Monday, February 13, 2012
narcissism and self-loathing in one convenient package
this set of images, which originated *here* (please go look at the originals because they are actually gifs that don't seem to play on blogspot and the movement in them is important to what follows) and had this caption: "I just wanted to point out Benedict’s phone answering dance, now documented in two very different films." sparked the below conversation with a fellow trans-masculine person who is also somewhat Sherlocked:
me: i can’t even begin to express how happy it makes me to watch this. especially the swing of his hips in the second frame. yes, i’m entirely too sherlocked for my own good, and yet, this is still a jd’s eyeliner moment. thank you, benedict cumberbatch for doing your (not so small) part to bring a touch of femme-sexy back to men’s roles on screen.
wt: I love it when you find an actor's quirk that is so ingrained it shows up in every character. I worked with an actress once who always added a hitch step/ball-change step when changing direction during arguing or angry dialogue. not sure why I love it so much but yes, there is pointed smiling going on over here. also, it makes me think that's how he answers the phone in real life which is a very satisfying idea.
me: my thoughts exactly. like, since he was young he has believed that it is always necessary, if you are going to be using only your voice to communicate, to readjust your stance so it's at least 4 inches wider than normal.
wt: clearly it's a business to be taken seriously. also, apparently a hand in the pocket is key.
me: (oh, god. why is he so perfect?? how do we become him? *despairing sigh* ) ... you know, the other thing that is fantastic about this is tho the dance is clearly necessary no matter who he is playing, it takes on a different form depending on the role. peter and sherlock do that dance very differently. it is so clearly a bit of b. cumberbatch shining thru, but it is still refracting thru the lens of each of his characters. ♥
wt: this is one of those times when I wonder how you have enough time on your hands to think so deeply about a fan crush. :)
me: heh. it's the product of visual multitasking while aurally working and spending my life obsessed with (mostly masculine) presentation on and off screen/stage. the fan-crushing is just a byproduct of my super-objective. :P
wt: see now you have a purpose, I just develop intense fan crushes from time to time. more often of the "be you" variety than the "do you" variety. I suppose it's a byproduct of having to intentionally cultivate and groom my personal presentation of masculinity, having missed out on 24 years of socialization.
me: exactly. it's the same thing for me, really. it's just that the writer in me analyses my process of crushing (which is actually fubu-ing*) and makes it into an essay about masculinity and gender and presentation in society. over and over and over. :/
but because we have to do it intentionally as adults, i have to believe we are in the perfect position to articulate it for others, yo.
this conversation highlights two points:
1) the last thought is bordering on my manifesto for 'johnny depp's eyeliner', or it's at least the founding thought process. if i, at 30+, am figuring out what range of masculinity i want to fall within, and am using images in popular culture to pinpoint it, i might as well write about it and show the images of what i'm trying to articulate. namely, that there is a range of masculinity out there and the part of it that have at least a hint of the feminine are incredibly compelling. as someone who is unable to deny the feminine parts of my masculinity, i delight in finding the same things in cis-men who have found where they are comfortable on the gender spectrum. (yes, i'm basically a teenager looking for role-models. but in a postgrad gender theory/media studies kind of way.)
2) because i think a lot about the performative nature of everything we do in real life, when watching actor's performances i tend to be able to zero in on the moments and glimpses when they aren't acting, they are just being. and when they are being, they are, at least in some measure, being themselves. these moments totally exist on screen, and i am a big fan of the directors who know how capture them. i agree with coatcollar that benedict cumberbatch has figured out the most important rule in acting: to be as truthful as possible in imaginary circumstances, which has the corollary of: the only way to be completely truthful is to bring yourself into the role. so yes, the phone dance, different for each role, but nonetheless there, because it's his own.
this concept strikes so deeply into the heart of my love of theatre/film, says so much about my own writing, even speaks to my asterisked comment below on attraction, that i don't quite know what to do with myself. i'd say more if i thought there was a clearer way to elucidate my feelings, but i don't know that there is.
(and yet, of course, i must at least attempt):
it's those little bits of truth, those moments of a person's true self shining thru, that i live for, generally, in my life. with everyone i know, and everyone i see. cuz we are all playing roles, we are all acting for someone, everyone, (ourselves...?) but we are all humans, each with our own self inside, which so much of the time is hidden from sight. some people would say that actors are the worst at showing their true selves, being in the business of performing, but i believe the opposite. i believe they are the ones most able to understand how to let themselves--their true selves--be seen thru the characters they take on. and by extension, by our witnessing of their efforts, to teach us how to do the same. this is why theatre and film are so important, they create the imaginary circumstances for truth to be brought forth, as an offering in the service of bettering humanity, to us.
*f.u.b.u is the dilemma of being unsure whether your attraction to someone is due to your desire to fuck them, or to be them: ef you / be you = fubu. it is also called the 'frank sinatra complex', as referenced by wt in the form of 'do be do be do'.
for me, becoming someone--getting inside their body and their mind--is such a sensual, all-encompassing process, so similar to fucking them, that i don't think i have a difference in my desires between one and the other. if i am attracted to someone, i almost surely want to both be them and do them (and yes, i'm very aware of how problematic this can be, trust me).
in the case of mr. benedict cumberbatch, this feeling has manifested as a physical ache in the pit of my stomach, and an alternating blind belief in the possibility of being somewhere close to his perfection, and a despairing realization that there is absolutely no possible way of even approaching it. this is my life as a transmasculine genderqueer with body dysphoria and a certain taste for beautiful men. and this, my friends, explains the title of this post.