It's a new day for Holmes and Watson's sexuality.
One of my favorite scenes in all of movie-dom is the ballet sequence from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in which Watson freaks out after having his heterosexuality questioned. One can image poor Private Life Watson's reaction were he to encounter modern slash fan fiction. They'd probably be locking the poor chap up in Dr. Seward's sanitarium in the room next to Renfield. The very question of possible homosexuality was horrific to Private Life Watson, but then, he was also horrified at the possibility that Holmes had his way with a beautiful naked amnesiac client. Private Life Watson seemed to be quite the sex-negative chap, when you come right down to it.
Since neither Holmes nor Watson had known offspring in the original Canon, we can't be sure that either of them actually had sex. Holmes was focusing on the detective art above all else, and Watson liked to keep even his marital status rather confusing. (Hmm, were Watson not Watson, one would wonder if he did that on purpose to keep his opportunities open.) Fanon has Holmes and Irene Adler eventually having some honeymooning vacations together, sometimes resulting in the birth of Nero Wolfe. And Watson, if the tin box pastiches are at all true, had some descendants.
To me, it always seemed like Holmes was too career-driven to even take vacation trysts with Irene Adler, but if the more romantic Sherlockians wanted him to get it on with her, well, I suppose that was okay. Everybody deserves a little happiness now and then. And besides, in the Basil Rathbone/Jeremy Brett sort of Sherlocks, our favorite detective was past his sexual prime anyway, and the question really didn't matter. Nigel Bruce as a ladies man is almost impossible to wrap your head around.
Now, with two younger actors in the roles of Holmes and Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman seem like a Holmes and Watson who could definitely be sexually active. Watson dates, Holmes's observational powers shut down when he sees a naked Irene. (And really, you know he could deduce even from naked if he wanted to -- he's just that good!) They have that Starsky and Hutch buddy thing going that fan fiction has always been able to easily slide into a comfortable gay pairing.
The name "slash" in referring to gay fan fiction comes from old Star Trek fanzines that used to denote stories of Kirk and Spock as lovers as "K/S" for easy reference. I first ran into it in the early eighties and it always fascinated me that it wasn't created by gay men, but straight women. It's taken decades for Sherlock and John to catch up to Jim and Spock as a major source of slash fan fiction, but thanks to Cumberbatch and Freeman, the day is finally here. And kind of like Holmes and Irene going off to conceive little Nero, it's not a part of my primary headcanon, but I can see how it might be in some alternate universe.
Elementary, as always, is an entirely different animal. One would think, with the absence of so many major female characters, that show would be Slash Central. Holmes/Gregson, Holmes/Bell, Holmes/Rhys, Holmes/pre-op Miss Hudson, Holmes/Marcus. And there is a bit of it out there, but with a relationship between Holmes and Joan Watson off the table so far on the show, that relationship seems to be begging for the relief of fanfic's black market satisfaction first.
Recently, star of The Avenger's Mark Ruffalo, when confronted with Bruce Banner/Tony Stark fan art, was as accepting as Martin Freeman is well known for being, and said, "I endorse [this art] one hundred percent. You know what it is? It's open-source creativity." He really hit the nail on the head.
Some really great art has always come from unfulfilled needs on the part of the creator. It's something that resonates in our minds and hearts and reminds us that we are all much the same on those levels. When it comes to Holmes and Watson, there are great areas of untapped creativity still to be explored, with places fans will now go that previous fan generations and the two or three existing ancient male-only Sherlockian societies are afraid to touch. (Literally. Snicker.)
Slash fiction with Holmes and Watson may not be for everyone, but it's becoming a part of our culture that is going to be around whether one supports it or not. Robert Downey Jr.'s antics in promoting his last Holmes movie has to make you wonder if a gay Holmes and Watson might not even be coming to the big screen before too much time has passed. The idea is out there.
But as long as Sherlock Holmes remains a solid, entertaining Sherlock Holmes, and as long as John Watson remains a solid, entertaining partner and friend to him, what they do in their private lives is their business, as far as I'm concerned. In their public lives, on the big and little screens, though, I might prefer it if we continue to get a naked Irene for every naked Sherlock, as Stephen Moffat so graciously provided last year. If not?
Well, I might have to brush up on my art skills and start doing fan art of my own.