Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Doyle versus Cumberbatch . . . and it's a tie!

Let's start the morning with a statement that may be regarded as heresy to some, shall we?

Here goes . . .

The study of Benedict Cumberbatch is every bit as valid as the study of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I was inspired to make this statement after seeing some of the energy and devotion to which some Freebatchers were applying themselves. If you're not familiar with that term, a little investigation might have you disputing my earlier statement based purely upon your reaction to that beautifully out-there bit of fandom fun. But it caused me to step back and take a long view of fandoms surrounding the legendary Sherlock Holmes, and when you come right down to it, even the Freebatchers and the Doyleans share a very important common trait: They came to their current pursuit after falling in love with Sherlock Holmes.

True, the study of Conan Doyle will, in modern times, get you more respect. He's historical now. You can use the word "literary" since his chosen expression of Sherlock was written. But a hundred years ago, when Doyle was just another wacky celebrity, believing in ghosts and fairies and marrying his children's governess, being a fan of Conan Doyle himself was just the same as being a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch today. You had to read a lot of tabloid gossip.

But at the root of it, Conan Doyle created a portrayal of a character we love. Benedict Cumberbatch created a portrayal of a character we love. Time and becoming historical will give Benedict all the respect Doyle has gained just through the passing of years. We will start calling him "Cumberbatch" instead of "Benedict." And the study of his life and roles will be just as valid as the study of Doyle.

Still doubting me? Two words.

William Gillette.

Actor. Popular portrayer of Sherlock Holmes. Respected historical guy, right up there with Doyle.

I'm pretty convinced that if I ever saw the man perform Sherlock Holmes live at this point, I would react as strongly as I do to Jonny Lee Miller. But in his day, he was very popular at portraying Sherlock Holmes, and the soft focus lens of history has put him up on a marble pedestal with Conan Doyle.

Benedict Cumberbatch still suffers from the curse that all of us do, that of being alive. Living in the here and now that we all have a certain measure of disrespect for, taking selfies, making the occasional odd public statement. But a hundred years from now, should this old world hold together and the legend of Sherlock Holmes with it, we shall surely find that the fans of that great actor from the past were on the leading edge of history, with works providing much delight to those who enjoy looking back more than looking ahead.

And he'll be on that same marble pedestal in the Sherlock Holmes gallery, with Gillette and Doyle.

Thus I find miyself time-travelling ahead this morning, having as much heartfelt respect for those as devoted to Benny, "the 'Batch," or whatever you want to call him, as those who caught on early to Conan Doyle. Keep doing what you do, you wildly creative souls. I'm loving it.


  1. When you say Doyle and Gillette most people would think Sherlock Holmes and the razor blade guy.

  2. I totally agree with your premise of grouping Cumberbatch, Doyle, and Gillette based on the affect they had in making people aware of Sherlock Holmes worldwide. In a recent essay I did on the first Sherlock Holmes performers around the world, either reading Doyle, seeing the Gillette play on stage, or watching Cumberbatch on TV (and you might include the Downey Jr. film also) proved to be the biggest influences on any media performances for those 59 different countries I mentioned. However, I must protest your assumption that if you ever had seen a Gillette performance that you might react to it as you would a Jonny Lee Miller performance. Gillette was an innovator and a visionary, it is blasphamy to even mention his name is any context with Gillette. If Gillette happens to show up in that recently discovered lost Essanay silent film, sans shirt, with tatoos, and offers Alice Faulkner cash for sex, I will recant my protest. Erstwhile good sir, I may have to challenge you to a duel at high noon, at the Gillette Castle, if you do not in the future refrain from mentioning the honorable William Gillette's name in any form of association with that commoner pretending to be Holmes, Jonny Lee Miller.

  3. I have to offer my mild objections to putting Cumberbatch on the same level as Doyle and Gillette; there is a vast difference between what they do. Doyle and Gillette actually wrote the words, while Cumberbatch merely says the words others write for him. Extremely very well, mind, I adore his Holmes, but his is an entirely different kind of creation. (I'm choosing to ignore the role of the director in *how* he says the words.) Now if you want to compare Mofftiss with Doyle and Gillette, I'm all over that. :-)

    Korina, who can never get the hang of Thursdays o.O