Benedict Cumberbatch: America Needs a Female President and Then a Gay One
The Emmy winner talks Alan Turing, his own experience with homophobia, and the Christian right.
September 10 2014 3:45 PM EST
February 05 2015 9:27 PM EST
Sherlock could be in the running for an Oscar. Emmy-winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the father of computing and the man who cracked the infamous Enigma code used by the Nazis in WWII, in Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game. The film made quite a splash when it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.
After helping to change the tide of WWII, Turing was persecuted by the British government for being gay, convicted of "gross indecency," and eventually took his own life. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Cumberbatch opened up about his views on Turing, American politics, homophobia.
Cumberbatch on Turing's legacy:
"He's not as prominent as he should be. That's the tragedy isn't it, really? You have a guy whose life he cut off himself at 41."
Cumberbatch on Lord McNally, the Justice Minister who refused to posthumously pardon Turing in 2012:
"Who's Lord McNally? Well, he's probably gay. They're always the biggest homophobes. That's shocking, but sadly not in ways that still have echoes of what that period was about--this deluded paranoia that everyone who was homosexual was immediately a communist. It was the same witch hunt with us. Being homosexual was a massive red flag--no pun intended, but pun intended. That world of men living in secret about their sexuality was an incredibly clandestine place, which made it a very rich and fertile ground to accrue spies from--because their entire lives were held in secret. It's like the radicalization of young Muslims now--things work in close proximity, and it spreads by word of mouth. If you have people of the same ilk side-by-side, that's the best way to spread a secret. You don't want it publicized, and you have to do a great deal of subterfuge. Being a homosexual in that era was considered morally repugnant, punishable, and curable."
Cumberbatch on gay "cures":
"And it's still going on in North America with the Christian far right! There are courses and doctors and meds handed out to "cure" people of their homosexuality, and it's shocking that it still goes on. It's also shocking that any time there's any kind of hardship, the minorities are immediately scapegoated--and that includes homosexuals in Russia, the Golden Dawn in Greece. The Golden Dawn came out of a financial crisis and people wanted answers, and the minute you start stirring up nationalistic feelings, minorities are the first people to get it because they're the easiest to scapegoat. It's terrifying."
Cumberbatch on American Politics:
Oh, the Christian far right? Yes. Very homophobic. You need to have a female president next, and then after that, a gay president. That's the full journey from Obama's legacy onwards. There's a great Morrissey lyric from "America Is Not the World" from You Are the Quarry that goes, "In America, the land of the free, they said / And of opportunity, in a just and truthful way / But where the president is never black, female or gay, and until that day / You've got nothing to say to me, to help me believe." It's quite an old song from before Obama took office, but you've done black, then you need to do female, then the next, gay.
Cumberbatch on his own experience with homophobia:
In an all-male boarding school, in the olden days, it was seen as being something that "just happened" since there were no girls, so you had a bit of an experience. But there was incredible homophobia at my school, to the point where two boys who were caught doing something were literally chased down the street.
I was 18. Two boys who were just discovered in bed together doing something, and it was shocking. I was just finishing an essay in the school dining hall at breakfast, and I looked out the window and heard a commotion, a pair of feet scampering by, and then a horde just charging after shouting, "Wankers! Faggots!" and I thought, "What the fuck is going on?" I asked these kids coming back from the house who were breathless from the hunt, "What are you doing, you insane idiots? What the fuck?" They explained it, and I said, "And you're a Sikh, you're Jewish, and you're from Kenya. Do you want to just sit down and talk about the strife that your people have suffered because of your religion, race, creed, or color? I mean, fuck me! You've really got to wake up to the fact that the world is full of disgusting prejudice because we are all different from one another. You have to learn acceptance at this school, and you have to go into the world as a better person, and you have to try and embrace the fact that people are different rather than defining yourself by not being like them. Who cares that they're gay? You have to coexist.
Read the full interview in The Daily Beast.