Saturday, October 10, 2015

Is Sherlock Holmes one of us?

I was reading yet another new reboot of The Amazing Spider-man comic this week when I noticed something very off about the tale. Spider-man's alter-ego, Peter Parker, whose charm always lay in that he was such an ordinary guy with ordinary problems when he didn't have the superhero suit on, had evolved over the years from a bullied high school student to, basically, a combination of Steve Jobs and Tony Stark. Wealthy and powerful, globe-hopping, and even outsourcing some of his Spider-man duties to a lesser hero that wears the suit for him on occasion, Peter Parker was no longer what anyone would call "ordinary."

And I suddenly found I didn't like him any more.

He wasn't one of us any more.

Yes, yes, another aging fan going "this isn't the XXXXXX that they had when I was a kid." We see that every day on the internet. Times change. Our cultural icons change.

But Peter Parker used to have to make a web-mask and go to the coin-operated laundromat to wash his spider-suit. He used to scrape by to pay his bills, and then he went out and did amazing, heroic things, which made him all the more heroic. Now it was like he was practically bullying the bad guys with all his wealth-based resources. Like if Batman was rich AND had super-powers AND was a cocky, smart-ass to the bad guys he was beating on. The underdog can make all the sassy comments he wants, but when you are the rich and powerful? It comes off a little differently.

Spider-man didn't seem like one of us any more.

And so my mind turned, as it always does, to Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes is a little bit different from Peter Parker. For starters, he's Sherlock Holmes all the time. he just doesn't put the deerstalker cap on and suddenly take on a different lifestyle. (Hmm, interesting metaphor there, Parker.) When he's eating dinner, he's Sherlock Holmes, when he's in the Turkish bath, he's Sherlock Holmes, when he's pocketing a big check and commenting how poor he is, he's Sherlock Holmes.

But even though he's not going to the laundromat, Sherlock Holmes always felt to me like one of us. He's got a best friend and a shelf of books. He likes lazily laying around and dashing out to look at something unusual. But you would certainly never call him "ordinary."

Yet Sherlock Holmes, as any Sherlockian knows, was built to live in our world. To dine at Simpson's. To comment on distant American politics. To read books you can still find in old bookstores today. Even in his latest incarnation, he's going to wedding receptions, that most commonplace of ritual celebrations. He lives among us.

And yet, the question we all get to ask ourselves . . . is he one of us? Stan Lee wrote Peter Parker specifically to tie to ordinary parts of ordinary lives with things like that laundromat scene. But Sherlock Holmes was always a more subtle thing that a comic book character. He lives in our world, but how do we see him in that world?

Is he like a distant older brother or cousin? A love we haven't met yet? Or one of those people?

One of us? Or not. I know where my leanings lie, as evidenced by the option I put first in the list above. Yours?


  1. weird neighbour that you avoid - for when you talk to him -he knows more about you than he should?!

  2. I think he's me as I would be if I were just a little more observant and a little more into my job and a little more knowledgeable and a little more able to go without food or creature comforts for long periods of time. Other than those minor distinctions, he's me. Oh, and also, I need a Watson but I haven't found one yet.

  3. For me he is one of us insofar as he shares our world, but he's also far ahead and above ourselves because of his being a genius. Much like Stephen Hawking, or Albert Einstein and Marie Curie in earlier times, he is one of those rare people who have a) an above average intelligence, b) an above average education, and c) above average success in their chosen field. Of course they're all still people, but they're not Mr and Mrs Ordinary and as such I like to see them treated with the respect they deserve.

  4. Sherlock Holmes was never intended to be one of us. That was Dr. Watson's job.