Posts tagged with television
She was a 90s riot grrrl, hung out with Kurt Cobain, and had a music blog on NPR. She worked briefly at an ad agency (Portland-based, of course) before she decided to write comedy; in Portlandia, the IFC sketch comedy series she co-created — now wrapping up its third season — she plays a feminist bookstore owner, new age helicopter mom, kinky greaser,
newspaperblog editor, and, of course, herself (alongside creative partner Fred Armisen). Now she’s got a new band, Wild Flag. And a shitload of blogs devoted to her every move.
In real life, though, Carrie Brownstein isn’t quite so different from the fans who adore her. She once cried because she loved Madonna. She had a crush on Danny from New Kids on the Block. She wrote fan letters and plastered rock posters on her teenage bedroom wall. Portlandia, she says, is like its own version of a fan ballad — an ode to the endearing absurdities of her Pacific Northwest home. On the eve of tomorrow’s season finale, Brownstein talks fandom, emoticons, and what was so great about the 90s.
Cumberbitches: Women Who Love Benedict Cumberbatch
This story was produced in partnership with The Daily Beast.
“Throw your boobs in the air if you want some cumberlovin.”
— Cumberbitches, October 8, 2010
Do any of those words make sense to you? They might, if you’re among the thousands of members of “the most glorious and elusive society" devoted to the appreciation of the "high cheekboned, blue eyed sexbomb" that is Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch, star of the BBC series Sherlock. That “society” is the legion of inordinately dedicated fans of Cumberbatch, a group who call themselves “Cumberbitches” — launching a Twitter profile, Facebook page, Pinterest handle, and, yes, countless Tumblrs, in honor of their beloved star.
Cumberbitch adoration is as hyperbolic as it is earnest. He’s “the biggest thing since Jesus,” writes Alexandra Sokoloff, author of the bestselling crime thriller Huntress Moon. On ”Cumberbitch Problems,” young women riff about what plagues them. (Problem No. 99: Having to rewind interviews because you always squeal when he first speaks. Problem 50: Not knowing what hair color you prefer on a man, because Benedict has had them all.) One Tumblr user, who calls herself Cumberqueen, calls Cumberbatch “a chunk of raw ginger,” followed by an endless series of animated GIFs about his appeal. And indeed, the GIF seems to be the mode of choice for Cumberbatch worship, capturing, on incessant repeat, his most dashing smiles, amid screams of “OVARIES EXPLODING!!” (Tumblr-speak for “ohmigod this guy is hot”).
Hyper-enthusiastic fanbases of other actors have been launching Tumblrs, websites, and Twitter accounts for some time. Oscar-nominated heartthrob Ryan Gosling inspired the “Hey Girl” meme (along with its feminist counterpart), while vaunted Mad Men star Jon Hamm was the debonair catalyst for Emotions with Jon Hamm and Sad Don Draper. But there is a glaring difference between the myriad of internet fan clubs devoted to Cumberbatch and those centered around hunky Hollywood A-listers: Cumberbatch isn’t really that famous. And so, the plethora of web shrines aside, the question likely lingering among most of uninitiated is: Who is this guy?
Benedict Cumberbatch is a 36-year-old British stage and screen actor. His star has been steadily rising across the pond over the past decade — thanks to his performance as Stephen Hawking in the BBC telefilm Hawking, as the leads in the hit miniseries To the Ends of the Earth and The Last Enemy, as well as supporting roles in films including Atonement, The Other Boleyn Girl, and War Horse. But it’s his role as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock, which began airing on PBS in 2010, that’s served as Cumberbatche’s American breakout — complete with the kind of devotion typically reserved for boy bands and Biebers.
In Sherlock, Cumberbatch reconceives Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s oft-portrayed sleuth icon as a modern-day technophile, supplementing his “elementary” skills of deduction with email, texting, GPS, and laptops. With his gangly frame, crisp accent, piercing eyes, and unruly mop of curls, the role fits Cumberbatch like a herringbone deerstalker hat. His show’s second season averaged more viewers than Mad Men. He was nominated for an Emmy. As the series became more successful, the Cumberbitches (and their bevy of tongue-in-cheek memes) were born.
Fans of Cumberbatch all have their own opinions on what it is about him that sparks such intense obsession — unusually intense for a British actor in America who doesn’t star in a film called Twilight or Harry Potter.
“He very much comes across as a quintessential gentleman in the way that other actors don’t exactly,” says Naomi Roper, owner and creator of the benedictcumberbatch.co.uk. “His innate Britishness appeals to people.”
Sokoloff is less coy about what underlies the attraction. “It’s a true physiological reaction,” she says. “It’s very sexual. College kids are as loopy about him as women in their 60s.” That he doesn’t share George Clooney’s rugged handsomeness or Brad Pitt’s chiseled features doesn’t matter — it’s all part of his appeal. “There’s a cachet to being a nerd these days,” Sokoloff says. And Cumberbatch’s most unusual of names? It only helps. “We know what he must’ve gone through with that nerdy name, and now that he’s come out of it,”says Sokoloff. “It’s Revenge of the Nerds and Revenge of the Geeks.”
The intensity of Cumberbatch’s fanbase can, in a large part, be attributed to its cult nature, with each person taking ownership of “discovering” him. (Starring in a BBC series that airs on PBS hardly guarantees mainstream fame, after all.) Yet while Cumberbitches may claim they don’t take themselves too seriously — “The silliness is part of the phenomenon,” says Sokoloff — they remain territorial about their fandom. Some disagree about the title “Cumberbitch.” (“There are other names I prefer, like Cumberbunnies or Benaddicts,” says Roper.) Others simply fight over him like schoolgirls. “People don’t like to share him, and they get in catfights about it,” Sokoloff continues, recalling the nasty responses she received after writing her own article praising Cumberbatch.
As befalls any proper web movement and meme, the Cumberbitches — and their fantasy paramour — are the subject of their own backlash. On Livejournal’s Oh No They Didn’t gossip site, the actor makes the list of “Most Controversially Attractive Celebs,” while posts snark about his following with headlines like “Benedict Has Himself a New Girlfriend, Somehow Tumblr Has Not Had a Meltdown Yet” and “Another Wafflecrisp Cumberc*nt Post.” The site published an item called “Bendydick Cumberslut Calls Friend and Former Castmate Jonny Lee Miller a Sellout” after Cumberbatch made disparaging comments against CBS’s new Sherlock Holmes drama, Elementary, which stars Miller. (Miller and Cumberbatch had just wrapped an intense, critically lauded run swapping roles as the Creature and Dr. Frankenstein in the Royal National Theatre production of Frankenstein.)
You can imagine the Cumberbitch response these attacks elicit — and yet, perhaps Cumberbatch himself is the best comeback yet. Yes, he may be “controversially attractive,” but the man is set to play the Necromancer in the Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, and star opposite Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in an adaptation of Tony-winning play August: Osage County. His name is being bandied about as the villain in the next James Bond film, and as Julian Assange in a planned biopic.
As for what the man himself thinks about it all? Well, he’s flattered. “I wish my 15-year-old self had known about my allure to the opposite sex!” he told In Style. Of course, in typical icon fashion, Cumberbatch exhibits a shrewd concern for the cultural responsibility of the “Cumberbitch” term (a feminist Ryan Gosling in the making?). “It’s flattering, though I worry about what it says for feminism,” he has said. His advice? “Cumberbabes might be better.”
Cumberbitches: Hold onto your ovaries.
How Recappers Re-Invented TV Culture
"I hated tonight’s episode of Mad Men, but I’ll probably read something on the Internet tomorrow that will change my mind.”
So IM’d my girlfriend, and she’s not alone. Over the last decade — but especially its latter half — entertainment sites hired scores of writers tasked with the seemingly enviable responsibility of watching TV and writing about it online. TV criticism at a micro, episodic level has exploded, with content ranging from utilitarian descriptions designed to fill in those who missed last night’s episode to fanciful diversions into absurd fan-fiction and searing cultural criticism. We call it “recapping,” and it’s one of the most culturally potent forms of art criticism of our time.