Friday, December 27, 2019

The problem with Sherlock Holmes

"These people are so much cooler than anyone I could meet in real life."
-- Nick (I think), The Final Podblem podcast on 3GAR

Growing up as a reader and having weak social skills would seem to be a classic combo. It extends past those who read, of course -- gamers, Trekkies, movie buffs, you name it -- those who prefer to spend their time in fictional worlds don't always develop the best strategies for dealing with other humans. But it's a "chicken or the egg" scenario. Which comes first? Not dealing well with normal humans or retreating into fiction where the people are pretty cool and make perfect sense?

When someone asks you who your "hero" is, what do you answer?

Some flawed, smelly, potentially problematic historical figure? Or a nicely encapsulated, Canon-made fellow like Sherlock Holmes? (Or, perhaps, a family member or teacher, which is an entirely different mindset?) In any case, the answer definitely says something about you.

What is that thing? Well, I'll let you decide, but for me, one aspect is that character of fiction are designed to be relatable. Creators build them so we can feel a commonality, so that we can share their experience, even if they are so very different from us on the surface. Our empathy is pointed directly at them and given instructions on how to empath.

If normal humans all came with a short story you were handed at first meeting and given the time to read immediately, we might get along with people so much better. But, alas, it takes time to learn the story of another human, and there are just so very many of us, and the stories are just so . . . complicated.

Sherlock Holmes, as bright a boy as he is, is really rather simple.

Oh, yes, he's vague and mysterious, full of enough blank spaces that we can color in those gaps using our own personal crayons, and that's why he and the even-more-vague Johnny boy are such easy loves to have. In truth, they are us, extensions of ourselves, and even if we sometimes find it hard to love ourselves, we can still love that perfect part of us that we see in them. The potential for something special, like babies, but with a life already laid out in front of them.

Who can compete with that, except perhaps a young love whose spell has completely obsessed? Even those are often just other story-folk with similar stories behind them. Yet just as such fine story-folk as Sherlock Holmes provide escape from the dull little everydays of life, those messy, often-hard-to-read real people in our lives can also provide a relaxing escape from the demands of Sherlock Holmes, if you think about it. They actually have random thoughts on details that weren't spoon-fed to them and outside the Victorian period. Can Sherlock Holmes help you figure out what was going on with that CATS movie after you've seen it? Nope.

But we're glad to have him, whatever purpose he's serving to us. And that can be a good many things.

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