Martin Freeman is the English Everyman

Martin Freeman as Bilbo BagginsMartin Freeman is an actor who’s been getting increasingly more airtime and shows, it seems. Or bigger name ones, going more international. Something. He keeps showing up in these English films, anyway.

And he has a typecast, like so many actors end up in. But Martin Freeman’s is fascinating – his is as the everyman. A common enough idea in storytelling, for sure, and many stories have one. But a really defined everyman? One whose sole purpose is to be the everyman, where their life is so ordinary that it’s absurd anything story-worthy is happening to them. This seems particularly like a British storytelling trait, these uber-everymen.

And of these, why does it seem like Martin Freeman is working his way through playing all of them on screen? That feels like more than a typecast to me. Consider the main examples with me below! And then just consider the question… is Martin Freeman THE English Everyman?

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Elementary, my Dear Watson

For instance, coming back soon, there’s BBC’s Sherlock. On this show, Martin Freeman plays John Watson, everyman to Sherlock’s different man. Soldier. Doctor. Blogger. Trouble with women. An everyman out of history, brought back into our modern age.

Martin Freeman as John WatsonFreeman has been great as this character, and the character has been written well. He’s not dumb – just not as smart as Sherlock. He keeps up with the plot, has ideas of what’s going on. The scene with he and Sherlock in Buckingham Palace, in particular, is a great example of this. He knows Sherlock. Knows he is naked under the sheets. Wants to steal an ashtray.

And even back to the stories, John Watson is the narrator, is our gateway into seeing Sherlock, who thinks and acts so differently from us. So in comparison, Watson is so very normal. But he gets sucked up in the wake of giants, caught in their games, despite not being a part of them. Much like us, he is a more normal man, with a backstory, with pain and loss, injured, and seeking.

And hey, who doesn’t want to be a blogger, right?

No Thank You! – Bilbo Baggins

Or there is the other great paragon of everyman-ness, Bilbo Baggins himself. Another narrator, telling us the story of a grand adventure he by no rights should have ever been a part of in the first place.

Now, the most everyman-y of Middle Earth would have to be Sam, who is not only an everyman like Bilbo, but is also working class, rather than a landowner like Bilbo and Frodo. Nonetheless, Bilbo is quite an ordinary hobbit, and purposefully so. Not only is he the sort who would say no to the adventure – he’s the sort who never would have thought of it in the first place!

Bilbo sees the SkyBilbo grows rather a lot during his adventures, and nothing really comes up that he does not eventually find himself the equal to. No task too great – not even a dragon, a game of riddles to the death, or – in his strongest character trait – resisting the evil of the ring for decades. But in the end, all he really wants to do is go home, and finish his book. He lives a pretty quiet life after the events of the Hobbit.

I loved Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch both being in The Desolation of Smaug – it was Sherlock lording it over Watson once again. Still, it’s Freeman who is the stronger part there – still an at-home sort of fellow, complimenting Smaug at least in part because Smaug is indeed great and magnificent in comparison.

I still don’t know how I feel about the Hobbit movies, but one part I know has been good is Martin Freeman.

THE Arthur Dent?

But wait, who’s the everyman of everymen? The one who is a parody of the everyman? One for whom the man who must speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth knows quite a bit about? Who pulls out Scrabble pieces trying to decipher the question to the answer of life, the universe, and everything? Why, none other than Arthur Dent.

Martin Freeman in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie was great. And while, like the Hobbit movies, it’s hard to decide whether this movie was good or faithful to the source material… it definitely had its excellent everyman, whose small experience fighting off a wrecking crew in his pajamas outside his house is somehow the perfect foil for the destruction of the world.

Martin Freeman as Arthur DentDouglas Adams gave us many great things, but his parody of the everyman was one of the finest. Arthur Dent is a gift that keeps on giving, trying to just make some proper tea on a spaceship, or just trying to get the girl. Causing all sorts of unintended mayhem.

I kind of hope they make a sequel… The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of my favorite books!

Martin Freeman has been great in a lot of other things, too – like in The World’s End, where he’s the sort of everyman the aliens decide to speak through to our heroes. What do you think – what’s your favorite Martin Freeman everyman? Let us know in the comments below!

2 responses to “Martin Freeman is the English Everyman

  1. andreinternational

    It was interesting to see in the last episode of Sherlock that Holmes points out that Watson is actually an adventure junkie. He’s friends with and married a sociopath, fought in a war and goes into crack dens. Hadn’t really thought of him like that. Glad he’s becoming more famous, he’s a great actor!


  2. Pingback: Geek 501 – Sherlock | Comparative Geeks

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