The rage against Cumberbatch: no one is safe from PC

Stefan Rhys-Williams

Topics Politics

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Benedict Cumberbatch, fresh from riling members of his theatre audience with his preachy post-Hamlet soliloquies about the plight of refugees, now finds himself on the receiving end of a barrage of self-righteousness.

His role in zany comedy Zoolander 2 has been met with outrage, after the trailer was released last week. This is all because of his cartoonish portrayal of a fashion model of ambiguous gender. His performance has been called a ‘mockery of androgyne/trans/non-binary individuals’. Right. As compared to all the straight-faced, serious, Oscar-chasing performances that will no doubt pepper the rest of the film?

Inevitably, there have been calls for a boycott, with a petition opining that ‘If the producers and screenwriters of Zoolander wanted to provide social commentary on the presence of trans/androgyne individuals in the fashion industry, they could have approached models like Andreja Pejic’. Well, I have a feeling that’s not at all what they wanted to provide.

For anyone who’s watched the original Zoolander, it’s clear this new instalment will be camp, crass and ridiculous. Watching the trailer for Zoolander 2, it occurred to me: who isn’t a ludicrous caricature in this film? Is Will Ferrell not playing an extremely camp wizard-like figure with a wig lifted from Blackadder? Zoolander 2 will be another silly send-up of the fashion industry – nothing more. It beggars belief that anyone thinks we should look to Ben Stiller and Co for a digest of contemporary gender politics. But for a large swathe of today’s so-called progressives, culture must act as a loudspeaker for their latest, modish preoccupations.

There’s something amusing about Cumberbatch, a man so PC he asked his female fans to stop calling themselves ‘Cumberbitches’, being attacked for not toeing the gender-politics line. But it’s also a bit scary. Do any of these boycotters really think they’ve rumbled a bigot? Nowadays, it seems, no one is safe.

Stefan Rhys-Williams is a writer based in London.

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Topics Politics


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