Having read "The Adventure of the Three Gables" not long before seeing "The Abominable Bride" this weekend, I couldn't help but see a Canonical reference that I'm pretty sure all of the "spot the reference" listers missed: the connection between Mycroft Holmes and Steve Dixie.
Steve Dixie, of "Three Gables," is something we Sherlockians don't like to talk about. An African-American comic stereotype from a bygone era. Something most of us are pretty ashamed of now, even though we had nothing to do with it. Perhaps because there might just be a tiny bit of it left inside us, lurking. Perhaps because it lessens our history heroes like Arthur Conan Doyle, to think they were prone to such cultural faults.
And now we have obese Mycroft Holmes. I'm going to be the last person to throw the first stone on that one, being quite guilty of playing with him as a comic figure myself in Action Sherlock Brain Theater, actually using an action figure of the X-men villain called the Blob to play him. And just like I've done, "The Abominable Bride" uses him for a cartoonish glutton, eating figgy pudding after figgy pudding while Sherlock calculates how much shorter his lifespan will be with each pudding.
Perhaps we excuse the fat-joke because we feel like that actor-in-a-fat-suit extreme is something any of us could go to, given a complete lack of self-control. Our constant battle with that last five pounds would seem to make us part of the group we're making fun of, but it doesn't, really. If you've ever known anyone with a true obesity problem, if you ever had a friend die far too young due to their weight, you know better. I sure do. And yet, the occasional fat joke comes out.
Which is why I don't want to be a complete buzz-kill in the wake of the latest Sherlock and all its quirky zigs and zags. But then I think of Steve Dixie.
I'm sure Steve Dixie was just hi-larious to some folks, once upon a time. Conan Doyle would seem to have been one of those folks, at some point in his life. But now, old Steve is an embarrassing relic of our past . . . and perhaps a reminder of how we might look to some future folk one day.
Watson doesn't make fun of Mycroft for his weight. He presents his friend's brother almost objectively . . . his size, the shape of his hands, the extreme motionlessness of his lifestyle . . . but not as a comic figure. Thanks to that choice, we may not ever have to be as ashamed to find Mycroft in the original stories as we do Steve Dixie. Our own works might be a different story.
Something to think about, as we move ahead in this post-Christmas-special world.