Tuesday, January 29, 2019

No Sherlock is bad Sherlock?

As much as I am now a card-carrying member of Doyle's Rotary Coffin, and the membership card vows to honour the code "All Holmes is good Holmes," it may be a struggle.

A.) Because it uses the British preference of "Holmes," which then includes Oliver Wendell. (Though "Sherlock" would include basketball players, etc., so it has the same deficiencies.)

And, B.) Because I know in my heart there is bad Sherlock. Bad for me, just as a meal of heavy cream sauce over deep-fried lard would be bad for me to attempt to digest.

It's a sort of ideal that one aspires to, but overall can lack as much empathy as its reverse. There are times when we don't want to insist too much on the positive as well. Shouting "SEASON FOUR OF SHERLOCK WAS GREAT!!!" is probably not going to win you any friends in some company. Even good Sherlocks had some bad Sherlock in their run, be they the sainted Jeremy Brett or the classic Basil Rathbone. And those fellows that came before Rathbone . . . well, they're a bit of a kink for a modern viewer.

But see what I just did there? I went from the a fairly agreeable statement (All long-running Holmeses can have clunkers.) to a rather obnoxious statement about other Sherlockians (Fans of old movies are kinksters.). And that's where the trouble starts. I am probably more guilty of that than anybody. (No, I don't still think Elementary fans are "zombies." And I have built up my resistance to adding "but . . ." to that statement.)

We need to retain the ability to point out flaws or things about a Sherlockian work that disagree with us. Though we'd like all Sherlockiana to be "critic-proof" in terms of box office, ratings, or sales, at the same time we still need to be able to state our personal reaction to a given work. There are those fans of anything who are so intent on their love of it that any negative review is going to push them into pain or anger, but at the same time, any Sherlockian who loves Michael Dibdin's The Last Sherlock Holmes Story so much that they can't see how it might negatively affect another Sherlockian is surely a sociopath.

Dammit, I did it again. I'm sorry, sociopaths.

Social media has offered us some real challenges as it has opened our windows to the rest of humanity. The greatest of these has to be accepting that another human being has a view we, in our very hearts, think is wrong, wrong, wrong and not going to war against them unless they're actually hurting others. And that always has to be our line in our reviews, even though it's a line that can geta little hazy: Is this going to hurt someone?

On the other side of things, there's a response to criticism that I've been hearing a lot of lately, and it's one I've started using myself: "That's fair." Because sometimes we aren't doing our best work, sometimes the points are valid, and sometimes the food is just too spicy for someone else's tastebuds. Finding enough common ground to agree on even one point in a work you have different reactions to is a healthy start to a conversation, and a conversation, as opposed to an argument, is even healthier still.

Is all Sherlock good Sherlock? Well, I see your point, and yet . . . .


  1. Hi Brad! Old DP alumnus here. Long time no see, but I ran into this blog while doing research for the Sherlock-on-film class I'm teaching soon. ANYWAY maybe this is only tangentially related to today's topic, but I had some musings on Sherlockian portrayals I wanted to run by some of those who were around BBC (Before Benedict Cumberbatch). Mind if I pick your brain sometime?

    1. Ah, great, but I must admit that I'm not seeing, through this medium, a private means of contact...

      That being said, basically I am looking for evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, about relative popularity of various Holmes portrayers over the years. Most internet research these days is a BC/RDJ smackdown...

    2. First initial and last name will find me at gmail. I don't think we had a good way of rating relative popularity before the internet, nor Sherlocks who occurred closely enough to each other to do a fair compare. Rathbone had a generation, then Brett had a generation, with always outliers for Cushing, etc. Trying to think if there were polls done, but would expect the 1980s would just show Jeremy Brett leading, the 1940s would show Rathbone, etc. Having major impacts like BC/RDJ/JLM/IK/WF etc. all active within a span of eight years is new to Sherlockiana, I would think. I'll look around and see if anything shows up.