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Elementary


Despite my absolute, great love for all things Sherlock Holmes (he was one of my Obsessions – around when I was 12), I seem to love all adaptations and (re-?)interpretations, or at least, I’m able to give them a fair chance. Like the Jamyang Norbu fanfic (was horrible), or the more recent Sherlock and Elementary.

Unlike most people I know, and most people “like me”, i.e. people who like reading a book more than watching a TV show, purists who love the eccentricities of Sherlock Holmes and don’t agree with the modern American media’s compulsive need to humanize and make vulnerable all their favorite heroes and villains,  I *don’t* like Sherlock. Shocking, yes. I’ve only watched the first season, started the second, but S2, E1, ten minutes in, I dozed off with sheer boredom. The combination of being too close to the source material and an insufferable and not-so-brilliant Holmes with a really silly Watson isn’t all that fun. The troubles with it are legion – after finally watching that stupid Scandal in Belgravia I have to declare the makers are horrible misogynists that I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with in real life. And worse, they’re uncreative and unimaginative, with the sense of humor of five year olds. Every character & situation they draw is straight out of central casting (homely, terrified, clean-freak, nagging housekeeper; bumbling detective with wife troubles; a woman with power is basically using her sexuality to get said power because of course she can’t just be smart and quick; lesbians like power over men; a smart women is “clever” while a smart man is “brilliant”; a woman, to be sexy, has to be naked while a man has to be “brainy”, when a man gets naked he’s demonstrating his power – but he doesn’t REALLY get naked, you can barely see his calf on TV, etc etc.). I’m not drawn to Virgin Boy Wonders, and Benedict Cumberbatch is basically a Mark Zuckerberg in Scotland Yard.  So, ugh.

Elementary, on the other hand. Tons of difficulties here too, of course – the dialogs and writing really s.p.e.l.l.s out everything, idiot-proofs it. So often I can see the solution within the first ten minutes. It’s sometimes for an average viewer with no idea of who Sherlock Holmes is. They indiscriminately copy-paste dialogs & concepts from the source without testing to see if they fit (e.g. “the brain is an attic”, and then they show Holmes watching seven different random shows at one time and in the P/NP episode, remembering what’s being said days later. Or the one about how “[Irene Adler] to me eclipsed and predominated the whole of her gender” – that’s a misogynistic, reductionist, over-generalized view of womanhood, completely not what this Holmes is like).

But. I LOVE it. I, obviously, love the gender swapping of key characters (oh, Natalie Dormer. I love you, and I love the characters you play, almost as much as Holmes does!). I love the casting of so many African American characters done unremarkable-y. I love the all-pervasive feminism (or maybe just an absence of all-pervasive sexism), even about tiny things – they have plenty of women witnesses, women criminals, and with a wide range of motives, not just “thwarted love”. And I love Lucy Liu. She’s far, far better than I’d expected her to be. And mostly, I love Jonny Lee Miller. He’s not Holmes, of course, but he’s just fabulous as a misanthropic, vulnerable, socially awkward, entitled, Aspergers-ish, smart & self-aware person, working as a great modern day consulting detective.

And yeah, I love the tip of the hat to Kushiel’s Dart. The whole Holmes vs Adler dynamic: how helpless he is because of his love, how he realizes that self-annihilation is his only way to escape her, how she claims to value him because he’s “precious, a piece of art”, etc., how she decides to spare him and only him in the middle of all the carnage she engineers because she’s actually in love with him, and after step 1 when she is caught (and escapes, and then caught again) and is in a luxurious prison, step 2 is about the kidnapping of her child and how Holmes helps find her child. Robert Doherty and/or Peter Blake are fans of Jacqueline Carey too, like I am!

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