Americans like British men in certain leading roles: namely James Bond and wizards. Breaking out of that mold is tough
Is Benedict Cumberbatch a charming and handsome megastar-to-be? Or a pretentious and overbearing snot? Pardon the sharp contrast, but these are essentially the only categories we Americans have when welcoming new actors from across the pond.
The talented Cumberbatch made his US splash as the fearsome bad guy in Star Trek Into Darkness. He's garnering Oscar buzz for his upcoming portrayal of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate, and if you're more of a fanboy geek, you've already watched the new Hobbit trailer 700 times to hear Cumberbatch's voice as the dragon, Smaug. And did I mention that his TV series Sherlock is available on Netflix? Wanting for interesting roles, he is not.
But does all this translate to bonafide stardom in the states? I wouldn't be so sure. Americans like British men in certain leading roles: namely James Bond and wizards. Pierce Brosnan was beloved as 007, but not much else. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings films have earned Orlando Bloom some nice paychecks, but you don't see him on the big screen without a pirate ship or elf ears. Colin Firth won an Oscar for his role in The King's Speech, and then predictably evaporated from the collective consciousness of America.
Here's the problem, Britain: these men all possess debonair charm, refined good looks, and the ability to deliver intelligent, nuanced performances. This is a laundry list of the very things Americans find insufferable. We're a simple, insecure populace. We don't like people who are better than us. We like hunky morons like Mark Wahlberg. The closest thing to a hunky moron Britain's ever sent us is Robert Pattinson, and I'm pretty sure he's faking it.
And while it's been over 200 years since we lived under colonial rule, there's something about that quintessential English affect that we still find abrasively superior. Even amongst our own. Observe the widespread animosity towards actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Anne Hathaway. Talented and beautiful, sure, but also perceived as uptight, erudite, perhaps even royal in their dispositions. They just seem British, right down to their names. That doesn't bode well for Mr Cumberbatch, presumably named after a Hogwarts math teacher.
Now the Australians? We've been making megastars out of them for years. Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, the Hemsworth brothers ... they're everything Americans idealize about manhood. Rugged, short-tempered frontiersman, ready to conquer the plains with a John Wayne-esque machismo. And – take note, Cumberbatch – not too proud to completely sterilize their native accents.
Americans don't have passports, we don't meet many foreigners, and we think proper English diction is an indicator of condescension or homosexuality. Sadly, you can see it in our politics as well: we just tend to trust cowboys more than intellectuals. Hell, we gave Paul Hogan his own Crocodile Dundee trilogy. For the past two decades, Aussie actors have ruled our megaplexes and made billions of dollars by embodying the classical attributes of American masculinity.
When Brits have succeeded here in the states, it's when they have done the same. Batman star Christian Bale exemplifies the guy who we'll trust in a dramatic role because we also know he can beat our brains in ... without being a snob about it. Sean Connery may have been a cultured spy in the Bond films, but he also could slum it as a lunchpail tough guy in films like The Untouchables. Fellow Scotsman Daniel Craig, the most blue-collar of all the Bonds, seems to be on the same track. Even the immortal Daniel Day-Lewis needed bare-knuckle roles in Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood before Americans would ever have accepted him as Lincoln.
If you want success beyond the stereotypical British roles, you must have the charisma to kick ass without the martini drinking pretense or Oscar Wilde snark. The only other route to British success at the American box office is with humor, a la Hugh Grant or Russell Brand, and even in these cases, success was short lived. Again, it's because we don't relate to these guys. We're laughing at them, not with them. That Adam Sandler has dominated the American comedy market for 20 years tells you all you need to know about our appreciation for nuanced performance versus brute stupidity.
Does Benedict Cumberbatch have what it takes to become a megastar in the US? Well, he's smart, attractive, and incredibly talented, so history says no. Just ask Jude Law. Then again, as I look around and see a generation of waifish, anti-meathead hipsters slowly taking over the cultural landscape, with their curly mustaches and effeminate skinny jeans, I can't help but wonder if perhaps America is ready to ditch the macho stereotypes and create a true British megastar for the modern era. Sadly, portraying Julian Assange, whom America's media has vilified as no less than a foreign terrorist, may not be a step in the right direction.
On the other hand, Assange is Australian. So maybe there's a chance.Adam Farasati
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Yesterday was my first opportunity to speak with Chelsea since her sentencing. I am happy to report that she is doing very well at the USDB, and has already made several friends who accept her for who she is. Due to going through indoctrination, Chelsea was unaware of the response to her public statement on the Today show. During our conversation, I informed Chelsea of the overwhelming support for her decision. I also told her about how most responsible media have elected to respect her wishes and refer to her by her new name. Chelsea was very happy to hear of these developments. She requested that I relay how grateful that she is for everyone's understanding and continued support.
In the coming weeks, I will go to the USDB to tour the facility and to speak with the chain of command and the medical health professionals. It is my continued hope that we will be able to obtain hormone therapy and other necessary medical treatment for Chelsea at the USDB. These requests address a serious medical need of Chelsea and are consistent with the general medical community's practice of adequate medical care for those with gender dysphoria.
If you would like to support Chelsea by writing to her, please use the following address (*note that for now the envelope must be addressed to PVT Bradley Manning):
PVT Bradley E. Manning
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304
You may also look to the Private Manning Support Network and this website for the latest updates on our efforts to support Chelsea through this new phase of her life.
While PVT Manning wants supporters to acknowledge and respect her gender identity as she proceeds into the post-trial state of her life, she also expects that the name Bradley Manning and the male pronoun will continue to be used in certain instances. These instances include any reference to the trial, in legal documents, in communication with the government, in the current petition to the White House calling for clemency, and on the envelope of letters written to her by supporters. She also expects that many old photos and graphics will remain in use for the time being.
In response to PVT Manning's announcement, the Bradley Manning Support Network is changing its name to the Private Manning Support Network, and will work on changing other frequently used parts of its website and materials to incorporate the name Chelsea and the female pronoun. However, completing this process may take some time.
The Support Network has played an important role in organizing public support for PVT Manning since her arrest, and in raising funds to cover 100% of her legal fees. The Support Network will continue its political advocacy efforts to support PVT Manning through this new phase of her life by raising money for the appeals process, advocating for clemency from the Convening Authority and the President and supporting PVT Manning's right to appropriate medical treatment while imprisoned.
Thank you all for supporting our efforts over the years. The fight for PVT Manning's freedom is far from over, but we take hope from the many caring and compassionate people who have taken time out of their day to write to her, to sign petitions, to attend the court-martial and to join protests and other actions around the world. We hope you will help us continue this important work to bring truth and transparency to the forefront of America's conscious. And we hope you will continue to support PVT Manning, a humanist that we have already learned a great deal from, and who we believe still has much to offer this world.
David Edward Coombs and the Private Manning Support Network