Friday, May 18, 2012

The Liking of the Sherlocks

After getting frozen yogurt the other evening with my roommate, Sarah, we were walking back to our apartment and somehow I got to talking about Sherlock. I began commiserating that I didn't know anyone who liked the show when Sarah said, "I like it. I never said I didn't." "Oh...," I replied, astonished. I mean, Sarah watches the show with me; she's never expressed any dissatisfaction with it. But she never out-right said, Thor-like, "This show. I like it. ANOTHER!" Or, in non-Avengers terms, Sarah did not express her views on the show the way I do, which consists of me getting all giddy about it and telling anyone who stands still long enough how fabulous it is. Because Sarah doesn't love the show the way I do, I assumed she didn't like it at all.

Rookie mistake.

I think I stumbled upon an inherent trait of many fangirls, fandoms, and lovers of any cult TV show or movie. It's a sort of "us against the world" mentality, where because shows like Sherlock, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Firefly, etc are not super popular - either because they're British imports, sci-fi/fantasy (which carry with them a certain about of stigma), or both. They don't fit the traditional examples of American television (such as sitcoms and procedural dramas) either in the characterization, writing, or the way the show is presented in general (ex: the show Community experiments with different styles of storytelling instead of doing each episode the same, Sherlock has a short season of 3 episodes, each episode being 90 minutes in length, and Lost did crazy things like having a black cloud of God-knows-what and a polar bear on a tropical island). In one way or another, conventions are broken and the shows are thus relegated to a status of "other" or dubbed as cult shows. When talking about the show, one compensates for its status as something "other" and begins to see things in black and white - either you love it, or you don't. There is no middle ground of just liking it. It's either fierce admiration or loathing. And if you loath it, prepare for a shit storm.

Even while this is totally absurd, as I am totally guilty of doing this, as shown above. While I am not a huge fan of Firefly and I just causally like it, it did not cross my mind that Sarah would have the same sort of association with Sherlock. Also, I have this rather bad habit of assuming people won't like the same things I like - for personal reasons - and also from reinforcement of this in both fandoms and in society. As I've iterated in other posts on body image, society isn't always so good at reinforcing confidence. In television viewing, when networks cancel shows that are near and dear to our heart, we might take this as a personal affront. If this happens more than once, then you start to feel... well, a bit ostracized.

There's a sort of reflex to this reaction of thinking people won't like it because, well, we're told by critics and by the Neilson ratings that people don't like it. We then feel the need to protect it passionately. And we simply forget that people may not be as passionate as us because they don't feel as invested and/or threatened. There is, of course, an inherent problem with this - the Neilson rating system is crap. So, you monitor some random people's TV and they tell you what's popular and thus what people want to watch? I'm sure that worked better before convergence technology when people DVR and watch online or watch on their iPhones or watch illegally by some internet means (I am one of the few people of my generation who does not torrent. Partly because I don't know how and partly because I am positive the moment I do it, the FBI will catch me. Hey, I started watching MegaVideo and they shut that down right after. I'm not taking any chances). Now I think the Neilson ratings just exist to make network executives feel better instead of trying to accept that technology has changed greatly and that the "public interest" is even harder to define than it was before.

But they still base their "keeper" shows of Neislon ratings and thus awesome shows suffer. Sarah is a huge Heroes fan and thanks to its "unpopular" cult status, it was ended prematurely. I watched the CW show The Legend of the Seeker when I started college and was crushed when it was cut off after two short seasons. 30 Rock is in its last season and I celebrated when I heard Parks and Recreation was renewed for another season.

But wait, you might be saying. 30 Rock? Parks and Recreation? How are these cult shows?
Well, they don't operate like your traditional sitcom. Yes, sitcoms are expected to work a certain way, as they don't, they are given cult status. And, according to the Neilson ratings, they along with Community are not popular. And they happen to have a little more depth than your average sitcom (like Two and a Half Men) (but that's only my opinion). The thing with cult shows is they aren't so rare anymore. What's really popular right now? Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Sherlock (3.2 million viewers with its premiere. I am far too excited about this). ALL CULT SHOWS.

So you'd think with the growing popularity of these sorts of shows, we'd be able to chill out and accept that they more people watch them and that there are going to be varying degrees of interest in them. And yet I still made a totally humiliating mistake regarding a person I know very well (I mean, fuck, I live with her). Why?

Because it's very easy to assume. Very, very, very easy. People still assume cults shows and fandoms are not to be taken seriously. When in fact they are everywhere. We also tend to assume that everyone knows about these shows and either cares or doesn't. Which is unfair. Because there are LOADS of shows on TV and it's very easy to be overwhelmed and not know what's going on. And so, perhaps the assumption that someone doesn't like a show because they don't react to a mention of it is unfair simply because they haven't heard of it. But there's that added problem of reflexive protection. If someone hasn't heard of it, we suddenly feel the need to express how great the show is to compensate for any differing opinion. This reflex can be dangerous.

As I am a bit of a Sherlockian (and by a bit, I'm rabidly obsessed and can trace the beginning of my love for the cultural icon back to The Great Mouse Detective which I saw when I was three. Seriously, I blame Disney), I have grown rather interested in the development of another Sherlockian TV show, this one entitled Elementary. This one features Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller, who starred (oddly enough) with Benedict Cumberbatch in a stage adaptation of Frankenstein and who was in the film (talking about cult classics) Trainspotting (yes, he played Sick Boy in Trainspotting. THIS MAKES MY LIFE. SORRY, I MUST FANGIRL ABOUT THIS. I LOVE THIS MOVIE AND NOW ITS LIKE EVERYTHING I LOVE IN THE UNIVERSE IS TIED TOGETHER BY A HANDFUL OF BRITISH ACTORS. AND KEVIN BACON). Of course, now that another adaption of Holmes is going to hit the airwaves, there are some... well, debates taking place. This website makes it sound like the two shows are going to have an actual smack down, WWE style (and it also makes it sound like American TV is once more trying to compensate for something. Thanks, guys, keep telling us all of our programming sucks. Because that's really reassuring when we've got so much of it. (I like that American TV is thought to be crappy when shows like Mad Men and Modern Family have captivated so many viewers. Note to self: talk about this more elsewhere. As in not a tangent in a tangent)). Fans on Tumblr are voicing their hate for it, saying its totally riding on the coattails of Sherlock. People are hating on Lucy Liu. People are hating on Steven Moffat, creator of Sherlock, in showing distaste for Elementary and for the numerous other things people like to hate on Moffat for. People are just in general hating.

And Elementary hasn't even premiered yet. See the dangers of protective reflexes?

I, again, am guilty of this hate. When I first heard about Elementary months ago, I was pretty peeved, mainly because I have some major CBS qualms (which run roughly around my dislike for Two and a Half Men, CSI Miami, the utter unnecessary revival of Hawaii Five-O, and CBS's indifference to the awesomeness that is Craig Ferguson). But the more I hear about it, the more curious I am. I mean, every adaption of Holmes has been different. We've gone from cartoon mice to drug-using Sherlock portrayed by Rupert Everett to steam-punkish Guy Ritchie films to deductions in Modern London, and I've enjoyed them all. Why not try something else? I was watching the special features on my copy of the film Atonement the other day and the author of the book, Ian McEwan, was describing how adapting a book into a film is just one person's interpretation of the book, that everyone has a different view and thus there are millions of different screenplays that could be made off of one book alone. Sherlock Holmes has four novels and 56 short stories. Imagine the possibilities.

Of course, there is a certain attachment to the versions of things that line up with our perceptions. I happen to love Sherlock because it does such a smashing job of portraying the characters just as I've always imagined them (or as close as one can realistically come). That doesn't mean I don't like other interpretations of Holmes; I just happen to like this one best (that I've seen; I should qualify that. I haven't seen Jeremy Brett and I know I am missing out on something utterly spectacular). But I can see how some fans would get very attached to the interpretation they like best and not want something, as they see, meddling with it. I, for one, have a really hard time dealing with all the versions of Jane Eyre (FYI, my favorite novel) as they all do things rights but they always have something lacking and then I have to reconcile which does it closest to what I have stored up in my mind (generally, for me what's missing is the cross-dressing scene. Okay, this is a painfully irrelevant tangent, but I don't care. One of my favorite scenes in the entire book is a part where Mr. Rochester dresses in drag as an old gypsy woman in order to gauge how Jane will talk about him and Blanche Ingram without him being present. This is a brilliant, brilliant scene, and not in any adaption I've seen. So, film makers, if you absolutely feel the need to remake this film AGAIN, do me a favor and at least include this part. 'kay, thanks). (OMG, WAIT - IT IS IN A FILM VERSION FROM 1973. Still different than the book, but I like that Jane knows it's Rochester (because, I mean, really; how wouldn't you?):

I gotta check this film this out).

Okay, so after that gross tangent, where was I? Oh yeah, difficulties with adaptions. The more there are, the harder it is to choose which is best. But why does there have to be a best? Can't they all be good in their own right? Sure, but the whole premise of fandoms seems to be in choosing one thing over something else. And if you love all the different interpretations, then it's just a huge mess. The entire point of fandoms would be gone.


Did you know this is an emoticon in Gmail? This is absolutely not relevant at all this but I felt the need to use it. Mainly because it actually works in Blogger and it makes me happy. And because I have no nice, neat little ending for this post. Sorry.

And I just realized Jeremy Brett was in My Fair Lady. JESUS CHRIST EVERYTHING I LOVE IS SERIOUSLY RELATED. Sorry, there is a copious amount of caps locks and fangirling in this post. But I enjoy expressing emotion through the use of caps locks. Sorry if it seems like I'm shouting at you; I really just mean it as ways of stressing a point of showing excitement. But we cant talk about the of font and typing later. So, as I have absolutely no sweet, sane way of ending this, I will end with a song. One that, once again, links two things I love together. Gerry Rafferty, thank you.

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