A few weeks ago I read an article on the Guardian about the percentage of British Olympics medallists coming from public schools (more than one third), against the percentage of privately educated people in Britain (7%). While last month I read somewhere something similar about British actors.
Of course this not in the least surprising and has to do both with the opportunity to seriously pursue sports and acting at school, and with a privileged background in general. It happens in Italy too, for example the rich branch of my mother’s family does feature professional athletes (three of them so far, including one in Atlanta 1996), who probably would have left sports for labour in their early twenties, had it not been for the strong financial support of the family. We do have a valid alternative here, which is to enroll in the Army as a sportsman. You get a permanent salary and you can concentrate on training, and this is why a large number of Italian professional athletes wear a uniform. But you still need a lot of support from your family, or at least a like-minded background.
While I was thinking about that, in particular about how hard Italian State schools try to discourage kids from sports (most of my teachers used to plainly hate that I was wasting my time with sports and consistently complained about it with my family), the infamous posh-bashing debate exploded, when Cumberbatch proclaimed his worry about being typecast as a posh boy in England, LA being less obsessed with class.
Personally, I find the debate itself silly, yet it does tell us something about society in general, and about the alarming number of people who are simply incapable of understanding irony (a fact that constantly bewilders me) or even basic sense of humour. I dread the day Cumberbatch will stop being candid in interviews and go for political correctness for them (hopefully this will never happen).
Anyway, as worried as he is, he is also actively avoiding being typecast: he is a stiff Edwardian Tory with a broken heart on Fridays, a mercurial 20th century Sherlock Holmes on Sundays, a Tolkenian dragon in December, a Star Trek villain in March, Frankenstein on even days, the Creature on odd days, an unlucky pilot in a small charter company as soon as possible. It mus feel liberating. I’m just not really sure Hollywood is going to liberate him much in the end.
The Roddenberrian society is fairly utopian, peace on planet Earth, retired officers busying themselves with their family vineyards in the south of France, officers camping and hiking in the Rockies on vacation, the Federation having its Academy in a sunny Bay Area (I wonder how they deal with advection fog in the 23rd century), money an issue only vaguely mentioned here and there. In fact I’ve always been curious, do you need to be a privileged kid to enroll in the Academy? Or is it paid by the collectivity? This point was never cleared, actually. The reason is quite obvious, while it may be ok to fantasize about a utopian future society where war and money are a distant issue, so distant that it is deal with only in outer space with strange aliens, better not to make it sound like a communist society, it’s the Bay Area but it’s still the US after all.
Anyway, Cumberbatch said a very Roddenberrian thing last week on the One Show, he said that in space there are no classes, what matters is how fast your spaceship is. Of course ST is an American product, and class is not as important to US society as it is to British society, but ethnicity can be an issue, and while ethnicity does have a role in ST, in determining who the character is, it never stands in the way of what a character decides to do, especially in the TNG era.
So Cumberbatch is basically right, but he is also missing a detail, he was still kind of typecast, not according to class, granted, but according to ethnicity. Traditionally, in Hollywood, the villain is European, he is a dark knight from the dark middle ages, possible in a cloak, or some sort of Nazi, or at least he’s got a British accent, the perfect combination being Alan Rickman playing a German character, because the puritan hero, the elect, always needs to fight the past, and Europe is the past, and you need a frontier, so when you’ve pushed the west frontier so far that you’re now in Korea and eventually a prisoner in Vietnam and then stalled in Russia for en entire age of Cold War, you can start to imagine a frontier in space, and you pursue it, as long as your money and imagination allow you.
Benedict, if you read this, please don’t be alarmed now. Being the alien, as in coming from an another planet or being an outsider, an outcast or maybe a self aware machine, the Englishman in NY so to say, is actually a good thing in ST, because in ST the alien, even the bad alien, is always analysed a great deal, in terms of identity, motives, ethics, and ultimately the alien in ST is the most human character, the one who is in charge of being us in perspective, by means of cognitive estrangement (according to Darko Suvin), therefore the one we will identify with and eventually the one we’ll love.
In any case, it is really important how fast your spaceship is.
In the meanwhile, Moffat revealed the three teaser words for Sherlock season 3, which happen to be Rat, Wedding and Bow. He and Gatiss added that if you know your Sherlock Holmes you can figure out what they mean, which is something really cruel to say, because if you know your Sherlock Holmes you know that Bow, as in His Last Bow, is the final adventure of Sherlock Holmes, old friends, the countryside, the bees, the Great War coming, and a longing distance in the form of the third person narrator which just breaks your heart.
Nonetheless, this makes no sense, because in the past few years Moffat and Gatiss have been going on all the time about how proud they are of their young Sherlock and John, who still have so much to go through together and it’s going to be amazing and we have a lot of time before they reach the age of Basil Rathbone and bla bla bla. So either Moffat and Gatiss and just being sadistic (BDSM seems to be fashionable these days), or BBC decided that 3 seasons is what we get. Or, maybe Bow refers to the collection of short stories, not on the last one in particular, so perhaps it’s going the be the Adventure of the Dying Detective, which really made an impression on a teenager me twenty years ago so I can’t wait. As for Rat, I can only think of the Giant Rat of Sumatra, which is fun because it means that the world if finally ready for it, mixed with the Empty House, which will obviously open the season, as Moffat confirmed months ago. Wedding could be John and Mary’s, but someone told me Moffat denied it, or it could be Irene’s wedding, but I’m sure Moffat once said Irene’s wedding was boring. You know what, I don’t care what wedding and rat are, you bring them on, it’s going to be a feast. And I do know what Bow is, and I’ll bloody deal with it.
Last night on Twitter the Cumberbitches had a contest, who could draw the better Sherlock in 15 seconds. This is my favourite, by @LauraWearsHats, it’s a perfect BBC Sherlock as well as a perfect Conan Doyle’s Mr. Holmes, and proves that Cumberbatch does not need to worry about anything at all.