What did Sherlock Holmes look like without his shirt on?
We now have Downey, Cumberbatch, and Miller versions of a topless consulting detective. Did Gillette, Rathbone, or Wilmer ever expose their nipples as Sherlock on film? Of course not. Cushing? Plummer? Stephens? Well, maybe James D'Arcy did when he had that three-way prior to getting hooked on heroin. (He was the pre-Elementary Mr. Elementary.) But it wasn't something we could really do side-by-side comparisons of before.
What can we gather from our sudden influx of bare-chested Holmeses?
Well, Hollywood apparently doesn't see Sherlock as an Adonis. More of the guy who gets sand kicked in his face, if you will excuse an old-geek reference. I'm sure that many a lady-fan is going to disagree with one point or another of anything I'm about to say here, so forgive me in advance -- strictly a hetero male POV in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .
So here's the good part about Downey, Cumberbatch, and Miller: None of them makes me feel badly about my own not-so-attractive beach bod. Downey has the rigors of middle-age showing in abundance. Cumberbatch looks like he's about to be bullied in a high school locker room, all pale and scrawny. And Miller has that special quality that evokes a carny with a half-smoked cigarette dangling from his mouth as he starts the ferris wheel. Yes, they've all made some attempt to suck in their gut and done a few sit-ups, but none is going to attain that Daniel-Craig-emerging-from-the-ocean-in-Casino-Royale-make-you-doubt-your-own-sexuality level of shirtlessness.
And as Sherlock Holmes was a man who avoided "exercise for its own sake," this was not a man bound to have six-pack-abs. None of his adventures required him to go scuba-diving or surfing, despite the sea creature featuring so prominently in one of said adventures. And his bedroom escapades of late requiring sensual fleshly attributes have been completely non-Canonical. So until recently, who really cared what Holmes looked like with his shirt off? Ah, you modern day and your hedonist ways!
Or maybe this is just a sign of the great gender culture shift. William Gillette's fans of the early 1900s may have speculated intensely about their hero of the stage without his shirt on, but just couldn't break into the male-dominated publishing world with any writings upon the subject. Had the Baker Street Irregulars of New York been founded by Cristina Morley, perhaps Violet Starrett and one of the ladies comprising the pseudonym "Ellena Queen" might have commented upon Sherlock's chest early on.
Who knows? We now have one more thing about Sherlock Holmes to discuss. Scholarly papers can be written on "Chest hair or no chest hair: Which is better for the detection of crime?" And if you're in the mood to see three different half-naked Sherlocks on your desktop screen all at once?
Well, this is your lucky decade.