perihadion: (Amy Pond (sail on shooting stars))
[personal profile] perihadion
Assuming good faith, I feel like what happened when Stephen Thompson was 'loosely' adapting "The Dancing Men" into the Sherlock episode "The Blind Banker" is that he wanted to introduce some less offensive portrayals of people of colour into the Sherlock Holmes mythology by making all of the American characters in the original story Chinese; the problem is that he made them all Chinese stereotypes and decided to introduce the idea of an overarching gang structure which -- I think -- was foreign to the original story but unfortunately is not remotely foreign to portrayals of Asians in Western media. So I don't think that, on the balance, the 'modernised' story is all that more progressive than the original.

And this is what gets me about Sherlock -- because if I were adapting the Sherlock Holmes mythology for the modern day my number one priority would be updating the attitudes in the stories: like, would a modern-day Sherlock Holmes really be this much more condescending to women than men? Because he does manage to be more condescending in his dealings with Sarah than he has been to any men on the show, men he obviously considers inferior but nonetheless worthy of an elucidation, which was just an unreasonable demand on his time coming from Sarah (who had already saved his life at this point) -- and if this pattern is emerging because the men of the show are police officials whom he is forced to give that modicum of respect whereas the women are merely secretaries and girlfriends (and one lower-ranking police officer) then maybe you should write the women he deals with into more important roles. That would resolve some of the show's gender issues and have the nice side-effect of making Sherlock come off as more of a misanthrope and less of a misogynist[*]. Like, you've set this in the modern day: you can actually have female detective inspectors. (So far, the only woman portrayed as having any power on the show was General Shan, who was an Asian stereotype, albeit traditionally a male one -- who, in the final scene, stated that she owed everything to "M", who I assume is Moriarty and who I can only assume at this point is a white man.)

Why are women never actors and always acted on?: they're murdered, they're dated, they're talked down to, they're plot points rather than people -- they have almost no personality, they rarely talk back or assert themselves and when they do they're smacked back into place (or killed). When women are allowed to be clever it's almost always from beyond the grave. Look: I'm not asking for a massive amount; I don't need women to steal the show or be the most significant characters, I just want them to be interesting -- I want them to be cool, I want them to be smart, I want them to be dry and sarcastic, I want them to exist as personalities in their own right and not just ciphers for the plot and male characterisation; I want them to assert themselves, I want them to do something other than roll over and apologise in the face of strangers making suppositions about their sex lives. I want them to play a role in the coda of an episode when they've been kidnapped and had their lives threatened -- seriously, what happened to Sarah next? Is she all right? Is she taking time off work? Does she have PTSD? Does anybody care? -- or is it just not important?

I just find this so frustrating because this show was co-created by Steven Moffat, who is responsible for creating some of my favourite characters of all time on Doctor Who. Why are the Sally Sparrows, the River Songs, the Liz Tens, the Amy Ponds so conspicuously absent from the Sherlock universe? They don't even exist at the fringes of the show; they're just not there. This is not a reflection of what the real world is like, and it's making it impossible for me to enjoy this show. I don't know who is responsible for which aspect of the writing on the show, but ultimately the buck stops with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss -- the buck stops there on the stereotypical depiction of Chinese people in Stephen Thompson's episode, and it stops there on the general lack of representation of realistic, fleshed-out women and people of colour in both "The Blind Banker" and Moffat's "A Study in Pink".

So, that's how I feel about Sherlock at this point. I tried to like it, and I desperately wanted to, but I just can't. It's a three-part series, so even if next week's episode (by Mark Gatiss, if I remember correctly) is the single greatest piece of television I have ever watched I don't think it will tip the balance on this series for me. Which is sad, and honestly it makes me feel sadder about my issues with Doctor Who right now too.

- - -
[*]: I know that he called both the female victim of "A Study in Pink" and Soo Lin 'clever' (the woman in "A Study in Pink" for being murdered and leaving behind a clue which helped him solve the case, and Soo Lin for managing to avoid her eventual murder long enough for her to, uh, leave behind a clue to help him solve the case) -- but here's the thing: when I look at who he treats the worst, it is still the case that he is more condescending to women than to men, and I don't think that praising two of them for what essentially boils down to validating his own sense of self-worth cancels that out.

Date: 2010-08-03 11:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
what are you doctor who issues? out of interest - promise i'm not a fan waiting to smack you down

Date: 2010-08-03 11:51 am (UTC)
ext_34962: (Daleks!)
From: [identity profile]
I wouldn't mind if you were a fan who wanted to smack me down -- I actually loved this series of Doctor Who and really connected with the show for the first time since it returned. But, I had problems with the way the relationship between Amy and Rory was portrayed -- which I've written about in this entry and this one (I hold something of a minority opinion on this point, but it cast something of a shadow over my enjoyment of the show this year). I should also add that I had other issues with a couple of individual episodes (like "The Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood", which depicted the women of both species as the violent, over-emotional ones who were perpetuating the cycle of violence, in contrast to the calm rationalism and compassion of the men).
Edited Date: 2010-08-03 11:52 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-08-03 12:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
you cover some interesting points and i agree with them all.

Date: 2010-08-03 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mary, sometimes I feel as if you have my brain, only your version is clearly an upgrade from mine. What you have written here is pretty much thoughts that ran through my head as I watched "The Blind Banker" only written down and much more eloquent than I could ever achieve.
Another thing that bothered me was how Sherlock used the poor woman who clearly has a crush on him - I didn't find that cute at all, only sleazy and dickish.

Date: 2010-08-03 04:28 pm (UTC)
ext_34962: (Lois Lane (hunting for mysteries))
From: [identity profile]
Another thing that bothered me was how Sherlock used the poor woman who clearly has a crush on him - I didn't find that cute at all, only sleazy and dickish.
Yeah, that was gross. [ profile] radioreverie and I hope that she turns out to be Moriarty (at the very least I hope that the next time he tries that crap she tells him to go fuck himself). I want Moriarty to be a woman, anyway; I said to Melissa that I would prefer for the show to imply that smart women are evil than to imply that there is literally no such thing as a smart woman -- which is more or less where we're at right now: the dead woman in "A Study in Pink" not withstanding, the smartest thing any woman has done on-screen is Sarah just happening to notice that Soo Lin had started translating the cypher. And it would call Sherlock's sexism into question (as Melissa pointed out to me, he assumed in "A Study in Pink" that if Moriarty is not a man then s/he must be an organisation, and he assumed that Harry was male -- in her words, it's his blind spot).

Date: 2010-08-04 10:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I said to Melissa that I would prefer for the show to imply that smart women are evil than to imply that there is literally no such thing as a smart woman
I would love it if Moriarty turned out to be a woman, love it. Sherlock Holmes really bothered me to the point of hatred in "The Blind Banker", the small things I thought I could overlook from before (the "on her knees" comment to the female police officer in "A Study in Pink") were just too much in this one.

Date: 2010-08-05 10:27 pm (UTC)
ext_34962: (The Man Who Fell to Earth)
From: [identity profile]
Well, right. Like, I do think that this is a legitimate interpretation of him as a character -- it's just that all of the negative aspects of him as a person were just brought to the forefront in this episode and it was really overwhelming. He can be nasty, or manipulative, or condescending from time to time -- but when literally all he does is treat people, particularly women, like crap, and manipulate them left, right, and centre it really makes me go, "Um, why is this the person I'm supposed to be rooting for?" I was talking about Sherlock with [ profile] mskatej last night and, you know, I actually feel like by updating it in some ways they've actually made it more problematic than it was to begin with; I mean, the original stories were really offensive from time to time, don't get me wrong -- but at least Holmes didn't go around embarrassing women by constantly talking about their sex lives. (Also: why was that seriously his superpower of the episode, Stephen Thompson? -- because not only did he call out the secretary on sleeping with her boss, but the banker he met with at the start of the episode mentioned that he had a habit of telling people he knew they were sleeping around; and there's something really gross about the chain of thought which leads someone to go, "Oh, if I had the deductive reasoning abilities of Sherlock Holmes I would always know who was fucking who." BECAUSE THAT'S TOTALLY MY TOP PRIORITY. SERIOUSLY, WHAT?)

If I may... continue this rant, I've been stewing on the exchange between Sherlock and Molly (the morgue technician with the crush on him), because it really creeped me out and I couldn't quite figure out what about it was so off-putting to me -- and I finally hit upon it during my three-hour coach ride yesterday in which the only thing I had to do was stew: it's because it's part of this emerging pattern whereby if Sherlock happens to need the help or co-operation of a man he will actually take the time to explain to them what is going on (even if he does it while condescending to them), but the moment he needs the co-operation of a woman, rather than telling her the truth (essentially: that people's lives are at stake -- and most people would do you a favour if it meant saving people's lives) he immediately resorts to the creepy emotional manipulation to make her do what he wants. There was a less creepy option available to him but he chose to manipulate her because he could, because he just has no respect for her as a thinking human being.

I would love it if Moriarty turned out to be a woman, love it.
It would actually kind of redeem the show for me a little bit (well, a lot). I might make a post about this but essentially -- it would be the pay-off to Sherlock's weird sexism (assuming that's deliberate). I really feel like what the show needs at this point is for a woman to put him in his place and kind of redeem him a little bit, you know? I just don't want to have these feelings of pathological hatred towards him where I'm totally rooting for the person who's choking him. :(

Date: 2010-08-05 10:33 pm (UTC)
ext_34962: ("Death in the Sickroom")
From: [identity profile]
Also, god: I've been stewing about this episode for four days. What has my life come to?

Date: 2010-08-03 04:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I haven't seen it, because I can't work up the interest, but I thought the whole point of updating it was to...update it? If you're not gonna bother including 21st century social truths than just leave it in the past. OH WELL.

Date: 2010-08-03 05:05 pm (UTC)
ext_34962: ("The Violinist Leila Kalman")
From: [identity profile]

Date: 2010-08-04 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sometimes I swear we share a brain. This is exactly what was cycling through my mind during "The Blind Banker," and I just...why is wanting women to be treated and written as whole, worthwhile, multi-faceted characters too goddamned much to ask? I'm so tired. It makes me so tired seeing this, again and again, especially by the man who, despite his faults, populates his fictional worlds with the Amys and Sallys and Rivers.

And on a side-note, I was really pulling for this show to work and it's not working for so many reasons. Sigh. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Date: 2010-08-04 09:17 am (UTC)
ext_34962: ("Girl on a Red Carpet")
From: [identity profile]
I really wanted it to work too; I really, desperately wanted it to be a good show and it's just not. Maybe Moffat feels like he has enough of a "female character cache" that he can co-create a show without putting any thought into female characters whatsoever -- but it doesn't work that way, Moffat.

The one thing I can say is that if Sherlock comes back for a longer run with shorter episodes next year or whenever I'm more hopeful that these problems will be resolved than I am that Doctor Who will give me a satisfactory ending for Amy's story arc. Although, having said that, I feel like I'm just setting myself up for more disappointment.
Edited Date: 2010-08-04 09:17 am (UTC)


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