I don’t know how many of you know this (probably most of you), but I, like, really like Sherlock. The BBC show. I mean, I’m a fan of the original canon, too, but BBC’s Sherlock pretty much owns my heart and soul at the moment. I haven’t felt this strongly about a TV show since Firefly, so. You know. I like it a lot, basically.
There are a lot of reasons I like Sherlock, but for the sake of brevity, I’m just going to talk about the primary one: how freaking brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman are as Holmes and Watson. The essential point of the Holmes stories, for me, has always been the friendship between the two men, and this series really takes that idea to heart. Their friendship hits all the right notes: mutual admiration, hilarity, vague homosexual undertones, constant fighting, co-dependence, and what can only be described as desperately platonic love (and yes, I know that a lot of fangirls like to make that love less “platonic” and more “humping-around-every-corner,” but I find that kind of thinking misses the entire point, to which I say harumph. HARUMPH, I tell you).
But guys. I am worried. I am worried because CBS is making their own modern version of the Sherlock Holmes stories, called Elementary, and they made Watson a woman (more specifically, they made him Lucy Liu). This worries me for two reasons:
1. Watson & Holmes’ relationship isn’t about sex.
When you make Watson female, and Holmes is still male, all of a sudden their totally unique and powerful friendship turns into just another excuse to splash barely restrained hetero sexual tension across the screen. Which is not to say that there isn’t sexual tension when it’s two guys, because there totally is holy hell, but rather that everyone totally chills out about it because it’s hetero, so whatever, seen it a million times. It makes it easy to dismiss their relationship. It takes something extraordinary and interesting and complicated, and makes it downright trite. As Sherlock would say: boring.
I find this gender-swapped casting particularly alarming because, being American television, you just know they’re going to sleep together. And like I said before, that’s missing the point. Yes, Holmes and Watson are essentially in love, but it isn’t sexual. Adding sex into that equation just, just–ugh. I can’t even.
If they had made Holmes female, too, as the estimable Miss Emily suggested, they might have actually had an interesting concept. Not to mention timely, considering the gay marriage debates currently raging across the United States. But, alas.
2. Remaking shows that are still on air is stupid (and hurts the original show).
Why the hell does the US feel the need to re-make every single British TV show that gains even a small following? What the hell is up with this? And why do British TV people let them get away with it? Maybe this is just because I’ve watched a lot of British TV (Being Human, Jekyll, Sherlock of course, Robin Hood, Doctor Who, Torchwood, etc.), so I’m just as comfortable with it stylistically as I am with US television, but it seems weird to me that anyone would bother to re-make these shows. The remakes are so similar to the originals that it hardly seems to make sense to make a second version, especially considering that the US versions tend to water the stories down in favor of blatant sexual pandering and prettier actors (British actors tend to be a bit less attractive than their US counterparts, I’ve noticed, but infinitely more convincing, which is the actual point of acting, anyway). I don’t understand. What’s the point in it all? Why not just import the original show, which is usually better anyway?
There are, of course, some exceptions to this. For example, I would argue that the remake of the Office was warranted, because the specific brand of comedy in that show doesn’t translate well to US audiences, and being primarily a comedy, the whole business required translation to really work. That’s why fans of the US Office rarely like the British one, and vice versa. That said, the vast majority of the time, these remakes are a mistake. I was relieved when I heard that Moffat, Gatiss, Vertue et. al. turned down CBS when they asked to remake Sherlock. Finally, I thought, British TV makers who stand up for their creation rather than selling it! Then CBS just goes and launches a “totally different” show. It’s…depressing, to say the least.
What’s really sad about all these remakes, though, is that US audiences then assume that the remake is the only version out there–since the fact that it’s a remake isn’t exactly advertised–and then when the show bombs, everyone just gives up on it. I suppose that’s what really bugs me about this. If Elementary sucks as hard as I think it’s going to, that’s going to reflect on Sherlock, no matter how little they are actually related. And that’s just…ugh.
And I realize that I shouldn’t pass judgement on a show I haven’t seen yet, but something is rotten in 221B Baker St., and I am keeping my guard up on this one. I will probably watch the first episode, allowing that it doesn’t come to blows in court for the Sherlock creators (if a copyright battle breaks out, I will have to abstain on principle), but I don’t have high hopes. And either way, the second Miss Watson and Mr. Holmes lock lips, I’m out.
“I’m not a psychopath, Anderson. I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.” -Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock, A Study in Pink (S1E1)
pg. 215 of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
P.S. While I still maintain that (the original) Sherlock Holmes was the first to do this, I realize that the whole asshole-genius-with-long-suffering-and-overly-nice-best-friend-who-is-also-pretty-smart trope is actually pretty common in modern television. In fact, I made a badly drawn little comic about it, over on my deviantArt. Enjoy, I suppose.