No less Lady Watson herself, friend and ninja-market-researcher Achala Srivatsa is in a bad mood. Wouldn’t you be if someone made a mockery of your favourite superhero? (For starters, STOP CALLING HIM A SUPERHERO!)
These past few years have seen several adaptations of Sir ACD’s Sherlock Holmes. We had Robert Downey Jr’s “Crouching Holmes Sleeping Watson” version with ninja type flying kicks, a semi-nude Holmes, we had the scarfed up sociopathic and, frankly, nasty Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC’s mini-series “Sherlock”, and now we have “Elementary”, where Sherlock Holmes is a woman …no wait, Watson’s an American woman of Asian origin while Sherlock Holmes is as Brit as…well, Sherlock Holmes.
Now, I am a notorious purist when it comes to my literary and celluloid heroes and my best friends will tell you I frothed at the mouth when they messed around with James Bond (hey, My name is Bond not Heathcliff… stop the maudlin melodrama and man up with some martinis –not beer!). But I gritted my teeth and swore I’d enjoy these adaptations even if it killed me.
So I smiled sweetly and painfully through RDJ’s first movie which had a positively skanky Holmes on drugs, on steroids and worse, but joined my fellow Sherlockians and exclaimed over the vigour and fun of that movie. I stoutly refused to watch the second one but did manage to watch a bit of it and cringed.
Sherlock was fun, I admit, but this must be said – what’s with the fiendish complexity? There has been enough hand wringing over the portrayal of Holmes as a sociopath and I will not bore everyone again on that, but seriously – when did Holmes become so horribly unpleasant? Yes, I loved the clever little touches; I loved the mystery around Mycroft, the use of texting blah blah.
And then I saw a bit of “Elementary” because that was all I could take and snapped. I have had ENOUGH!
I am sick of being politely excited about “modern day” adaptations of a classic that I have loved all my life, that inspired me and excited me and still gives me a thrill when I read the opening lines of some of my favourite stories.
I say enough. Enough of female Watsons (a sober companion, for God’s sake?), enough of clever technology, enough of silly acronyms (H.O.U.N.D???), enough of seeing Holmes as a social misfit, tripping on all kinds of drugs, wallowing in a filthy room, tattooed, muscled and with prostitutes wandering through his rooms (and no, she was not there to complain about the depth to which the parsley had sunk into the butter on a hot day)
I would like to see a revival of the original canons… Please
- Give me my funny Holmes in The Noble Bachelor “by the same logic Lestrade, every man’s body should be in the vicinity of his wardrobe”
- Give my self-deprecating Holmes – “she waved us to our respective chairs like a reverend abbess greeting two rather leprous mendicants. If your head is inclined to swell, my dear Watson, take a course of Miss Violet de Merville” (Illustrious Client)
- Give me the Holmes who has a magically soothing effect on distraught women – the Holmes in the Speckled Band, the Copper Beeches
- Speaking of….give me the thrill of the Speckled Band again. Please. If you can create a story that has the terror, the drama and has the ability to thrill you – in the original sense of the word thrill – do so. If you cannot –stick to the bloody original!
- Which takes me to my next point – if you want to introduce Holmes to an audience that has no clue what a Sherlock is, give them A Study in Scarlet – murder, lust, revenge, mystery, adventure, German letters scrawled in blood? Why look elsewhere?
If the argument is that a 21st century “digitally native” audience needs a tattooed Holmes, I beg to differ. I am sure that today’s young people are perfectly capable of comprehending that before the 21st century was a 20th and before that a 19th century where people were- you know, different. When they used the English language with precision and a tattoo meant you’d been working on a ship and words like fresh, curious, terrible and grotesque were used to mean exactly what they said.