Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Conan Doyle's Stories for Girls.

I think it's time to build a funeral pyre for my copy of Conan Doyle's Stories for Boys.

Every one of the two novels and four short stories between its covers is a Sherlock Holmes story, and after Sunday's revision of "The Empty House," I think we can safely say those stories aren't just for boys any more. I'd add "if they ever were," if not for Conan Doyle's own words:

I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who's half a man,
Or the man who's half a boy.

Conan Doyle is a bit like the Bible in that people tend to pick and choose from his words. They love to cite that "You may marry him, murder him . . ." quote about Holmes as license to get Holmes a'romancing, but Doyle's seeming master plan to give joy to just the male of the species? Not so much.

And oh, how the times have changed. The focus of "The Empty Hearse" was the post-Reichenbach reunion of Holmes and Watson, of course, but this time we're less focussed on the "whys" and "hows" and more on reconciling Watson's feelings on the matter. Watson is plainly more upset about Holmes's treatment of him than he's ever been.

True, that kettle has been boiling with readers for a long time . . . but not Doyle's "boy" readers, whom the publishing industry catered to even just fifty years ago. The literary landscape is a very different one now, where a tween romance novel can kick the ass of anything else on the shelves in sales. The pendulum swings, and the swing is toward adding one more leg to the "Y" in "XY."

Would we have had "Empty Hearse" as it exists, were it not for a largely female fandom, if Conan Doyle's tales were still seen as "for boys?" Of course not, just as we wouldn't have seen Laurie King's Mary Russell series be such a success if there wasn't a desire among readers for a strong female figure in Sherlock Holmes's life. In "Empty Hearse," Watson became the stand-in for a more female reaction to Holmes's leaving without saying good-bye. I'm sure many a guy watching that show was going, "Yeah, the beat-downs are funny, but why doesn't he just get over it?"

Gender identity is a sliding scale, of course, and I realize I'm looking for a beatdown myself in suggesting that anything is more of a masculine or feminine reaction. But as I said at the start, it's definitely not Conan Doyle's Stories for Boys any more.

And it's definitely going to make things a lot more interesting, as it has already.


  1. "Would we have had "Empty Hearse" as it exists, were it not for a largely female fandom..."

    I have to admit to finding that mildly offensive. From what *I* can see there are lots of female fans not entirely happy with this new direction and they would decline to be called responsible for it. It is, perhaps, what the *male* show runners *think* their female fans wanted, but, sorry, I think they've botched it.

    H&W was always them sitting before the fire in Bakerstreet, reading their newspapers, smoking their pipes and bickering about this or that. Then a client arrived, laid their problem before them and off they went to solve the case. And even if the cases were sometimes ridiculous (trained swamp adder etc.), no one really cared because the surrounding stuff was so good. Their characters were developed and displayed in their reactions to and handling of the cases and - as someone in a comment section put it very nicely: the fusion of both was where the magic happened.

    There are lots of viewers who like the way the show is going, but there are also lots and lots of female(!) viewers who don't. No one wanted this show to be turned into a sitcom! Yes, some female viewers may like character moments better than action moments, but whoever would like a diet exclusively consisting of pudding? Where is the steak?!

    Those character moments were like little raisins to be found and cherished because they were not what the whole cake was made of, which would make them boring.

    Now we have... I don't know what. But not what they promised us in the beginning, namely a show true to the spirit if not the exact word of the stories.

  2. I am perfectly ok with a few episodes being more character-oriented. But...although I am female, and I thought Martin Freeman's facial expressions in the restaurant were exquisite, I am kind of in the "be overjoyed and get over it--most people stay dead" camp, as well as in the "for pity's sake, he did it for you and aren't you the least bit curious as to what his life was like during the Hiatus--it was hardly a picnic" camp. Also, just thinking...and I could be wrong here...but with a very few exceptions, it seems to me that both men and women tend to quote and frequently refer to, not Holmes' case deductions in the Canon, but the ones that occur during the quieter moments he spends with Watson--particularly the opening scenes before the hansom cab is summoned. Or maybe that's just me. At any rate, I have now seen the opener four times and will probably make it 5 tonight. It's one of those shows which really becomes richer and more cohesive the more times you see it. It's a little frenetic the first time, but with repeat viewings you catch more and realize that certain scenes have more depth than it might have seemed at first.


  3. Absolutely agree on both counts. The Serbia scene shows us that the hiatus was indeed no picnic and a little bit of "wow, you did all this for *us*" wouldn't go amiss.

    Otoh the showrunners effectively undermined TRF by telling us there was never any real danger to the three people under sniper threat, as the snipers had been "asked to reconsider" and according to Moffat the whole rooftop scene was fake to fool Watson. Why *he* of the about 30 people knowing about the ruse was to be considered untrustworthy, is beyond me.

    Everything was just a ploy between Mycroft and Sherlock, because "no one outwits Sherlock Holmes" (then turns around to write TLV...).

    Every epsisode of S3 had lovely scenes to be remembered. They were just not really well strung together, imo. Like quilting where the pieces don't really fit together.