Scowling, sodden and surrounded by waterfowl, the actor adorns the new Hollywood issue as an icon of … what exactly?

The customary brouhaha erupted yesterday after the release of Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood Issue cover photos, the most striking of which depicts an angry Benedict Cumberbatch emerging fully clothed from a hot bubblebath sesh with a bevy of swans.

The Hollywood Issue increasingly feels like it belongs to a different era, when fashion magazines and actors’ star power were at their respective heights. These days, the printed press is clinging on for dear life (Entertainment Weekly announced just last week that it will be ceasing its print edition), and in Hollywood no one performer is bigger than a franchise. So the Hollywood Issue, which trades in the nose-to-the-window glamour of movie stars, has a more forlorn quality than it used to.

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