Saturday, July 4, 2020

"I'm proud to be an American, where at least . . . hey! Conan Doyle!"

The image of Americans is always taking a beating, possible deserved sometimes. Right now, we're dealing with the fact that our yee-haw cowboy mentality means some of us can't get behind basic pandemic-limiting strategies, especially with a certain incompetent in a key position. But Conan Doyle never seemed to be a fan until he wanted our dollars either, going by what we see in the Sherlock Holmes Canon. So on this, the US's day of patriotic birthday celebration, let's take a look at Sherlock's Americans.

1. )  Bigamous, kidnapper sexists. A Study in Scarlet.
2. )  Obsessive, stalker frontiersmen with weak hearts A Study in Scarlet.
3. )  Women who toy with European men of power and good British detectives. "A Scandal in Bohemia."
4. )  Floridians who join racist murder cults then try to pretend it didn't happen. "The Five Orange Pips."
5. )  Racist murder cultists. "The Five Orange Pips." 
6. )  Bigamous cowgirls who toy with innocent British nobles. "The Noble Bachelor."
7. )  Potentially bigamous widows who hid their past from innocent British chaps. "The Yellow Face."
8. )  Chicago gangster molls who hide their past from innocent British squires. "The Dancing Men."
9. )  Chicago gangsters who just can't let an ex go. "The Dancing Men."
10.)  Sneaky Pinkertons who fake crime scenes on British soil. The Valley of Fear.
11.)  Murderous labor groups. The Valley of Fear.
12.)  The Irish-American who doesn't speak proper English. "His Last Bow."
13.)  Cartoon stereotype thugs from the South. "The Three Gables."
14.)  Counterfeiter/con men whose nickname is "Killer." "The Three Garridebs."
15.)  Senators who look like Abe Lincoln, but evil. "Thor Bridge."

The first depiction we see of the American countryside is "an arid and repulsive desert, which for many a long year served as a barrier against the advance of civilization." Even when Doyle is being complimentary, as with Lucy Ferrier, he writes that she was "as fair a specimen of American girlhood as could be found in the whole Pacific slope." So, yeah, she was fair, by West Coast American standards, at least. 
Sure, Sherlock Holmes says "It is always a joy to meet an American," but he quickly follows it up with his dream of being fellow citizens of "the same world-wide country under a flag which will be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."  Ponder that one for a moment. Sherlock's brother was the British government. Sherlock Holmes had gotten this idea from somewhere that UK and US could team up and take over the rest of the world, plainly by UK using US as its muscle in that takeover. And with all those murderous gangs, cultists, crooks, and tricksy women, how could the US not make a good bully-boy for Britain?

Even Sherlock's compliment gets a certain sinister overtone when viewed amidst the larger picture of Americans in the Holmes Canon. But, at this point, I think what was potentially a Mycroftian idea for world domination is safely behind us, with covid taking the wind from our mutual sails.

But, you know, Sherlock Holmes did come to America in the 1900s. And we did defile him, by his own admission. (He'll flat out call a guy a "bonehead" after his American time.)

So, maybe July 4th isn't a real good Sherlock-celebrating day in America. But we've done pretty good for ourselves, considering all the bigamy, murder cults, gangs, Lincoln impersonators, and generally improper English, even if we're not teaming up with old Mother England to dominate the world any more. We can at least enjoy a pint in a pub with another former empire and toast better days.

And maybe agree that King George was funny in Hamilton.

No comments:

Post a Comment