Sunday, February 10, 2013

On Cumberbatch-Hate

http://www.tjwaldorf.com/
My friend Jordyn sent me a link on Twitter today, leading to a blog that...well, really bothered me. I've been debating about whether to hyperlink it as it's a blog on Tumblr and the last time I did that, the blog traced the traffic going from my blog to theirs and it didn't end well. Albeit, that was a personal blog and I don't consider this particular one personal, but I would rather not start any massive battles out here, because I am a peasant and I will not win. However, this is my opinion, I'm sharing it with the internet, and I am responsible for the reaction it receives. So, I will link to the blog and you can take a look at if you want, but I am warning that it is my intent is to be critical. I don't mean to give the blog negative attention but I feel like if I don't source where I'm coming from, I'm not being honest with myself and showing that I'm willing to take criticism for it. The creators of the blog I refer to are certainly open and prepared to take such critique and, while I'm doing it on this platform rather than actually replying to their blog, I at least don't want to obscure the connections between these two pages. Let's hope this works, because my intent is not to point fingers or judge or anything; I just want to talk about this blog as I see and think about it.

So, without further ado and further meta-analysis, there's a blog (seemingly fairly new) called cumberbatch-hate.tumblr.com. Now, I am well aware that the Sherlock fandom is not exactly the most-liked fandom in the world (I happen to follow someone on Tumblr who really has nothing nice to say about them and it's interesting to see those posts intermixed with the Sherlock fan blogs). I also know that people don't always have nice things to say about Martin Freeman. And I know that some people don't like Benedict Cumberbatch (thought I've never heard of anything beyond superficial "why do people think he's attractive" dislike or because he's "posh"). However, this blog does something fundamentally different - they actually dislike Cumberbatch as a person.

Here's their about section:


So it's not really hate; it's extreme dislike. Even though this wasn't the first thing I saw on this blog, it sort of sums up my media reaction. This isn't like the Martin Freeman hate blog I came across a while back where they just didn't like him because they thought he was overweight and not as good-looking as Cumberbatch. This is... different. This is... thoughtful.

Here's the main post I found that they've written so far (it seems their blog is pretty new and, also, the theme doesn't work well with my internet browser so I can only see posts on their main page and tags instead of being able to go through multiple pages; just an FYI):


This is a real punch to the gut, mainly because I'm so used to seeing such positive things about Cumberbatch that coming across this is really jarring. Once I get past the jarring bit, I feel kind of angry. But now that I've read this a few times, I'd like to work through why this made me angry.

Generally, I don't like it when people talk bad about others on the internet. However, I do it myself, so this is interesting. I mean, I don't like the perpetual need to criticize people all the time in social media. Nearly half the stories I hear about celebrities these days involve allegations or disputes or something like that. But I have done my fair share of lambasting in the past, so let's just consider this reaction of mine hypocritical.

Secondly, I don't like the attitude towards the fans. Yes, I know the Sherlock fandom isn't perfect, but pinpointing less intelligent fans as the ones to get upset and raging just seems a bit backhanded. Another post talks about the fandom as a really negative source of energy which I find rather unfair - sure, Sherlockians do strange things but representing an entire fandom on just some of their actions is unfair. But, considering I have also made this mistake in the past, I'm not going to be belabor this. Have I shown undue hostility towards the Sherlock fandom in the past? Yes. Point invalidated.

Third, I am confused by the interpretation of Cumberbatch's words. Especially the whole "I've punched well above my weight" line. I guess I never took this line from an interview (which I remember reading but can't recall which one it was or find now) as referring to anything sexual, but the rest of the internet sure did. And now it's being interpreted as demeaning.

That's what all of this really rests on - interpretation. I can't speak for the bloggers but I don't personally know Mr. Cumberbatch, so everything I think about him is solely my opinion. The bloggers over at Cumberbatch-hate state the exact same thing:
They even recognize his skill as an actor but state they have the right to criticize, just as his fans have the right to defend:

It's like the longer I look at this blog, the more it becomes this little mind ninja, intent on chopping through my preconceived ideas and change the lens through which I've read every interview with Benedict Cumberbatch ever. And, in all honesty, it sucks. I really, really, really want to believe he is a nice, lovely person. But I also know that people are not perfect. My friend Emma and I decided that maybe we should open an F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum in St. Paul (because there isn't one here, despite it being his birthplace) and a classmate of Emma's frowned upon it because Fitzgerald was allegedly anti-Semitic. But then so were a lot of people in the 1920s. Realistically, all people have flaws (some flaws being worse than others). Of course, being a fan of someone doesn't always make it easy to deal with someone's flaws. It's a constant balance of trying to deal with a sort of cognitive dissonance that appears in your brain, either in overlooking their faults or finding ways to accept them or by changing your opinion about them.

http://221b-bakers-st.tumblr.com
However, this is still all about opinion and interpretation. I'm not utterly convinced that Cumberbatch's comments should be taken this way. But I do think these bloggers have a point - everything we know about celebrities is so mediated - through interviews (whether in print or on video), through quotes and comments, through their roles, through other actors/directors/friends/etc. What we know about them is all based on opinion and our interpretations. Honestly, that terrifies me more than anything that anyone could say about a person. We feel we know people through how we see them on TV and, because we live in a world that doubts people's words and sincerity, especially when seemingly good people do not-so good things (I am still struggling with Lance Armstrong's whole steroid usage thing. I thought we'd moved past this whole "all of my sport heroes used 'roids" thing when all of my favorite baseball players fessed up but I guess this is still going to keep happening). Maybe it all goes back to the whole "you should never meet your heroes" mantra, that maybe you ideas of people will never match how they actually are (I think I'm paraphrasing a John Green quote from Paper Towns here).

I guess the reason I felt the need to write this post rather than just sloughing all this off like I would with most hate posts I find on the internet is that this is different than other hate. Sure, I don't like the rhetoric of it and the treatment of fans, but I'm finding it hard to argue against because... well, it's all based on opinion. And an argument based on that could span 'til the end of time. Really, it just comes down to the fact that opinions differ. And while generally I like difference, this is still difficult. In a perfect world, things would be like this:

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lug7war0zi1r4b08ro1_500.gif
But unfortunately it's not that simple. So things end up more like this:

http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/calvin_arguing.png
But this isn't even an argument. I mean, it could be, but I don't feel compelled to treat it as such. It's a difference of opinion. And if feels weird. Having that picture of Cumberbatch up there makes it weirder. Maybe I'll have a stronger opinion about this blog later and feel more compelled to argue about it. For now, I have to accept that things are really a matter of interpretation and words are difficult. It's hard to get a grasp of what someone is saying when all you have to go off of are printed words. (Oh, irony of ironies that this is the medium I choose to communicate by.) At this point, I'm just more interested why the creators decided to make a blog about this. But the again, it's probably for the same reasons I created a blog - to share ideas with people and make them aware of ideas that maybe they wouldn't be otherwise, even if it draws criticism. I sort of admire the bloggers for having the courage to create this blog because, while I don't like the premise of creating a blog to say dislikable things about someone, it isn't easy to write when what you're talking about is likely to draw controversy. I don't like haters, but this isn't same as other internet haters and that makes it far more difficult to deal with. There's reason and self-reflection involved. And when arguments that are posed with these qualities, they're hard to shake off. I can see where the bloggers are coming from with their statements and that makes it difficult to ignore.

After all of this, I've still reached a really uneasy end to this post. I don't like this blog and I likely won't change my opinion of Cumberbatch. But it does give me a lot to mull over and reconsider. This is why differing opinions exist, even if we don't like them. Because otherwise we'd all agree and be the same and... well, you know where this is going. Hegemony is boring. It's our differences in opinion and belief that make the world interesting - even when it does make life a lot more difficult.


http://us.123rf.com

10 comments:

  1. It would be so scary to meet Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston or even any one that is my idol and have them be a huge douche. But it is true that no one is perfect, we all have our faults. Actors are that in the end, actors. Of course they may not always be acting, but we don't know what they're really like and how we see them in their interviews and in their films may not be the real them. And that is the scariest thing.
    Once again great post! :)

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    1. Thank you! And agreed, I would be absolutely crushed if all of my idols turn out to be really dislikable. I try to be wary and remind myself that celebrities are not always the way I might believe them to be but the blog I referenced really asked me to reconsider how I think about my favorite actors. Interesting to have this all come after reading Henry V for class and talking a lot about leaders acting like... well, actors and how they use words to their advantage. Lots more I could say about this, but I'm planning to put that in another post.

      Thanks again for reading!

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    2. I met Tom, and he was the kindest, most appreciative person you could imagine. It was 6am and after a long day shooting, and he still took the time and was nothing but thankful. I have never met Benedict, but I have read that though he may be similarly minded, his actions may not show it, as he is a bit more introverted than Tom. He still appreciates his fans and has said so before. Being a bit weirded out by throngs of people worshipping you is human, not dickish.

      That being said, the people who made that blog sound like they are just bitter and jealous. I am normally not one to pull the 'jealousy' card, but the shit they say literally boils down to 'I hate how the fans act' and 'we've interpreted this completely innocuous thing to fit our preconceived notions despite it being flagrantly off-base'.

      Case in point :

      'No, we’ve never met Benedict, but just because someone is well-mannered when around strangers does not make them a nice person, and does not mean they like you. We’ll give him that, he does have manners and is polite to fans, but that doesn’t make him perfect, and we’re sort of sick of hearing from people how perfect he is all. the. time. When he really is far from it. Every video we watch on youtube about him, in the comments section it’s always something about “I love him, he’s so perfect, I would make love to his voice”, it must be so embarrassing for him.. and I think it makes him resent his fans, and fear them. '

      They essentially just admitted that they hate him because of how much other people love him. They are the equivalent of teenaged morons getting pissy because their 'underground' band is suddenly popular, and they resent that. Every response they posted just solidified more the absolute ridiculousness of their 'arguments', and the fact that nothing they've said holds merit or is worth a second thought.

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  2. I get what you say about everyone being entitled to their opinions and that yes, it is nice sometimes to have such discussions out in the open. But consider this, you and I are most likely never going to meet Benedict Cumberbatch, probably never even get too influenced by him other than watching a lot of his interesting films. Benedict Cumberbatch is not losing anything when someone writes a rather half-cooked theory on why they hate him. But look at how much it has affected us. Yes, meeting our idols will never be pleasant as long as they are actors and celebrities because we always view them from our perceptions and biases. In the end, isn't that the scariest part? Your whole media and its effects, that we are so vainly trying to defend a person whom we have never met and we can only pity the fools who actually think they hate him, while of course we all know they are obsessed with him!

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    1. Hi! Thanks for reading and for your differing perspective! It's given me a lot to think about.

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  3. That's why I'd rather love him for his excellent work from a distance & I really don't want to meet him..

    Actors are just human beings..I am sure he's nice but at the end of the day-he's not somebody I personally know..People who hate him are just plain jealous of his success..It's always the people who are less successful that are always such "haters"..All successful people (irregardless of their profession) have their haters..But to put up a "hate" blog?Those women should get a life..Who cares who Benedict dates?Who cares whether he prefers blondes or brunettes?It's sickening to judge somebody WITHOUT knowing them..I like Sherlock & I enjoy his acting..He's handsome,yes..Full stop..He's not anybody's property..And he doesn't owe his fans anything except keeping up his excellent work as always..Appreciate him for the actor he is..Putting up blogs about "his personality"...Seriously??

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  4. What I find immensely disconcerting about that blog is the fact that somebody out there got worked up enough about someone they don't actually know to create a blog solely to the purpose of bashing that person. Fandom always means projecting ideals on someone who we know so little about that in our mind they can be perfect. I think this is a kind of natural need in all of us; we all have an idea of the perfect guy (or woman) and it's just easier to dream about it if we have a face for it. So while "positive" fans know just as little about their object and assume just as much, I find it rather disturbing that people should feel such a passionate need to assume bad things about someone. And then to publish them!
    After all, he's a real person. As such, he obviously isn't the perfect man a lot of fans make him out to be, but it is just as improbable that he's some kind of monster. And no matter what he's really like, he does not deserve to read such hateful things about him in a public space. Nobody does. It is just cruel. I just imagine if I read such stuff about myself on the Internet, how awful I'd feel. So even if, by some chance, they got it right and he was an asshole - which none of us will ever know - to create such a blog reveals more bad stuff about themselves than they could ever believably say about anyone else.

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    1. You wonderfully express what I really found problematic about the blog. Going out of one's way to express such negative opinions really gets to me. Thank you for reading!

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  5. I stumbled upon this because I had a few friends talking ill of Mr. Cumberbatch. I'm a male fan that appreciates Benedict simply for his considerable acting ability. Sure, he's a reasonably attractive guy, I'm comfortable enough with my sexuality to say that, but I think he's a brilliant actor, and seems to be a pretty decent person in his interviews. He doesn't come across as overly cocky or anything.He does seem to be a very likeable person.
    Now about the blog.I can't really argue the second point that the Benedict Hate blog makes, other than that I think they're trying to find meaning where there probably isn't a deeper meaning. People look for things to be offended by, and anytime there's somebody that seems to be a genuinely nice person, there will always be member of the public seeking to assassinate said actor/actress's character. What I take issue with is points number one and three.
    Point #1 about Benedict being dicky towards his fans: They don't list a single example of this actually happening. It's purely conjecture. It sounds paranoid, actually. "He's nice to your face, but he's probably talking about you behind your back." That is Junior High logic. Does he get tired of his fans sometimes? I think EVERY celebrity might hit that wall, it's got to be a pretty trying and tiresome thing to go through. Still, he poses for pictures, signs autographs, and shakes hands. What else do they expect from him? A personalized phone call followed by a dinner date? I'm sure it can get crazy, but unless they can list a specific example of their case, it is STRICTLY an opinion, and one based on jealousy and/or paranoia, most likely.
    Point #3: He's selling out? He gets paid to act. That's his job. That's like saying "hey, that band just released an album, and they're already releasing another one? SELL OUTS!!!" It's what he enjoys doing, he obviously likes the work, and likes to stay busy. And the remark about him doing at as a "vain attempt to find a mummy for his unborn child" is a cheap, baseless pot shot that shows that the authors of the blog are simply jealous. Plain and simple. The whole blog reeks of schoolyard mentality, with basically no proof, or logic to stand on.
    I understand that reading negative things about a favorite actor/celebrity who seems to be a pretty decent person can be emotionally rattling, but don't let it change your opinion of him, at least in this case. They truly don't showmany basis for their claims. Could Benedict be these things? Absolutely. Read in the Bible where Jesus basically called a woman a dog, Matthew 15:25,26. Even Jesus was a human, and was capable of saying mean things. Now, I'm not comparing Benedict Cumberbatch to Jesus, it's just an example to prove my point. That blog is childish, and I would pay it no mind.

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  6. I stumbled upon this after I got curious why Tumblr suddenly did a 180 on their Benedict Cumberbatch worship. I was a fan for a while, but then hiatus kicked in and Sherlock faded into the background static. I've actually been looking for reasons why the sudden change of attitude, and so far I've only seen two blogs that give concrete answers (Your Fave Is Problematic comes to mind). Some hate blogs are actually love blogs or purposefully confusing.

    Personally the most valid points are the classism and sexism, as pointed out on Your Fave Is Problematic. I don't remember what they were exactly, but they were a bit cringy.
    The other complaints seem dependent on interpretation. The one about hating his fans, for instance. I've read an account of a person and their negative experience with Benedict Cumberbatch, and it seemed a lot like a case of introversion. Introverts expend energy in social situations, and human interaction leaves them drained. That, plus the racy fanfictions and fanart some fans push on him, and you're bound to have a bad day in public eventually.

    Lastly, Tumblr's trust values have plummeted immensely lately, with their tendency to witch hunt and little to no space given for people to make mistakes. Just recently, they chased Atesh Yurdakul, more known as the Xkit guy, out of Tumblr due to one anon comment about him committing sexual assault on a minor, without proof; nobody else came forward about anything either. Despite Atesh doing heavy coding on a multimillion dollar site for free, and always being right on top of almost every complaint Tumblr has with the site, they were willing to harrass him enough for him to stop working on Xkit. They also don't consider that the people they're witch hunting may be minors. As many have already pointed out, even the witch hunters themselves weren't born spouting feminist theory, and have most likely made mistakes when they were 13 too.

    All in all, while I don't reject the possibility of Benedict Cumberbatch not being the perfect role model, I take Tumblr's accusations against him with a grain of salt. In the end, we're all problematic; what's important is that we learn from our mistakes and continue to grow as people. Here's hoping Benedict Cumberbatch does the same.

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