News: New CBS series casts female Watson

February 27th, 2012 | Tags:

I thought it might interest some of my readers to learn CBS has a new series planned, called Elementary, in which Doctor Watson will be played by Lucy Liu.

Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of grumbling over both an American series (it is set in NY), another modern series (on the heels of the BBC’s Sherlock) and now a female Watson. I am interested to see an American take on a modern Holmes and will reserve all judgement on the series until it airs. I do, however, feel compelled to point out that BBC’s Sherlock was not the first adaptation to modernize Sherlock Holmes.

In fact, prior to the Sherlock Holmes revolution (what I’m calling this sudden resurgence in SH interest) the most popular Sherlock Holmes was Basil Rathbone. All of his films were made during the late 30s/early 40s and featured Sherlock Holmes fighting the Nazis.

I want to also point out that Elementary (as I understand the CBS series will be called) will not be the first Sherlock Holmes adaptation to cast Watson as a woman.

Speculation that Watson was a woman began as early as 1941. Rex Stout’s famous essay, Watson was a woman, rather shook up the Holmesian/Sherlockian community of the day.

Then of course there was They Might Be Giants, which featured a female Dr. Watson as a psychiatrist whose patient believed he was Sherlock Holmes (and I’m interested to see if they do something similar in Elementary or if it will be a strict genderswap).

I’ll also point out that I’ve been a fan of genderswaps in the past. Battlestar Galatica’s recasting of beloved male characters as women was quite refreshing and I think part of what made the series so enjoyable.

So what is the problem?

On the one hand, yes, genderswapping Watson in order to allow for the Holmes/Watson ship (in order to heternormalize the H/W ship) is problematic, but considering ten years ago even suggesting the possibility of Holmes/Watson would have gotten you blacklisted. That people are even considering the possibility of the pairing marks a drastic leap forward.

I was blacklisted from several mainstream Sherlockian/Holmesian communities because I dared to write Decoding the Subtext, in which I suggested Holmes and Watson were involved in a romantic and sexual relationship. I wrote DTS in 2006/2007. To have gotten to the point where the pairing is now actively recognized and catered to in media is astounding.

To have an American series genderswap Watson in order to make the pairing acceptable to an American audience is not good, but it is perhaps a step in the right direction. I’m sure there are plenty who would disagree (and by all means, please share–I am very open to discussing this) but to even make the leap in suggesting these two names (which carry such significant weight, particularly with an older, largely male US demographic) might have a romantic connection, regardless of their genders, is breaking apart some very old and once impenetrable paradigms. While I agree, it would be nice to see the world change in leaps and bounds that is not how progress is made. It’s made in baby steps. Today we have a male Sherlock and female Watson as a romantic pairing. Tomorrow we have a male Sherlock and male Watson, or a female Sherlock and female Watson as a romantic pairing.

If you had asked me five years ago if I thought an actor portraying Holmes, or a director directing Holmes, or a writer writing Holmes would ever toy with the idea of him and Watson being anything more than friends, I would have laughed at you. We’ve come a long way, and while there is still so much room for improvement, I’m choosing to see this development as the industry’s acceptance of the romance that lies at the heart of the source material. You can make your Watson female, but it still means you have to acknowledge the homoerotic subtext of the original.

  1. February 28th, 2012 at 04:41
    Quote | #1

    Ha, when I read that news this morning, after my immediate rage I thought “Hey, I wonder if With Love, S.H. has commented about it…” and you have! I’ve been dwelling on it for a few hours now and I have to admit I’m still annoyed by it. I don’t really want to see an American version of Sherlock (because I’m sure that’s the initial reason for doing it, even if it does vary drastically on some points) but I never had any intention of watching the horror that was a modern day Holmes. Needless to say, I fell in love with Sherlock so who knows, maybe I will enjoy this. However, making Watson a woman…yeah, it irks me. Mainly for the reason you say, that it feels like they are just genderswapping because they can’t justify the subtext between two men. I don’t doubt that there is going to be a romantic undercurrent here, but why does it have to be a woman. But yes, I agree, having a Holmes and Watson relationship, even if it is a heterosexual one, is a step in the right direction. But my other worry is that it’s just going to be like every other cop show out there: a crime fighting team, sexual tension, arguments, and mind-numbing frustration at the characters never hooking up and then the series going to shit when they DO get together. I’m worried that they will focus too much on the potential for a relationship and it will screw up the true dynamic of Holmes and Watson, their tight friendship and loyalty to each other. I feel that works better in a male/male friendship bu maybe they can pull it off. I also cannot get my head round Holmes being interested in women; canononically, we know that he doesn’t really know how to interact or understand them (which, yes, might add some good humour to the series, in a way) but, more importantly, he doesn’t WANT to. To me, he will always be either homosexual, homosexual for Watson or asexual, I can’t see him as heterosexual. But, I suppose it will all come down to the writing and how Miller plays Holmes. I have to admit that I am morbidly interested in how it will turn out, haha. But I don’t have high hopes. (I hope some of that made sense, I am still trying to get my head around exactly what bothers me about it all!)

    • admin
      February 28th, 2012 at 05:59
      Quote | #2

      I agree there are a thousand things that can go wrong, but at this point it feels a bit like judging a book by its cover. I’m interested in seeing where they go, but will reserve judgment until I’ve seen it. At the very worst, it becomes a pastiche so far afield it’s no longer worthy of being an adaptation.

    • fish eye no miko
      February 28th, 2012 at 12:45
      Quote | #3

      Catherine said: “To me, he will always be either homosexual, homosexual for Watson or asexual, I can’t see him as heterosexual.”

      I agree. Even way back, then I was shipping the Granada version of Holmes and Watson, I just couldn’t see him with a woman.

  2. JakeTucker
    February 28th, 2012 at 07:28
    Quote | #4

    “In fact, prior to the Sherlock Holmes revolution (what I’m calling this sudden resurgence in SH interest) the most popular Sherlock Holmes was Basil Rathbone. All of his films were made during the late 30s/early 40s and featured Sherlock Holmes fighting the Nazis.”

    It was only after the 2 Fox films and starting with the 3rd film (the 1st for Universal) that they went with the idea of setting them in the 1930s and 1940s I believe.

    • admin
      February 28th, 2012 at 07:58
      Quote | #5

      My apologies, I should have clarified all of his Universal films. I was, of course, aware of the two period films.

  3. SainaTsukino
    February 28th, 2012 at 10:48
    Quote | #6

    my own problem with this stems not from the fact that Watson is a woman, but from the fact that they changed both his nationality and, most importantly, his past. A Watson that has never been a soldier… I just can’t picture it

    • admin
      February 28th, 2012 at 10:56
      Quote | #7

      I think this is something we again can’t judge before seeing it. I mentioned They Might Be Giants, and it is entirely possible they do not intend to do a straight adaptation. Until I’ve seen their motives and their reasons, I intend to reserve judgment. After all, no one thought the BBC’s Sherlock would be successful and yet it was.

    • fish eye no miko
      February 28th, 2012 at 12:37
      Quote | #8

      Do we know this Watson won’t have been a soldier? Women are allowed in the military, so they easily could give her that background.

      • February 28th, 2012 at 17:57
        Quote | #9

        There’s a deadline.com article that gave the following summary of this new show:

        “[Elementary] is set in present day and stars Jonny Lee Miller as eccentric Brit Sherlock Holmes, a former consultant to Scotland Yard whose addiction problems led him to a rehab center in New York City. Just out of rehab, Holmes now lives in Brooklyn with “sober companion” Joan Watson (Liu), a former surgeon who lost her license after a patient died, while consulting for the NYPD.”

        As you can see, the article makes absolutely no mention of this Watson being a part of the army anywhere. In fact, if you ask me, it’s making the implication that Watson is not gonna be an army doctor, former or otherwise.

        • fish eye no miko
          February 29th, 2012 at 13:57

          Well, crap… d-:

        • admin
          February 29th, 2012 at 15:14

          I still think this has the potential to be interesting. It’s not a true adaptation, but neither was They Might Be Giants, or Without a Clue, or several other series I can think of, and some of those turned out okay. I’m taking a wait and see approach.

  4. fish eye no miko
    February 28th, 2012 at 12:35

    Just FYI, there was also a tv movie, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”, in which is unfrozen by a female descendent of Dr. Watson, and serves pretty much the same purpose,. So that’s another female Watson.
    For the record, there was no romance between them.

    • fish eye no miko
      February 28th, 2012 at 12:40

      “in which HOLMES is unfrozen”, I meant to say… whoops!

    • admin
      February 28th, 2012 at 14:12

      I’d like it if they kept the characters true to canon and didn’t explore a romance with a female Watson, but at the same time, I think seeing a wide deviation from canon with a genderswap character would be interesting. We’ll see.

      • tsupe
        March 1st, 2012 at 18:27

        “I’d like it if they kept the characters true to canon and didn’t explore a romance with a female Watson”

        Ah…didn’t you say that you would love if BBC made John and Sherlock a couple..? But don’t want CBS Holmes and Watson be a couple? Is it because they’re man and woman? Because at least to me, they’re genders don’t matter. I would love to see some subtext between these H&W too… 🙁 I wonder if I’m the only one…

        • admin
          March 1st, 2012 at 19:00

          My reasons are slightly odd. I’d personally be happy to see a romance, regardless of genders, but I think going the Holmes/female!Watson route would give people fuel for hating this adaptation. If they’re going to make it on par with other adaptations, it needs to remain subtextual. Does that make sense?

          • tsupe
            March 2nd, 2012 at 05:01

            Ah, okay…I also want it to be subtextual…but that there still is something.

  5. fish eye no miko
    February 28th, 2012 at 13:03

    I was blacklisted from several mainstream Sherlockian/Holmesian communities because I dared to write Decoding the Subtext

    Oh, God, that sucks… )-:

    Yeah, things have changed a lot, thank God. Though, really… for all the being “actively recognized and catered to” going on, it’s still all innuendo and jokes and subtext. We still don’t have–and probably won’t have for some time–a MALE Holmes and a MALE Watson as a couple. So while I see your point that at least it’s A Holmes and A Watson that might be a couple, this still feels like a big step back to me. Or maybe more of a sideways step, just keeping the status quo.

    And speaking of “status quo”, I can’t help but notice that it’s Watson, the not as smart, more emotional one that was made female; not Holmes, the virtually unemotional, logical genius. Bite me, CBS.

    • February 28th, 2012 at 14:09

      This is pretty much my sentiment. As for genderswapping Watson, rather than Holmes…I think it would be damn hard to visually portray a female Holmes and make them likeable. It would be too easy to dismiss them as bitchy and self-absorbed, rather than aloof and single-minded. I don’t think it would be at all intentional, but I believe that would be the interpretation.

      • admin
        February 28th, 2012 at 14:16

        I agree, genderswapping only Holmes would undoubtedly (especially with an American audience) alienate the character. A shame, of course, and evidence that the feminist movement has more work to do, but a sad reality.

      • fish eye no miko
        February 28th, 2012 at 14:21

        Catherine said: “It would be too easy to dismiss them as bitchy and self-absorbed, rather than aloof and single-minded.”

        I dunno, I’ve seen plenty of male!Holmeses that come off as bitchy and self-absorbed, actually.

        • February 28th, 2012 at 14:31

          That’s true (even Cumberbatch’s Holmes has his moments of complete insufferability) but I think it’s easier for audiences to accept that and not be turned off by it immediately. Plus, that’s one of Watson’s core duties: humanise Holmes. I’m not sure a male Watson would be able to balance out a female Holmes to the same degree he does in the books. But it’s almost impossible to say; I was convinced a modern day interpretation was a farcical venture and lo, it’s amazing and brilliantly true to canon in the important aspects. It really is a “we’ll know when we see it” scenario, I guess.

          • fish eye no miko
            February 28th, 2012 at 15:01

            I dunno, I’d say the US show Bones has something very close to a female Holmes/male Watson dynamic with Bones and Booth (Booth is even ex-military). It seems to work quite well, and the show is in its seventh season, so the idea hasn’t turned too many people off. (-:
            /Would love to see a Bones/Sherlock crossover

    • admin
      February 28th, 2012 at 14:15

      I’m not sure what they’d say now, in the face of the overwhelming public support for a H/W relationship. I never expected to see the pairing go as mainstream as it has.

      You are right, however. But baby steps. That’s how change comes. Slow and steady, against the overwhelming tide of objections, until, on the other side, it simply becomes the norm. All change is like that. We simply must have patience. I still choose to see it as a step forward, though only time will tell. Until the series airs, it is impossible to know their intentions, or their execution. The idea fascinates me, but I will reserve judgment.

  6. Jay
    February 29th, 2012 at 11:16

    I love the fact that an Asian actress is playing female!Watson. How many roles are out there for Asian women that define an entire genre? This could be trend-setting indeed. I am hoping they keep the relationship strictly platonic, otherwise this could easily turn into every UST!detective show that is on television now, so in that respect, I hope they keep it canon. Too bad they couldn’t have made Holmes a female character, too, but baby steps, I suppose.

    I wasn’t too interested in the American version of Sherlock Holmes until this announcement. Now, while I have some concerns with UST aspect that is bound to come up (and also curious about other aspects; e.g., will they live together?), I am definitely far more intrigued about this show now.

    • admin
      February 29th, 2012 at 15:18

      I’m actually excited to see how they approach this. I tend to like genderswapped characters, though, especially replacing men with women. I’m going to remain cautiously optimisitic until I see it. I’d love it if they kept it platonic. That would be fantastic. Of course, a female Holmes would have made my life, but small steps. I’m so glad someone else is intrigued by this idea. I’ve read a lot of hate for the show before it’s even aired, and yet, I’m excited. There’s nothing wrong with more Sherlock Holmes on my screen.

  7. February 29th, 2012 at 13:56

    I guess we’ll just have to see what they do with it. My habit is to view all announced adaptations with skepticism and hope to be pleasantly surprised. When SHERLOCK was first announced I shook my head and thought it would probably suck but I’m THRILLED to eat those words. We’ll just have to see.

    My concern at this point is if this fails or the pilot isn’t picked up femm!Watson will then be the touted by the press as the reason, ignoring other possiblities like general suckitude.

    You were blacklisted? Frankly, I’m not surprised. I say this as a member of a BSI scion group. Sherlockian fandom is still for the most part a fusty old male one. However, I think the trend is shifting to younger and more female due to the popularity of SHERLOCK and the Guy Ritchie movies.

    The other members of my group don’t know of my interest in slash. If I were asked point blank if I thought Holmes and Watson loved each other, I’d have to say “Yes” and let them deny it. Now how they expressed that love is open to interpretation, but at least we’re now having the conversation and that’s a good thing. And ditto to this: “To me, he will always be either homosexual, homosexual for Watson or asexual, I can’t see him as heterosexual.”

    • admin
      February 29th, 2012 at 15:25

      I do the same, though I’ve been so impressed in recent years that I’m also a bit excited. I too was thrilled to eat my words for Sherlock (and Sherlock Holmes 2).

      From what I’m reading so far, the series sounds so AU that it’s not going to be a straight adaptation, so I think if it does fail it won’t be a female Watson, but rather, the complete deviation from canon (which might include a female Watson, but no more than say Holmes in rehab or Holmes in NY). The whole premise sounds fascinating, though.

      This is changing, though. I suspect if I reapplied now I would find membership since the “slash” aspect of H/W has gone fairly mainstream. There’s been a huge influx of new, young fans into the scions/groups/societies. Little steps. I’ve always been perhaps too open about my interpretation of H/W, so I suspect if I’d kept my mouth shut I would have been fine. Sadly, I can’t do that.

      In my mind, Holmes is homosexual, demisexual or asexual. I really don’t think Watson’s gender had anything to do with Holmes falling in love. I don’t think Holmes really thought that way, save that he was distrustful of women, so he wouldn’t have gotten to the point of trusting Watson the way he did if Watson had been a woman.

  8. l-girl
    February 29th, 2012 at 15:05

    I’m also in a wait and see mode, although I don’t hold out much hope that it will be good.

    I am not sure about how I feel about the possibility of Holmes and Watson getting together for the first time as a het pair. I kinda hope that if they explore it at all (and I don’t want the romance to be a major part of the story) they keep it at the subtext level. (mostly, I’ll admit, so that when someone says WELL of COURSE they can be together as a man and woman but not if they are both men, I can call them a big hypocrite.)

    • admin
      February 29th, 2012 at 15:27

      Always wait and see. I said the same thing about Sherlock, and look how well that turned out.

      I do find it problematic that they would need to make one of them female in order to make the pairing acceptable to US audiences, but we don’t know if that’s their goal. I think, too, people realize that Holmes/Watson the original were men, so any leaning in that direction will reflect as an interpretation of the source material. It’ll be interesting to see. As I’ve said above, I’m cautiously optimistic.

      • l-girl
        March 2nd, 2012 at 23:37

        True about Sherlock (Although I did figure it would be good cause I heard about through you, thanks by the way).

        Personally I’d love it if they kept it at the “they are in love but just don’t want to have sex” level but then again ever since I’ve started to write an original story with that kind of pair (male/female)I’ve kind of had a thing for that.

        Also I doubt they’d have the balls to do it or the ability to handle it in a respectful manner, but what if Joan was born male? Transgender characters are even rarer than gay (or bi) ones and it is practically impossible to find one handled with respect, it’d be wonderful to have at least one done well in and of itself never mind anything else BUT I’d be SHOCKED if they did that all and would die of shock if they did it well.

        • admin
          March 3rd, 2012 at 06:27

          I’m glad I could point you in its direction!

          I’d love a story where their affection/love was kept subtextual. I think it would put the series on an even footing with all other adaptations. I think it would also quiet critics who are saying they’ve only made John Joan to fasciliate the romance. Time will tell.

          It would be awesome to have a transgender character in a mainstream show, but I don’t see a US network doing it anytime soon. And if they did, I don’t see them doing to respectfully. It’s kind of a catch 22, because on one hand you want it addressed, but on the other hand, unless you have people from the community writing the show, directing the show, producing the show, etc. it’s very likely they’ll get it wrong (or worse play it off for laughs).

          Some day, I think, but not today.

  9. March 1st, 2012 at 04:15

    Here’s an interesting article about this on the Huffington Post:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-prudom/elementary-cbs_b_1311340.html

    The columnist gives two possible reasons why the gender switch. The first is trying to avoid being sued by the SHERLOCK producers. But the second is interesting:

    2. The producers likely want to avoid the homoerotic subtext inherent in the Holmes and Watson relationship. …

    From Conan Doyle’s source material to the most modern updates starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, and Cumberbatch and Freeman, Holmes and Watson’s codependent relationship has always been laden with unresolved sexual tension, generally played for laughs, but often still acknowledged as a loving partnership, whether deemed platonic or not. …

    I’m not even advocating that a broadcast network boldly go where Holmes and Watson have never (officially) gone before — because that would upset just as many fans as Elementary’s gender bending has. But since CBS is apparently entirely willing to bastardize the source material just to attract procedural fans who like their weekly dose of will they/won’t they friction (spoiler alert: they will), I’d much rather they bastardize in a way that stays true to the characters and has some vague basis in Conan Doyle’s text.

    Arbitrarily shoehorning a woman in, either to avoid a lawsuit or to avoid the mere possibility of homoerotic subtext, is cowardly, lazy writing, conveniently hidden behind the pretense of the producers attempting to be “inclusive” in writing strong female characters.

    Word.

  10. admin
    March 1st, 2012 at 14:28

    I think the problem is they’re still judging the show before it’s even aired. That is possible, and if so problematic, but there could be dozens of reasons to go this route. The truth is we won’t know until it makes it to air. I like to avoid jumping to conclusions before I’ve seen something. It helps me stay objective.

  11. March 1st, 2012 at 15:17

    On the one hand, yes, genderswapping Watson in order to allow for the Holmes/Watson ship (in order to heternormalize the H/W ship) is problematic, but considering ten years ago even suggesting the possibility of Holmes/Watson would have gotten you blacklisted. That people are even considering the possibility of the pairing marks a drastic leap forward.

    Thanks for making this point; I was totally stuck on the first point and didn’t take the time to consider that while it’s still sort of icky, it does make a statement about the characters as a whole, outside of their genders.

    Fantastic post! 😀

    • admin
      March 1st, 2012 at 17:45

      I think this is especially true because Holmes and Watson are so famous that everyone knows they are two men.

  12. Nessa
    March 2nd, 2012 at 09:53

    When I read the news the first thing that came to my mind was Rex Stout’s essay.There’s nothing new under the sun.He he.
    It’s a bit sad that to these days there’s still the need to genderswap one of the characters to ‘validate’ the Holmes/Watson obvious UST.
    I don’t have expectations about this show(maybe it’s a good thing).I don’t like the concept,the actors,I fear this show will be like any other crime fighting tv series,in the end they’ll focus in the relationship(with Liu doing martial art’s kicks everywhere) and what about everything Sherlock Holmes is?
    I’m in wait and see mode too,just because it’s Sherlock Holmes you know.I’ll give it a try.And I want to read your review.

    • admin
      March 2nd, 2012 at 18:02

      There really isn’t, is there? I’m still impressed that we’re even getting acknowledged subtext in adaptations. I never thought I’d see the day. I’m remaining cautiously optimistic, because I like the idea of it, and I am a fan of Liu’s, so I can see her bringing something interesting to the role. It may fall flat, but it may be fantastic. Wait and see.

  13. Seriona
    March 3rd, 2012 at 04:02

    As an Asian girl, I am secretly pleased about the casting choice. Although I probably would applaud at any Watson choice, man, woman, cat, hobbit, that could make me see more Holmes and Watson on the screen. Three episodes every 18 months, no matter how fantastic they are, are simply not enough.

    Love your blog. We are all in the time of the Sherlock Holmes revolution. Please write more, for me and your other loyal readers.

    • admin
      March 3rd, 2012 at 06:29

      I am also looking forward to seeing more Holmes/Watson on my screen, and yes, part of what interests me about this series is not just the genderswap, but the representation of US minority figures. That alone is a huge step forward. I’m really hoping they do well with it–and don’t screw it up. Fingers crossed.

      And thanks!

  14. JL82
    March 5th, 2012 at 20:37

    I wonder how they’re going to deal with Canon Holmes’ distrust of women? If they stay true to that characterization he will take much longer to develop any kind of fondness for Watson.

    I think one reason for the genderswapping is that granted that plenty of gender stereotyping and ideas about roles still exist, today there is more interest in / acceptance of women as active participants in adventures, (or at least lip-service to it – I’m by no means saying that I accept how Hollywood portrays women now).

  15. JL82
    March 5th, 2012 at 20:41

    I was very interested in your statement that you’ve been “blacklisted by Sherlockian communities,” (though I could understand you not wanting to share any more detail about this.) I have toyed with making this a plot issue in fiction that is not exactly fan fiction, but is about Sherlockian fans and Sherlockian communities. The slash-advocates are outsiders and (in the context of writing a mystery) the first to be suspected of any criminal activity that goes on. But I recalled you saying you didn’t push your slash ideas on mainstream Sherlockians.

  16. JL82
    March 23rd, 2012 at 19:57

    Along the same lines, I keep thinking of the song “I Am What I Am,” a song from the musical La Cage Aux Folles, sung by a gay man who performs in drag, to his more closeted partner. “So what, if I love each feather and each spangle / Why not try to see things from a different angle.” Now I’m thinking, “So what, if I think that John and Sherlock tangle / Why not try to see things from a different angle.”

  17. April 1st, 2012 at 09:02

    I was not surprised by CBS, as if anything is successful in the UK, the US will jump on it assuming no one’s brain wanders beyond North American shores. A CBC Sherlock would have been interesting.

    As a collector and minor academic writer of popular fiction of the late victorian/early edwardian period, it became clear that in the literature of the period Holmes could only be a woman or a foreigner (much as Christie’s early work was full of ‘English Pluck’ ahead of actual brains, and only bringing in a foreigner like Periot(sic), justified the overt deduction. For a female in the military, there are so many accounts, of those published or famous in other ways in the civil war of the similar time period that a military watson, as a doctor, when the highest decorated US civil war doctor was also a woman is hardly a stretch. A female/female Holmes and Watson is not one I had envisioned and would be of interest.

    Holmes breaks so many conventions (just the amount of single females he interviews in his flat, and worse yet working, low class females, would be a scandal to Victorian society, enough to keep him far from police or Royalty).

    I enjoy the slash aspect of the BBC version, because it exists, as the complaints from certain Christian organizations have completely changed the FCC fine and complaint system and have driven active or implied LGBTQI and true androgynous characters into paid shows like HBO and off of ‘public television’ in the US.

    I hope we can agree to disagree regarding female portrayal in Sherlock, as Scandal reminded me of Ghost Talker’s Daydream (which also has a dominatrix virgin – who also happens to be albino and intersex, but that is the Japanese, who have no issue with a blending of genderplay, fetish, desire, determination and development of characters on social fringe. As a person who has been used to advertise a sex film, and involved in discussions on ‘sex work which never involves taking off your clothes’, BBC’s portrayal was delightful, not just because it went beyond a box which the CBS never will, a woman who is as brilliant as Holmes and Moriarty (who seemed to have taken dull pills between season 1 and season 2) and liked reactions. Her dedication to one-up-manship was in how she is first shown; if Sherlock goes wrapped in a sheet, she is confident naked, and enjoys how breaking to social convention distracts those who had just that morning done the same. To Sherlock’s asexuality she flusters him with OTT hetero displays while confusing the bisexual/in denial John Watson with her confession of being a lesbain. The game, as Sherlock enjoys, is to raise the level of danger and see if Sherlock is smart enough to solve it: a private gaame of Russian Roulette. And if you aren’t familiar with this, then you haven’t dated a ‘Danger Girl’, or been one. To me, the whole ending was yes, an ending to give satisfaction without full answers to her future, but also that in some odd worldwide game of ‘Do or Dare’ she and Sherlock played on, ever raising the stakes. She engages him intellectually, tugs and rips at his social British upbringing that his own brilliance can’t surpress, and of course, cares nothing for money (the demand for money was the false note in the episode), or fame, merely someone to play with, much as Sherlock wants as well.

    Sadly, I simply don’t think the level of writing, the education of the writers, the desire and ability to push the boundries of us, as viewers, socially or sexually will be allowed with a female Watson. Instead, thrown into a writers pool, Watson will likely be a shadow, not even the ‘plucky but fairly dim’ good english hero of the Canon. Not that it is bad, as characters of the time were always assuring readers that they were not bright at all. So in that, I am confident the US, bounded within the strange social norms of this post century period, will replicate that one step behind thinking. Alas.

    • admin
      April 3rd, 2012 at 07:40

      I must confess, I find the idea of a female/female Holmes/Watson incredibly compelling. I don’t tend to examine adaptations from a “slash” or “het” viewpoint. In my mind Holmes and Watson’s relationship transcends gender. But it is rather disturbing to think a series might intentionally genderswap Watson solely for the purpose of pushing the pairing. It’s a good step towards acknowledging their love, but you’re right, it does rather hand victory to several Christian organizations who have been pushing hard against GLBT characters on television.

      I think we will have to disagree where Sherlock’s “the woman” is concerned. I do find your interpretation compelling, and if I had seen it from your point of view, I would probably have been thrilled with the episode. Unfortunately, I did not interpret her actions as those of a “danger girl”. The woman you describe is a brilliant creation and one I would have gladly cheered. But she is not the woman I saw on my screen. Perhaps this is bias. I have too long had quibbles with Moffat in his writing of women, so I can’t help but assume misogyny is at play in his writing. It colours my views, unfortunately.

      Again, though, back to the CBS version. We do not have enough information to form an opinion. It could be you are right, but it could be you are wrong, and I for one intend to take a wait and see approach. I’m a strong advocate of “never judge a book by its cover” and that seems to apply her. I’m saddened that you’ve already made your decision on the series without giving it its due, but I understand. I remember the outrage ramped inside the Holmesian community when someone dared to conceive a modern Holmes. Sherlock, we shouted, was doomed to failure. How could it possibly hope to capture anything of canon. The era is part of what made it so charming. It’ll never fly. Alas.

    • fish eye no miko
      April 3rd, 2012 at 15:18

      “which also has a dominatrix virgin”

      Where do you get the impression Irene’s a virgin? In fact, her reaction to Sherlock’s virginity strongly suggests otherwise.

      “a woman who is as brilliant as Holmes and Moriarty”

      You mean the man who outwitted her and the man she had to get her ideas from?
      I saw NOTHING about the BBC Irene that was close to “brilliant”.

      “To Sherlock’s asexuality she flusters him with OTT hetero displays”

      It doesn’t take a lot of brains for a woman to see a guy is uncomfortable when she shoves her tits in his face, and use that against him. This is just the typical “vamp” crap we’ve seen from plenty of “bad” women for ages.

      “John Watson with her confession of being a lesbain”

      A “lesbian” who falls in love with a man. Let me be clear: Irene is a fictional woman written (by a straight man) to say she’s a lesbian; then written, BY THE SAME PERSON, to fall in love with a man.

      “an ending to give satisfaction”

      Not if you thought she was a terrible person, it doesn’t.

      “without full answers to her future”

      Honestly, I think one of the reasons Irene irks me is that, since she’s still alive, I’m afraid Moffat’s going to try to bring her back next season. At least we seem to have finally gotten rid of Moriarty (who I also can’t stand).

  18. JL82
    April 3rd, 2012 at 20:12

    Question: what do you call Sherlockians who think Irene is the heroine of the stories, and/or that Holmes is in love with her?

    Answer: Adler-pated. (For “adlepated.”)

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