Saturday, March 2, 2013

Just Sherfocking around.

Okay, I was wrong.

A couple of days ago, I wrote that Sherlockians needed "a new Game," and that the energetic fans of BBC Sherlock were bringing it to us. In considering the comments that came after it, I realized that I was competely and utterly wrong. All the thought, energy, and fun being put into admiring and analyzing the adventures of Cumberbatch's Holmes and his friends isn't a new Game at all. It's just a re-energized take on what we've had all along.

What's the difference between Father Ronald Knox writing a funny talk for the folks at his college in 1912, John Bennett Shaw doing "To Shelve or Censor" in the 1960s, and the material we're looking forward to seeing in the One Fixed Point collection of the Baker Street Babes?

Nothing. People having fun with Sherlock Holmes.

One of the great problems with being in what might be the world's oldest ongoing fandom is that when something gets old, people start taking it a little too seriously. What started out as just a way of amusing one's friends, something like the B.S.I. Buy-laws or that "Aunt Clara" song, eventually becomes ritual. And once something becomes ritual, it will always be very serious business in the eyes of some. The jokes cease to be funny (or are laughed at mechanically), and are dragged onward through history with the persistence of a Roman church.

Usually this persistence isn't being promoted by the person who originally made the joke. They understood that they were just Sherfocking around. It's what we do.

It has always amused me when I spout some opinion about Sherlock Holmes and someone goes, "But Brad, back in 1984, you wrote the exact opposite!"  Consistency might be important for science, math, and the other disciplines that need rigid rules to work, but Sherlockian study is more of an art form . . . style is just as important (or moreso) than substance.

Actual literary scholarship about Conan Doyle is a serious business, of course, and I've always seen that as separate from Sherlockiana, for exactly that reason. Conan Doyle was real. But the minute you do anything based on the premise that Sherlock Holmes was real, you've crossed into the land of silliness, whether you want to admit it or not. Pooh-pooh the young and enthusiastic "Cumberbitches" all you want, but Ronald Know was engaging in the same silly fun as they are.

Building an exact replica of Sherlock's 1888 sitting room is no more valid than building a replica of Sherlock's 2012 sitting room. One came from the mind of Conan Doyle, sure, and the other was tweaked by Moffat and Gatiss, but you know what? They've both brought pleasure to millions of people and will continue to do so. Basil Rathbone is still a good time, with bits from his movies slipping into modern adaptations like Canonical lore -- good bits that have resonance will always stick with the legend of Sherlock Holmes and add to the lore. William Gillette gave us the calabash pipe. Martin Freeman has given us the psychosomatic war wound. The beat goes on.

Even my ongoing campaign against CBS's Elementary is me just having fun with Sherlock Holmes. You can always see a clearer definition of something by looking at something that is not that thing and comparing the two, and giving CBS's so blatantly mercenary effort a verbal smackdown every now and then, letting dramatic outrage flow on a subject that is truly of no real importance to our lives . . . that is just batting around a cat toy . . . fun.

Because at some point, we all enjoy Sherfocking around. Sherlockiana would not exist without it.

1 comment:

  1. This essay started out okay (I guess) but when you to "good bits that have resonance will always stick with the legend of Sherlock Holmes and add to the lore", you lost me. When it comes to "Sherfocking" I'm going to quote you: "That's Elementary's turf and we don't want to infringe on the things that make that show unique and special."

    "Style is just as important (or moreso) than substance"? Your newly coined word, I'm sorry to say, has neither.