Read a few posts yesterday questioning, in light of TJLC, the ‘official party line’ from TPTB concerning the John and Sherlock relationship, and citing it as insensitive, and even offensive, to the viewers, especially the LGB community. Here are my thoughts on this issue:
- The writers and commissioner have a policy, as we saw in the BBC research paper on LGB representation, which is to allow heterosexual viewers to gradually know characters prior to discussing or discovering that characters sexual preferences. This tactic produces a higher acceptance rate of LGB characters and less het viewers dismissing the program prematurely as ‘a gay show.’
- BBC Sherlock presented initially, with the pilot, an obviously ‘gay’ adaptation of the iconic characters of Holmes and Watson. This was rejected and the commission was for a slow build, probably over a 5 series arc, for the relationship’s true nature to be revealed. Given the historical significance of the characters involved it was a prudent move.
- From ASiP to TGG, hints were given. We call it subtext, and it was rife from day one. Anyone with an open mind on sexual identity and sexual preferences could see in the Angelo’s scene, the hallway scene and the final shock blanket scene, the homoerotic vibes and the direction the show was aiming for. But the sexually open minded are not the target for this reveal, it’s there for us if we look, however we have to nudge others slowly along the path. They cannot see the hints, they are oblivious to them. This dichotomy will cause great frustration in the viewers that are in on the true nature of the plot. All the writers can do to help is give more subtext, coded messages and allow certain comments to reach the press.
- Here is where we have the problem. The official line was that Sherlock was a ‘love story’ between two men, the very best of friends. The friendship that has stood the test of time. They kept reiterating that the relationship was the core of the show. They have NEVER faulted on that one fact. They have added that Sherlock is the story of a detective not a detective story. [Note the focus on the DETECTIVE people, not a story about a group of people, it’s a story primarily about one man. The other man is integral to the story by association. The focus is always on Sherlock.]
- The majority of comments on the homosexual undertones of the relationship have been generated by questions put to the creators. The creators are careful not raise the subject. As the show has progressed those type of questions have multiplied. [As has the fandom sector that reads the subtext and supports it.] The writers deny but then admit they lie. They cannot reveal the plot, the endgame, so they attempt [and often fail] to be ambiguous. Early on they allowed certain comments about the gay nature of the show to reach the press, primarily via Martin Freeman. He wasn’t stopped, and he spoke openly about that gay aspect in Sherlock. I saw that as a conduit that the writers were taking to deliver messages to the audience that were clearly seeing the writing on the wall. It was an affirmation, albeit one that could not be delivered officially. It had to be shut down once season 3 was in the works, as season 3 is more overt concerning the sexuality of the lead characters.
- Post season 2 the show was gaining a worldwide audience and had entered mainstream conversations. The success of the show was huge. This resulted in more questions and more inarticulate or insensitive answers from those associated with the show. Again if you consider the amount of press required for BBC Sherlock and the number of questions asked, plus our homoerotic fan works thrown at the writers and cast, it begins to look like chaos.TPTB are being hit over the head with their homoeroticism. I honestly do not think they were prepared. They have a dilemma; keep the secret of the nature of S/J’s trajectory over the arc of the show, yet support LGB relationships in a public forum. I admit that they have often failed at this. I think they have chosen to muddle through because the end result is worth it, the end result could bring cultural changes, the end result will change lives. It’s a problem faced by many that have power, and yes, power is often in the hands of media portrayals. It’s the message delivered into the living rooms of homes, the discussion around the water cooler, the landmark events that can change perceptions. In a way it is the Coventry Conundrum.
- The writers speak to us via the plots. In q & a sessions they are handicapped by the policy of a slow reveal.
- Benedict Cumberbatch. Bless him, he is an extroverted thinker. He reveals too much in his waffling. He knows it. It almost killed him to keep the Khan secret and he was so proud of himself that he did. He is a bit of a blurter. Isn’t he just the cutest thing? It must be awful to keep Sherlock’s secret for so long. He is asked constantly about the John and Sherlock relationship and I believe that the response to it is not embarrassment or rejection over a gay relationship [BC is not homophobic] but deep frustration over having to obfuscate yet again. If you notice he is becoming less tolerant of the issue, it’s getting old. Not the idea of johnlock but the questions that force him to deflect from the truth. He has just produced, in season 3, the most remarkable journey of a man discovering through emotional pain, that he is deeply in love. But he cannot discuss it. He cannot comment on the growth of the character he plays. For BC that must be hell.
- On a personal note, I have been hurt by the comments from both cast, writers and others on the periphery of the show. I have cried. I have been confused and angry with the message given to me via the media, which is in opposition from the show’s now obvious endgame. It has not been easy being a fan of this show. However on reflection I can look at this situation and understand why the people involved have made mistakes, why the subtifuge exists, why the confusion reigns. I believe in TJLC, I am willing to forgive anything if all ends well, I understand being damned if you do or damned if you don’t.
[Before anyone asks: I am a bisexual demisexual and a life long member of the queer community]