Monday, December 16, 2013

In the very public press.

Well, this never happened with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Sunday wasn't the first time Sherlock fan endeavors were used to torment Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Apparently the panel discussion after the BFI premiere of Sherlock season three, however, crossed new lines of humiliation for both the actors and fans, especially the writer of the fan fiction in question, as the actors were asked to read a particularly kissy scene between their two characters. The reaction in fan world was strong enough to get reported in The Telegraph, which, like the reason for the incident to begin with, was probably just there because nobody's reporting what was actually in the long-awaited resurrection episode.

Usually we tend to think of old school Sherlockians who just don't get full implications of our modern world, but I think this particular incident demonstrates that even the next generation isn't entirely ready for our newfound technological powers.

I mean, the poor humiliated fan in question published her fan fiction on the internet. Remember the internet? The very public internet? Where, if I write how much I hate Elementary in great detail, week after week, I shouldn't be surprised if a producer from CBS television walks up to me and goes, "So, I hear you don't like Elementary." Which did happen in one mildly uncomfortable moment. Not nearly as uncomfortable as having your demonstration of fondness for a characterization of Holmes used to ruin the moment of the person who helped create that characterization, of course. And not even the most uncomfortable moment I've had being read by anyone who gets pointed this way.

But here's the thing: as much of a (insert your preferred profanity here) as Sunday's BFI panel discussion's chairperson was being by mocking someone's Sherlock creative effort, there's a side to this that was hitting the fandom lottery. At the end of the day, once the emotions have lost their potency, somebody got their words read by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and has that story to tell for the rest of their life. There's a reason we have the phrase, "We'll laugh about this one day." Because what else are you going to do? Live in a bell tower the rest of your life?

Nobody wants to be the cautionary tale for the rest of the Sherlock fan universe, 'tis true. But there is a cautionary tale to be seem there. Anybody can read our stuff on the internet. Our friends, our foes, utter villains who may use it in ways we never could have conceived of. It's something we all have to consider as we put electronic words to server.

Because we're playing a whole new game these days, boys and girls. Some of it may seem like the same stuff that's been going on for decades, but there's these wrinkles to it we ain't never seen before.


  1. I think you don't understand the undercurrents in this one.

    Yes, it is a game, but it is also a game with rules. We are well aware that everybody can read our stuff, which is why most of us use an alias on the net. But there is also some sort of codex, and the incident violated it on so many levels.

    I think the worst part of it is that most of us draw a line between the characters and the actors. Just because someone is okay with indulging in some fantasy, it does not mean that he doesn't think that RPG's aren't disturbing. A lot of us feel that it is totally okay to use the character, but consider it a violation to write the same stuff about the actors because, let's face it, who would want to read stories about yourself have sex in the net? Forcing the stories on the actors shattered this distinction to pieces.

    Who really has to deal with the fall-out in this case is not the writer, though, but the moderator who thought it was funny to mock the fans this way. Even ignoring the codex: When reporters of some TV shows do it, it is bad enough, but you can't expect them to understand fan culture. But in this case, it was a fan doing it to other fans. She should have known better.

    1. Ah, thank you. I thought I had to be missing something.

  2. Everyone says that about what we all put out on the internet, and they're right...up to a point. But while I think we all agree that those of us who publish things online should expect some reasonable discussion (positive and negative) about what we put up, we can also agree, I think, that people get out of hand--which is why most of us moderate our comments threads and facebook pages.

    I agree with everything swanpride2 says above. I would also like to add that, for some odd reason, the moderator seems to have missed recent signals from Cumberbatch, Freeman, and even fans, that what was funny once, well over a year ago, isn't funny anymore. There have been several interviews over the past months with both leads in which it is quite clear that they are kind of sick of talking about fan works on the internet. They're nice about it,'s old news, they're not into it themselves, they have other work to promote, other things to talk about...and if all a reporter can fall back on is Red Pants Monday or hedgehogs and otters, then they haven't really done a good job. Also (and granted this is from what I've read, as I wasn't there) the moderator missed signals from the actors that they didn't want to continue. She apparently knows at least one of the actors fairly well...why she would put that individual in such a position bewilders me no end. It was classless all around--both to the fic writer, the audience, the actors, and everyone on the panel.

    That being said, we have all done things that we will always remember with that sick feeling in our guts. So it's better to just put this one in the file and move on. As a fandom, we will make it worse if we are nasty to the person who'll cringe at this moment for the rest of her life, and may pay a price personally and professionally. It's good to talk about boundaries between fans and the shows we love, and about fandom activities and real life. Most of us know where those are; others need some guidance. But hopefully this one action won't put a shadow over what was, in most aspects, a wonderful event.