Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hyperbolic headlines.

When I was a kid, back in history, I remember newspapers being rather unexciting things. Their headlines just presented the basic facts of the story that followed and didn't seem to work all that hard to draw you into the account that followed. They didn't  have to, as you didn't have much else to do back then but read the story. Flash forward to today, the internet, and the short attention span. Suddenly we get headlines that aren't just designed to grab you, they're built to make you charge headlong into the words that follow, either with gleeful anticipation or fierce outrage.

Take, for example, this op-ed headline from Flavorwire: "Why Sherlock Holmes Superfans Are Wrong About 'Elementary.'" The piece is basically a non-Holmes fan explaining why Jonny Lee Miller seems like Sherlock Holmes to her, even though he doesn't to her friend, the actual Sherlock Holmes fan. The headline, however, pulls one in by declaring the "superfans" wrong as a class. Which leads us to a fun new game in our own little debates on the series (all voices to be read in a French accent, just for fun):

"No, my friend, your Sherlock Holmes collection has far more books than mine! You are the true Sherlockian superfan, and therefore wrong about Elementary!"

"Ah, but you blog non-stop, the real hallmark of a superfan! It is you who are wrong about Elementary!"

"No, no, you are speaking at the U of M conference in August! My meager status of 'fan' does not come close to your superior Sherlock Holmes knowledge! How sorry I am that your superfan status invalidates your opinions on televised entertainments."

"But just yesterday, you quickly corrected my hideous error in stating that Killer Evans appeared in 'The Three Gables!' Your mighty Sherlockian brain can only be that of a superfan, and thus sadly mistaken on all things transmitted via video!"

And on and on it goes, with only the most innocent of "crimes" Sherlockian left to opine.

Ah, but that's not my favorite headline.

The Guardian favors us with "Why Elementary is far more than a Sherlock Holmes pastiche."

More. . . than . . . a . . . Sherlock . . . Holmes . . . pastiche.

After a century of pastiches, stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and yet among the original sixty, this announcement of a saga rises above pastiche . . . well, that's . . . that's . . . well, that's worthy of several . . . ellipses of sheer amazement. The article itself seems to consider Elementary a major step for the advancement of women in our culture. But the concept the headline raises is something even more important: a work featuring a character called "Sherlock Holmes" which finally rises above mere pastiche.

Rising above pastiche, to the level of Canon? Would that mean we've come full circle, and the cycle of Sherlock can now be complete? Our is it something even more transcendent? Something which will attract the finest minds and, like a Zen koan, raise them to ultimate enlightenment as they fixate their meditations upon it over the course of a season.

That would explain a lot.

But the world of internet headlines must just be a bit more grand and glorious than the world upon which it reports. Of course, just in case I turn out to be a superfan, let me say this: I might be wrong.


  1. But there was no mention of elite devotees! I'm having an identity crisis. If I'm not an elite devotee, does that mean I'm a superfan? If I don't care for pastiches, might I like something that is MORE than a Sherlock Holmes pastiche?

    If you need me I'll be over here, reading the Canon. Because honestly, labels and pastiches and TV shows aren't what make me a Sherlockian.

  2. Thank you for exposing the ridiculousness of those... *snort, breathing fire* ..."articles".

  3. "The piece is basically a non-Holmes fan explaining why Jonny Lee Miller seems like Sherlock Holmes to her, even though he doesn't to her friend, the actual Sherlock Holmes fan."

    You know, I've thought about that a lot today and found that it's probably a problem of finding the Sherlock Holmes you can relate to. For me it was the BBC's.

    It's not that I had never heard of/read about/seen any Sherlock Holmes related books/films etc. They just left no impression. I even remembered that I had seen some episodes of the Granada series, although I had sworn on a stack of bibles I didn't know it, but I remembered the scene with the boys in front of the shop window and the policeman chasing them away. But that was *all* I remembered.

    When I saw SH-fanfic anywhere, I thought, "Why are they still writing about that old f*rt? How boring."

    Then came the Ritchie movie and I was mildly amused. Still not a Holmes-fan and not really into steampunk, but it was entertaining and I thought, "Yes, that's the way to go, get the stuff out of its mothballs, okay."

    When I saw people writing fanfic about the new stuff, I could at least understand the appeal - even if I didn't feel the slightest compulsion to read any.

    So, along came the BBC which I didn't intend to watch - not because I found the idea of setting it in the modern era appalling, but simply because I still found SH rather boring. Oh, dear.

    As I said before I've since read the canon twice and intend to read it again. And, to cut short all the long babble, I have no data and cannot prove it, but from what I gather online "Elementary" isn't doing anything like that for the source material. Few and far between is the E-fan I've heard tell that the show made them connect with the original stories.

    And I think that is its greatest failure.

  4. "The article itself seems to consider Elementary a major step for the advancement of women in our culture"

    In treating transwomen as women and not oddities, yes. In treating a woman of color as just another New Yorker and not an ethnicity, yes. But women in general? Up to The Big Denouement, did the original author miss just how often Joan was hit with gendered insults? From Sherlementary's "father" asking how much of the job was earning her wages on her back, the Irregular asking if she was a prostitute, Sherlementary discussing her cycle in the very classic "Wow, you're being a bitch, are you on the rag?" way... all the way down to Joan losing her apartment because someone shot amateur porn in it. Joan endured a fetid stew of sexism for most of the season, with Sherlementary's respect as a revolting consolation prize for having put up with it at the end.

    And THEN Gregson does the classic erasure; trying to get the "little woman" out of the line of fire, ignoring her saying no, patronizing that Joan doesn't know what she's getting into.

    If this is advancement, I hate to think what the author's personal life is like.

    -- Nea

    1. Thanks for that, Nea. The show's pretense of being feminist simply by making Watson female while retaining all the attitudes of classic sexism has been pretty obvious to me, but sometimes I get weary of dealing with its fans on yet another front.

    2. The classic sexism is there because classic sexism is an everyday reality. Remove that aspect of the show and you present a fairytale world where no man ever needs to be pulled up for their misogynistic remarks or attitudes. Or where Joan, simply by being a woman who is strong and capable, is suddenly immune to bullshit from men. It doesn't work like that, and the writers know it. They also know that good men (Gregson, for example) can be sexist towards women they care for and respect, and that men don't have miraculous changes of attitude after they're called out the first, second, nth time (Holmes). It's realistic. You can't create a feminist show that doesn't acknowledge sexism. Watson as a man doesn't have to deal with it. Make the character a woman, and she does. Simple as that. And it might not seem important to anyone who doesn't personally have to see, hear, think about or put up with sexism on a daily basis, but for those who do, and are shut down whenever they try to point out the problem, it can be incredibly satisfying to watch it being dealt with the way Elementary does.

  5. So the "Superfan" in Flavorwire story was "wrong" about Elementary because the general TV viewer likes it. I'd say that is right. You are an example of someone who doesn't like it. I assume you are ok if I call you a Superfan or Fanboy? Apparently to more fanatic the viewer the less enjoyment. My problem with the author is her confusion over Jonny and Johnny. Nitpicker that I am. By the way, tonight's Elementary rerun was enjoyable. There was stuff that I missed the first time. I can't wait until the first season DVD is available. Then you can come over and I'll make popcorn and we can play Mystery Science Theater 3000.

    1. Dick, I've been playing MST3K with Elementary on Twitter since perhaps the third or fourth episode. But no offense; I make fun of things I like, too. Just make more fun of things I don't. Remember Holmes with the King of Bohemia? Yeah, it's like that.