An old YouTube "College Humor Original" from last fall came around again this week, a mash-up of Sherlock and Blue's Clues called, quite naturally, "Sherlock Blue's Clues." (Thanks, Vince!) And as I enjoyed it's Snape-like Sherlock badgering the denizen's of Blue's 2-D world, it reminded me of one key difference between a well-written Sherlock Holmes and a bad one.
In the last few years, one of the components of certain incarnations of Sherlock Holmes is a level of just plain rudeness. The wannabe Holmes character badgers bystanders for no apparent reason, often taking the asshole course when a more normal one is available, just to show, "Hey, this guy is RUDE!"
At which point, I always have to start thinking that the writer plainly doesn't get Sherlock's point of view. Which is what I really like about the "Sherlock Blue's Clues" video: it illustrates Sherlock Holmes's perspective using a familiar old comedic staple.
To the unseen children and child-like fellow in the world of Blue's Clues, Sherlock Holmes must appear quite the rude boy. Temperamental, coldly stating embarassing truths, and showing no sympathy for their lesser intellects.
But as the world of Blue's Clues is built for the mind of a small child, it makes it a little easier to sympathize with Holmes's point of view: a man surrounded by slow-witted dullards who have to engage in time-consuming rituals when the obvious truth is right in front of them. By the time he gets to his final "OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!" you're laughing at his frustration, but you get it. Like Ralph Kramden shouting at Ed Norton's elaborate preparations for the simplest of tasks, Bud Abbott getting impatient with Lou Costello, or Moe Howard's "Give me that!" the final loss of patience by the regular guy putting up with the crawling pace of the addle-pated is a reliable source of comedy going way back.
But Sherlock Holmes, of course, is no regular guy. To regular guys, he's a Bud Abbott among Lou Costellos. A Dan Rowan among Dick Martins. A Tommy Smothers among . . . hmmm, why are all these examples a bit dusty? We might as well be talking about Nigel Bruce.
Nigel Bruce's old movie Watson takes a lot of criticism for being such a fool, supposedly created to make Holmes seems smarter, but perhaps he's actually there to show how Rathbone's Holmes views the rest of us. (I say "us," of course, even though I know most of my readers are of far above average intelligence . . . but let's pretend we're all average, for the sake of . . . well, you know who.)
These days, we're getting smarter, more sympathetic Watsons, which means the Holmeses must try to demonstrate even more eccentricity, aloofness, or other behaviors that usually accompany genius, just to show he's all that much smarter still. But all of those actions from the mentally superior derive from a very logical, very understandable source, and need to be written in a way that makes sense. Geniuses aren't randomly eccentric . . . they usually have very specific reasons for what they do.
And one of the most basic of those is the irritation of being a fast-moving mind in a world of slow thinkers. If you've ever found yourself in line behind someone who was a first-timer at the ATM or automatic checkout you use every day, you know exactly how that feels. So the next time you're about to blurt, "OH, FOR FU . . . ." well, just think, "This is what Sherlock Holmes must feel like every single day."
For now, though, I'll take being reminded in a comedy video on YouTube. Much less stressful.