Benedict Cumberbatch, the Sherlock Holmes and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy actor and Old Harrovian, has said that he is considering leaving the UK because he’s tired of all the ’posh-bashing that goes on.’ I really do like (by which I mean, fancy) Cumberbatch, but this outburst is a bit of a turn-off.
Benedict Cumberbatch, the Sherlock Holmes and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy actor and Old Harrovian, has said that he is considering leaving the UK because he’s tired of all the ‘posh-bashing that goes on.’
‘I wasn’t even born into land or titles, or new money or an oil rig’ he complains in a Radio Times interview, slightly defeating his point. Would he consider the posh-bashing more justified if he were?
I really do like (by which I mean, fancy) Cumberbatch, but this outburst is a bit of a turn-off. Yes, it’s true that people are sometimes mocked for being posh, and posh is definitely not cool anymore— hence the cringe-inducing mockney adopted by some of his old school chums, and the awful pseudo-gangsta speak used by some public school kids today.
It’s also true that the British are class-obsessed. We can usually place someone within seconds, and this kind of discrimination, whichever way it runs, is not only stuffy, but wrong. At the same time, I don’t think Cumberbatch’s misfortune is comparable to the experience faced by those from less-privileged backgrounds trying to break into traditionally ‘posh’ professions, establishments or parties.
Cumberbatch speaks from a position of immense privilege. His cut-glass accent might prevent him from joining a South London street gang or reinventing himself as a grime star, but his world-class education and the posh luggage that comes with it can only been an advantage career-wise.
Given he’s a Hollywood actor and potential tabloid fodder, he should probably be grateful that ‘posho’ is his worst insult so far. And given rising inequality and stalling social mobility, most poshos should be grateful that UK posh-bashing isn’t any more vicious.
The acknowledgement that you’ll probably never be considered cool, people may sometimes snigger at your accent, and will occasionally jump to the conclusion that you’re a snob, is a small price to pay for the huge privilege of a great education and healthy finances. Better to continue another tradition of the British upper classes: a stiff upper lip.
Read more by Sophie McBain
Cumberbatch in Sherlock Holmes: The Posho in Action