One of Peoria's major Sherlockians made a comment the other day that I was wanting to discuss eventually, but Stephen Moffat decided to make my thoughts a rather moot point yesterday in an article on Vulture.com.
"He’s not a sociopath, nor is he high-functioning," Moffat said about his Sherlock. "He’d really like to be a sociopath. But he’s so fucking not. The wonderful drama of Sherlock Holmes is that he’s aspiring to this extraordinary standard. He is at root an absolutely ordinary man with a very, very big brain. He’s repressed his emotions, his passions, his desires, in order to make his brain work better — in itself, a very emotional decision, and it does suggest that he must be very emotional if he thinks emotions get in the way."
The point Stephen Moffat was in the process of making in the above statement was that we can't always take Sherlock Holmes at his word -- in the Canon or in Sherlock. You'd think we'd know that by now, with all the tricks Sherlock pulls on other people. But those are other people, of course, and you know how they are.
I have to admit a little disappointment that they drug out the "high functioning sociopath" line again in "The Sign of the Three. (Note that I stick the added "the" in there to continue the tradition of The Sign of the Four's title variations.) My first thought was, "Oh, stop! He's not a sociopath," and people are going to think he's serious. Because they have in the past.
So I was glad to see Moffat pointing out that which should be plain, probably for not the first time. Sherlock Holmes is a very emotional person. Probably more emotional than Watson. Sure, he talks a good game, he puts on a good show, and Watson goes along with both for the sake of his narratives, but really? A machine? Not so much.
In the sixties, we all though Star Trek's Mr. Spock was like Sherlock Holmes because they both dealt in logic, but here in the 2010s, we can acknowledge the deeper similarity. Both held to reason and logic by damming up emotions that would naturally find moments to come bursting forth. With Vulcans like Mr. Spock, it was the climax of the seven year cycle of pon farr, when the need to mate suddenly had them cutting loose as angry, violent madmen. Thanks to pon farr (and it being the sixties), nobody ever accused Mr. Spock of being a sociopath.
Sherlock wields the "high functioning sociopath" as just another verbal blade to make the occasional conversational nick, just like Mr. Spock would sneak in the occasional wry comment that only an emotional person would feel amused enough to toss out.
Sociopaths aren't nearly so much fun.