Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Exploiting or enhancing?

Suppose you were chosen by the Celestial High Assemblage Of Sherockifans to be the sole gate-keeper of all that would be Holmes, approver of all that is spawned from the legend left us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes, you.

All morning long, you would sit in your grand hall while applicants took turns approaching your massive desk with their Sherlock Holmes-related creations and you, with a stroke of your pen, would approve or deny their product or service for release to the world bearing the banner of Holmes.

"This is great!" you think that first morning. "I get to see everything before everyone else, and since all Sherlock Holmes is good Sherlock Holmes, I just sign off on all of it! Woo-hoo!"

But then, every afternoon, the representative from the rest of the Sherlockian world would stop by and ask for a report, as well as your reasons for allowing each piece of Sherlock Holmes spin-offery into the world. And when that representative soul left, they'd either be gleefully delighted with your efforts, or horribly depressed about what you'd allowed into the world. Eventually you might start pondering your criteria. What makes the rest of the Sherlockian world happiest? What gets them down?

Well, we're a vast and varied lot, but I have to think you'd quickly find at least two poles of measurement for looking at Sherlock Holmes ventures: Exploitation and enhancement.

In the last century, we've all seen things that enhanced the legend of Sherlock Holmes. Not just specific books or movies, but societies, art, and events . . . things that left the Sherlockian world richer than it was before they existed. Most fans of Holmes can name a number of these off the top of their heads, because they're usually the bits that led us to the original sixty stories, or were shared by an enthusiastic friend. The enhancing bits tend to come to us from friends a lot, because there's a joy to them that must be shared.

On the dark side of the equation, however, are the exploitive bits. The pieces that thrust themselves in front of us unbidden. They come via Amazon's desperate attempts to sell you one more Holmes thing. They are pushed upon you by people whose job it is to come up with ideas, and having run dry, they borrow an iconic character they know little about. And they come as warning signs of intellectual turf staked out by those who want to use Holmes to raise their own stature in some fashion.

Enhancement gives. Exploitation receives. A very good book or dramatic production that I paid money for might give me so much that I feel it was an enhancement, while something that was completely free might make me feel exploited by using my love of Holmes to turn my attention to an otherwise unwanted product. (Curse you, Snoopy-with-a-deerstalker figures!)

While there may not be a Celestial High Assemblage Of Sherlockians and a representative of the rest of the Sherlockian world to deal with, we're all given that gatekeeper job when it comes to our own Holmes intake. And thank goodness for that, because my sliding scale of enhancement versus exploitation seems to be calibrated a bit differently than some others . . . and I'm sure yours is too.

Every now and then, though, it's good to remember it's there.


  1. Making note to self..."Hide Snoopy-with-a-deerstalker when Brad comes to visit."

    Perhaps my Rathbone-Bruce Hirshfeld will make up for it.

  2. You know what? I think I've got it now.

    "So, basically you love “Elementary” because it adheres to your personal political agenda. Funny enough that is not one of the criteria I even think of when it comes to my entertainment choices. I judge creative works on their merits as creative works and here I do find “E” sadly lacking, whereas I think “Sherlock” is a brilliant work of art."

    That's what all the hoohah is about.

  3. Well, you know how I feel about print-on-demand pastiche. It is usually terribly written, poorly plotted, chock-full of grammatical and typographical errors, untrue to this spirit of Sherlock Holmes, and generally an insult to me as a literate individual and especially as a Sherlockian. POD pastiche cheapens "the game," and the sheer volume of it devalues the other components of a collection I have spent decades and manyy tens of thousands of dollars to build. I have decided that POD pastiches, churned out by an undiscriminating and exploitative set of companies (and one in partcular, these days) is just not worthy of my collection.

    But as much as I would love to see no more of these produced -- ever -- and as awful as they are, I would not use my power as "sole gate-keeper of all that would be Holmes" to prevent its existence. Nor would I have banned the Matt Frewer Holmes movies, as dreadful as they were. It seems to me that no one person oligarchy or even a mob of trendy fans should make that decision. I can exclude what I don't like, and I can preach my prejudices against them in whatever forums I can find. I guess the American Revolution attitudes I have inherited prevent me from banning pretty much anything that's not outright illegal already.

    I am almost as equally annoyed by cheaply-produced teapots with a Sherlock Holmes silhouette stamped on the side (and nothing more), by pipes that claim to be Sherlock Holmes series (but have no context other than that designation to claim such a designation), and such stuff. I bypass it without remorse. I have never claimed to be a "completist." Being a completist means you can never rest.

    (But I do think the Hallmark Snoopy ornament is a little different. That was made for Hallmark ornament collectors, some of whom are as rabid as any Sherlockian I know. That one was made after the cartoon, "It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown" in which Snoopy dons the deerstalker. It wasn't made to exploit Sherlockians, and Hallmark probably never considered us in its decision to produce it.)

    But you are so right. We all can be our own gatekeepers and make our own choices to get what we like and get what we think really belongs in whatever collection or set we might have. It might be too much to ask that we choose "wisely." I'm not sure that two-room floor-to-celibing collection of mine has ever been wise. But it has been lots of fun.

  4. sorry to point out--Sherockifans in the first paragraph--and I'm sure yours is to in the last paragraph, should it be too? thanks.

    1. Actually, "Sherlockifans" was intentional. Maybe a poor choice in word-play, but meant as it came out. Thanks for the "too" though!

  5. Sole gate-keeper of all that would be Sherlockian! Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sounds great, as I am very corruptible. I SHOULD like to be in the enhancement camp, but let's face it - exploitation is where the money is. It might also be fun, in an evil way, being the great destroyer of Sherlockiana. Ultimately, though, people have the choice of what they take in and what they leave out. Now, if only I had the power over that!!!

  6. i get it! a tie-in to rhys ifans. too early to nominate him to the c.h.a. of s. though.