Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Breakable Mr. Elementary

I was watching another episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix this morning and marveling at the pure genius that went into constructing that particular half hour of television, as has happened more than once with that show. (The simple touch of a Cosby sweater! Genius!) When I was done, I checked my normal internet channels and was brought back to Elementary-land by an exchange I'd been having with Rob Nunn about that fiesty post on Rick's Cafe Texan from January.

The sudden mental juxtaposition of Elementary and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was fascinating, in that it revealed in stark contrast, the two New York Citys we're given in media.

In Elementary, we're given that bleak, uncared-for urban sprawl, where it often seems like there must be no paint stores, as everything looks dingy and abandoned, even where people live. (Unless, of course, they're very, very rich and a suspect.) And it's winter a lot of the time.

The New York of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a different place, the sunny New York City of opportunity and colorful characters, where visits to Central Park are an integral part of life, and spring and summer prevail.

The song "New York, New York" famously declares, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!" and in Kimmy's case, one feels she is going to make it. In Mr. Elementary's case? He came there broken and is all about just managing to barely hang on. The seeming message: "Yes, New York is so big and bad that it actually can bring London's greatest detective down to our level."

And that's the message I often hear in praise of Elementary over other Sherlock Holmes adaptations. He's painfully flawed, and thus relatable. We should not aspire to better things, like the true Sherlock Holmes who was at the top of his field for a reason. We should content ourselves that life is hard and we can't see we're sleeping with Moriarty or that we may or may not have killed someone in a drug-addled haze. The dingy loser version of movie and TV New York is the perfect city for someone like that.

But the opportunity-filled city, where the hopeful come to win, that we see in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? I'd like to see the Sherlock Holmes who was created to exist in that town. Of course, that guy probably never had to leave London.

1 comment:

  1. This is my own most hated version of broken Holmes: the pathetic, retired loser who has become hopelessly drug-addicted and/or suicidal because of boredom. It’s not even logical! LAST makes it clear Holmes was so content with his retirement that he had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of it, and agreed to spy for the government ONLY out of patriotic necessity. The rest of the time, he had no reason to be bored because if he’d wanted other cases, he could have had them at any time. Anybody who doubts this need only consider the literally thousands of requests for help he receives every week to this day.

    I’ve always believed Holmes retired because he’d spent most of his life developing the rational and scientific parts of his personality to the exclusion of the emotional and spiritual parts. When the discomfort of this neglect became too great, he retired to nurture his entire soul.

    We know he was interested in religion and spirituality. If you look at James Fowler’s stages of spiritual development, it’s clear that Holmes spent most of his adult life at stage 4. As he got older, he began to transition into 5, and eventually 6, but he could not make that transition as long as he was working as a detective because his need to rely on rigid logic and realism stifled him spiritually.

    I also think it’s highly likely the bees never existed. I think the description of him retiring to study and raise bees is an example of Watson’s pawky humor. That is, Holmes really retired to study and raise his being (soul or spirit).

    By the way, there’s an article about “the Sherlock archtype” on the Huffington Post, but it’s obviously written by somebody who’s never read the Canon, just seen that TV show you like so much.

    Andarta Woodland