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.

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[*]: 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.
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September 2010

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