Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shipping quietly goes mainstream.

When the BBC's Sherlock took Holmes fandom to a whole new level, there were suddenly a lot of new concepts that some of the elder Sherlockians among us found a little much at first. A few of those were seen by the more conservative as traits of "the hysterical fangirl," a category some even tried to use to minimize the enthusiasms of fellow Holmes buffs, to their own detriment.

One of those new little fandom features that was not as popular in the olden days of Sherlock fandom was "shipping," exploring romantic relationships between various characters in the Canon of Holmes. Since a lot of shipping involves males in love with males, conservative-conservative Sherlockians were definitely not going "Yippee!" and jumping on that bus, despite the fact that Holmes-Adler shipping has roots that run deep. Still, inroads began to be made.

But this week, shipping reached an entirely new level as a certain television program with millions of viewers in mainstream America moved ahead with its own little fanfic plotline.

Yes, Watson has moved out of the rooms he shared with Sherlock Holmes many times for many reasons, but did he ever consider doing it before so he could have a relationship with Mycroft?

That's what came up on CBS's Elementary this week. Of course, to do it in front of ten million viewers in middle America, it had to be with a female Watson and a male Mycroft . . . were they a couple of boys, instead of a failed surgeon and a shady restauranteur of opposite sexes, they might have upset a few viewers.

As it was the whole relationship has been spoken of in such hushed tones and never actually shown, it's been very easy not to even notice in any moment when the show's wacky Sherlock isn't slut-shaming Watson for having sex with his brother. It doesn't fit the show's procedural format, so it has to sidelined to subplot conversations, so it's definitely not having the impact it could, even with Sherlock Holmes fans . . . I mean, c'mon! Mycroft and Watson getting together? That's huge!

Had BBC Sherlock put Mycroft and Watson together, creating a love triangle with Sherlock, it might have been huge. And controversial. And . . . well . . . hard to ignore.

But Elementary's quiet plunge into shipping seems to be fairly unremarked upon. Perhaps it's because the show has already taken so many liberties with Canonical Holmes that it's practically unrecognizable anyway. Perhaps it's because the show hasn't featured any scenes of Mycroft and Watson in bed together, or showed much emotion directed toward each other. The show doesn't seem to get people as excited as Sherlock does.

But it still seemed worth a note as the ever-changing face of Sherlockian culture moves forward. Fifty years from now, when John H. Watson and Mycroft Holmes are sharing rooms in Pall Mall, some neophyte Sherlockian will be researching just when it was that John and Mycroft pairings first attained prominence, and Elementary will be remembered as the day when it went beyond the borders of fanfic media and on to a major network.

What a world, what a world, as a certain other cranky old person used to say.


  1. Just one opinion here - as to THAT Mycroft and Watson pairing - I believe that it is an Mycroftian ruse (shows just how gullible THIS Watson is) because HE is probably the head of some secret organization - Restauranteur! Really? - and wants to break up this Holmes and Watson pairing, freeing Holmes to work for HIM. Hence, the phoney kidnapping that is supposed to keep us in suspense until next season. YAWN!

  2. I'm SO glad I wasn't the only one to respond to this shattering revelation with a big fat yawn.