In yesterday’s Akron Beacon Journal, Rich Heldenfels wrote, “TV can’t seem to get enough of flawed masterminds, characters whose brilliance or powers of perception are so considerable that their personality flaws can be forgiven.”
He was mainly writing about TNT’s upcoming show Perception, but Sherlock Holmes’s name got thrown in there as well. Is our friend Sherlock “a flawed mastermind?” Most Sherlock fans I’ve met in the last thirty years don’t think so. But there have always been those folks I’ve run into who sieze on Holmes’s rare instances of drug use like a bull pup on a Persian slipper (you know that’s why Sherlock only had one!). And lately that crowd is starting to add psychological conditions like Asperger’s and sociopathy to their list of ways to cut Holmes down to an acceptable size.
Think they might feel a little bit threatened by a fictional genius? I do.
Just as homophobes over-react to same-sex proclivities as a part of their own self-shame issues, Holmesophobes have a need for Holmes-level geniuses to have character flaws of equivalent levels just to make them palatable and non-ego-threatening. Of course it isn’t just geniuses taking the hit these days. Reality shows cherry pick socially dysfunctional sorts to make even your average, normal man on the street seem to be in the minority. Have Americans become so insecure that we can only be entertained by idiots, drama queens, and the psychologically impaired? Once upon a time we watched shows about exceptional people doing exceptional things and dreamed of one day being like that. Now we watch losers doing loserish things and fell better about ourselves.
And into this sludge pool comes a new American television version of Sherlock Holmes. Of course he’s going to have addiction issues and probably a few other mental troubles before the series takes a Neilsen bullet. The challenge for Holmes fans will be much as it was in the 1970s when Nicholas Meyer hit the best-seller list by making Holmes a delusional cokehead. (Why do we still like that guy? Wrath of Khan?) We’re going to have to deal with the chuckleheads who draw their entire knowledge of Holmes from what they heard second-hand about a very off-key adaptation.
We can be even-tempered in looking forward to the new American version of Sherlock on TV, and wait to start considering it, but why? Trust me. The Holmesophobes are going to be on the rise again, my friends. Prepare yourselves.