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Earlier today, I saw two different versions of this meme:

Something about this particular meme always puts me on edge. It’s the passive-aggressive line of the “So sue me” bit, I think, along with the mean-spirited comments that people seem to put in their own comments when they describe it, usually either attacking the intelligence or the respect for canon of people who prefer a bit of Johnlock. The picture itself gets associated with that feeling of being attacked after a while, I think. Today I saw it twice, as I said. The first was the normal slam: that two men could share a flat without it being romantic, why couldn’t people see the true value of deep friendship, etc. That left me as frustrating as this picture ever does. But the second? It wanted a Sherlock/Molly wedding because that would make the poster very happy.

At which point I started giggling like a giggling thing. The juxtaposition was just too much.

For the uninitiated: Fans of the BBC Sherlock show seem pretty well divided into different subgroups by our “ships,” which are the characters we typically like to imagine being in romantic relationships with. It’s kind of like being an Elvis or Pat Boone fan back in the day. The biggest one by a long shot is Johnlock (John and Sherlock), and it’s so influential that a lot of people who don’t imagine them together feel the need to make that fact plain. Some people view Sherlock as asexual, not interested in romance at all, but with fans of the BBC series, it seems much more common to say Sherlock and John are just friends because Sherlock’s true luv is someone else entirely. Almost always a woman; usually Molly Hooper, the lab pathologist he rubs elbows with quite often at St. Bart’s. (She’s an addition to the Doyle canon, but a much-needed one in my opinion.)

Let’s get it out of the way: Molly Hooper, quite simply, is awesome. [Language warning] This is the woman who saw Sherlock whip a corpse and asked him out. She dumped the world’s only consulting criminal and faked the death of a man whose best friend is a doctor trained in trauma and whose brother is the British government. I have nothing but love and respect for Molly Hooper’s strength and intelligence.

(If you’re looking for an explanation in fic form of just why Molly Hooper is so far beyond awesome, you really should read The Mourning Woman by M_Leigh. It’s fairly short, G-rated, and one of the best character studies I’ve read in a long time.)

And really, if someone wants to pair her off with Sherlock, my response isn’t going to be to wrinkle my nose and question whether you’ve properly understood the characters, much less why you think every woman who crosses Sherlock’s path has to be a romantic interest. (I could; of the female characters in Sherlock, the only two who aren’t often interpreted as head-over-heels for him is Mrs. Hudson.) Rather, I’ll probably say: “Convince me.” It’s the same approach I took with Tolkien-based fic. I could never imagine Legolas and Arwen as an item, or Aragorn and Finduilas – until someone made it work wonderfully for me. And Molly has more than enough redeeming qualities that she’s every inch Sherlock’s intellectual equal. Emotionally, she has a history of being a bit of a pushover and I prefer her as Sherlock’s friend rather than his romantic partner, but I’m also very convinceable on this point.

Personally, I’m a bit of a Johnlock shipper within the BBC verse and prefer to think of him as asexual in the context of the Doyle stories. Like the second meme-sharer who wanted a Sherlock/Molly wedding, it’s not because I think either approach is necessarily wrong; it’s because imagining them making a life together makes me happy. I don’t even necessarily need it to be romantic, much less sexual; it’s just that I get more of that sense of longevity and devotion in the stories that work this as a romantic relationship. So many Johnlock stories live right on the line between deep friendship and romance anyway; quite a few look at the difference between the two types of love as a theme and ask when exacty that line was crossed, if it exists at all. Stories about Sherlock and John in some degree of romantic love simply seem to do a better job of honoring the fact that, at this point in their lives, this is the most important relationship for both Sherlock and John. “I was so alone, and you gave me so much,” indeed.

(Spoilers for series three from this point on, from what I’ve gleaned from the trailers and publicity photos.)

It seems that in series three, things are going to shake up a bit for John and Sherlock. We know that Martin Freeman’s long-term partner has been cast as Mary Morstan, the woman Watson marries in the Doyle books. (One of them…) We know that episode two will center around a wedding – that was the clue word Moffat gave us – and that most likely it it will be John and Mary. Incidentally, Amanda Abbington deserves all the praise I can heap on her. She’s a fantastic actress in her own right. She is on Tumblr, which is the very depths of Sherlock fandom craziness. And she gives as good as she gets:

More than that, she kind of likes us:

and she has a fashion sense that I can only describe as able to go tit-for-tat against Benedict’s when he picks out his own clothes:

I love her. I love the bits we’ve seen of her in the trailer as Mary. I love her spunk, and she is quite obviously a wonderful support and complement to Martin Freeman. I hate the threats she apparently received from fans who like imagining John and Sherlock as a romantic thing. I have some definite thoughts on the comments that seem to have touched that whole incident off, and while I disagree with some comments both she and Martin Freeman have made in a big way, that doesn’t change how over the line those threats were.

Here’s the thing, though. The upcoming wedding in series three will almost certainly be between those two. Pictures suggest Sherlock will be the best man. And while Molly seems to have an engagement ring on in some of the recently-released pictures</a>, it’s most likely an engagement to this dude rather than to Sherlock.

I don’t have a thing against the world who want to imagine Sherlock and Molly having a romance, perhaps even getting married some day. I’d ask that they convince me of it (which is doable but needs doing). But to think that this wedding will actually be between the two of them is a fan’s happy imaginings. It’s not disproved by what we know about the show, but it’s not supported by it either. There are hints that the show might be going that direction, but there are also hints – more of them IMO – that could be used to support the idea that John and Sherlock are more than just very good friends. For example:

(How many male best friends notice their BFF’s wardrobe and cheekbones, honestly?)

It’s called subtext. It’s there to play with, it’s fun to play with. I love to imagine Sherlock and John growing old together and retiring to raise bees outside of London, and even if that isn’t the direction the show ultimately goes in, that doesn’t change the fact that th John and Sherlock I imagine growing old together are the ones given life through this show, supplemented by my own imagination where the show-writers are silent.

Kind of like people who want to see Sherlock and Molly get married… are doing the exact same thing.

What irks me is that, while both relationships may never be portrayed in the show (which is fine), one of those will get written off as ludicrous and unimaginable and about a completely different show than the one Freeman and Cumberbatch are putting out. (Hint: it doesn’t involve ex-army-doctors) And as John would put it, that’s a bit not good. More than a bit.

Okay, off to see Hobbit. I may write tomorrow about the subtext I see for Sherlock/Molly and John/Sherlock in the show, the scenes that make me think that’s a workable interpretation, if anyone’s interested.

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamflower02
Dec. 13th, 2013 01:28 am (UTC)
I'm often baffled by 'shippers. Why do some of them actually hate people who don't ship the ship they ship?

The first time I began to get an inkling was when I started reading HP fic. I was actually afraid to comment on stories for fear of accidentally offending some 'shipper and getting flamed!

I'm not into romance in general; canon couples are usually my thing when I do. But like you, I can be convinced, at least within the context of a ficwriter's own universe (as you have done for me with Boromir and Theodred, because really, it suits JRRT's love of parallels.)

Just occurred to me: take out that first colon.

"I Ship Not: Sue Me."

But the rabid shipping only one couple in a canon, the whole "OTP" thing? I know some people who won't even read a story unless it features their favorite pairing; they tend to pretend no other pairing is possible or even relevant.

*scratches head*

Edited at 2013-12-13 02:53 am (UTC)
marta_bee
Dec. 13th, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
Barbara, I laughed out loud at how you parsed the text of that first meme. Brilliant! And oh so true.

I think with Sherlock it's helpful to keep in mind that like many TV shows there's much fewer regular actors than you see in Tolkien. There's Sherlock, John, Mycroft, Moriarty, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson. I guess we could include Sally + Anderson. Did I miss anyone? There's also in this show such little canon and so much time between shows that fans make up a much larger part of the universe than you see in Tolkien. There's over 7,000 Sherlock stories posted to AO3 (where most Sherlock fanfic gets hosted, outside of Tumblr) per episode. What that means is that just reading a single character interaction becomes like reading a certain character group or race in Tolkien fandom. Here I'm partial to dwarf fics, and if I skim an archive that's what I'll be more likely to read by a new author I'm not familiar with. I think most Sherlock fans use the pairings the first way. Because there's so much fanfic, more than anyone could possibly read, and because it's kind of all posted at the same place (if there are smaller archives, I'm yet to find them), you don't really have *time* to go outside your favorite pairings. I can appreciate the use of OTP's to narrow down a fanfic field, particularly as you're getting started. Most people will look at different pairings or no pairing at all (genfic does exist, of course) once they're familiar with the author.

What really irks me, I think, is the way some people take offense that other people wouldn't take up their interpretation. It's one thing to say "I prefer interpretation A and will always read A first, but you're free to play with B or C and if I have the time I may actually give it a gander," and quite another to say "I prefer interpretation A and if you don't see it that way you're a big old stupey-face and should probably be rounded up for crimes against Moffat." And that's the real reason I describe myself as a Johnlocker rather than a Sherlollier (OTP's make for amusing names!): in my experience, Johnlockers seem interested in being one option among many, whereas Sherlolliers seem more insulted by other possible interpretations. At least other non-heterosexual ones.

just my experience, of course. But that's a bit of where I'm coming from here.
lindahoyland
Dec. 13th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC)
I feel much like Dreamflower. I like the Holmes and Watson friendship, but as friendship not romance. I can't see the point of romatically pairing them with each or anyone else as there are romances in plenty to watch on TV if that is what one enjoys.One reason I like detective shows is the lack of romance in them. IF I'm in the mood for romance, I'll watch something like Jane Austen.

Edited at 2013-12-13 04:50 am (UTC)
marta_bee
Dec. 13th, 2013 08:52 pm (UTC)
You know, it's a bit weird - I'm not typically drawn to romance one way or the other, and when I'm reading the Doyle stories or even watching the show. I think what makes me so drawn to a Holmes/Watson romance isn't romance per se, it's the fact that the really clever Johnlock stories ask the question of where exactly the line between romance and friendship is - when a truly close friendship becomes a romance, whether it has to become a romance if it grows beyond a certain level of emotional intimacy, and so on. For me at least, Johnlock isn't about putting them in a romantic relationships o much as taking that possibility seriously and asking what it changes, what kind of relationships qualify, that kind of thing. Since this show is so much about whether emotions and caring are an advantage, whether they're crucial to being human or not, I see exploring those questions as fascinating and a deep part of the show.

The other thing has very little to do with the show or the Doyle canon and everything to do with fandom politics. I just got so tired of this push to say "I don't ship John and Sherlock, but..." in front of moments that didn't have to be read that way. It felt like I was judging people and putting myself in an intellectual space that was really uncomfortable. I think if there wasn't such a drive to identify as either/or (Johnlock or not-Johnlock), I probably wouldn't be as driven to claim the Johnlock label. It also kind of bothers me that so many people insist on putting every female character in a relationshipw ith Sherlock, and then turn around and say that a Johnlock romance would demean their friendship. It's vaguely misogynist, or seems that way to me. So again, not the kind of way I want to identify myself.
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