Monday, January 13, 2020

"England is England yet?" Well, Sherlock is Sherlock yet.

As an over-sixty guy raised in Sherlock Holmes from another era, I always get a lot from the arrary of viewpoints every month on The Three Patch Podcast. And, as of this month, that super-team of podcasters hit their hundredth episode with some retrospective bits that really make one think. And this time there was one point that really struck me straight-away.

Coming up in the eighties, one quickly noticed that a lot of Sherlockians in America were, very naturally, Anglophiles. Patriotic citizens of the U.S. of A., of course, but also with a strong bias in favor of the mother country. Even our most beloved Sherlockian poem and its line "England is England yet, for all our fears," played that chord so well over time, even though it was written referring to the destruction of war the country had endured through, and would again.

But now we're in a different time, when Brexit has torn England apart from the inside, just as America has had its own struggles, and some very questionable choices paired with some quite evil movements have made one wonder if a newly minted young Sherlockian is going to feel the same about old Mother England. Victorian times, may have their attraction, until one starts really considering the damage colonialism and class systems were doing. Great place to base a steampunk alternate universe on, but the real history, which we're getting better awareness of all the time . . . well, problematic.

The classic line about Mycroft Holmes, "You would also be right in a sense if you said that occasionally he is the British govenrment," does not come off as complimentary for poor Mycroft in a modern setting. (Though, lord knows an American counterpart would look pretty damned terrible as well, and probably something of a Nazi. Stephen Miller's younger brother is probably out there pretending to be Sherlock these days.) Ay-yi-yi. And with even one of Britain's princes bailing, things just aren't what they were.

But lest I sully the sacred ground of Sherlock with too much political discourse, now when I see England in my head, I'm as apt to envision BBC's Shameless as I am the London of Holmes or Bond. Time shifts things a bit . . . is Nero Wolfe's brownstone in a posh neighborhood these days? Or would he never leave the house for other reasons that just eccentricity? As much as we like to believe in things that last forever, time gets us all, and all our loves, in the end. Which is basically why the best stuff is adaptable.

When we got a massive Sherlock surge thanks to the BBC ten years ago, it wasn't because they tried to recreate a faithful Granada adaptation of Victorian lit. No, they swung for the fences with a brand new version of Sherlock Holmes, G. Lestrade, Irene Adler, Milverton, etc., etc., etc. They added new folks to the legend, Molly, Anderson, Eurus. New tricks with text messages and blog posts. And for better or worse, our major motion pictures have gone with new angles as well. It's how legends survive.

Every country has its mythic version, and undoubtedly England's will survive the realities of the everyday as it always has. King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table haven't been around for a very long time, and yet that vision remains. A vision of a dream that failed, perhaps, and maybe that's what we get now. But the hope of that better thing persists. Just as a London where the greatest detective mankind has ever known is ready to solve the unsolveable, and give its citizens one last chance for clarity and answers.

One has to have some hopes on a Monday. Onward.

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