In this feature, GRUDGE MATCH, I or another writer on the Capeless Team will issue a satirical challenge to duel someone in the comics/adaptations industry. The challenge is delivered in old-school epistolary format. Basically, this is “Your Obedient Servant” meets the comics industry.
This week, I challenge Benedict Cumberbatch.
My Dear Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch:
No one in my life has ever bothered to call me ‘slow to anger’ or some such nonsense. However, this grievance has simmered for years, since roughly your decision to accept the role of Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek: Into Darkness. To quote a greater villain than the shadow of one you played, “ripe fruit, this hate, and two years growing.”
Khan, besides being the most iconic The Original Series villain, represents the pinnacle of human eugenics efforts. The fact that Roddenberry and co. chose to depict this man as a man of color matters. Whitewashing the role speaks to your and Mr. Abrams’ irresponsibility with the property.
Moving on, you have played and continue to play characters written with similar irresponsibility. Plenty of discourse exists regarding the whitewashing present in your most recent offering, Doctor Strange. I need not retread ground already tread by greater writers than I, after all.
Because, good sir, this is about you and I specifically. And in reckoning with the effects of your work on my life and the lives of those important to me, I find one offense I consider most actionable: your speech and apparent opinions regarding autistic people. My own disabilities, diagnosed and undiagnosed, exhibit very similar symptoms to autism. My best friend was recently diagnosed as autistic, and a solid 90% of my other friends also claim the label.
Your belief that portraying characters like Sherlock Holmes as explicitly autistic provides ‘false hope’ for people like us is deeply and fundamentally disrespectful. Assuming that autism manifests the same way in all cases depicts you as profoundly ignorant. Considering that you make much of your money playing characters we see ourselves in, you do not have the right to be ignorant.
As such, I challenge you, Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch, to a boxing match, Marquess of Queensbury rules. If you accept the challenge, choose a Denny’s parking lot in Texas and I will attend. Texas law permits that if you accept this challenge, and we do not maim each other, neither of us can charge the other with assault. I’m sure you don’t require a refresher on Queensbury rules.
Alternatively, however, respond to this missive with an apology and show that you are actively seeking to remedy your ignorance. If you choose this path, then we may consider the matter and the grudge settled.