Some Things About The Armitage Christmas Message

I’ve been looking closely at the annual Christmas Message, ( see below) which contains John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” As we all know, Richard Armitage is spending a few months in Berlin filming Berlin Station.

Of course I recognized the quote, which means I am a Berliner, and have no deep criticism of Richard Armitage using the phrase: I’ve heard people throw that phrase around in similar contexts.

What I didn’t know about was the controversy surrounding Kennedy’s choice. It’s hysterical. It turns out, that many who heard and/or analyzed the phrased, argued that what it actually meant in Germans was, I am a jelly doughnut. 

source Lucas North probably left the jelly doughnut for Malcom.

There is a misconception that Kennedy made a risible error by saying Ich bin ein Berliner. By using the indefinite article “ein,” he supposedly changed the meaning of the sentence from “I am a citizen of Berlin” to “I am a jelly doughnut.”

The indefinite article is omitted in German when speaking of an individual’s profession or residence. But it is still necessary when speaking in a figurative sense. Since the President was not literally from Berlin but only declaring his solidarity with its citizens, “Ich bin ein Berliner” was not only correct, but the only way to express what he wanted to say.
It is also true that though the word “Berliner” [9][11] is used for a jelly doughnut in the north, west and southwest of Germany, the word is not used in Berlin itself or the surrounding region, where the usual word is “Pfannkuchen.”

here ( and many other sites on the web)

John F. Kennedy’s handwritten notes ( with pronunciation). Some said he added “ein” in, himself, though he worked closely with a translator for the speech.

Journalists and others staunchly defend Kennedy’s use of the phrase, arguing that it was perfectly correct. Every conceivable point is covered, from whether Germans even eat  or make those jelly doughnuts in Berlin, or call by them by a different name, to whether  it was inappropriate for Kennedy to leave out the word ein, because, with his atrocious accent, no one in the audience could believe he was actually a Berliner – so he must be speaking metaphorically.

I fully realize that it’s an enormous stretch to compare the JFK Berliner controversy and some random  Richard Armitage interview, but I can’t help thinking of last week’s discussions about the Mirror interview of Armitage. Honestly, no need to point out the obvious differences to me, but the similarity is my interest. The similarity is in the zealous polemics of some uncritical-leaning fans, challenging the paper, the interviewer, the timing, Armitage history, and even the very rules of grammar and journalism, to defend their man.

I’ll also concede that some more critical fans might have been too harshly critical, in my opinion, straying far from the quotes themselves.

A recurrent theme when these events flare up, is whether fans should discuss, dissect,  even hold Richard Armitage accountable for everything he says, in every environment, or whether doing so means you’re not a loyal fan. You know my answer to that. I’d love to sink into that Christmas message and go through it with you line by line to discuss what I think he meant, vs. what he actually wrote ( whether I agree with  each  underlying premise or not), how he should have said it better; how a sentence here or there made no sense, or didn’t belong in that place. I’d like a discussion on his writing ( punctuation, R-O-S-organization, non-sequiturs, misuses homonyms, as well as his content. )

I’m tempted to leave it at this: Who eats hot cranberry sauce?

But back to The Message and the Mirror.

A good portion of the Mirror discussion was directed at Armitage’s role choices.

I think Richard Armitage partly answered  this question in his  2015 message, albeit, with a few grammatical  and diction oopses.

Thank you for your continued support to myself [sic] as an artist, but also the enthusiasm shown for the various charities and causes that I’m interested in. Of course these will change and evolve, as my day to day existence continues to evolve.

 A fan can read these words in a number of ways. I read them to say that he’s especially thankful for his fans who support him as an artist and those who support his charities and causes, but at the same time, he’s warning, advising, noting, notifying, affirming (choose your word and tone) that this will continue to change. He will continue to change, not only in his preferred causes, but also as an artist ( and I think as a person).

While I don’t think as my day to day existence continues to evolve, is exactly right, I’m inferring that in these  two sentences taken together, he’s reiterating that he wants to be supported as an artist and his artistry ( role choices, genre,) will continue to change. Evolve doesn’t always mean grow, but I think he means grow, and definitely change.

This is some of what he meant to say in The Mirror interview. This is certainly what many commenters said in response to his role choices. He just said it so wrong.

In column 2, after his political. sociological statement [inappropriately referring to quotation marks as a parenthesis  (can’t help myself)], he says,

If you believe in a similar philosophy, thank you for your ear, [sic] if not[sic],  that’s ok too [sic] it’s only my opinion.

Without getting into what exactly is his philosophy, the best reading of this is that it refers only to the antecedent  I’m an actor and what follows – the opinions in his political-ish statement.

But a secondary reading is also possible. He’s clearly talking to this fans, because (a) who else would be reading his Christmas Message? and (b) that reference to Pinot Noir.

He’s acknowledging that not all his fans are going to agree with him on everything, and it’s OK if they don’t. I’d like to think that his sentiment also applies to the first part of his message. While he might not have specifically thanked every sort of fan, I can be content with what I see as the thrust of what he meant.

I think he’s OK with criticism and some types of dissent.

As to the rest, I look forward to any discussion on the content of his Message.





41 thoughts on “Some Things About The Armitage Christmas Message

  1. I think he was referring to his political opinion, and the need to open our eyes, minds and hearts even if we are scared. I don’t see how someone could not agree with the first part of his message, unless they have big issues.

    Of course he will change, as a person and as an artist. It’s the meaning of life (42 apart!). Especially when you are an artist. Fans come and go, they are so unstable. With any new TV series they change their crushes, ships, and are so easily influenced by “success” (meaning media visibility) that quickly forget someone like Richard, never showing himself as a “star”. But good roles will hopefully keep coming, important networking has been done, and I doubt Richard’s aim in life is to become famous. Someone keep following him, others won’t. He will continue his path towards his own “illumination”. His real goal in life. I so envy him.


  2. Is that really true about jellydonuts?? I know you bloggers sometimes like to play a joke on us readers! (Especially us uni-lingual ones). Nice tie-in pic with Lucas and his chocolate donuts. I agree with what you wrote about his Christmas message and especially the part about “I think he’s OK with criticism and some types of dissent.” He’s a big boy. He also seems like a listener and a pretty calm individual. Sure, some of it might sting but all in all I’m think he’s open to civilized debate and is probably interested in differing viewpoints.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, the story is true.

    Sorry, but I totally disagree about the meaning of the message. There is absolutely nothing pointing to “it’s ok to criticize me any single time I speak, perform, do a selfie, breath”. BTW, this is implicit.

    I think people is trying too hard to see hidden meanings in his words. He was just thanking, as usual, for the support to his work and charities. Nothing more. And if you read again his message “these will change and evolve” is referred to the charities, not his art. And his changing and evolution is once again referred in connection with his choice of charities. In fact, he explains why youth has been in his mind this year.

    He just wrote that it was ok if someone had different political opinions, since I bet he perfectly remembers the mess after his NHS and guns sentences in NYMoves. And he knows many of his fans are right wings.
    Alos, he has been careful in breaking the message in two part, with the political statement being in a new sheet, like to offer a separation from what he had said before.

    Please, don’t search for excuses to bash him saying ohhh he said it’s ok!


    • Sparkhouse can answer for herself, but I don’t think she was approving the nitpicking of every act. She was distinguishing between that and discussion. As to how to read the message – this was a point in my post – I know what he meant to say, I think ( and I agree to some extent about him relating to the charities that might change, but he could have meant more, as you seemed to acknowledge), but the way he said it can be open to interpretation because of the antecedent clauses that were used in conjunction with one another. I know he is not a professional writer. Sometimes he better than other times. He’s often just a guy trying to say something the best way he can. But, he makes some mistakes or choices in construction. I think I was also clear the best reading was that he was referring to column 2, but I see room to find that he also acknowledge in general that it’s OK to have a different opinion from his on other topics and issues.


      • But of course it’s ok to have different opinions from his. Nobody EVER put it in doubt. I have so many different opinions from his, we are totally different people, I certainly am opposite of him. Only, I never saw a discussion about the topics involved by his opinions, tbh. Even the NYMoves big discussion was about his stupidity and (according those fans) not knowing US business and the fact he had NO right to express an opinion because he isn’t American.


        • But with the NY Moves interview, there was much support for the notion that he finally did express some personal, political views and little criticism for not being American in doing so except by those who disagreed with his views.


  4. “ok to criticize me any single time I speak, perform, do a selfie, breath” and debate/discussion/interpretation are two different things in my opinion. I, too, grow tired of picking apart and unwarranted criticism of every little thing. But on the other hand, some really good debates and learning opportunities arise and other experiences and viewpoints are revealed. Nitpicking is not good, but discussion is always good. I also think he meant he will change and grow not only as an artist and therefore in roles he will choose, but also as a person in his lifestyle, political views, humanitarian views and all other things that make us who we are. And as always I will look forward to watching his journey and thankful that we are all a little part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree when there are things to debate and discuss about, not fried air as it usually is. Or deny him the right to express his own opinion on several topics, as some fans have done in the past, Christmas message included.
      I.e.: it’s not a discussion topic his choice of an author if you don’t like it. You can tell why you don’t like it, not saying he shouldn’t have read/done that role. You’re not obliged to follow him in everything he does.


  5. I interpreted the comment about his charities evolving and explanation of why he made his current selection as perhaps a response to people who have criticized his current charities, but again, that may be reading too much into it. I interpreted the preface to the political message as an acknowledgement that he is an actor not a politician, and therefore maybe he is taking a risk in expressing political views, but he felt strongly enough to air his concerns about current events and a rise in the open expression of bigotry. I admire him for doing this, although I realize that not everyone agrees on this point so in fact he is taking a risk.


  6. First of all, I think he is very sweet to send a Christmas message at all. It’s a tradition that goes back quite a few years and it is one of the kind gestures that endears him to many in the fandom. But, a message from anyone that releases a public statement (disseminated to the public) ibecomes a fair topic to discuss. He is presumably communicating directly to well-wishers without a filter. But he is not a professional writer and some of his statements are open to interpretation because of grammar or punctuation issues. Most likely if his missive was worthy of a Pulitzer prize in clarity of the written word (not a real category) people would disagree about his statements. I doubt he reads what fans write about him, and if he does, I don’t think he cares what they say. He did say something about not getting hurt feelings in the past. “I don’t care what you say about me as long as you something.” Is a famous quote by an old song and dance man, but I think it applies here. How can fans discussing his roles, clothes, nose or any other nit-picking thing be bad? It means they are paying attention and they care.


  7. Thanks for the reminder of the Kennedy “Berliner” controversy – love that story!

    I have to say (and this might be because I’m awake at 4am) that I’m increasingly reticent about engaging in these conversations – mostly because I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to defend my every word. It seems increasingly the case that in the process of defending Richard Armitage’s rights to speak freely (which are really not under dispute), that the defenders often have no restraint in savaging fellow fans for doing the same. I find myself often asking why to some people, whatever *he* says is apparently sacrosanct, while it’s open season on even the most benign criticism from fans. I’m not exactly clear on how this computes. It also doesn’t follow that every discussion point need become polemical…although, that is certainly a trend in current public discourse.

    I didn’t find anything terribly troubling in the message…like you, I sort of inferred meaning here and there. However, as someone whose work involves a fair amount of correcting English language prose, I did find it a bit rambling…kind of “thinking out loud” in style.

    I understand that Richard Armitage is not a professional writer, and that these Christmas messages are sort of ad hoc in nature, but when one is sending a message to a large, very diverse audience, a little bit of editing (of structure, not content) goes a long way in terms of clarity.


    • Again, I won’t ever say everything he said/says is holy, but each and every time he tweets something I already knows there will be critics, often very silly, like the charities’ choice. And yes, he read everything, as his Cybersmile post and other interviews confirm. Does he care? No, I don’t think he cares. He goes along his road.
      And again, why criticising the use of some quotes when his intentions were perfectly clear? “It takes two to have an argument and I won’t ever participate in it”. I think this was a very important quote to discuss and sharing opinions about. It has been a perfectly clear declaration, for people willing to understand. But I haven’t seen such a discussion.


      • There are many things he says that do not spark arguments. I don’t read everything on Twitter so I might be wrong, but who argued about his preference for chocolate ice cream or wine over beer? His quote about taking two to make an argument is discussion-proof. Who can disagree with that? It also takes two to have a discussion or conversation. I think CyberSmile was a legitimate topic to discuss. It was a relatively unknown charity and he was named official spokesperson. Naturally people had questions about it. If he chooses to lend his name to a cause, then many people will scrutinize his choice. He does not often seem “perfectly clear” in his written communications. He is not a writer and people cut him slack for that. But having differing opinions about how to interpret what he intended to say is a product of his writing style. If he is unclear, then readers may legitimately differ/discuss/ or hopefully not argue about his message.

        Liked by 1 person

      • OK, I’ll bite. The person who says “it takes two to make an argument …” in DC is Uriah Heep, who is kind of the villain of the piece, certainly of the second half of the work. If I assume that Armitage lifted that quote from the book in the sense in which it was meant in the book (in which it supports Uriah’s power over Dora’s family and David), he looks like a jerk. He’s essentially saying “I won’t have an argument with you because I don’t have to, because I win anyway, and I will say this stuff to make myself look good and you look bad in the eyes of others for protesting.” That is the sense in which the quotation is used in the original work; it is the expression of a person so powerful that he does not need to take the people he victimizes (an act of which he is fully aware as he does it on purpose) seriously.

        If, on the other hand, I assume that Armitage meant the words literally but without reference to context in the work, he looks like someone who didn’t read his source very carefully as he is quoting against context (something which he did not indicate). The best I can say for that statement is that it is a meaningless platitude. No human ever lives without arguments. Moreover, the likelihood that he was unaware of the original context seems unlikely to me insofar as Armitage had played Uriah Heep (something we know now that we did not know then.)

        Neither picture above is very complimentary to him.

        The third option — which is the one that is nicest to Armitage, and the one that I have gone over to in the meantime — is that he was spouting memorable quotes from DC in order to give people an idea of what they had to expect, and he did not mean them either in their contextual or decontextualized sense — only as a representation of important moments in the work.

        However, in writing what I concluded, I have now probably made myself culpable of “overanalyzing” what he says — so there is no way to come out of this discussion well, which is why people avoid it. If you conclude something neutral to negative about Armitage on purely syntactic grounds, you will be be the loser — this has been demonstrated again and again. As Obscura remarks, the outcome of protecting Armitage’s right to speak (which has never been in dispute) is always the savaging of fans who also have that right. Who wants to talk in that atmosphere?

        The real communicative issue here is that every act of listening involves inference about meaning, and none of us have much possibility, beyond very large generalizations, to know whether our inferences are correct. This is why interpretation occurs — because of the need to infer created by the act of speech. There’s nothing abnormal about that, unless, of course, you’re hostile for some reason to the inferences of others.


        • Thank you for biting. Your analysis always gives us plenty to chew on and sink our teeth into. The “It takes two…” quote seems harmless enough until Mr. Heep is referenced. Then it becomes a little bothersome. I would like to know if there is a way to politely disagree with fans without getting into an argument. Are there some things you can never say without raising someone’s ire? When does a disagreement cross the line and become an argument? Why should differences of opinion become a battleground? Isn’t it more interesting to be exposed to different points of view? Not expecting an answer to these. Maybe there isn’t one.


        • I don’t know if one will always be the loser when making arguments about Armitage’s syntax, because there are a fair number of us who do this and discuss it well ( and there are some who choose to stay out of the conversation) I’m referring to *how* he says what he wants to say -not the situation where I don’t like *what* he says at all. Both are hot buttons. I imagine I am not the only one who thinks twice or three times before posting something middling or negative, and/or sometimes waits for an appropriate moment if necessary.( for example, not on the heels of his nomination for Best Actor in a Guest Role, or whatever the category is). This last message was a good example of me holding back a bit. I think even hard core defenders ought to understand that he’s going to get less of a pass for a composed letter than an offhand remark in an interview. Yes, I know, fans love that he takes the time to write a holiday message. But maybe he should take a little more time than he does or write a simpler message. Maybe he can’t write properly to begin with. I think most agree on what he was trying to say and didn’t have much criticism of it; but some of it was not well said or written. Maybe I’m “overanalyzing,” but the letter was meant for me as well as others, and I counted more than 9 grammatical/punctuation/agreement errors and a few poor or incorrect word choices – and a bit of muddled expression when it came to people who simply want more affluence, and who are we to judge who can or cannot have what we have, or serious European “voices” on the global stage”. I think it’s perfectly OK to be a fan and still wish that the object of my admiration made a better showing for himself in a written piece that he knew thousands of people would read. And yet – I got the message, probably close to how he intended it.
          As to interpretation – it’s the writer’s job to make sure what he says has the best chance of eliciting the interpretation he was hoping for if that’s what he wants, rather than wanting to leave his message open to interpretation. Anyway, you know and I know that we can write the same thing 20 different times with or without additional interpretation and explanation, and some readers are always going to refuse to get it, because bottom line is, they don’t think we ought to be writing it.
          I’m still curious whether cranberry sauce is served hot in the UK ( or maybe his family cooks the raw cranberries in the microwave before letting it cool down for service.)


          • I mean “loser” only in the sense that if blogger A says something that reader B doesn’t care for as a part of interpretation, blogger A gets accused of “overanalyzing,” but if blogger A doesn’t say anything, then she’s not discussing the thing she allegedly should have been, and is “negative.” Whatever. That’s not an actual argument, but rather a move that is meant to end conversation by delegitimating the speaker. It’s a slightly more polite, complex form of ad hominem.

            In the end, as a blogger and a fan, I am free to interpret what I want, how I want to. I am also free to decide how much grief I’m willing to occur at any point for doing so.


            • I didn’t think of the “silence is negative”, as I’ve not received that complaint. I did notice a comment or two on your site complaining that there was little said about the Christmas Message, but something like 80 comments about the Mirror Interview.


              • Le silence restera toujours positif. Car, dans le contexte actuel, donner sa propre opinion ne peut provoquer que des mauvaises interprétations ou que des oppositions.
                Pourtant j’avais trouvé ses voeux très consensuels, à la première lecture. J’ai hâte de passer à 2016.
                Silence will always remain positive. For, in the current context, to give our own opinion, may cause misinterpretations or opposition.
                Yet I found very consensual his vows, at the first reading. I can not wait to go to 2016.
                sorry for grammar and , .


              • Don’t every be sorry for your English grammar here, or for not even bothering, and writing in French. I can figure it out (with a little help). But I don’t want to remain silent because of opposition when I have something to say. I, too, think some good things await us in 2016. Happy New Year.


          • Microwave? Lol nope not how proper cranberry sauce would be made 😊 It certainly involves using a pan 😉and served cooled down unless of course you use cranberry as a component in the gravy you make


            • Good to know Hariclea. LOL. I guess I was “overanalyzing,” when wondering what RA meant by not worrying about leaving the cranberries in the microwave in his Christmas message.


          • I interpreted that part as zapping the cranberry sauce and having the berries explode all over the inside of the microwave, like refried beans. I don’t know if that is possible, but it made me smile to picture it.


            • I don’t know what they would be doing in the microwave, but, I think you’re right – if uncovered, cranberries probably would make a mess in the microwave, since they do burst.


    • Merry Christmas, Obscura. I hope your daughter’s concert went well, and that your son rocked the building if he sang for your community over the holidays. I think we see this message in the same light. My punctuation and typos are also imperfect, but I think that a public figure,publishing such a long piece for a wide audience, should have spent a little more time proofreading – or showing it to someone else first. The mistakes, which were just careless and not because of ignorance, don’t diminish the overall meaning of the letter, but they do distract. Moreover, I think it’s even a little inside joke for the fandom when he screws up his punctuation. As to the content, I think if he had spent more time composing, he would have expressed himself more clearly, but overall, I think we all got the message.


  8. I can’t imagine that Richard has the time or inclination to read what has been written about him in the blogs, but at the same time, it seems from some of the things he writes that he has an awareness of things that have been said. Perhaps a publicist summarizes for him. And who knows how he feels about it, but he does seem to be sufficiently secure and self aware that he can handle it. I got the sense from some of this message that he was just trying to explain himself. Even if he doesn’t get it right all the time, there is a sincerity and thoughtfulness in Richard’s actions that I appreciate.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We can’t know what he actually reads, but it has seemed at times that he knew something of what was going on – whether this is from blogs or Twitter, I don’t know. Whether he discovers it himself or from others, I also don’t know. But I agree, there is some awareness on his part.


  9. I read a LOT of writing – both formal and informal – by actors. Richard’s messages read like the majority of actors I’ve ever worked with.

    They don’t think in the same formal grammatical structures that writers and readers do. They dash off what they hear in their heads using punctuation in a very different ways than it is intended to be used. It’s almost like reading Shakespeare’s punctuation or the punctuation of the Restoration dramatists, which told the actor where to breathe, how to pace, how long to pause, and how to send the delivery out of the mouth. The modern definitions and uses of written punctuation are not an actor’s forte. They use those marks so differently when they interpret a script for reading aloud, and most of them have had an indifferent linguistic education.

    Also, the ambiguities in their word choices are usually about expressing their feelings first rather than logic or clarity. Until they’re forced to get specific, their language is incredibly “woo woo” or inexact. So I tend to read anything he writes – tweet, letter, or otherwise – as though he were speaking it out loud after his second glass of wine. It works better that way.

    That having been said. . . Yeah, he’d probably do well to have a copy editor give it a once over with some red ink. It would probably cost him about $40.00 and would take an hour. I volunteer as tribute.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Perry Writes About Richard Armitage’s 2nd Annual Cybersmile Post | Armitage Agonistes

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