What a start to the year for Sharons. During Celebrity Mastermind, a question came up about a book written by a Swedish climate change activist. Amanda Henderson, the Casualty star in the chair, looked ruffled. “What’s her name?” asked John Humphrys.
The right answer was Greta Thunberg. But Henderson had more to give than the right answer. She grabbed her own confusion by the throat and went rogue. “Sharon,” she said. The comedian Mark Smith tweeted the clip, and just like that, 2020 had its first viral moment, a meme that will endure, a default response to when it all gets too much. Feeling overwhelmed? Sharon.
Sharon Stone, the world’s most famous Sharon, at least up until the Great Sharon Quiz Debacle of January 2020, did her own bit for Sharon visibility last week. Having signed up to the dating app Bumble, Stone was promptly blocked, because of reports that she was an impostor. It must be strange for Stone to have her own identity questioned in that way, but it must also be strange to encounter Sharon Stone on a dating app for normal people, the sensory equivalent of accidentally coming across an episode of Friends you’ve never seen. Perhaps other users thought she was a Swedish climate change activist and author. “Hey Bumble, is being me exclusionary?” she tweeted, a philosophical jumble for Bumble to unpack.
The dating app attempted to handle the crisis with a matey message that borrowed the wacky tone of smoothie bottles and baby food sachets. It called her a queen, promised to unblock her, slightly passive-aggressively implied that she should have verified her profile, then added: “Catherine Tramell from Basic Instinct gets a pass today!” One has to wonder if anyone at Bumble has actually watched Basic Instinct or if they had simply scanned Stone’s IMDB page. “Serial killer gets a pass today!” might not be the best PR strategy to adopt when your dating app has been unexpectedly endorsed by a celebrity and given a global profile boost of unprecedented magnitude.
It’s a blessing that they don’t seem to have found an ice pick emoji.
Stone herself was unmoved. “You are confusing my honesty with your fantasy,” she replied, adding a clip of her acceptance speech for a GQ award in 2019, in which she explained how for a long time, the scene, that scene, in Basic Instinct had turned her into a joke. On the next Celebrity Mastermind, perhaps there should be a round on the movie star who defends her dignity and prefers to date like normal people. What’s her name? Sharon.
Chris Packham: a brush with a dead fox won’t alter his tactics
The TV presenter Chris Packham has once again been targeted with dead animals, a gruesome phrase if ever there was one. After crows were hung on his gate last April, a dead fox was left at his home last week, presumably by people upset by his vocal campaigning against fox hunting.
The macabre stunt, if you can call it a stunt, was reported to the RSPCA, the League Against Cruel Sports and the police. In an interview with the Times, Packham, who is vegan, said he prefers a more conciliatory approach in his own activism, particularly with regards to cutting out animal products. “One of the problems with the vegan movement is that it has been didactic,” he said. “I think you’ve got to ask people to think, not tell them what to do.”
He’s got the right idea. There is a whole world of the vegan internet that resists that old didacticism. When exploring onlinefor new things to cook and eat, the trait I have noticed most on the vegan sites I have stuck with is an absolute rejection of anything judgmental. Most Instagram accounts and recipe blogs are warm, welcoming and truly open, whether addressing hardcore, years-long vegans, curious newcomers or those who simply want to cut down on their consumption of meat and dairy.
This gently-gently approach seems to be working; more and more people are signing up to Veganuary. That does mean that we’ll be hearing more from people whom nothing irritates more than a meat-free alternative being offered alongside a meat product that continues to be sold freely. But they’re easy to spot. How do you know when somebody hates vegans? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you that joke about how you know that somebody is vegan.
Dolly Wells: a Dracula to raise the stakes
I interviewed Dolly Wells a few months ago, when she was promoting her very good directorial debut, Good Posture, and she mentioned that she had just finished playing a part in a new version of Dracula.
Then she quickly stopped herself, saying she wasn’t sure she could talk about it, after all. Having torn through the Mark Gatiss/Steven Moffat reimagining with more gusto than the count in a convent last week, it’s no wonder now to me that she felt she should stay quiet until it had aired. The show soared on its ability to shock and pull off a blinding twist.
The gory, witty three-part adaptation, camp as Christmas, cruel as winter, was a delight, causing the rare “let me know when I can look again” hand-over-eyes phenomenon to occur on my sofa. I practically air-punched after the reveal (stop reading now if you have yet to catch up) that Wells’s suspiciously ungodly Sister Agatha, surely already a contender for the performance of 2020, was the Van Helsing we never knew we needed.
While the recent Christmas Carol took liberties with the original to only middling effect, Dracula’s healthy disrespect for the source material, and Wells’s character, made it triumphant.
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist