Okay, so I needed a bit of a break. From the NSA, the spying, the bad writers that make questionable arguments. Or so I thought. Went out with a friend to be told about a true gem of journalistic horridness in -surprise, surprise – the UK’s Daily Mail. Should I just have let it go? Perhaps. After all, there are more important things to think about (such as the latest revelations on the NSA’s XKeyscore) and I will be discussing them here very shortly. However, bad articles just irk me, especially when they are also completely ridiculous. And as debunking bad journalism is quickly becoming one of my raisons d’etre, I simply could not keep my fingers off the keyboard this time.
Here is the object of my disdain. And below is my response:
Dear Mr Stevens,
on 2nd August you published an article in the Daily Mail, titled “Sherlock, his crippling insecurities and the mystery of why Benedict Cumberbatch can’t find a wife despite being Britain’s latest superstar”. Wow, I have to say, it’s quite a mouthful, that title. Similarly, if the rest of the article was a dish, it would be a lot to chew on, extremely hard to swallow and might just come right back up again.
You see, I am normally not very interested in the potential personality flaws of any of Britain’s (or anyone else’s) “latest superstar[s].” Except perhaps for Tom Cruise but that’s just because his shenanigans are so outlandish that for some time you just could not look away. Now, here’s a guy begging for attention if ever I saw one.
Be that as it may, I admit that I have a soft spot for Mr Cumberbatch, even though I wouldn’t say I am one of his b****es. Or perhaps I have a soft spot for Sherlock but as you seem to somehow equate the two that’s probably the same difference.
So, being a bit curious, I read your article and now, just between you and me, I would like to ask you question. Are you a bit jealous? Because, you see, I cannot for the life of me, think of a better reason for writing a piece that makes Mr Cumberbatch come across as an emotional imbecile, especially as that piece is based on – what? Your intimate knowledge of what is going on inside Mr Cumberbatch’s head, obtained either by some deep insight that stems from your secret PhD in psychology or, in fact, your even more secret mind-reading superpowers?
Now, you see, if you were a bit jealous, I wouldn’t blame you. After all, you say yourself that “just about every man in the country would eagerly swap places with […] Britain’s newest global star”, not to mention “a sex symbol” (with countless b***es) “who can command multi-million dollar fees from the world’s top film-makers”. Or does the just about in fact exclude you from this? Because, clearly, you cannot wish to be him, seeing as you know how much the poor man must suffer. A man who has world stardom, sex-appeal and wagon-loads of money. Impossible that he, like countless others, should still be single. Obviously, that can’t be because making meaningful relationships is difficult at the best of times and must be even more difficult for someone who cannot even spend at home without being spied on by his peeping-tom neighbours. Clearly, the idea that Mr Cumberbatch, desperate to have a family as he is, would wait for the right partner to come along rather than to just get off with anyone, is preposterous too.
So then it has to be because he is “desperately unsure of himself”, filled with “debilitating self-doubt” that is not only endangering “his progress to career superstardom” but also “his own personal happiness”.
Now, apart from the fact that I cannot see his superstardom waning any time soon (can I throw in Khan, Sherlock, Assange randomly…again?), I am wondering: do you know Mr Cumberbatch really well? Or how come you know so much about him? Like that thing you write about his “see-sawing temperament” that is “is enough to deter any woman from marriage” or the idea that he is “he’s highly cautious, even paranoid, about money” because “he couldn’t bear to spend anything on clothes”.
Okay, so the man has no fashion sense. Do you know what? Neither do I. neither do countless others. I’d suggest many of us don’t really spend a lot of money on clothes because we just can’t be bothered; shopping is such a bore. In your eyes, does that make us neurotic? Would my dislike of shopping call into dispute my status as one of those “independent, career-minded women” you say Mr Cumberbatch “finds attractive” and who, in your view, “seem to be scared off by him”? I see what you’re saying: as every woman should succumb to his sex-appeal, the fact that they don’t must mean that there is something very frighteningly wrong with him.
Perhaps Mr Cumberbatch is simply subject to the same laws of attraction as the rest of us and not everyone has a crush on him, just like he, in turn, probably doesn’t have a crush on every single person he meets, no matter how desperate his is to find a woman.
Still, for the sake of the argument let’s say that the fact that I consider myself very independent but not that career-minded, disqualifies me both as a potential subject of Mr Cumberbatch’s affections and as one of the women who are scared off by him (what an annoying catch-22).
From that perspective, can I propose that his being cautious about money is rather endearing? As, by the way, is the fact that he is clearly still prepared to take smaller jobs in between the big ones. He will certainly forever have a special place in my heart for narrating that little gem of a phone app called the Night Jar, not to mention Neverwhere. Maybe, the man just likes to work. Perhaps, like me, he’d rather not have to succumb to the kind of “raging boredom” that causes one to end up reading questionable articles. Let along the ones about himself in those “gossip columns” he has recently sent “into overdrive”.
Oh dear, could the man actually be enjoying the perks of stardom instead of sitting around pining for the wife he still hasn’t found yet? Could he be taking the kind of advice singles like us often get that we just “need to go out more”? I wouldn’t be surprised. Just because someone would like a family surely doesn’t mean they have to sit around waiting for the stork to bring first the wife then the kid. And exactly how is it “out of character” for anyone to admit a man- (or woman-) crush on a colleague or to accept the honour of taking the role as minister at a friend’s wedding? As he is usually “reticent to the point of mystery about his love life” – except of course when he gushes (to you?) about his despair at being single – clearly admitting to a man-crush on Matt Damon would seem “alarmingly out of character” as it could not possibly be a sign that the man has a sense of humour, wicked or otherwise. Would it have been more “in character” for him to ask for, say, Liv Tyler’s number because he really wants to hang out with her? Oh no, hang on, he’s already done that! Would it then, have been more “in character” if his friends had been a heterosexual couple? Or is it simply that asking for Liv Tyler’s number and officiating at a straight wedding might have been more easily interpreted as further signs of his desperate wish for a wedding of his own?
Be that as it may, you go on to say that “he is a high-intensity boyfriend [who] once cited his father’s tradition of presenting his mother with a red rose every Monday morning as the epitome of romance.” How intensely awful! How awfully intense! Errr….not. Do you know, for all your perfect understanding of the depths of Mr Cumberbatch’s psyche, you seem to have very little understanding of women. Frankly, if my new boyfriend showed how smitten he was with me by presenting me with a rose every morning, I would perhaps not think of it as “the epitome of romance” but certainly as a very good start – fully expecting that as our relationship progressed these regular shows of his affection would slowly subside. You cannot imagine how over the moon I would be if they didn’t, let alone if he had the ferocious chivalry to pick a fight with someone in my honour. Then again, I might be a bit worried if he pulled a Saatchi on some guy by punching him and later playing it off as ‘a light tap on the arm’ and ‘playful’ tiff. Enter a new character: Cumberbatch, the erratic womanizer and “public-school version of the louche comedian Russell Brand”? Now, pulling both the public-school and the Russel Brand cards in one sentence – that’s journalistic genius, that is! How am I ever going to get the images out of my head? I wish you’d just let it stand at how “improbable” that seems but no. You had to go on and launch into an analysis of a little boy’s crush on a friend of his parents. I had various irrational crushes as a child; on my piano teacher, my school teacher, Robin Hood (the one in the Disney film with the foxes, no less) – surely, that doesn’t make me some weird version of Katie Perry?
And obviously, you go on to point out, “the [erratic little] boy” had to be sent to a single-sex school which he was clever enough to win a scholarship to, although he then wasn’t clever enough to get a place at any of the top universities that his peers went on to. Unthinkable that he should have rejected this by choice because he didn’t want to become the next member of the Bullingdon Club. Interesting, isn’t it, that the people who suspect him of having “a chip on his shoulder” probably have a chip of their own because he made a different choice from them?
Inevitably the difficult little boy would then grow into an equally troubled adult, who smokes excessively, has a bit of an eating disorder, is unsure about his work, talks too much, cannot read other people and does not trust himself. Lacking in social skills as he is, obviously he annoys his neighbours, who then spy on him (in retaliation, not because they are simply the kind of unbearable neighbour of which you find so many in London), proving his point that the world is a dark place filled with people who cannot be trusted.
Clearly, behind that “kind and quietly generous” façade Mr Cumberbatch present to his friends, is a deeply troubled soul that constantly “sabotage[s] his own happiness”. Oh dear, the poor man really is beyond help, isn’t he? And if he has no hope left, at 37, of fulfilling his perfectly commonplace ambition of filling his home with “love and children”, then what chance to the rest of us have? How depressing.
I think I am going to mull that over while going for a run now to work off the excess calories I consumed while gulping down your fast-food-chain dish of an article. After that, I think I am going to have a couple of cigarettes and a spoonful of Manuka, just to calm my nerves because my neighbours are playing their music too loudly again. And then, perfectly ordinary 21st century Londoner that I am (fighting too stay slim while waiting for “the one” and having the occasional drinking binge because of an insecurity crisis about my work, being caught completely off-guard on a regular basis by people I cannot read or understand) I think I am going to indulge in a bit of childhood nostalgia by watching the Doctor Who special (unlike Mr Cumberbatch I lack money and resources to convert my flat). You don’t need to be a troubled soul to wish to do that.
What I am definitely going to do is stop talking (which, like Mr Cumberbatch apparently, I do too much of anyway), especially to you – after all, you should not feed the Trolls, even if they work for a newspaper, and I think I have been feeding this one for long enough.