You feel it, I feel it, everyone who has seen five minutes of BBC’s “Sherlock” feels it. There is something a bit… odd about Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch. Ladies adore him, gents like him too. He’s talented and intelligent and it’s generally agreed that he occasionally says things that are charmingly awkward yet ill-advised; for instance: asking Sir Patrick Stewart if taking a role in the “Star Trek” reboot would damage his career.
But dagnabbit… what is the thing with his face?
The gamut of intense reactions to Cumberbatch’s preternatural mug reveals our unconscious psychological bias toward certain facial patterns. Like a computer missing a chunk of software or the rioters at Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” we simply have no idea what to make of something so familiar yet… so odd. People become fixated on Benedict Cumberbatch’s face and can’t seem to talk about anything else. Some ladies clutch their pearls and declare him an ovary-annihilating “life ruiner,” while less enthusiastic observers (usually accompanied by a string of disrespectful jabs at his name) see him as some kind of freakish extraterrestrial. Ocassionally, detractors act as if they are uncontrollably repulsed by some aura of Das Unheimliche that apparently floats, miasma-like, around his head. For an actor with a rapidly exploding body of work and the potential to break out as a huge international star, that’s a pretty bizarre public response. The way some people go on, you’d think there was something fundamentally backwards about him.
Here’s the thing. There just might be.