Among our recent Sherlock Holmes representatives, we now have one suffering severe mental infirmities from old age, one rewritten as a complete heroin addict, and a very popular one that a lot of folks like to place somewhere on the Asperger's/autism spectrum.
Of the latest, one headline even went so far as to say, "'Mr. Holmes' makes Sherlock seem real."
And to a lot of people, giving Sherlock Holmes a diagnosis or disability is the equivalent of "making him more real."
Because, certainly, accomplishment, pioneering a field of endeavor, intelligence, and skills born of study and practice aren't just things normal people have, right?
One of the great things about Sherlock Holmes from day one has been how real he seems to such a large number of his fans. The great Sherlockian Vincent Starrett even immortalized that thought in poetry form with the line "How very near they seem, yet how remote . . ." Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have long seemed close enough that we half-expect to see them, should we find ourselves wandering down Baker Street.
But as Holmes's has a resurgence beyond his loving fans and into the current public consciousness, it seems like his reality must constantly tie to issues, prices that have to be paid.
He can't be that observant without having to do drugs to dull his super-senses. He can't solve cases that take too much brainpower, or else writers might have to use their own brains too much to come up with stories. Whatever the excuse, lowering the bar for Sherlock Holmes lowers the bar for the rest of us.
Sherlock Holmes is a legendary character, of the sort we are meant to look up to. An embodiment of our dreams and aspirations, a vision of humanity at its very best. Has it become so hard to relate to the idea of humanity at its best? Are we so beaten down in our modern world that we have to have a Holmes who can barely get it together?
Or is it just that so many of us aren't thirteen years old anymore, without a wide open future and the hopes and dreams that make a pinnacle Sherlock Holmes someone we can look to as what we can become? All these failing Holmeses just represent our own failings, so we can just nod and go, "Well, that's the way life is . . ."
Yet those thirteen-year-olds are still out there, hoping and dreaming of being better humans than those that came before. I hope that the future makes sure they have a Sherlock Holmes that they can look to for inspiration, just as so many of us once did.
Because they are the new us, and who can't help but wish for good things for them?