Suppose you were chosen by the Celestial High Assemblage Of Sherockifans to be the sole gate-keeper of all that would be Holmes, approver of all that is spawned from the legend left us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, you.
All morning long, you would sit in your grand hall while applicants took turns approaching your massive desk with their Sherlock Holmes-related creations and you, with a stroke of your pen, would approve or deny their product or service for release to the world bearing the banner of Holmes.
"This is great!" you think that first morning. "I get to see everything before everyone else, and since all Sherlock Holmes is good Sherlock Holmes, I just sign off on all of it! Woo-hoo!"
But then, every afternoon, the representative from the rest of the Sherlockian world would stop by and ask for a report, as well as your reasons for allowing each piece of Sherlock Holmes spin-offery into the world. And when that representative soul left, they'd either be gleefully delighted with your efforts, or horribly depressed about what you'd allowed into the world. Eventually you might start pondering your criteria. What makes the rest of the Sherlockian world happiest? What gets them down?
Well, we're a vast and varied lot, but I have to think you'd quickly find at least two poles of measurement for looking at Sherlock Holmes ventures: Exploitation and enhancement.
In the last century, we've all seen things that enhanced the legend of Sherlock Holmes. Not just specific books or movies, but societies, art, and events . . . things that left the Sherlockian world richer than it was before they existed. Most fans of Holmes can name a number of these off the top of their heads, because they're usually the bits that led us to the original sixty stories, or were shared by an enthusiastic friend. The enhancing bits tend to come to us from friends a lot, because there's a joy to them that must be shared.
On the dark side of the equation, however, are the exploitive bits. The pieces that thrust themselves in front of us unbidden. They come via Amazon's desperate attempts to sell you one more Holmes thing. They are pushed upon you by people whose job it is to come up with ideas, and having run dry, they borrow an iconic character they know little about. And they come as warning signs of intellectual turf staked out by those who want to use Holmes to raise their own stature in some fashion.
Enhancement gives. Exploitation receives. A very good book or dramatic production that I paid money for might give me so much that I feel it was an enhancement, while something that was completely free might make me feel exploited by using my love of Holmes to turn my attention to an otherwise unwanted product. (Curse you, Snoopy-with-a-deerstalker figures!)
While there may not be a Celestial High Assemblage Of Sherlockians and a representative of the rest of the Sherlockian world to deal with, we're all given that gatekeeper job when it comes to our own Holmes intake. And thank goodness for that, because my sliding scale of enhancement versus exploitation seems to be calibrated a bit differently than some others . . . and I'm sure yours is too.
Every now and then, though, it's good to remember it's there.