Celebrities and Charities: Benedict Cumberbatch and the Sherlock Fandom


{Header image courtesy BBC One.}

While fans of television shows and celebrities do occasionally get bad raps, fans also just as occasionally pull through some of the best examples of humanity.

The Sherlock fandom, while being fanatical enough to have Amanda Abbington (significant other of co-star Martin Freeman) take to Twitter to request that people not take pictures of their children while they were on set, is also comprised of people who have raised money for various charities for the birthdays of not only Freeman, but Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Gatiss.

Cumberbatch is actually well-known in fan circles for his charity work. In October of 2012, he helped raise more than £20,000 for the Prince’s Trust Palace to Palace bike ride, as he is an celebrity ambassador for the charity that works with disadvantaged youth. He also has donated drawings to raise money for such organizations as New End Primary School and Make-a-Wish Foundation, and has been involved with productions with Dramatic Need, which works with underprivileged and rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

The actor is also known for his activism, protesting the Iraq war as well as other topics. He has used his celebrity to draw attention to political actions, putting up a note for paparazzi in August 2013 during the filming of the third series of Sherlock with the message to “go photograph Egypt and show the world something important.” He also later approached photographers with the intent of commenting on the detention of David Miranda (the partner of Gleen Greenwald, who works for The Guardian) at Heathrow.

Photo by Matthew Horwood, and via walesonline.co.uk.

Since Cumberbatch has only become a well-known celebrity in the last few years, the impact of his interaction with these charities or activist events is hard to interpret. In the interviews he’s given where these charities are mentioned, it’s implied he’s intentionally choosing items he truly believes in. All the charities are items he has mentioned in interviews as causes he supports, or are connected to him in some way (acting, And none of the charities listed above mention Cumberbatch outside of news releases related to the specific event he’s involved in.

However, the star’s influence on his fans (as well as the other stars of Sherlock) is not hard to see. Several fan communities have banded together to raise funds for various charities that they know the stars are interested in. Whether it’s fans of Gatiss raising over £1,300 for LLGS — an organization providing support for the LGBT community (Gatiss is gay), fans of Martin Freeman raising over $1,500 for Stand Up to Cancer (a charity Freeman donates to), or fans of Cumberbatch raising over £15,000 for Myeloma UK (a rare cancer, and a charity which Cumberbatch designated for any birthday donations), the fans have proven that for every nutter out there, there’s someone out there who wants to do good.

As Cumberbatch’s star rises, it will be interesting to see how he continues to use his celebrity for charity. He obviously is picking things that mean something to him (i.e., acting, children, and schools), and it’s also obvious that he wants to use his popularity to bring attention to things he feels are important. Whether this makes an impact, however, remains to be seen. However, it’s already obvious that a good chunk of his fans will follow where he leads — which definitely shows an impact.

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