Sunday, July 3, 2022

It still matters

 "What's the Supreme Court going to do next, kick women out of the Baker Street Irregulars again?"

Even though our hobby provides a nice distraction from the everyday world, as the above comment shows, the Sherlockian brain is not one that completely removes itself from the outside world. After all, a good share of the Sherlockian "game" is wrapping Sherlock Holmes in our actual history. So it gets very interesting when someone thinks it's best to just ignore our history.

We can't wish away Steve Dixie, Tonga, or that Wisteria Lodge cook. And even if some parents don't think schools should teach all of the things that slavery brought to American culture, we still will have "The Five Orange Pips" in The Complete Sherlock Holmes. While our Holmes-based social gatherings are there for pleasure and not protest movements (with a few pleasant exceptions), there are still certain topics that are going to come up.

Recently, for instance, a friend mentioned a particular Sherlockian puzzling over why younger Sherlockians who weren't around for the male-only BSI still found that something worth being angry about. Personally, I was around then, and still have a lot of residual anger, but let me try to empathize with a younger Sherlockian . . . which is kind of the point.

The fact that bad injustices are recent enough to exist in the living memory, and that we still have folks still alive who were . . . and possibly still are . . . okay with the way things were, well, that might be a little irritating. Because if those attitudes still exist, there's always a chance, however slim, that we could slide backwards, as we are now seeing elsewhere in American life. Electing one black president did not end racism. Allowing women into the BSI did not mean Sherlockiana was suddenly not dominated by males of a certain generation.

We can look at history and go "That wasn't my fault!" while enjoying the prosperity passed down to us from forebears who weren't denied the rights that others of their generation were denied. Would some folks who were made members of the Baker Street Irregulars in the 1970s and 1980s have gotten in if women had been given an equal chance? Would their influence on the decades that followed been as strong? The ripples of history are subtle, and not without some worth in considering.

When BBC Sherlock came on the scene a decade ago and its newly minted Sherlockians were dismissed as mere "fans" by those attempting to gatekeep the hobby, the one actual gate being kept suddenly started using "We're a literary society!" as an excuse, despite decades of love for movies, plays, and other television shows being a consistent part of the hobby. Had women been a part of the BSI since the 1930s, I really don't think that wave would have been quite an issue, because it wasn't just young, it was largely female.

The past creates the present, shapes the present, and never leaves the present. If we are going to celebrate it with nostalgic reminiscences, even for the parts we weren't present for, we can still be outraged at that same past as well. 

Yes, the Supreme Court is surely never going to cast its eyes on our little world and reverse the decision to allow women into America's flagship Sherlockian group. But it doesn't mean that we can't slide backwards all by ourselves without a little attention and care.

So be angry about the past you weren't there for. Call me out for all the acid I spewed on CBS's Elementary years and years ago. Somebody's got to keep us geezers in line.


  1. “You have done well, sir, from first to last.” I really appreciate your generous spirit in trying to keep our little fandom as inclusive as possible.

  2. As someone who never joined a scion society because I didn’t feel welcome (I didn’t drink or smoke, and the meetings back in the seventies seemed to include a lot of both) I really appreciate this. I may never wind up trying for it now, but it is nice to be able to go to things like Gillette to Brett and 221b con and feel like I belong now.

  3. I am in complete agreement with your thesis. The U.S. Supreme Court has lost its mind with the decision on women's rights to rule over their own bodies. I'm thoroughly appalled that this has occurred in my lifetime. As someone who attended law school and wrote Appellate Court briefs for three years, I fail to see the legal theory the justices utilized while enacting their decision, when Roe v. Wade has been the law of the law of the land for such a long period of time.