Now, I don’t wanna shock the shit outta y’all, but…
…I am not an 11 year-old girl.
Seriously. I’m not even double an 11 year-old girl. In fact, I’m more than triple an 11 year-old girl.
Which is why I keep telling myself that it’s okay to be crushing on Sherlock (the BBC TV series) three times harder than I crushed on Jon Knight from New Kids On The Block back when I was 11. Before I found out he was gay. Not that this would’ve mattered when I was 11. At that idyllic age, I would’ve been convinced he’d only be gay until he met me.
(You have to love tween-ego – it blossoms into such lovely thirtysomething megalomania. Because for the record? Once I rendezvous with Anderson Cooper, it is ALL OVER for the rest of y’all gays. Sorry.)
So I’ll admit, I came late to the Sherlock party.
Many of my friends and assorted Twitterati had been extolling the show for ages, but I refused to watch because… are you ready?
I adore Sherlock Holmes.
Hell, to be honest, “adore” doesn’t do my feelings justice.
Here, I’ll just plain out say it:
I love Sherlock Holmes.
Every anti-social impulse, every withering bon mot, every brain-melting flash of brilliance: they are my perfectly-cooked steak, my sparkling diamonds, my sleepy-slow sex on a rainy Sunday morning.
I’ve read every short story and novel Arthur Conan Doyle ever wrote about this genius detective, and had begun planning my own movie about him – right down to highlighting passages in my two-volume set and taking notes in the margins (a blasphemy I’m generally loath to perform, but… Sherlock!). I’d even called my manager and told him to expect a script in a few months.
Not two weeks later, I heard that a Sherlock film had just been greenlit starring Robert Downey Jr.
It was soul-crushing.
I felt as though someone were taking away “my” guy and making him date someone else. And when I finally saw the movie, all the things I wanted Sherlock to be: he wasn’t. Sure, he was a version of glib, a version of arrogant, a version of a prodigy. But not the version I’d carried in my heart since I’d read my first Sherlock story.
And my main problem?
Robert Downey Jr. was just too damned likeable. Not really his fault, I suppose, I’ve heard he’s an affable guy – but he was also too funny, too pretty, too slick, just too, too everything.
No one seemed to get what I believed to be the core of Sherlock’s character: that he is a sociopath, that his moral compass (if indeed it can be proved he has one) is entirely self-defined, and that the only thing preventing him from turning into Moriarty himself is the steady, humanizing influence of Watson.
As Conan Doyle writes in “The Sign of Four”:
“ ‘Schade dass die Natur nur einen Mensch aus dir schurf
Denn zum würdigen Mann war und zum Schelmen der Stoff.’ ”
– Goethe, Xenien
“It’s a shame that Nature made you only one man;
there was material enough for a worthy man and a rogue.”
Sherlock has his own code – he doesn’t always turn in the “bad guys” (see “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot,” or “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”). And that ethical ambivalence, that willingness to ignore the law, that dangerous tipping-of-the-scales – which way will Sherlock go? – was what hooked me, made me ravenous for the next story, crazy to know the answer – if ever there would be one…
…all of which played as cartoon in the film. It made me feel sick to my stomach.
In the movie, Sherlock was just another superhero – another Iron Man, only without the shiny flying suit – because that’s what Hollywood wants at the moment: superheroes. And who knows? Maybe it’s fabulous, but I’ve yet to see the second movie… because goddammit, my Sherlock is no superhero. He’s not even an antihero.
He is Sherlock, and no single label could apply.
But when the Academy screener of the BBC’s Sherlock showed up at my door – a DVD of “A Scandal in Belgravia,” the fourth episode in a run of six – I finally succumbed to peer pressure (and my own wishful curiosity) and watched it.
Now, usually I try to see all episodes of a series sequentially – being a TV writer, I know creating and following characters’ emotional arcs is one of the most gratifying things about television’s extended storytelling – but after experiencing the Iron Man Edition, I didn’t think it possible that anyone would ever see Sherlock the way I saw Sherlock, so what was there to lose in watching an episode out of order?
I settled myself on the couch, hit Play, and when the DVD ended, I hadn’t moved for ninety minutes. I hit Menu, then Play, and then did not move again for another ninety minutes. Had the Finance not come home after the second showing, I would’ve remained motionless for another ninety minutes.
I was torn between ecstasy and lunacy.
Someone had found my Sherlock Holmes.
The real Sherlock Holmes, the one I saw and heard in my head. He was, in a word: extraordinary. A savant, insensitive, acidic, asexual, amusing, immune to pressure (who else would show up at Buckingham Palace in a bedsheet?) –
– and – above all else – detached.
At an almost-insurmountable remove from the mortal condition, making you yearn for a connection — because he will never return your yearning.
This was the sociopath I’d been looking for.
Not to mention that suddenly Watson became a real man, not merely a cipher through which I entered the stories. And not only did I care about Watson, he opened up a way for me to care about Sherlock, too – as a human being — a way Sherlock, the character, wouldn’t allow. Likewise, Molly Hooper and Mrs. Hudson also offered me proxies through which I could love Sherlock the same way.
And though my introduction to Sherlock began on the tail end of Moriarty’s entrance into Sherlock’s world, even he offered me a way to understand Sherlock: as a mirror of Moriarty himself. Later, in “The Reichenbach Fall,” Moriarty expresses a vicious delight when Sherlock agrees, “I am you.”
“Brilliant!” I kept saying to myself. “Brilliant bloody fucking brilliant!”
Immediately I DVR’d all the episodes of Sherlock I could find, and in the past month, I have watched every episode.
Five or six times each.
Obsessive? Oh, absolutely. But when you’ve carried a person around in your heart for most of your life, and all of a sudden someone gives you that person to hold in your hand, how long do you stare? How often do you check just to make sure they’re still there, that they remain as beautiful as you remember them, that every gorgeous thing they’ve said and done is still as gorgeous as you recall?
How do you feel when someone reaches inside you, removes one of your most precious treasures, then gives it back to you, unconditionally, polished and shining?
Even Sherlock Holmes could tell you that.
How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Batch