Friday, April 16, 2021

Stories that speak to us

 The thing that gets miss a lot in new Sherlock Holmes stories is that a story isn't just moving familiar characters around a familiar stage. It's about connecting with other people on a level that speaks to them in a way that they can relate to. A good story teller can tell you a story about something they don't even know about, simply because shared human experiences can be the same at their core, even if the paint job is different.

Case in point: I found this week's episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to be about the Sherlockian experience. Yes, Marvel Comics superheroes, going through their trials and tribulations and super-battles, actually spoke to me of in a familiar sort of story of being a Sherlockian.

If you're not familiar with the Falcon or the Winter Soldier, having not watched the first two Captain America movies or what came after, here's the simple explanation: Both characters, one younger, one older, are guys who worked with a living legend who set the standard for all folk of their set that would come after. The new story being told in the series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is about when that living legend is gone and those who come after him are left to carry on his legacy.

Oh, the powers-that-be try to conjure up their own version of that legacy, to define it and use it to their own ends, but that ultimately fails. And it's left to the show's two leads to figure out what the legacy they were handed means, and how they will move forward with it.

Sherlock Holmes fandom is definitely a fandom with a legacy. The Sherlockians of the first half of the last century were much like our hobby's Captain America. They inspired, they set traditions, they made people want to be like them. The thing about people who get looked up to as heroes, though, is that nobody can ever be the same people those were. We never got a "new Christopher Morley" or a "new Vincent Starrett," though we did see attempts. We saw the ACD estate designate a new "official" writer of Sherlock Holmes to carry on Doyle's original work, just as ACD's son had attempted with The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes. We've also see attempts to build preserve Sherlockian legacies in amber, with archives and histories.

But the legacy of a happening, an event, a movement, is a complicated thing, which is where I come back to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Sam Wilson, the Falcon, is a black man. A man whom a whole lot of people see as unable to carry on the legacy of Captain America due to his color. But despite being a disenfranchised American, he still knows that the basic ideals that Captain America stood for need to be carried forward as best he can. And as the story progresses, he decides to try, despite what society, history, and a whole lot of white folks, don't want to see him do.

But it is a different age. Legacies have to be carried on in different ways.

So instead of "black Captain America," let me use the words "female Christopher Morley."

Just like Sam Wilson decided to pick up Captain America's shield and do the needed job, despite what the government and those entrenched in the past would have wanted, I think there is more than one woman out there who has picked up Christopher Morley's legacy and brought Sherlockians together for light-hearted fun without any backing from our institutions, so worried about the past and not really thinking about what the original Sherlockians were actually doing.

After watching this week's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I really felt like I was seeing a familiar story play out, on many levels. Just one of those levels was Sherlockian, of course, but that's what a good story does -- makes us think, makes us see ourselves and our friends in a slightly different light, and maybe inspires us to do some good.

It was a good story. And as messed up as things seem right now, we need good stories to help us along, and I as glad to see a tale that echoed good things I've seen in our own hobby. And made me glad for those who have picked up the shield, so to speak.

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