Rowan Atkinson has never been one of those men who enjoy the spotlight they deserve. Active for at least 30 years, he has created at least two well-loved characters that most people recognize instantly, Mr. Bean and Blackadder. Today I’m mostly focusing on those two characters as they are so diametrically opposed to one another, while shining the spotlight of this blog’s massive readership (21 people read it the other day, y’all! INTERNET FAME ACHIEVED!! 😀 ) on an actor who has been criminally underexposed for the majority of his career.
Many people encounter Atkinson and definitely recognize him, but can’t always say from what. His distinctive, un-traditionally handsome face leaves an impression, and even if you’ve only seen him as a minor character in films or caught an episode of Mr. Bean when you were little, as I did, or recognize his voice as that of Zazu from The Lion King. I first noticed him in The Witches, which I saw in the theater with my Grandmother. And here and there he’d pop up in various things, until I remember the Mr. Bean movie coming out around my first year of college. I’d seen a few episodes of Bean, and while the movie was entertaining it didn’t really grab me (or many other people, as I recall it bombed in the U.S.).
When I worked in Suncoast, a movie store no longer extant, a gentleman ordered the Blackadder series on VHS (yes, it was that long ago). I looked over the box and realized A. I would probably love this, B. I would not be able to see it unless I rented it, C. I would probably become obsessed with it, and D. I would therefore not look into it right then. It’s an odd thought process that hasn’t always served me well, as I do miss out on a lot of media that is sometimes best enjoyed when the cultural zeitgeist is hitting, but also means that when I finally get around to those rare gems, (like when I finaly saw Babe: Pig in the City around when my father’s friend passed away), it’s that much more poignant.
Anyway, I didn’t get to Blackadder right away. Nor a few years later when a friend introduced me to Blackadder the Third–I *did* love it, but again, couldn’t afford to buy the DVDs or and nowhere around me rented them.
Now that I’ve seen the whole series on Instant Watch, I freaking LOVE. IT.
Atkinson is brilliant. Granted, the first season was not as stellar as the latter ones, or at least to me; Blackadder the First is a very craven, sniveling character, and there are hints in him of the later character Atkinson would create, Mr. Bean. The real shift began with 2, when Blackadder becomes a more scheming, aggressive character. He’s a blackguard, a dastard, a rake–not quite a villain, but close. He’s definitely closer to one of those words filling 19th-century women’s fiction, and that you KNOW you ought to stay away from and yet are still fascinated by.
Oh yeah. That’s the stuff. I think it’s the beard. And the ‘Come Hither So I Can Rummage In Thy Pantaloons’ stare.
Anyhoodle, Atkinson as a sex symbol is probably a phrase most often printed or Googled with a question mark at the end of it for most people, but I don’t know, there’s definitely something going on there. He doesn’t have that dead ‘this is a headshot like so many millions of others I have done’ stare–the most attractive people, in my opinion, are the ones with something going on behind their eyes. Atkinson is an intelligent guy, most good comedians are, and Blackadder itself doesn’t always go for the cheap laughs; jokes about Boswell, the Romantic poets, Sir Walter Raleigh, and obscure songs from the British trenches of World War 1–all were fodder for the series’ writers. And even if you don’t get the references all the time, the jokes still bring in the laughs, just from the performances. Fans of the show ‘House’ are often surprised to find a very young Hugh Laurie among the cast, and in my opinion I’d rather watch 5 minutes of his Prince George than the entire series of House anytime. There’s no real comparison as the shows are so different, but personally I much prefer his comedy to his drama–nothing against the actor, I’ve just only seen him act dramatically in House and would rather see him being a happy goofball.
Atkinson has never really captured the zeitgeist in America, although the right project could come along and change that. I remain the eternal optimist, what can I say!
I would like to express a heartfelt ‘You’re awesome!’ to the man in the hopes that one day he will come across this blog and see that there are a least a few people in the U.S. who adore his work and want him to keep making more of it!
Thanks Rowan Atkinson! I hope you’re around for many, many more years, doing projects that you love and gain you the recognition you deserve!