To Barbara Ellen, the unlikely pairing of glamourous Hollywood star Angelina Jolie, and British foreign secretary William Hague (“a mere politician with the face of a sprouting spud”, she calls him), at a summit on sexual violence last week, couldn’t have been more jarring. “This is politics (fabled showbiz for ugly people) and actual showbiz (for beautiful people), merging to form an unwieldy mash-up that some might worry is the very opposite of serious, dignified or productive,” she points out. The public seemed to agree, judging by the scorn heaped on the two — Hague, for acting like a “starstruck sap”, Jolie, for allegedly using her humanitarian causes as publicity stunts. But Ellen argues that there’s method to their madness, that we should give the two the benefit of the doubt — perhaps they do really want to make a difference, and after all, they did manage to turn a potentially boring event into a worldwide sensation. As Jolie herself put it, “whatever works”.
The changing face of Hollywood
Ever since Sherlock debuted in 2010, the world has been obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch. But why, wonders Sophie Gilbert. The actor lacks the classical good looks and “bleached-blonde, Botox-browed Hollywood” sheen that have always pulled eyeballs. From his unwieldy name (which reminds her of “16 distinctly unglamorous popes, an order of monks, and eggs smothered with hollandaise”) to his face, which frequently draws comparisons with that of an otter, Cumberbatch, she says, is the anti-thesis of everything we find attractive. Could it be that, in our infatuation with a man with such unconventional looks, there are signs that our culture is maturing? It may be, Gilbert says, that “Cumberbatch is riding an improbably perfect storm of talent, timing, sensitivity, virality, and our postmodern rejection of conformist standards of beauty”. Perhaps, she further adds, “In a Cumberbatch-centric universe, the sublime is finally triumphant.”
The New Yorker
Cheating the beautiful game
The Football World Cup’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia featured a dramatic display of cheating by Brazilian striker Fred, who faked a fall to extract a penalty kick that was converted into a goal for his team. This prompted howls of outrage the world over. This and many other incidents like it have prompted Alan Burdick to look more closely into cheating in football games. What he finds, via a 2010 study by a psychologist from the University of Sheffield, are some interesting insights into how often incidents of cheating occur in football matches (an average of 6 incidents per game), who commits them most often (Brazil, Portugal, Chile, Italy) and what kind are tolerated or even accepted by fans (most people dislike classic cheating — “flops, dives, players writhing with pains that magically evaporate the moment the referee looks away”), much more than the blatant professional fouls committed to get in the way of the opposing team’s attack.