, but is wrong? Spooks isn’t afraid of showing it’s heroes in an unfavourable light, if Adam could make a fool of himself because of a woman, why shouldn’t Lucas?

  8. Maria Grazia
    June 23, 2011 | 3:31 pm

    Hi, Skully. Brilliant post, thanks a lot. I’m here to say that I was a Spooks fan before becoming a RA fan and, also, that I’m rather schizofrenic when it comes to my admiration for the man/actor Armitage. Meaning, I’m constantly analysing the phenomenon , trying to understand how that happen to me. I’m so not the “fan” type! However, I must honestly admit, I AM definitely a RA fan.
    But this is what I wrote in one of my posts at FLY HIGH while watching series 9 (by the way, I liked it a lot, much more than series 8):
    “… I felt I had been too hard at criticizing the script writers. I had to be honest: they were doing a great job this time too. Apart from the Lucas/John journey in Spooks 9, so intense and intriguing, so many other things in this series were better than what we saw in the previous one. There are flaws here and there this time too, but the good things overshadow the tiny holes. Poor script writers! We are often too demanding and harsh to them. We should be grateful, instead! They’ve provided RA with extraordinary occasions to prove his talent. And he did it. He took the chance and performed an awesome troubled spook. I can’t say I’m happy for what has happened so far, nor for what I fear I’ll have to see next time, but I’m totally hooked by this series. I’ve already pre-booked the DVD at Amazon UK. I want to have it, whatever happens to Lucas at the end. These moments will be unforgettable. Nicola Walker and Peter Firth are giving brilliant performances too. The new ones, Beth and Dimitri, are fairly good, though I can’t get into them. I’m completely absorbed by what is happening to Lucas” (from GETTING READY FOR … ANYTHING, november 4th, 2010).
    So, as you can see, after my initial (deep) disappointment for what they had decided to make of Lucas’s characters, the spooks fan prevailed on the RA fan and just watched the result, admired and totally caught.

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 8:12 pm

      Ahhh competing fandoms, I love it! My Spooks fandom was always front and center, I have to say. Love it or hate it series nine was totally engrossing, and that is the writer’s primary task, and they succeeded on that front. Glad you could ultimately enjoy it from that point of view :) It was much better than season 8, I agree. Have you watched it again since? I found it less painful the second time round :)

      • Maria Grazia
        June 23, 2011 | 8:33 pm

        Actually I’ve bought the DVD set and re- watched all the episodes. Some more than others. It’s so interesting to re-watch stuff at a distance. You discover more each time. Then I loved listening to what the protagonists (actors, director, producer) themselves had to say in the extras. The “Behind the scenes” can always help to appreciate … better.

        • Skully
          June 23, 2011 | 9:46 pm

          That’s what I love about Spooks, you can watch it over and over and get more out of it each time. I haven’t see the extras yet! Looking forward to it.

          • Maria Grazia
            June 23, 2011 | 10:01 pm

            You’ll find one the extras here, “The downfall of Lucas North”, if you are interested
            http://bit.ly/ibmcUS

            • Skully
              June 24, 2011 | 10:24 pm

              Thanks for that!

  9. Nixie
    June 23, 2011 | 6:44 pm

    Very interesting and thought provoking. Thank you, Skully.

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:58 pm

      Thanks, Nixie!

  10. Nietzsche
    June 23, 2011 | 8:58 pm

    Sorry to say so but I am done with Spooks and I have been following it religiously from episode 1. That was just one twist too many, and a totally illogical one IMO. Sorry for being un-intellectual/simpleminded. I could argue my point but I don’t want to waste my time with discussing Spooks 9.

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 9:08 pm

      That’s cool Nietzsche! What other shows are you into these days?

      • Nietzsche
        June 23, 2011 | 10:46 pm

        Few, actually. Most of my spare time I spend reading or at the gym, listening to music while working out, though I love some vintage shows like Perry Mason, The Prisoner and Danger Man (that does date me, doesn’t it? Well I admit to being 53.). While working out at home I watch the various CSI thingies, Navy CIS which I really enjoy, Hawaii 5-0, both versions (love the Navy SEALs :-)) and the British sitcom “My Family”.

        I must say I was about to leave Spooks once earlier, when Tom left. A friend practically forced series 3 on me, and lo, I was hooked again. (BTW, IMO Adam was the most straightforward, competent section Chief.)

        What I wanted ever after 7.6 was Lucas leaving after a big row with Harry – they never seemed at ease with one another anyway – and Lucas settling down as a teacher at a boys’ school, inspiring and guiding the boys. I bet he’d bring them round to read romantic poetry. Look how lovely he was with Dean. I always thought that was his real persona. He’d be no good at at girls’ or mixed school though, I suppose ;-)

        John Bateman would go to Russia to help Harry, yeah right. Come to think of it, the Russians wouldn’t have to torture him for such a long time anyway. He’d spill the beans and try to get a deal at the first opportunity.

        I was also shocked about the way Lucas was dealt with in 9.8. I mean CO19 shooting not to incapacitate but to kill, from the beginning of the operation? I sincerely hope not. This is London, England, for heaven’s sake, not Mob City in Thugistan. But I grew disillusioned as early as in 8.3, when Jo died. Poor girl. Series 8 had its highlights, though, what with the sadomasochistic love story between Lucas and Oleg (much sexier than Lucas and Sarah I admit), Ros and Lawrence, 8.7 and 8.8.

        Pity, series 9 started so brilliantly and unusually, with the scenes on the container ship, and it offered much more than the Bomb of eth Week. Bute there was Harry murdering the old Home Sec. I beg your pardon? Harry as judge , jury and executioner in one person?? Not my idea of justice. Surely not.

        Hahaha, now I spent my time arguing, LOL. But you get my drift, I suppose, and I love a good fight! :-D

  11. fitzg
    June 23, 2011 | 10:40 pm

    Absolutely agree that S9 is better than S8, which was a bit boring. Poor writers indeed! While I think that the concept of the Lucas/John scenario was not at all absurd, I felt it was rather clumsily written in the need to write Lucas out of the series. Indeed, there were always questions about Lucas, from S7 on – but I’m not sure that strong indications had been registered in S7 and 8.

    Have been catching up on pre-Armitage series, looking forward to S10.

    Do I fantasize about RA characters? Even about RA, as I perceive him from interviews – which is totally unrealistic. Absolutely. (and have had a few actor crushes in my time.) The interior world of the imagination is rich – only not to be confused with real life. As for blogs and forums, I read and comment on blogs for which I have respect and which stimulate both analytical and creative thinking. Humour is a characteristic of these blogs, too – lest we take ourselves too seriously. Please, no. :D

  12. Calexora
    June 23, 2011 | 11:19 pm

    Wonderful post Skully! I for one am a Spooks fan (and an RA fan too of course). I’ve watched Spooks from S.1 e.1 and have watched everything at least three times. I’m eagerly awaiting S.10. The only reason I haven’t bought the DVDs yet is that I want to buy the whole boxset when the show does end.

    Of course it was hard to reconcile some bits of the John twist (and I don’t think the writers completely pulled it off) but S.9 had some of the best RA acting moments of his time on Spooks. He really got to demonstrate his nuance and skill as an actor. The episode with the American cryptographer for example is absolutely marvellous.

    And I agree with you about the role of fantasy in helping to process emotions, etc. I wrote a similar post a while back. I think where it can get dangerous is when someone starts believing the fantasies or these fantasies take over their waking life.

  13. CDoart
    June 24, 2011 | 1:22 am

    Thank you, Skully. As all the previous comments already state, your analysis is brilliant!!!
    I still have some problems finding myself on the going-crazy-skale ;o)
    I love Spooks, watched it from 1.1. up to 9 several times and loved every turn and exit.
    I even would see myself without many personal fantasies about Lucas or RA, as the only one I have is, that we meet and he does not even see me and walks right over me and disappears. So the topic is closed quite fast and effectively ;o)
    Concerning Lucas turning bad, I had expected nothing less from series 9 of Spooks, as I interpreted the interviews I had seen previously to the airing of Spooks 9 like that. I even thought, Lucas becoming a rogue agent, what a brilliant idea.
    But still the story line left me disappointed, as they turned round the Lucas character and in the end left us with ‘Nothing’. Every criminal at least for himself has a clear idea, why he wants or does something. Even the breakdown after all the roles he had to play is a believable part to me. But with Maya I just cannot see her importance, but even when I pretend to, it leaves me unsatisfied.
    Now in the end of my comment I think I can answer my own question from above. I think I was so disappointed of Spooks 9, because I found the given reasons for Lucas’ actions boring and one-dimensional. Not to mention that some things just did not add up.
    I expected so much more from “Spooks” in that regards. Perhaps I really expected too much from only human writers.

    But one point which did not disappoint in Spooks 9, I found the acting of all participants, not only RA’s, was absolutely brilliant. This for sure surpassed all previous parts of Spooks, even for me loving all the previous parts exceedingly already.
    The camera technique, the images from London, the acting of all members were just better than ever.

    Perhaps I am still at the beginning of RA-crazyness? I worried a bit with your Spooks-dislike-analysis, bot no reason sounded true for me ;o)

  14. RAFrenzy
    June 30, 2011 | 11:11 am

    You’ve made some excellent conclusions, but I caution you against “Poisoning the Well” — a fallacy which makes anyone suspect who may protest that they had no fantasies about Lucas North/John Batemen nor Richard Armitage. I know I’m wondering how I should respond. LOL! I guess with the truth.

    I did not have fantasies about Richard Armitage nor Lucas North while watching these series and this is quite simply because I chose not to do so. I’m sure that I could very easily as I have a quite active imagination, and Richard Armitage’s portrayals certainly give plenty of temptation.: D BTW, this is in no way a criticism of anyone who does fantasize about him or his characters. Not at all.

    Having said that, let me move onto what really bugged me about the Lucas North/John Bateman storyline. It was not well developed. That simple. Even Richard Armitage’s skills could not rescue that cobbled together plot. Frankly, if they were going to make him a bad guy, I’ve wondered why they didn’t really do it up brown. With the absence of a foundation for this storyline, it would have helped to be over the top. As it was, it just came out lame, and much of the problem is the force of the story hinged on the surprise that he was indeed not who he said he was. In giving that away early mostly via the spoilers, it sucked energy out of the plot, and gave me time to get the definite feel of a retread.

    And if you happen to be taking notes about a fan’s experiences with Spooks, I was watching Spooks before I had any clue about Richard Armitage; have been with it since S1E1. I think I said somewhere that I also didn’t like the denouement of Tom Quinn either, and for similar reasons as Lucas North. Poorly developed.

    My comments about this can be found here and here.

    Hope my links work.

    • Skully
      June 30, 2011 | 11:46 am

      Thanks for your comments Frenz! I have to clarify though, I don’t make conclusions, only plausible propositions ;) I think I clearly and repeatedly cautioned to readers throughout my post, not to ‘poison the well’ as you put it. I can’t help it if some people still feel sheepish ;)

      It’s interesting that while some people found the whole thing implausible, others, such as the lady I mentioned in the post, always found Lucas suspect. And that storyline that you dislike so much, made perfect sense to her. But this post wasn’t so much about the so called problems with the story, but rather to explore the intense negative reaction to it. Normally when people don’t like something, they turn it off! Most of the discussion to date on the issues with the John/Lucas story has been concentrated on the writers. In my view, to focus solely on the writers ignores the other half of the story, which is the viewer and his/her interaction with the story.

      The part of spooks 9 that I most objected to (despite loving it on the whole) was Albany being a genetic weapon – which is more ludicrous to me than Lucas being John!

      Thanks for sharing your links :)

      • RAFrenzy
        June 30, 2011 | 11:59 am

        We’re in agreement about this possible correlation. It seems logical that the more someone was prone to fantasies about Lucas North, the more apt they were to be upset when their expectations were disappointed.

        But don’t get me started on Albany. Ludicrous is kind. LOL!

  15. RAFrenzy
    June 30, 2011 | 11:33 am

    Just reiterating that I think the correlation between fantasy about Lucas North and the disappointment in him being John Batemen seems fairly valid. I have observed the same, but I feel compelled to remind that with almost any correlation there will be outliers.

    Here’s another piece about my irritation with Spooks 9. I really do think the spoilers, which were not intended as such, ruined the show — for me at least.

    Affectionately signed,
    An earnest outlier :D

  16. RAFrenzy
    June 30, 2011 | 11:44 am

    Just so you know, I did read that you used “some”, “maybe”, etc., but people tend to overlook that as quibbling (unless they’re a lawyer) and take the more obvious point — hence my need to highlight.

    • Skully
      June 30, 2011 | 11:50 am

      My “theory” might only relate to 10% of the “cohort”. So you need not adopt the “outlier” tag just yet!

  17. Violet
    July 8, 2011 | 1:13 am

    Great post, Skully!

    • Skully
      July 8, 2011 | 2:03 pm

      Thanks, Violet!

  18. [...] (about what another might want) seems to lie at the center of moral thought in the West, but as Skully wrote in an interesting post, taking the position of the other creatively, in play — what she and scholars call [...]

The Hidden Role of Fantasy in the Lucas/John Aftermath

This was supposed to be a brief post, it ended up being over 2000 words. Sorry! This will probably only be of interest to active online Richard Armitage fans, most of whom I am at odds with over the Lucas/John story line in Spooks. Here I hold myself up for slaughter once again.

Today I’m going to way in once more on the tricky subject of Richard Armitage fan fervor that I’ve been blogging about periodically since starting this blog over 12 months ago. There is something that has been on my mind since the intensely hostile and borderline hysterical anti-Spooks writer sentiment that some RA fans were venting following the demise of Lucas North in series nine of Spooks (I anticipate getting into trouble for using the words ‘borderline hysterical’. I’m not saying that everyone who didn’t like the story was hysterical but SOME certainly erred close, so I stand by it!). I’ve chosen not to mention my thoughts on the blog until now because I suspected it would be an unwelcome observation. But now I feel that perhaps the time is right to bring it up.

In recent weeks I’ve noticed a changing tone in some corners of the RA fan community in relation to the acknowledgment that fantasy is an element of being an avid fan. Some have noted this in a positive sense, and others have noted it the worrisome sense. One commentator in particular expressed a concern that the distinction between the real life man and personal fantasy seems to her to have become increasingly blurred in the minds of some “obsessed” type fans. As I don’t visit RA fan discussions forums myself and only visit a select number of blogs, I can not verify that this is the case (it would be difficult to measure in any event). But the issue of blurring either reality or character with personal fantasy is one that resonates with the thoughts I was having during the season nine fall out.

At the time I fiercely (perhaps borderline-hysterically!) defended the Lucas/John story line in Spooks and later revealed its personal resonance. To the RA fans and critics I cheekily retorted that Spooks was not obligated to satisfy their latent fantasies about Richard Armitage and Lucas North. Although I said this in spirited jest, it masked some serious thought about the relevant deep interpsychic processes that my professional guise (as a social scientist) found hard to ignore. Knowing that fantasy proneness is significantly correlated with intense celebrity admiration in some individuals, my jesting was not entirely without a vague scientific basis!

So the subject I want to talk about today is fantasy. This is not something that many people will speak about openly. And in the world of RA fandom, it’s not one that I think people tend to talk about directly, at least not in my experience. One RA blogger, Servetus, to the best of my knowledge is an exception, and I applaud her honesty in conveying this aspect of her fan experience. Anyone who reads Servetus’ blog will know that she is a highly conscientious fan, who while freely admitting to being in the firm grip of Armitage mania, also has her feet planted firmly on the ground. She is also concerned with the ethics of being a fan and the murky aspects of fandom that the concerned commenter I mentioned before was alluding to.

When talking about this subject it’s important to stress that fantasy is a normal part of intrapsychic life, especially for those with creative and vivid imaginations. Fantasy can offer fun, escapism, comfort, new ways to imagine ourselves, or even provide a coping mechanism for when times are tough. I know for myself, having gone through years of chronic depression, that concentrating on creating a fantasy in my mind was one tool I used to give my head a break from the torrent of negative thoughts that accompanies a depressed/bipolar state (conversely, it was also a vehicle for expending some hypomanic energy in the form of writing fan fiction). As did watching various TV shows, like Doctor Who, Torchwood, Spooks and Robin Hood. Being able to escape into these fantasy worlds was a life line. And needless to say, fantasy and imagination is also critical to creativity, to be able to write, paint, and invent or create something new. In childhood as well, fantasy is important. A child who has imaginary friends is likely to have strong communication skills because this type of fantasy play fosters intersubjectivity.

So when we speak of fantasy, we should not do so with a sense of embarrassment or shame, but the reality is that most people are reluctant to acknowledge to others that they engage in fantasy for they feel to reveal such intimate thoughts would be humiliating. The idea of adults partaking in fantasy has some how been simplistically misconstrued in the public mind as being a lurid, abnormal or childish pass time. Fantasy, like anything (such as eating), can take on a pathological dimension but it in of itself is not an unhealthy endeavor. The reluctance to disclose fantasy is a notorious challenge for psychoanalysts in clinical practice. Once their clients begin to reveal some of their fantasies they know they are getting somewhere and have gained their patient’s trust.

As you might have gathered from the title of this post, I suspect that many fans out there might be consciously or unconsciously (I’ll explain unconscious fantasy in a moment) engaged in fantasies about RA and/or Lucas North, but this issue is largely hidden from view in the online fan community. Yes, people do write fan fiction, but this is the socially acceptable and visible form that personal fantasy takes, and we generally don’t speak of fan fiction as one person’s personal fantasy, we call it creative writing. By turning it into a creative piece of work, the fantasy is somehow legitimised (to be clear, fan fic is not necessarily always a literal expression of one’s personal fantasies). But for many people, their fantasies are not written, they do not become fan fiction, and simply exist in their own head, unknown to others. It’s a private affair, gleefully, or perhaps guiltily indulged in, and rarely admitted to others. Fantasy is a subject addressed indirectly via fanfic, fan art, jokes and gossip, and rarely directly in the manner that provides a serious detailed description of one’s waking fantasy. Some fans might joke about having a fantasy about RA or one of his characters, but do they share the intimate details? Usually not, for to do so risks ridicule and being judged to be one of those looney RA fans.

So what I wasn’t prepared to say before but will now, is that I think it’s inevitable that fantasy had some baring on how some people responded to the Lucas/John story. I suspect that the transformation of Lucas North into John Bateman disrupted the internal fantasy life of some Richard Armitage / Lucas North fans. Among other things, John Bateman put a big ole spanner in Lucas’ embodiment of the character of desire. Curiously, in contrast to Guy of Gisborne, John’s flexible, self-serving morality made him a confusing and arguably unsympathetic character. Loyal, admirable, virtuous Lucas was no more. Rather than being an object of desire, he became one of disdain who could not be redeemed. When fans said that the character of Lucas was “ruined”, what may have also been the case was that their fantasies of Lucas were ruined as well.

Now, I appreciate there are all kinds of reasons why one could “objectively” say that the Lucas/ John story line was problematic, but this is besides the point – it’s one thing not to like the story, it’s quite another thing to genuinely feel “completely devastated” by the revelation it held. For one to feel this way, as many fans did, surely there must be something else going on? To lay the blame for how one feels about the Lucas/John story solely at the feet of the writers is to ignore what the fan herself brings to the table.

In MY experience most of the disgust with the John/Lucas story came from those with an usual attachment to Richard Armitage and/or the Lucas North character. When I say unusual, I don’t mean abnormal in the “pathological” sense (although that probably exists as well). What I mean is that most people who watch Spooks do not analyse it in detail, write fan fiction, and discuss it on an online forum. For those of us that do engage in the online world of Spooks and RA, sometimes we forget this. We are not the majority. We are the usual minority who have been geeking out about Lucas North in our little internet bubble. Let me take a moment to remind you what it’s like outside of this bubble.

In real life I know many people who love Spooks. Now that series nine has been aired in Australia, I’ve been curious to find out their response to the Lucas/John affair. I can tell you that NONE of them had the kind of problems with the Lucas/John story that many RA fans have had (yes, I know that non-RA fans had problems with it too, there are plenty of those on Spooks Forum, for example). In fact one lady told me that she had never trusted Lucas from day one, and the revelation that he was actually John Bateman finally made the character make sense to her. When I mentioned that the Lucas/John story caused a great deal of controversy among fans who talk about the show online, many were incredibly surprised, some even laughed. These people, although all loving the show, do not have an usual attachment to the characters or actors in it.

Now, earlier I mentioned the issue of unconscious fantasy, this comes about by what’s called ‘taking the position of the other’ when watching drama. We all do this instinctively (except if you have Asperger’s / autism!), this is how we understand the implications of plot for each character in the show. For those with an attachment to a particular character or actor, however, taking the position of the other, such as those playing opposite the character/actor who is the object of affection, means that subconscious desires can be covertly played out beyond conscious awareness. Your involvement in the drama, the scene, could be operating at a deeper level, thus your reaction to drama involving the character/actor of interest will inevitably occur at a deeper level too. Just to tease this out a little further, on The Creative Experiences Questionnaire which is a psychological instrument to measure fantasy proneness, one of the items reads “When I perceive violence on television, I get so into it that I get really upset” – this item and others like it reveal that some people, more so than others, are prone to becoming more absorbed in the TV they watch than others. It’s quite possible that this internet community is largely made up of such individuals, and if so are probably more fantasy prone as well – it’s a hypothesis!

What I am suggesting in this post is that fantasy played a hidden role in the intensity of critical response that many fans had towards the Lucas/John story. Because of fantasy, some people were more personally affected by it and responded accordingly. To my mind there is a clear disparity in the intensity of the disdain for the Lucas/John story between RA fans, and Spooks fans who did not like the Lucas/John story but do not have any particular attachment to RA. To me this is not such a big deal to point out, it’s just how our minds work and how the dynamics of fandom influence perception. But to others it is an affront to their faith in their objectivity to point out that their latent (or overt) desires could affect their objective reasoning (to be honest I’m inclined to think that complete objectivity is a fallacy). For the social scientist it’s part of our job to highlight social and other forces that unknowingly affect our reasoning and social actions when we don’t realise it (such as how latent racism can impact judicial processes or clinician judgement) but when you point these things out in the real world, people can get defensive, because they don’t like to think that something they are not aware of is affecting their judgement.

What will probably happen once I publish this post, is that a bunch of people will comment saying that they hated the Lucas/John story, and have never fantasized about Lucas North, and imply that this disproves my “theory”. Or conversely, that the John Bateman revelation did not disturb their Lucas North fantasies. If you read this post closely you’ll have noticed that I used words like ‘some’, ‘maybe’, ‘might’, ‘possibly’ to convey the tenuousness of what I am proposing. You will also know that I made it clear that I was not suggesting that all people who were miffed about Lucas/John had a secret fantasy life about Lucas North, nor was the John revelation disturbing to all who engage in fantasy. I simply suggested it might have played a role in some people’s objections to the story, and contributed to the intensity of the overall fallout. If fantasy proneness is strongly correlated with getting overly absorbed in TV drama and intense celebrity admiration, then it’s not an implausible suggestion. All I’m offering is a bit-part to the story of the aftermath, not a grand theory that explains it.

What I have learned from posting about potentially contentious issues in the past, is that despite trying to talk about matters in shades of grey, my discussions are sometimes interpreted in black and white. Perhaps my writing it not clear, or maybe people skim instead of read, probably both. I’ve also learned that many readers who agree with what I write will message me privately instead of commenting publicly, and the commentary on the blog then becomes skewed and is not representative of the range of views that are actually out there. And this provides a case in point. Some aspects of being involved in an online community are hidden, and are not represented by what is visible and readable on our computer screens. As we travel around the online fanosphere, it might be worth keeping this in mind.

A related post: Richard Armitage Fan Fantasies #1023 – 1033

38 Responses to The Hidden Role of Fantasy in the Lucas/John Aftermath
  1. Lady
    June 22, 2011 | 8:25 pm

    *applauds*

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:44 pm

      Thank you ma’am!

  2. mulubinba
    June 22, 2011 | 9:54 pm

    I was interested that you linked to Blogilow and the article about the cws scaling they have in their library. I was going to publish a link to the same article over the past week while I have been contemplating my own ambivolent feelings with regard to parts of the RA fandom.

    I agree that the John Bateman/Lucas North story shattered fans’ perception of a heroic Lucas. I sense that many had been waiting for him to play a really decent character after Gisborne, John Mulligan, Percy Blakeney, Phillip Durrant. .. the list goes on. The character of John Porter appears to have satisfied a large number of fans’ need for RA to play a hero however. I really liked Lucas North, but I think knowing Spooks as well as I do, I did not have as much emotional investment in him being “squeaky clean”. Many RA fans only started watching Spooks when RA came into the series and I feel that some of them just didn’t “get” Spooks. A few of us have followed Spooks from Ep 1 S1 however and I guarantee that they are the ones less likely to have objected to the LN/JB storyline simply because they understand how Spooks writers have dealt with characters over the nine series.

    I love reading posts like this one and I think your perceptions about the fan reactions are very valid :)

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:47 pm

      I’m with you on the long-term Spooks fans who have been with Spooks from Ep1.1. Soon I’ll be publishing a post on betrayals in Spooks to put the Lucas/John story in the broader historical context of the show. It’s a pretty long list!

      Incidentally, I will NEVER understand Barry Manilow fandom! ;)

  3. Traxy
    June 22, 2011 | 10:52 pm

    Wow, what an excellent post! Thoughtful and very interesting. :) A friend of mine says that if you throw a bone into a kennel, the dog that it hits barks. (Hrm, it doesn’t translate too well from Swedish.) Meaning that even if you say “maybe” and “perhaps” and “some”, the person who feels “hit” will just ignore the “some” and start barking because how very DARE you talk about them like that, and so on. Sometimes it’s just worth taking a step back and realise that actually, you said “some” and not “all”. Just because SOME fans were completely over-reacting, doesn’t mean you’re saying I personally over-reacted, or that I personally have had my fantasies about Lucas destroyed – or even that I should have any fantasies about the guy at all.

    People are funny.

    I agree with mulubinba, your perceptions about fans’ reactions are indeed very valid! A great psycho-social (?) analysis.

    Personally, “Spooks” is just a (very good) TV show and I happen to be a fan of one of the actors. I didn’t like how they went 180 with Lucas as a character, as I felt they were creating a massive plot hole with what had been going on in the previous two series, but I’ve not exactly lost any sleep over it. With regards to fantasy, I think I’d be more upset if RA himself did a 180 and turned out to be like John, as that would ruin the idea of RA being some sort of Perfect Man.

    Maybe it’s time to take out the “Reality/Dreams” chart from Father Ted, eh? ;) (http://intepid.com/res/417.gif)

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:50 pm

      Yep, when you hit a nerve with some people they read it like you’re talking about them personally. It’s frustrating!

      Indeed, if RA turned out to be a John Bateman type character, that would be alarming!

      Hahh, bless Father Ted!

  4. Servetus
    June 23, 2011 | 1:31 am

    This is SO good. I’ll be back later to say more, but I am not just saying that because of the support. Part of Armitagemania for me has been realizing that I can use my fantasies to help me, and that I don’t have to be automatically afraid of them, even if they often disturb me. The point about fans and the disruption of their implicit fantasy lives is really interesting and I want to reread this before I say anything else. (Also want to get off my parents’ computer before I logon as myself.)

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:57 pm

      Thanks, Servetus! What I forgot to add about fantasies is that they can help us process stuff. They can be like dreams in that sense. There’s no law that says we have to always work things out / think things through logically, we can do it creatively too – which can help us in ways that logic might not.

  5. Servetus
    June 23, 2011 | 2:47 am

    There’s a subsidiary point here I want to make, but I think I’m going to blog it myself and link back here. It may take a day or two.

    But I also have a question for you as a social scientist: why is that some fantasies are ok whereas others are tabu? (I realize that’s a big question.) There are a few things happening in Armitageworld right now that seem to me outgrowths of fantasy or attempts to realize fantasy IRL that no one makes any negative comments about (although maybe people think negative things about them privately), whereas although I haven’t been doing anything to realize any of my Armitage-related fantasies, I’ve been under fire lately simply for writing down my fantasies and saying explicitly that this is not fanfic, these are things I fantasize about. Similarly, if we follow the line of fanfic as a “making safe” of fantasy (something that’s underlined for me by the significance in the community for some readers of having fanfic labeled by genre, as if some fantasies need to be tricked out with the warning that “this fantasy may not be safe for you”), why is that people are so critical of each other’s fantasies? This tendency seems to me to go not only in the direction of moral criticisms of things commonly thought to be risky (“it is wrong to write BDSM fanfic”) but also in the direction of things that are not dangerous at all (“it is wrong –or at least trivial– to engage in lightly fluffy romantic escapism”).

    Do you know the story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”?

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 11:52 pm

      I’ll have to answer this tomorrow. Can hardly keep my eyes open right now!

    • Skully
      June 24, 2011 | 4:46 pm

      Here goes some thinking out loud..

      The correct answer to your question is – I don’t know because I haven’t investigated it yet ;) But in order to answer it we would have to find out: what are people’s preconceptions of fantasies and people who have them? These preconceptions are undoubtedly numerous and we could probably trace them to the dominate discourses about adults and fantasies in things like film, literature, comedy, news etc. What are the contexts in which we ordinarily talk about adults and fantasies? Possibly in the context of sex and sexual deviancy and/or mental illness / questionable personalities would be my guess. These dominate discourses then get applied to micro scenarios which may or may not have anything to do with sex and/or mental illness. The notion of fantasies is sullied by these associations. Sex and mental illness are subject to taboos, so if we associate fantasies with these things then fantasy will be taboo as well. Or something like that!

      The other thing is that many people might assume that fantasies are something that people wish to enact in real life, which is not necessarily the case. Also, we tend to speak of ‘dreamers’ in the negative sense, slackers etc. Fantasy without a constructive outcome (like fanfic, which is more or less constructive in the artistic sense) is seen as self-indulgent? “Aspirational” fantasy is ok because its about self-improvement. Fantasy is the pass time of the idler?

      My suspicion would be that age stratification is relevant here, where by fantasy is viewed as an acceptable thing for children to do but once you reach a certain age it’s no longer seen as OK. You have to be an adult! So we’d have to look at how we construct childhood and adulthood differently and see how that interfaces with our notions of fantasies. I imagine fantasy in childhood would probably be considered ‘innocent’, where in as adults the notion of fantasies becomes more murky. This would be a false dichotomy though for a range of reasons, one being that some children DO in fact have fantasies of a sadomasochistic nature.

      I’m not familiar with “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, not a literature buff :)

  6. Jane
    June 23, 2011 | 3:45 am

    Agree completely about the John Bateman problem. While being a long-term RA fan and having greatly enjoyed all series of Spooks I never managed to grow very attached to Lucas. The passionate dislike for the series 9 storyline, the total refusal to suspend disbelieve, baffled me from the beginning. From the moment it was announced that Lucas had a “love of his life” before he met Elisabeta people were complaining that they don’t buy it! I only thought that he probably met E. in his late twenties and that it would be completely natural for him to have loved someone else before that. And that meeting an ex-partner again can affect people. But I think this idea was enough to destroy what you so aptly call “the character of desire”, long before Lucas/John did anything dishonourable.

    I’m very willing to admit that on a logical and psychological the whole John/Lucas business was quite far fetched and that the writers of series 9 probably weren’t very familiar with the character created by a different team in series 7 and that in a really well made show this shouldn’t happen. But I didn’t found it hard to accept and separate the three series and enjoy it anyway instead of going on and on and on about how terribly bad it was.

    I think the outrage this caused was similar to what happened when Guy killed Marian, love of his life with the potential to make him a better man.

  7. Jane
    June 23, 2011 | 4:31 am

    BTW on the subject of fanfic. I think you can’t separate fanfic and fantasies. There are so many fanfics around that are clearly wish-fulfilment. They may be annoying to read for those that don’t share the particular fantasy (the much hated Mary Sue FF) but a great read for those who do. I don’t blame anyone for writing them, though some surely do. I have had a vivid fantasy life evolving around fictional characters from books since my childhood (though I have always been more interested in female characters to identify with than male character to swoon over) and was VERY relieved when I found that there is something called fanfic that is acceptable and other people have a similar fantasy life and that I’m not mad!

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 8:19 pm

      Thanks for your comments Jane! I think fanfic can also be an exploration of ideas, and not necessarily personal fantasy. Although the RA fanfics are probably more fantasy-based!

      • Jane
        June 23, 2011 | 8:38 pm

        I supposed the fanfics I’m referring to are those where Guy or Lucas find the right woman they were denied in the series (and if it is adult fanfic, spend most of the day in bed with them). Surely there are other stories around that don’t necessarily focus on romance or on correcting the mistakes the writers have made.

        I don’t think it is a “mistake” by the writers if a character takes a turn the fans don’t like or shows weaknesses that aren’t considered attractive or fall for a woman that seems unworthy. It may not be what a viewer attached to the character likes to see, but is wrong? Spooks isn’t afraid of showing it’s heroes in an unfavourable light, if Adam could make a fool of himself because of a woman, why shouldn’t Lucas?

  8. Maria Grazia
    June 23, 2011 | 3:31 pm

    Hi, Skully. Brilliant post, thanks a lot. I’m here to say that I was a Spooks fan before becoming a RA fan and, also, that I’m rather schizofrenic when it comes to my admiration for the man/actor Armitage. Meaning, I’m constantly analysing the phenomenon , trying to understand how that happen to me. I’m so not the “fan” type! However, I must honestly admit, I AM definitely a RA fan.
    But this is what I wrote in one of my posts at FLY HIGH while watching series 9 (by the way, I liked it a lot, much more than series 8):
    “… I felt I had been too hard at criticizing the script writers. I had to be honest: they were doing a great job this time too. Apart from the Lucas/John journey in Spooks 9, so intense and intriguing, so many other things in this series were better than what we saw in the previous one. There are flaws here and there this time too, but the good things overshadow the tiny holes. Poor script writers! We are often too demanding and harsh to them. We should be grateful, instead! They’ve provided RA with extraordinary occasions to prove his talent. And he did it. He took the chance and performed an awesome troubled spook. I can’t say I’m happy for what has happened so far, nor for what I fear I’ll have to see next time, but I’m totally hooked by this series. I’ve already pre-booked the DVD at Amazon UK. I want to have it, whatever happens to Lucas at the end. These moments will be unforgettable. Nicola Walker and Peter Firth are giving brilliant performances too. The new ones, Beth and Dimitri, are fairly good, though I can’t get into them. I’m completely absorbed by what is happening to Lucas” (from GETTING READY FOR … ANYTHING, november 4th, 2010).
    So, as you can see, after my initial (deep) disappointment for what they had decided to make of Lucas’s characters, the spooks fan prevailed on the RA fan and just watched the result, admired and totally caught.

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 8:12 pm

      Ahhh competing fandoms, I love it! My Spooks fandom was always front and center, I have to say. Love it or hate it series nine was totally engrossing, and that is the writer’s primary task, and they succeeded on that front. Glad you could ultimately enjoy it from that point of view :) It was much better than season 8, I agree. Have you watched it again since? I found it less painful the second time round :)

      • Maria Grazia
        June 23, 2011 | 8:33 pm

        Actually I’ve bought the DVD set and re- watched all the episodes. Some more than others. It’s so interesting to re-watch stuff at a distance. You discover more each time. Then I loved listening to what the protagonists (actors, director, producer) themselves had to say in the extras. The “Behind the scenes” can always help to appreciate … better.

        • Skully
          June 23, 2011 | 9:46 pm

          That’s what I love about Spooks, you can watch it over and over and get more out of it each time. I haven’t see the extras yet! Looking forward to it.

          • Maria Grazia
            June 23, 2011 | 10:01 pm

            You’ll find one the extras here, “The downfall of Lucas North”, if you are interested
            http://bit.ly/ibmcUS

            • Skully
              June 24, 2011 | 10:24 pm

              Thanks for that!

  9. Nixie
    June 23, 2011 | 6:44 pm

    Very interesting and thought provoking. Thank you, Skully.

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 7:58 pm

      Thanks, Nixie!

  10. Nietzsche
    June 23, 2011 | 8:58 pm

    Sorry to say so but I am done with Spooks and I have been following it religiously from episode 1. That was just one twist too many, and a totally illogical one IMO. Sorry for being un-intellectual/simpleminded. I could argue my point but I don’t want to waste my time with discussing Spooks 9.

    • Skully
      June 23, 2011 | 9:08 pm

      That’s cool Nietzsche! What other shows are you into these days?

      • Nietzsche
        June 23, 2011 | 10:46 pm

        Few, actually. Most of my spare time I spend reading or at the gym, listening to music while working out, though I love some vintage shows like Perry Mason, The Prisoner and Danger Man (that does date me, doesn’t it? Well I admit to being 53.). While working out at home I watch the various CSI thingies, Navy CIS which I really enjoy, Hawaii 5-0, both versions (love the Navy SEALs :-)) and the British sitcom “My Family”.

        I must say I was about to leave Spooks once earlier, when Tom left. A friend practically forced series 3 on me, and lo, I was hooked again. (BTW, IMO Adam was the most straightforward, competent section Chief.)

        What I wanted ever after 7.6 was Lucas leaving after a big row with Harry – they never seemed at ease with one another anyway – and Lucas settling down as a teacher at a boys’ school, inspiring and guiding the boys. I bet he’d bring them round to read romantic poetry. Look how lovely he was with Dean. I always thought that was his real persona. He’d be no good at at girls’ or mixed school though, I suppose ;-)

        John Bateman would go to Russia to help Harry, yeah right. Come to think of it, the Russians wouldn’t have to torture him for such a long time anyway. He’d spill the beans and try to get a deal at the first opportunity.

        I was also shocked about the way Lucas was dealt with in 9.8. I mean CO19 shooting not to incapacitate but to kill, from the beginning of the operation? I sincerely hope not. This is London, England, for heaven’s sake, not Mob City in Thugistan. But I grew disillusioned as early as in 8.3, when Jo died. Poor girl. Series 8 had its highlights, though, what with the sadomasochistic love story between Lucas and Oleg (much sexier than Lucas and Sarah I admit), Ros and Lawrence, 8.7 and 8.8.

        Pity, series 9 started so brilliantly and unusually, with the scenes on the container ship, and it offered much more than the Bomb of eth Week. Bute there was Harry murdering the old Home Sec. I beg your pardon? Harry as judge , jury and executioner in one person?? Not my idea of justice. Surely not.

        Hahaha, now I spent my time arguing, LOL. But you get my drift, I suppose, and I love a good fight! :-D

  11. fitzg
    June 23, 2011 | 10:40 pm

    Absolutely agree that S9 is better than S8, which was a bit boring. Poor writers indeed! While I think that the concept of the Lucas/John scenario was not at all absurd, I felt it was rather clumsily written in the need to write Lucas out of the series. Indeed, there were always questions about Lucas, from S7 on – but I’m not sure that strong indications had been registered in S7 and 8.

    Have been catching up on pre-Armitage series, looking forward to S10.

    Do I fantasize about RA characters? Even about RA, as I perceive him from interviews – which is totally unrealistic. Absolutely. (and have had a few actor crushes in my time.) The interior world of the imagination is rich – only not to be confused with real life. As for blogs and forums, I read and comment on blogs for which I have respect and which stimulate both analytical and creative thinking. Humour is a characteristic of these blogs, too – lest we take ourselves too seriously. Please, no. :D

  12. Calexora
    June 23, 2011 | 11:19 pm

    Wonderful post Skully! I for one am a Spooks fan (and an RA fan too of course). I’ve watched Spooks from S.1 e.1 and have watched everything at least three times. I’m eagerly awaiting S.10. The only reason I haven’t bought the DVDs yet is that I want to buy the whole boxset when the show does end.

    Of course it was hard to reconcile some bits of the John twist (and I don’t think the writers completely pulled it off) but S.9 had some of the best RA acting moments of his time on Spooks. He really got to demonstrate his nuance and skill as an actor. The episode with the American cryptographer for example is absolutely marvellous.

    And I agree with you about the role of fantasy in helping to process emotions, etc. I wrote a similar post a while back. I think where it can get dangerous is when someone starts believing the fantasies or these fantasies take over their waking life.

  13. CDoart
    June 24, 2011 | 1:22 am

    Thank you, Skully. As all the previous comments already state, your analysis is brilliant!!!
    I still have some problems finding myself on the going-crazy-skale ;o)
    I love Spooks, watched it from 1.1. up to 9 several times and loved every turn and exit.
    I even would see myself without many personal fantasies about Lucas or RA, as the only one I have is, that we meet and he does not even see me and walks right over me and disappears. So the topic is closed quite fast and effectively ;o)
    Concerning Lucas turning bad, I had expected nothing less from series 9 of Spooks, as I interpreted the interviews I had seen previously to the airing of Spooks 9 like that. I even thought, Lucas becoming a rogue agent, what a brilliant idea.
    But still the story line left me disappointed, as they turned round the Lucas character and in the end left us with ‘Nothing’. Every criminal at least for himself has a clear idea, why he wants or does something. Even the breakdown after all the roles he had to play is a believable part to me. But with Maya I just cannot see her importance, but even when I pretend to, it leaves me unsatisfied.
    Now in the end of my comment I think I can answer my own question from above. I think I was so disappointed of Spooks 9, because I found the given reasons for Lucas’ actions boring and one-dimensional. Not to mention that some things just did not add up.
    I expected so much more from “Spooks” in that regards. Perhaps I really expected too much from only human writers.

    But one point which did not disappoint in Spooks 9, I found the acting of all participants, not only RA’s, was absolutely brilliant. This for sure surpassed all previous parts of Spooks, even for me loving all the previous parts exceedingly already.
    The camera technique, the images from London, the acting of all members were just better than ever.

    Perhaps I am still at the beginning of RA-crazyness? I worried a bit with your Spooks-dislike-analysis, bot no reason sounded true for me ;o)

  14. RAFrenzy
    June 30, 2011 | 11:11 am

    You’ve made some excellent conclusions, but I caution you against “Poisoning the Well” — a fallacy which makes anyone suspect who may protest that they had no fantasies about Lucas North/John Batemen nor Richard Armitage. I know I’m wondering how I should respond. LOL! I guess with the truth.

    I did not have fantasies about Richard Armitage nor Lucas North while watching these series and this is quite simply because I chose not to do so. I’m sure that I could very easily as I have a quite active imagination, and Richard Armitage’s portrayals certainly give plenty of temptation.: D BTW, this is in no way a criticism of anyone who does fantasize about him or his characters. Not at all.

    Having said that, let me move onto what really bugged me about the Lucas North/John Bateman storyline. It was not well developed. That simple. Even Richard Armitage’s skills could not rescue that cobbled together plot. Frankly, if they were going to make him a bad guy, I’ve wondered why they didn’t really do it up brown. With the absence of a foundation for this storyline, it would have helped to be over the top. As it was, it just came out lame, and much of the problem is the force of the story hinged on the surprise that he was indeed not who he said he was. In giving that away early mostly via the spoilers, it sucked energy out of the plot, and gave me time to get the definite feel of a retread.

    And if you happen to be taking notes about a fan’s experiences with Spooks, I was watching Spooks before I had any clue about Richard Armitage; have been with it since S1E1. I think I said somewhere that I also didn’t like the denouement of Tom Quinn either, and for similar reasons as Lucas North. Poorly developed.

    My comments about this can be found here and here.

    Hope my links work.

    • Skully
      June 30, 2011 | 11:46 am

      Thanks for your comments Frenz! I have to clarify though, I don’t make conclusions, only plausible propositions ;) I think I clearly and repeatedly cautioned to readers throughout my post, not to ‘poison the well’ as you put it. I can’t help it if some people still feel sheepish ;)

      It’s interesting that while some people found the whole thing implausible, others, such as the lady I mentioned in the post, always found Lucas suspect. And that storyline that you dislike so much, made perfect sense to her. But this post wasn’t so much about the so called problems with the story, but rather to explore the intense negative reaction to it. Normally when people don’t like something, they turn it off! Most of the discussion to date on the issues with the John/Lucas story has been concentrated on the writers. In my view, to focus solely on the writers ignores the other half of the story, which is the viewer and his/her interaction with the story.

      The part of spooks 9 that I most objected to (despite loving it on the whole) was Albany being a genetic weapon – which is more ludicrous to me than Lucas being John!

      Thanks for sharing your links :)

      • RAFrenzy
        June 30, 2011 | 11:59 am

        We’re in agreement about this possible correlation. It seems logical that the more someone was prone to fantasies about Lucas North, the more apt they were to be upset when their expectations were disappointed.

        But don’t get me started on Albany. Ludicrous is kind. LOL!

  15. RAFrenzy
    June 30, 2011 | 11:33 am

    Just reiterating that I think the correlation between fantasy about Lucas North and the disappointment in him being John Batemen seems fairly valid. I have observed the same, but I feel compelled to remind that with almost any correlation there will be outliers.

    Here’s another piece about my irritation with Spooks 9. I really do think the spoilers, which were not intended as such, ruined the show — for me at least.

    Affectionately signed,
    An earnest outlier :D

  16. RAFrenzy
    June 30, 2011 | 11:44 am

    Just so you know, I did read that you used “some”, “maybe”, etc., but people tend to overlook that as quibbling (unless they’re a lawyer) and take the more obvious point — hence my need to highlight.

    • Skully
      June 30, 2011 | 11:50 am

      My “theory” might only relate to 10% of the “cohort”. So you need not adopt the “outlier” tag just yet!

  17. Violet
    July 8, 2011 | 1:13 am

    Great post, Skully!

    • Skully
      July 8, 2011 | 2:03 pm

      Thanks, Violet!

  18. [...] (about what another might want) seems to lie at the center of moral thought in the West, but as Skully wrote in an interesting post, taking the position of the other creatively, in play — what she and scholars call [...]