The Seemingly Other-Worldly and Smoldering Wharmitage

February 2013 Silmarien Szilagyi

No, that's not the title of a Dr. Seuss book. No, I've not completely gone off the deep end...yet. Yes, the title is less silly than it appears. And yes, this preamble will come to an end, just not yet. You see, the more I interacted with my fellow graduate students, the more I realized how dull most of them were. They didn't share my penchant for science-fiction and fantasy, and I didn't share their single-minded focus on their research theses. So I dove ever deeper into the things I liked in an effort to shake off the day-to-day monotony of adulthood in the real world. There were many things that caught and held my interest in the past few months, but none more so than Wharmitage--the name with which my current fandom's been christened. The oblivious and unfortunate participants are Ben Whishaw and Richard Armitage. (To be clear, in case your mind's not as wonky as mine, Whishaw + Armitage = Wharmitage.) See? I told you the title had its purpose.

Ben Whishaw is the seemingly other-worldly, sprite-like half of Wharmitage. His unruly, dark hair rests precariously on his head. His jaw line--and his bone structure in general--is so defined that, as an osteologist, I often marvel at it. His leaf-green eyes glint with an amused and coy twinkle, as if he were privy to a profound secret to which others are not. And perhaps he is. Soft-spoken and willowy, what Whishaw lacks in physical prowess, he makes up for with a staggering talent for acting. He waltzes from role to role, embodying the character so completely that Whishaw-the-person, Whishaw-the-actor disappears, and all that's left is this beautiful almost-reality. One is convinced that he really is a computer genius (Q in Skyfall), the Romantic poet John Keats (Bright Star), Shakespeare's Richard II (Hollow Crown), a tormented though ambitious pianist (Robert Frobisher in Cloud Atlas), or a plucky journalist from the 1950s (Freddie Lyon in The Hour). Truly, he's the most believable actor I've had the fortune of watching on screen. Every movement, every glance, every flicker of green eyes has a purpose to further the illusion that he is that character. And it's all done very gracefully and subtly, because that's who Whishaw is--a gentle and unassuming person, yet one who's managed to captivate just about every colleague, critic, journalist, and viewer with his acting. Though all his roles are ultimately tragic, and I experience a fair amount of emotion, his performances nevertheless leave me fulfilled and mesmerized. Giddy, too, because I feel as though I'm closer to knowing the secret that makes his eyes sparkle.

But Ben Whishaw's not the only British actor who's captured my fancy. Richard Armitage is the smoldering half of Wharmitage. I'm sure many of you know him as Thorin Oakenshield, the dwarf King under the Mountain, but a certain editor-in-chief and I know him better as King of the Smolder. Infinitely catchier than King under the Mountain, no?, though Thorin certainly has his merits. For one, he definitely works the smolder to his advantage. For another, he's one of only two attractive dwarves, who by all rights should not be remotely handsome. And yes, he's fierce, heroic, and majestic. But let's discuss the smolder in more detail. With his icy-blue eyes, a smoldering gaze should really be impossible, because, well, ice + fire = water, not omg-I'm-about-to-swoon. Somehow Armitage manages it, though. And it seems to be his go-to look; I've yet to encounter a character (or photo shoot) that doesn't employ it, which works to his advantage, as he tends to go for the brooding roles. Guy of Gisborne (BBC's Robin Hood) may be the most extreme example of this, but Thorin Oakenshield (The Hobbit), John Thornton (North and South), and Lucas North (Spooks/MI-5) follow closely behind. Then there's Armitage's portrayal of impressionist painter Claude Monet, who is a decidedly more cheerful character, but according to Cassandra Lobiesk, even he smolders.

All of this has led me to one conclusion: Richard Armitage was specifically created to drive women wild. Because frell, he's capable of making me melt, a feat few men have achieved. But before I get too carried away, I want to mention his other talent--acting, because it's really of equal importance. Like Whishaw, Armitage embodies a character, and this is perhaps most evident with Thorin, who The Hobbit director, Peter Jackson, has stated was Armitage's opposite. Again like Whishaw, Armitage is quiet and pensive, and these traits translate into the subtle gestures, movements, and facial expressions--the details that really add the final, beautiful ingredient to his characters' believability.

Ben Whishaw and Richard Armitage--two powerhouses alike in talent but different in physique--have managed to capture and hold my rather fleeting attention, and, I'm sure, the attention of many other females (and males) around the world. Even most critics write about them favorably, which is perhaps a bigger accomplishment. But really, I think the most important thing is that their passion for acting enables them to embrace their roles and touch their audiences. Or maybe that's too deep. Maybe Whishaw and Armitage are just pretty, and that's why fans like them.

Now that I've sufficiently fangirled over Wharmitage, I have enough fortitude to creep back into the dreary real world for a while. I do apologize for this squee-fest--no, I don't really--, but it had to be written. Something as wonderful as "the seemingly other-worldly and smoldering Wharmitage" had to be shared with HOL. In what I hope is an equally smoldering article... Yeah, I'll stop now.