Friday, May 24, 2013

How I Trekked To The Ends of the Earth To "Cumberbatch" A Friend

This morning I received a link to a blog post written by my friend all the way in Australia about how she got cumberbatched with a little nudging from me, living on the other end of the earth in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is an utterly demented and bloody brilliant post. I'd just thought I'd share it. For reasons unknown, she refers to me as CC in her blog post. Here it is:

The Descent Into Darkness

Day -41

The date was 10 April. It was an ordinary day, I was six weeks away from my thesis deadline and working on it as usual. So far I had watched two episodes of Sherlock Holmes (CC's note: It's just called Sherlock actually), and I didn't like the way they portrayed the character too much, and the second episode was quite bland, which put me off watching the last of the first season. Benedict Cumberbatch did catch my attention, but lost it again in all the chaos of experiments and data involved in my thesis. I never thought about the show again after watching it in March or so.

I had so little warning at all of what was to come.

Sometime early in the day I received a facebook post from a friend (hereafter named CC) halfway around the world, in San Francisco: "Gal, you gotta watch BBC's Sherlock so I can have someone to moon over Benedict Cumberbatch with. :P"

I did not suspect anything at all, such an innocuous-looking thing. I managed to reply at the end of the day, telling her I did like Cumberbatch, but not the series, and how I couldn't wait for Star Trek Into Darkness to come out.

"You should try and download his portrayal of the Creature and Victor Frankenstein in his 2011 play Frankenstein...Pathetically enough I have been spending the last few weeks watching his stuff...he's great in Amazing Grace and I think you would like that movie too even without him in it. How could you resist not watching the whole of season 1 and 2 of Sherlock? And what is it that you don't like about the portrayal? The "highly functioning sociopath" slightly Asperger's portrayal?" (Emphasis mine)

Therein lay the first warning signs. This lady was perhaps a little too... thorough... in going over an actor's previous work. But I was completely oblivious to it all. I was in scatterbrained-scientist mode, after all, trying to finish a thesis so that I can get a degree. I should have been more aware, hindsight tells me now.

Just that one, simple message. Little did I know of what would eventually come out of it.

Day -34

I only managed to reply her a week later. Told her what I didn't like about the series. Meanwhile she had posted several links on my facebook page of Benedict Cumberbatch impersonating Alan Rickman. It occurred to me then that he would make a good Snape... A young Snape... A young, handsome Snape that fit so well the image I already had in my mind, from the books and countless fanfiction. And so the seeds of madness were sown. (CC's note: Incidentally, Benedict Cumberbatch does voice Snape in an episode of The Simpsons)

Some background, I loved Professor Severus Snape as a teenager. He was so moody and intelligent and unpleasant, yet so honourable underneath. I like unpleasant people. I think that could be a bane in my romantic life in the future. Hm...

"Yeah I's messed up...never been so obsessed with any actor obsession with Orlando Bloom or Brad Pitt never even came close (CC's note: Orlando Bloom, while handsome, can't really act very well, while Brad is both Hollywood star good-looking and can actually act. As for Cumberbatch, I introduce him to people who are unfamiliar with his work as the male version of Meryl Streep for his brilliant chameleonic acting) ...Come on and watch the whole two seasons so we can moon over him together...I can guarantee you'll love him more after watching the rest...I didn't like the [second episode] all that much...and the amazing thing is that I am not really obsessed with his looks...but with his superb acting...he's such a sublime actor...and he comes across as really charming with a really dry sense of British humor in the Sherlock commentary and in Q and A's for his other stuff. Very intelligent too...Hahaha you should try to find a video of him playing the Creature in Danny Boyle's Frankenstein's awesome...argh the only person I know who has watched it is a British guy and I can't moon over Cumberbatch with a guy...:/ I need you...I was there with you when you mooned over Zaplod Beeblebox and the king in your Sim can you be with me as I moon over him? Pretty pretty please? It's pathetic, and I am kinda embarrassed to be admitting it to you, but this last week I was supposed to studying for my mid term...I did try but I ended up spending most of my time mooning over him and watch his stuff/reading his interviews online. Needless to say, I had no idea how to do my Mid-term and am definitely sure to fail. :/ " (Emphasis mine again) (CC's note: If anyone actually care to know, I actually ended up earning an A grade in Financial Accounting, an A grade in Macroeconomics and a B grade in Microeconomics, so I really wouldn't say that a case of Benaddiction is actually debilitating to one's academic studies)

It was out now, CC had so obviously and completely descended into madness and she was trying to drag me down with her. She wrote it out so succinctly and clearly, "Look at me! I am mad! I cannot stop thinking of Tall British Guy in Magnificent Trench Coat! Stay away from me if you intend to finish your degree!" (CC's note: I did not write that to her. I think what she was trying to say was that it was as though I was writing that to her.)

And what did I do? I let everything pass me by. I completely did not notice it. Now, I don't like to think of myself as stupid or obtuse, but after reading the above message again I have no choice but to accept the fact that I must be after all. All I knew how to do was continue blundering around trying to write a thesis in geochemistry, and bemusedly telling her to chill out! stop the obsession! Stop watching him! Just find another actor to obsess about!... Oh what a fool I was.

Day -32

A couple of days pass. She suddenly remembers that it was me who had introduced the Sherlock series to her, and decides to blame me. She had actually asked me, last year, for suggestions on science fiction shows to watch, and had already been thinking about the series before she asked me. So no, I shan't take the blame for that one. We converse, with her gushing on about Cumberbatch, and me going on about stress and writing. We were probably having two different conversations, and I was too sleep-deprived to notice. I was misinformed on the release of Star Trek in Australia; she told me it would be September here, four months away. I was livid at having to wait four months after the rest of the world to watch Star Trek (it's Star Trek! They should make it a basic human right!), but meh... It wasn't the looming disaster compared to my unwritten thesis. And all I wanted to see was Spock in the film, and maybe Chris Pine. I had seen a little of Benedict Cumberbatch in the trailers, but I felt he was overacting in some places, and I wasn't that much of a fan. I wanted Spock. There was a scene in the first movie after he realised that he was indeed emotionally affected by the destruction of his planet, and he walks with his head down yet shoulders thrown back, and he looked so emotionless, yet vulnerable. I fell in love with Spock during that short walk.

The friend, meanwhile, was watching the 2009 film to "prep" for the current one. Okay. I could interpret that as more evidence of madness, or just too much time on her hands. She tries to speculate what would be in the coming movie, and I refused to let her reveal spoilers to me. Interspersed throughout all this was links and comments about Cumberbatch's role, and his work in other areas. At the end of the conversation I quipped, "haha, you're becoming an addict!" As usual I let it all whoosh over my head.

Day -28

She tells me the film has already premiered in Australia. She knows what happened, would I like her to tell me? No? Well what about this other program that Benedict Cumberbatch voices? I try to deflect her by telling her to watch another very British film. It didn't work.

Day -16

Good gods CC is definitely recording her madness now. She has blogged about Cumberbatch's works. "I figured I needed to rationalize my obsession somehow". She sends me the link to it, and to a show which I completely ignored (No spoilers for Star Trek! I won't take any chances!)

Day -7

14 May 2013 - Star Trek has been out for five days. It completely passes me by. I got a facebook post in the morning from CC asking how long Cumberbatch's role was, and if he was underused. She was going to watch it tomorrow night. Well, I had completely no idea! But this was Tuesday, with cheap tickets! The best day to watch the movie! I was extremely conflicted. I wanted so much to watch it that day, but I had so much left to do... And yet, I would willingly fail my thesis for Spock. She told me Zachary Quinto was gay. I did not go to the cinemas after all. (CC's note: I did not meant Zachary Quinto was gay in any homophobic sense, but rather as trivia since she seemed to admire Spock so much. And so do I (both actor and Spock) It was really brave of Quinto to come out, especially since he is a very public figure)

Day -4

CC has written a review of the movie, and posts the link to her blog on my facebook. I did not look at it, fearing spoilers.

Day -3

My doom is drawing nearer, the ominous signs are everywhere... And yet I had about the same awareness of it as I did when I was four years old: none at all. She reminds me to go watch it, I stubbornly cling to my thesis. Ah, the thesis. Such a significant document, filled with ideas of scientists over decades, and going to be finished off with new ideas of my own, paving the way for my entry into the scientific community. At least, that's how I like to think of it. Despite the lofty ideals, it would not save me.

Day -1

Monday. It is beginning.

I get another reminder to watch the movie. I resist again, clinging to the idea of my dear, precious thesis. CC has free tickets to watch Star Trek again, and I exclaimed that she would be able to watch Spock for free! She dismisses Spock completely, and gushes about Cumberbatch instead. I try, and fail, to defend dear old Spock. He's so smart! But she only had eyes for Cumberbatch.

Well, two can play at this game. I start criticising his looks - he looked weird to me, with a too-large nose that made his features look deformed. This would come back to haunt me later. Completely unexpectedly, she agrees with me. He's been described to look like a weird alien, she says. (Makes him look more like a psychopath in Sherlock Holmes!) (CC's note: Once again, it's just called Sherlock, and for the record, I don't think he looks like a weird alien. I just know other people who feel that way) But it's his acting she loves, it's sublime, and again she starts plying more shows at me. But I have no time to watch them! I finally countered, horrified by the huge list I have in my facebook inbox. Oh gods, I don't even have time to have a life right now. She ignores me and somehow we end up talking about his voice. I was first struck by it in the Star Trek trailers (and would never have noticed it if someone hadn't pointed it out - more proof that I probably don't deserve my degree), and I liked it. Meh, it was a good voice, nothing to really gush about - until she sent me to listen to his recitation of Ode to a Nightingale. I was in the office in the afternoon, and it gave me shivers. I turned it off after a few seconds, because it was distracting me too much, to put it mildly.

She suggests more titles to me, and I had the sudden realisation that I should have weeks ago. "So that's what you have been doing all this time? Just listening to his voice? No wonder you haven't been studying." Not only did she not deny it, she ends up dismissing one of her current assignments. Oh well, love will get her through... (CC's note: I never profess to fancy myself in love with Cumberbatch. What I am in love with is his work) I suggested she use his voice to help her sleep, and it turned out that she had already tried that. (CC's note: When I first listened to Cumberbatch's narration of Ode to a Nightingale, I couldn't stop yawning even though it was nowhere near my bedtime, so I thought I'll try listening to it to help me sleep. It did work, but for some reason I felt really silly doing it and stopped after two nights) Well, I'm definitely going to try that for my insomnia. Even if I don't end up sleeping I'll still end up with happy daydreams.

At this point it seems like her obsession has lessened somewhat, after getting her fix from Star Trek. But she continues plying me with radio shows, and facts about him, and reminding me to watch the film so that we can both gush about our respective Trekkie. Even now some part of my brain was beginning to have some inkling of what was to come, what I was about to get myself into... But the rest of my brain chose to be oblivious to it. "Oh god if you've just started an obsession in me with his voice I'm gonna hate you." "I'm not sure if I should continue indulging your obsession... It's not healthy... Or if I should even join it."

It was all written in the stones, what happened to her, and what would happen to me if I continued down this path. I am so blind.

Day 0 Tuesday, movie day

Well... It was Star Trek. I had to watch Star Trek no matter what. I had a meeting with my advisors at 10 am, and planned to go watch the screening at 1.30 pm in order to "recover" from that session. But I still had doubts about going.

"its only 2 hours 2 hours then u can go back to your normal life come on u find his voice sexy dun u"

And that sealed it. "Just two hours, then I can go back to my normal life." Oh what naivety.

I later postponed my outing to 4.30 pm just to show people I was working. I was, after all, going to watch a movie one week before my thesis was due. After noon it turned out that the other students in my office were going to watch Star Trek in the evening, too. So I postponed my outing again, to 8.30 pm, with them.

-3.5 hours

The others were already out of the office, and I couldn't find the guys I was supposed to get a lift from. I pondered watching it another day instead... The thesis was just sitting right in front of me, trying to save me from myself... And I ignored it. I ignored my thesis and took the bus to the cinema where I met my fellow office-mates, and I would watch Star Trek.

I should try to be wiser.

-2 hours

The movie begins.

0 hours

My fate has been sealed, even though I don't know it yet. All I knew was I loved the movie tremendously. I hardly even remembered to look at Spock; Cumberbatch was just so gripping. He was all that was impressed upon me that night, although I did love that scene where Spock cried. After finding out Khan's identity I realised I had missed some of the emotion that he probably showed earlier on in the show. So I would have to re-watch the movie sometime. And the tear that he shed when talking about his fellow beings, and his expressions, were wonderful as well. I had disliked his overacting in the trailers, but in the film it just seemed to fit perfectly. Khan, with his deep voice and superintelligence and his slight vulnerability for his "family"... *Starts coo-ing <3

There, evidence of brain melting. I think the reason I didn't notice it too much at the time was because of his viciousness in some scenes, and those were quite scary. I still can't believe how fast I dropped Spock. They are both smart, but Khan is vicious. And marvelously good at being a human. Not a particularly kind or empathetic one, but I did mention that I liked mean people. :/ Sorry Spock. I would still love to coo over you, but Benedict Cumberbatch takes precedent if he's present. (I definitely don't want to cuddle up to Khan.)

+0.5 hours

It is nearly midnight, and I am back at the office, for another overnight stint of thesis. I let CC know how good I thought it was, and "oh gods i think a new obsession is starting". (Finally, I'm starting to show some insight for once. But too late.)

I quite (sic) facebook after that for the rest of the night, only to come back the next morning to find her putting up more stuff and more gushings. She ended:

"hahaha im going to stop now or u are going to really really hate me lol"

Oh yes, very amusing, friend.

+11 hours

Next morning she realises she may have put up too much, and apologises (Gee, ya think!?). I have been ignoring the links anyway, no time for such trivial pursuits! My brain and my time is dedicated only to science! We continue to gush about Cumberbatch's performance. I think this was the catalyst for all the later troubles.

+20 hours

It was evening, I had spent the night before in the office without sleep, I had been up too long and I was tired. I was randomly surfing the net and my fingers (and eyes) were sneaky; I had googled Cumberbatch and learned about a couple of his ex-girlfriends before I was aware of what I was doing. He was single, hm...

Dear friend posted up this slightly panicked message from me on her facebook page. She was proud that she had "cumberbatched" me. "oh shit i just found myself googling cumberbatch and generally stalking him i'm going to go ahead and blame you"

You have no idea what you've just started... (And do read that in Khan's sinister voice.)

+24 hours

I am at home. The idea of Benedict Cumberbatch being single has been mulling in my mind on the way home. The idea of a single Benedict Cumberbatch, who looks like Professor Severus Snape, whom I have been in love with for years, starts to take on a different form in my mind...

I send off a desperate email to CC, asking her what she had done. She sent me off to bed reciting the Ode that he had recited. I went to bed with single Benedict Cumberbatch in my head, who had by now morphed into Snape and taken over him. Oh, dear...

It took me about two hours to fall asleep.

+34.5 hours

Early morning, CC sent me a message apologising for the timing of things, but NOT for "cumberbatching" me. She did not know when my thesis was due. I let her know it was due in eight days, and I do not have time to indulge in such a fantasy. In fact, on the bus ride that morning I suddenly remembered he was an actor. Just an actor - not Snape, or Khan, or Sherlock, or any other of those brilliant guys he played. Just an actor, and actors can be dumb, and I don't like dumb people. Also, all my previous infatuations have been imaginary men, so I can't fall in love with an actor in real life, right? Right?? (Please? Right??)

+37 hours

My darling friend sends me a youtube link to a deleted shower scene, of Cumberbatch, with really hard chest muscles. Good gods he wants babies, too. I should have realised then that she probably wasn't going to stop this link-sending behaviour, which had started forty days ago with her obsession. I tell her she wasn't helping; she somehow gets me to admit that I love his brain, and have completely forgotten about what he looks like. I ask her to send me something in which he shows his stupidity, that would be the only thing that could end this once and for all. But no, he just has to be intelligent in real life as well, bloody hell. That failing, I decided to try to do something with my thesis again. She continues to bombard me with links, and to watch the Graham show.

+41.5 hours

I take one of too many breaks from the thesis, and head to youtube to watch the Graham Norton show. This is my first video of him outside a show, my first time watching him not acting. I wish someone would've reached through time and yanked me back away from the computer. Too bad, I am on my own, and my doom was sealed at birth (through a deficiency in brain cells).

It is my first time watching a Graham Norton show. I do not know who Graham Norton is, so I google him, then realised that I did not care. On with the show. Chris Pine looks normal out of set, but I don't like it when guys are too hairy. Benedict Cumberbatch looks impressive, as always. Doesn't matter, I'm just watching this to see how stupid he can be. He tells his neutron cream story, and... nothing. He's... oblivious?

I was impressed (and made slightly more infatuated) by his reluctance to call his fans what they named themselves (CC is, incidentally, short for Cumber Collective. You're welcome). Shows a high level of regard and respect for people, and courtesy and decency. These are, by the way, things that I did NOT want to find out about Benedict Cumberbatch. I was... reluctantly impressed. Then he ran up to hug the girl from Germany, and my mind couldn't take it, I had to pause the video.

Why did he run up to hug the girl? What was he doing? Is he... Oh gods, is he... Nice?! Benedict Cumberbatch is a nice guy?! How dare he be nice when I was trying so hard to stop liking him?? I went back to the thesis. I ignored the video for several hours.

+44 hours

It has become clear that I am actively ignoring the video, and in doing so I am actively ignoring my thesis as well. In order to progress with the thesis I am going to have to finish the video... He hugs the other girls as well, which was wonderful... And then he does his sinister voice, and it just shows again how nice and obliging of a man he is, and wrong I have been to try to use this video to stop thinking about him. When it ended I re-watched the earlier parts, and fell in love all over again.

And the video ends; what's next?! Oh look, a google play interview with Benedict Cumberbatch! It's just 16 minutes, it won't take long. I listen to him go into a longer monologue of the neutron cream, and I am uncomfortably reminded of myself when I try to tell stories. I can never keep details out, because I want as much context as I can for the story. Context is important in stories. And Cumberbatch gives lots of context. I hope he never grows out of this habit.

The interview ends, and I spot "the truth about Benedict Cumberbatch" by Simon Pegg and Alice Eve - sounds intriguing. I loved Simon's description of him as a retard, it really helped if I saw him that way. Then Alice Eve had to go and talk about his want for a family, and children, and how he will be a good and devoted father. Oh, he would be so perfect with babies and I want his babies...

I go off to let CC know what she has done. I am going mad. I cannot stop watching his videos. I can't stop reading about him. "i love the way he can't tell a story at all! he has to bring in every single detail hahahahaha haHAHAHA oh gods help me i'm going mad"

Darling friend responds with more anecdotes of how nice he is and stories of fan interactions. Completely misses the point. Now I have to watch the Japan mob, and read the story, and oh poor Cumberbatch, I hope you're not too scarred by this incident, please don't lose the charming niceness you have now! And then I realise what I am thinking, and am horrified at what I have become. I am showing concern for a man half the world away and whose only attractive trait is that he has a talent for acting. This is so much worse than a crush on Snape because he is actually real, and I can keep finding out more things about him and I can keep fantasizing. CC ignores my very obvious and steady spiral into madness. She sends over more links! She tells me he learned to play the guitar with very few lessons! (CC's note: it's actually the violin I was referring to) God damn Benedict Cumberbatch why did you have to do that?!

For the rest of the night I alternate between finding out a new reason why I am so hopelessly infatuated and messaging her (only for her to agree and send EVEN MORE links on why he is so awesome), and remembering some adorable trait that he had. I spent the night in the office. I spent less than two hours on my thesis. 50 hours after I watched that evil, poisonous film my brain has melted and it has run off to join the tons of other fangirls standing around cheering him. I cannot do any work because Cumberbatch is in my brain and refuses to let all other pieces of information in.

It was less than nine hours from being a tolerable admiration of an actor to full blown hopeless brainless obsession all because of that bloody Graham Norton video. And good gods it refuses to stop, my brain refuses to stop wanting him. It wants him to come down to Australia so that I can have my very own Benedict Cumberbatch. I try to let CC know again, and again she sends more links, feeding the madness deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. It doesn't stop, yet Benedict Cumberbatch won't come to stop it, so it won't stop...

I am reminded of her earlier message: "'s messed up..."

It is, and I have no idea what the frakk is going on, and how this one man has so much power to cause it. But apparently CC only wants to interview him (CC's note: in the capacity of a wannabe journalist; I have an associate degree in journalism), she doesn't have to fight strange hormonal urges that also wants babies.

The hormones seem to have dissipated now, and as long as I keep off all other articles about him and stop watching youtube videos of him until after my thesis I'll hopefully be able to get an undergraduate degree.

I have no idea why I just spent four hours typing this out.

(CC's note: The hyperlinks interspersed throughout the article have been added by me for additional context)

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