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Netflix’s The Power of the Dog is a frontrunner at the Academy Awards for Best Picture. However, not everyone thinks The Power of the Dog is great and this includes Western legend, Sam Elliott. However, his criticisms appear to be rooted in a deeper bias and Benedict Cumberbatch, who stars in the film, has responded to the comments shared by Elliott.

Benedict Cumberbatch responds to Sam Elliott's criticisms of The Power of the Dog.
Benedict Cumberbatch | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sam Elliott calls ‘The Power of the Dog’ a ‘piece of s***’

During an interview with Marc Maron on Maron’s WTF podcast, Elliott began his criticisms by directly calling the film a “piece of shit.” While the 1883 star praised the previous work of director Jane Campion, he questioned what she would know about the American West, considering she is from New Zealand. 

Elliott then went on to compare the Cowboy characters, played by Cumberbatch and Kodi-Smith Mcphee, to Chippendales dancers who “wear bow ties and not much else.”

“That’s what all these f***ing cowboys in that movie looked like,” Elliott said (shared via Insider). “They’re running around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions of homosexuality throughout the movie. Where’s the Western in this Western?”

Benedict Cumberbatch says his character is a ‘specific case of repression’

At a BAFTA Film Session on March 4, Cumberbatch responded to the comments made by Elliott. The Spider-Man: No Way Home actor is nominated for Best Actor for his role in The Power of the Dog.

“I’m trying very hard not to say anything about a very odd reaction that happened the other day on a radio podcast over here,” Cumberbatch said. “Without meaning to stir over the ashes of that…someone really took offense to—I haven’t heard it so it’s unfair for me to comment in detail on it—to the West being portrayed in this way.”

In The Power of the Dog, Cumberbatch plays Phil Burbank, a wicked farmer who tries to portray an aura of masculinity and lashes out at Rose (Kirsten Dunst), the new wife of his brother, George (Jesse Plemons). One of Elliott’s comments that Cumberbatch addresses directly is the “allusions of homosexuality” in The Power of the Dog that Elliott takes issue with.

“Beyond that reaction, that sort of denial that anybody could have any other than a heteronormative existence because of what they do for a living or where they’re born, there’s also a massive intolerance within the world at large towards homosexuality still and toward an acceptance of the other and anything kind of difference,” Cumberbatch explained (shared via Variety). “No more so than in this prism of conformity of what’s expected of a man in the Western archetype mold of masculinity. To deconstruct that through Phil, it’s not a history lesson.”

Cumberbatch believes people like Phil existed back then and still exist today


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At the same BAFTA Film session, Cumberbatch explains how people like Phil are always going to be relevant. He believes that the anger and frustration that can grow from not being able to know who you are can cause “damage to that person.”

“These people still exist in our world,” Cumberbatch said. “Whether it’s on our doorstep or whether it’s down the road or whether it’s someone we meet in a bar or pub or on the sports field, there is aggression and anger and frustration and an inability to control or know who you are in that moment that causes damage to that person and, as we know, damage to those around them.” 

“There’s no harm in looking at a character to get to the root causes of that. This is a very specific case of repression, but also due to an intolerance for that true identity that Phil is that he can’t fully be,” Cumberbatch continued. “The more we look under the hood of toxic masculinity and try to discover the root causes of it, the bigger chances we have of dealing with it when it arises with our children.” 

The Power of the Dog is currently streaming on Netflix.