Saturday, October 18, 2014

The age of the unshaven jerk hero.

Forgive me for going all old geezer on you again, but that seems to be where I'm headed these days. Time spares no man or woman, and I hate to tell you this, kids, but if you don't think you'll ever be that grumpy old person in your life . . . get ready for a later-life shock.

But here's the thing: I remember when Sherlock Holmes was just clever and cool.

His little jabs at Scotland Yard? So cool, because he was just that smart.

His little bits of toying with Watson? Clever games between pals.

I don't remember ever reading a Sherlock Holmes story and thinking, "Wow, this guy's a jerk."

He made the occasional error in judgement, got Watson into more danger than expected many a time, but, hey, they were dealing with crime. And Watson was readily carrying a loaded gun. These were serious guys doing serious things, and occasionally lightening the work up with some fun.

But they weren't jerks. And they shaved.

A section of this morning's paper with the smirking image of one John Constantine brought this to mind this morning. I remember a time when Constantine was getting his start as a minor character in Swamp Thing comic books. And boy, was he a jerk. Still is. As rude, rough, unshaven, and jerk-ish characters like Wolverine came along and rose to the top in comics, John Constantine came along for the ride, and, as of next week, has his own NBC TV series.

That trend spilled over into two of our three major media Sherlocks in the last few years, to the point where you can almost gauge the amount of "being a jerk for trendy jerkness's sake" by the amount a Sherlock doesn't shave. 

Why is being kind of a jerk becoming so popular? Target marketing to the adolescent male mind? The rise of a feminine point of view in culture, where male behavior is stereotyped toward the jerk side? Some combination of those and other factors?

Who knows . . . I'm even a fan of John Constantine, and I don't get it. And any ongoing legendary figure like our Sherlock is apt to get some tweaks to fit current cultural standards, true. But I just wish, when it comes to our guy, they'd at least shave. As per the classic The Hound of the Baskervilles:

"He had contrived, with that cat-like love of personal cleanliness which was one of his characteristics, that his chin should be as smooth and his linen as perfect as if he were in Baker Street."

If he did, maybe he'd seem like less of a jerk.

(Editor's postscript: The original intent of this blog was to use the word "asshole" instead of "jerk" throughout, but in an attempt to be less offensive to our readers in polite society, the less offensive word was used. The author, you see, had not shaved this morning.)

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