For a woman who wrote a book titled This is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch, Tabitha Carvan sure knows a lot about the actor Benedict Cumberbatch. A lot. As in, she has a top ten list of Benedict Cumberbatch characters ranked by hairstyle. Also, she knows what movie Benedict Cumberbatch was watching when he felt the first pangs of appendicitis pain and exactly where on his torso the appendectomy scar is located. That is a level of devotion that most people would find surprising and, quite possibly, a bit deranged. Which is why Carvan had difficulty admitting the true depths of her fandom to most people. It was easier to let them think that the Benedict Cumberbatch purse that she carried, the lapel pin bearing his face that she wore, the calendar, pictures, and other paraphernalia decorating her cubicle at work were all statements of irony. Where did this fixation come from? Why now and why this actor? And why should something that brought her such joy be a source of shame that she had to justify to others?
It started, as most love stories do, when she least expected it. Sitting down to watch an episode of Sherlock one night, Carvan had an inexplicable visceral reaction to Benedict Cumberbatch. The face that she’d seen dozens of times before suddenly looked different. Better. Perfect. Here was a happily married woman, a mother to two young children, and looking at Benedict Cumberbatch on the screen made her feel alive in a way that she had not experienced since childhood, or, maybe ever! He was all she wanted to think and talk about. But unlike the love she felt for her family or friends, this felt subversive and wrong.
If you are a mother, you would not be surprised to learn that this new – shall we say – hobby led to immense feelings of guilt. She loved her children, but Tabitha Carvan also felt consumed by the day to day routine of motherhood. She was now somebody’s mother. Her own desires were subsumed by the needs of her kids, her husband, and everyone else around her. When she looked in the mirror, she no longer recognized the person that she had become. Who even was she outside of a wife and mother? What made her HER?
The search for these answers led Carvan to other Benedict Cumberbatch uber fans. Through their conversations, Carvan explored the societal biases against female desire that start at a young age and found that even she was guilty of propagating these same biases in her own children. Carvan gradually learned to embrace rather than suppress her new feelings. In this book, she makes the funny, heartfelt, and insightful argument that we should all take the time to discover the spark that ignites and flames our passions (metaphorically speaking). Benedict Cumberbatch happens to be that thing for Tabitha Carvan – and apparently, lots of other people – but what’s really important is the idea that he represents. Suffice it to say, we should all be so lucky to find our own Benedict Cumberbatch one day.