Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The real Sherlock Holmes test

What makes a Sherlock Holmes a Sherlock Holmes to you?

When a certain adaptation came along a while back, certain critics of said adaptation referred to it as "Sherlock Holmes in name only," a cutting critique, and one that more than a few disagreed with. But it brings us back to that question with which we approach every new Sherlock: Is he recognizable to us as Sherlock Holmes?

I was reminded of this lately when the good Carter and I disagreed over a particular Star Trek offering. One of us thought it definitely wasn't what they defined as "Star Trek," but the other accepted it as a worthy bearer of the name. The difference, as we discussed it, was in what those two words meant to each of us . . . and that was two different aspects of the same show.

As I continued thinking about it, while we tried to define what we each saw as objective reasons for our case, I realized that defining what "Star Trek" meant to me wasn't something that one could define coldly and replicate as easily as a mathematical proof. It was an emotional trigger.

And the same applies to Sherlock Holmes.

I can say "A Sherlock Holmes must be clever, he must surprise us with a solution we never saw coming, and do it with a touch of dramatic flair," as well as go on for hours with descriptions of every characteristic I hope to see in a Sherlock, but in the end, I just have to like the guy. And who knows how that chemistry works for any of us.

Jeremy Brett didn't do it for me, nor did Jonny Lee Miller. Basil Rathbone and Benedict Cumberbatch did. Peter Cook didn't. Will Ferrell did. Roger Moore didn't. Christopher Plummer "kind of" did. And when we get into odd shades of Holmes, I don't even know how Robert Stephens sold me as Holmes, but damned if he didn't pull it off. (Maybe it's just that opening monologue on how Watson has readers thinking he's different from what he is. A perfect set-up!)

In any case, as much as we all like digging into what a particular actor showed us about Sherlock Holmes, I'm now very curious as to what all those actors say about us. We now have a vast enough array of Sherlock Holmes actors that if you used every one of them on a "Yes/No" test of "Is this guy Sherlock Holmes to you?" I'd bet a sovereign that you could create a personality test with reliable results based on all the Sherlocks a person thought worked, and those that person thought didn't. (And when I say, "bet a sovereign," I'm not talking about the coin. I've got a leader I'm more than willing to lose on a bet.)

Our Sherlocks are so varied and so plentiful that one could easily work up a matrix by running some other personality factor questionnaire concurrent with a massive Sherlock favorites study. (Well, if all the subjects knew all the Sherlocks -- kind of an important factor. Probably have to show clips, and add some unknown Sherlocks just to make the test more valid.) But it could be done, in any case.

Instead of asking what makes a Sherlock Holmes to you, maybe we should be asking what makes you from your Sherlock Holmeses?

1 comment:

  1. Be careful of what you bet... you may be stuck with TWO of those sovereigns.