Chris Redmond used a couple of words in a tweet recently that sent me on quite a reverie about the Sherlockian world, one that I don't think I'll ever have time to explore to its fullest. The words were "riff-raff" and "respectable," and he was favoring the former, so don't be thinking it was a judgemental sort of thing. And since recent politics have given us "deplorables" as a noun that pops up every now and again, it seemed like converting "respectable" to a noun for Sherlockian purposes would be a fine thing to do as well.
Riff-raff and respectables.
Though it has all the dangers of a binary view, I love the way those two words capture so much of Sherlockiana as we know it. We have riff-raff, we have respectables, we have respectable riff-raff, and we have riff-raff respectables, as well as wannabees at each end of the spectrum. And never has there been a time when the extremes were stretched so far.
We have literary scholars and we have pornographic shippers. We have institutions and we have iconoclasts. We have wealthy collectors and just-scraping-by fans. You can squee or you can lift your nose in a dignified manner and still fall under the heading of "Sherlockian."
You could remake the movie "Caddyshack" to be about Sherlockians instead of golfers easily enough, but perhaps I'm showing my particular bias there. It's just not the way things are now, though.
Adrian Conan Doyle surely considered the Baker Street Irregulars as riff-raff. BSJ editor Philip Shreffler was notorious for his thoughts on fans of Jeremy Brett's Sherlock.And when Julian Wolfe tore up the note from the college girls on the chilly street in front of the BSI's annual dinner venue, once again, we had a bit of a riff-raff moment.
I always wonder if Americans aren't particular prone to the "riff-raff and respectables" duality due to the Anglophilic aspect of our fandom and the idea of the classy Briton, whether it's a title, an Oxford education, or that accent -- the hope that being a follower of that most elite of British detectives will rub off some class on the likes of midwest farmboys and Jersey neighborhood kids. But it's more than that these days, when we have such a diverse array of ways to enjoy Sherlock Holmes.
The difference between writing an authoritative biographical piece on Conan Doyle and writing a nutty expose on Watson's secret voodoo medical skills is great, and the writers of each can both proudly self-identify as respectable or riff-raff. But that is always the key. Self-identification.
Want to be a part of the riff-raff? Join us, we'll be happy to have you!
Want to be a respectable? You do the work, and we'll all thank you for it.
But if you want to call somebody else "riff-raff," just to separate them from your rarefied stratosphere of Sherlockiana? Well, you might just be a balloon full of hot air, needing a prick.
Long live the riff-raff and the respectables of our wide Sherlockian world, though, because that combo pack is what gives this hobby a cache that has kept us going for many a year.