When I first became a Sherlock Holmes fan, way back in the ol' disco-1970s, the main thing that lay between Sherlockians was distance. I was in Morton, Illinois. You were in Chicago, St. Louis, DuQuoin, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Flower Mound, Santa Fe, Dubuque, Bloomington, St. Petersburg, Washington, Brooklyn, Boston, Jacksonville . . . etc., etc., etc. Geography was the primary challenge in initiating and maintaining Sherlockian friendships. It still is, to a degree.
But now we have all new distances separating us.
My attention was directed today to a letter written back in September of last year entitled "An Open Letter to Pan-Holmesian Fandom: Elementary Is Not Your Punchline." Posted by someone who goes by "language-escapes," it plays out a familiar song I've heard many a time since I started including the subject of CBS's Elementary in my blog-posts: "If you don't like Elementary, then just don't talk about it in your podcasts and blog entries." In other words, continue to be a Sherlock Holmes fan, but completely ignore a major network television program making its money off of the name "Sherlock Holmes" to create a safe space for those whose love of it could cause them offense or pain if you were to speak negatively of the show. Or laugh at its extravagances.
This week, Clyde the turtle is hibernating in the refrigerator, Mr. Elementary is commenting on Joan's lack of a sex life. And suddenly Papa Elementary is back to ask Joan out to dinner. Uh-oh. And Mr. Elementary soon seems concerned that since she slept with his brother, she may sleep with his father. Mr. Elementary and Detective Bell go to a strip club while that date takes place. Pardon me if I can't critique that silliness without a little laughter, but come on! I would, and have, mock a Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur F'Conan Doyle if it had that stuff in it.
The "Open Letter" complains of podcast participants spontaneously using "At least it's not Elementary!" as a punchline, but it's not a punchline. It's the statement of comparison. And that comparison is, "At least this show didn't go as far afield from the original Sherlock Holmes as Elementary did." The part that makes people laugh is how far afield Elementary had gone without a solid tether back to its origins. The turtle. The strippers. Watson's bedding Mycroft. Robot dinosaurs killing prostitutes. Oh, wait, that was the Asylum Sherlock Holmes, which we all laugh at, wasn't it?
But Elementary goes on this week to a cat-cafe scene with a cat-cafe lady that is actually more endearing than anything I've ever seen on this show. She then helps Mr. Elementary catch this week's killer in a quite charming method. If they hadn't spent the first half of the episode, or the first three seasons, trying to suggest to me that someone as distinctly not Sherlock Holmes as Mr. Elementary deserved the name rather than something more suitable to the original character he is, I might just go "Oh, this silly show has its moments," and let it go at that. But no. This is "Sherlock Holmes," broadcast to ten million people during one of its big seasons, and thus a common reference point for us all.
And all of what I've written above puts some distance between me and some Elementary fans. I can't buy a plane ticket to remove that distance. I can't spend a couple hundred dollars on gas and cross that distance by car. No, the price certain Elementary fans ask to travel that distance to see them is to remain silent about something going on with the name "Sherlock Holmes" while they get to freely talk about that same thing as they wish.
Believe it or not, I've paid that price before. I've sat silently in Elementary panels at 221B Con, just to listen to what the ardent fans of the show had to say, and try to empathize with their position. I let them have their say, didn't argue against their points, either there or later in blogland. (But, oh, how I could have.) Their panels, their fun, I thought, why interrupt? But that silence didn't build any relationships. If one of us can't honestly speak their mind, the distance does nothing but grow greater.
(And it starts making me want to put ". . . but at least it's not Elementary!" on a t-shirt. Because when you tell people to shut up, the stuff that gets bottled up is going to come out somewhere.)