Sunday, January 10, 2010

Power of Communities: Cranford, Lars and the Real Girl and of course, Richard Armitage

What makes a community? I think all you need is a bunch of people with something in common. There will be a kinship between community members, and an exclusivity that non-members will notice. I think you see where this is going.

Cranford is a community love affair. It’s a mini-series set in the 1840s with funny endearing characters in a close-kit small town where nothing much happens. They take their community very seriously, and through strict adherence to customs and traditions they’ve preserved it against harmful external influences.  

New neighbours! 

Cranford sees itself as a place unlike others, and the townsfolk remark clear differences when there are newcomers. Dr Harrison and other newbie Cranfordians are insensitive to the social blunders they make and the damage they cause all because they don’t ‘speak the language’ ie haven’t learnt the rules.  

 Simon Woods as Dr Harrison  
It’s Mr Bingley from Pride and Prejudice 2005 all grown up and not a redhead

The community has a strong sense of identity and protects itself from any great threats such as the all-consuming harbinger of doom, the Railway. It will bring the masses, ie criminals and people who won’t conform to Cranford rules. Do you 'belong' to a geographical community? Sometimes think I do: when teasing people from more southern states about their bad weather, or when I meet an Aussie while travelling overseas.   

Not so much with my local community. The house next door had a drug-related triple shooting, and since then I’ve kept a distance. I’ve never taken part in any kind of community protest, but wish something could have been done to prevent the glut of high rise apartments in my suburb. Do you feel a part of your local community, or do you just wish you were? 

Lars and the Real Girl
I saw Lars and the Real Girl yesterday, and was so touched my eyes watered for about half the movie - don’t laugh! It could happen to you. At first this movie doesn’t seem to have much to do with communities. A chronically shy guy named Lars (played by Ryan Gosling) buys a life-size doll, calls her Bianca and thinks she's a real person. Wait for it…

 Lars translates the church sermon to her since she doesn't speak much English yet.

He introduces his ‘girlfriend’ to his relatives, and when the local doctor/psychologist prescribes that the doll is a necessary crutch to help Lars function while his emotional or mental wound heals, they play along. More than that, Lars lives in a small isolated town, and after everyone’s had their obligatory awkward moment or sex joke, they ALL play along. 

 Yes, they bathe her too

It’s so touching how much the town bends over backwards to integrate Bianca into their lives as if she actually is a Real Girl. The doll -in concept- is an empty slate on which you can write anything, and through her, Lars is able to safely project all his affection, voice his fears and doubts. For the town, the doll is their only way of showing they care for shy Lars since there's no other way to help him. Wouldn't it be great if we could display our eccentricities as bravely as Lars and be loved all the more for it? 

Richard Armitage
I just realised what a long and ambitious post this has become. Too…many…issues. Is anyone still reading? If you are, then know this: I think I’m weird too. Not life-size doll weird! But in real life I have quirks. At minimum my latest obsession with Richard Armitage. Thank goodness for the internet where I’ve found a place of safety to gush and goo where no-one will know!  

I don’t want to draw a strong parallel between Lars’ doll and Richard Armitage ok, but the man/his work is a focal point around which fanvid, fanfic and blogging communities have developed. Take a look at the some of the forums, how many people logged on in the past 24 hours? Amazing huh? Thanks to Mulubinba I discovered there was an IMDB forum too. What other forms does RA appreciation take on that I don’t know of yet?  

Some youtube vid surfaced where RA walked a few metres on the red carpet at a public event, and look what happened! – Nat that’s a record number of comments. I feel like a bloodhound whenever there’s new footage of him, but once viewed I don’t really think more on it. I’m more interested in how other people react. For a figure most of us have never met, we feel we know him a little (maybe that's just me), care about whether he’s had a good feed over Christmas, whether he’s got anyone to share the holidays with.  

I’m not sure which one causes more comments, Richard as himself or in character, but his interviews and public appearances never fail to bring on chatter spikes. The larger forums have moderators, on small sites anything goes. With so many RA websites out there, you can pick your poison and feel at home. About that footage, personally I’d love RA to have a significant other since I've heard acting is a lonely business. I don’t care who it is but she’ll need a thick skin. Good luck to the blogger with her 5 year plan to nab him and have his babies. 



Nat at RA FanBlog said...

I do feel like I belong to a few communities.

I live in a small town. Unlike Cranford, the railway has already made its way through and nobody comes to call between the hours of 1-3. (Or whatever time frame that was...) But living in a small town, I can't help but feel like I'm a part of the community. When I drive down the road, everyone waves, whether they know us or not. I can't go to the grocery store without bumping into tons of familiar faces who want to chat. If they don't know me, they know someone in my family, like my mom who is a kindergarten teacher at one of the 3 elementary schools, or one of my in-laws. It doesn't help that my baby sister (who looks just like me) was crowned the Homecoming Queen this year. People stop and talk to me thinking I'm her or vica versa. Anyway- you can see the picture I'm painting... it's hard NOT to feel invovled in a community if it's small. I love it. My husband and I moved away to "the big city" for a few years and after we had son #1, moved back to our home town to raise our family. :)

The other community I've recently discovered like you- the online RA world. Wow, it's crazy, but fun! Getting to know so many people from around the world (like your lovely Aussie self) makes the world feel a bit smaller. It reminds me of my local Wal-Mart... I can't visit your blog or forums without "bumping into" several of the same people in the RA community. Love it!

Woah, sorry for being so long-winded! :)

Meg said...

Lars and the Real Girl was a lovely, touching film. I really enjoyed it, and felt, as you, that the sense of community portrayed was wonderful.

I lived in a tiny town in Essex, called Burnham-on-Crouch, for a year--I was the American in town, teaching in the local high school. After the initial shock and surprise that Burnham had it's very own American (!), I became part of the town's atmosphere. I didn't know everyone, but I certainly ran into people all the time and felt like I was a familiar part of everyday life there. I miss that, because I certainly have never felt that way in California.

Starheart said...

Nat your experiences make me want to move someplace more quiet. *Sigh*

Meg, my parents are from tiny towns overseas so visiting my extended family I feel something different. Almost like a celebrity because I'm the closest thing to a foreigner there!

Ricrar said...

I'd grown up in a small town, then worked in a nearby city for awhile...met my DH and we currently live within 25mi of where we both were born.

As for Cranford, it was my sister's gift to me this Christmas....will watch asap and comment here, ragtag.

Hopefully the locusts will soon depart my blog and peace & quiet will again return:)

Nat, you must've set the record for comments to a post in bloggerville:) It certainly is one topic that causes quite a stir in the RA universe.

Starheart said...

I think you'll enjoy Cranford, RiCrAr. It's very different to other period dramas (at least I felt so) in that it's more a sitcom and ensemble piece. Normally I HATE ensemble pieces but this is the exception.

Shockingly my partner liked it. It's the humour...and that's thanks to miss Pole. I liked Mrs Forrester and her big cow too, and Miss Deborah...alright i liked everyone except the absent son.

It doesn't look like the 'locusts' will be gone soon.

Phylly3 said...

I live in a very small town which is rather isolated amongst the lakes, trees and rocks of the Canadian Shield. As a child I knew almost everyone in town but our community is a bit more migratory now. As a result though, I have met people who have either lived in or visited my town or know people that live(d) here all around the world!
Small towns have their short comings but a sense of community is wonderful experience to have.

Ricrar said...

phylly3, is your small town anywhere near Niagara on the Lake? Few yrs ago we drove to the Falls mainly because it's such a scenic drive. A fellow tourist gave us directions to NontheLake - it drips with Victorian charm.

We've also visited the Thousand Island's area - beautiful as well.

A Canadian man is a regular at my political forum - he's more interested in debating US politics than many Americans:)

Oooh, that's right, almost forgot - our last cruise was to News Brunswick...loved it, we walked all over St. John and enjoyed every moment. Especially the carved human figures in the town center...they're really a hoot and great opportunity for amusing photos. I'd sat with an arm wrapped around the older gentleman with cap & glasses for DH's camera session.

Phylly3 said...

There is nothing Victorian anywhere near me! Hahaha! Sad but true. I live in the True North strong and free! Niagara-on-the-Lake is so far south it might as well be in the U.S. Beautiful place though. I would love to visit a winery there.
I have been to St. John NB too and those figures really are a hoot!
I live 2 hours away from the Trans-Canada Hwy. and no one ever passes through my town because it is the end of the road.
I am going to check out your political page!

Mulubinba said...

I almost bought Cranford while we were in Sydney with the two ABC gift cards I got for Christmas. I settled for a boxed set of Bronte adaptations as well as Sense and Sensibility and Northanger Abbey. To complete my spending spree I bought the latest Time Team DVD.

As far as community is concerned, I live in the 6th largest city in Australia. My username is the aboriginal name for our city. While it is large, it is also "small". It is great when everything is rosy but if things go wrong or there is some scandal, the whole community seems to know about it! I don't go to the supermarket anymore with my OH as he keeps getting accosted by people who go to him as a Dr even when he is off duty. (Best to leave him at home and let him unpack!!). I guess this experience gives me a tiny taste of what RA must have to go through every time he goes out in public. His poor partner would have to have the patience of a saint not to mention a thick skin.

I became very close to two posters who I met two years ago over at IMDB and we have formed a friendship over the internet and across the miles. I feel grateful that I am getting to know all my fellow bloggers and visitors to the blog. The RA blogging community is relatively new but so much fun to be part of. I feel truly blessed to have met so many lovely people who are part of the community that appreciates the work RA does.

Starheart said...

Mulubinba Oooh Bronte adaptions? Does it have the latest Wuthering heights adaption that screened late last year? I can only imagine what you think of Heathcliffe considering your rumination on Guy.

I've driven past our 6th largest city and liked it, though i couldn't stay long enough to see more than surfies and friendly shopkeepers through the car window.