Recently I’ve been having some interesting discussions about slash fiction, particularly why I identify as a Johnlocker. In the Sherlock fandom, that’s someone who prefers to think of John and Sherlock as a romantic couple (and read fanfic about them as the same). Check out the comments in this recent post for more of that discussion. Anyway, some of my reasons:
1. There’s enough material in the canon (BBC, not Doyle) that hints at a romantic relationship, it’s neat to play with those bits. I know I’ve linked to this video before, but in case you haven’t seen it, this is a good compilation of some of those canon bits I’m talking about. But as a starting point: Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson, Sally, Irene, the British Press Corps, even John’s
Not familiar with the subtext? Check out this video.
2. At the time of the canon (through series two), this relationship is probably the most profoundly important one in either of their lives. But it’s also by its nature probably not permanent, at least in its current form. Imagining them as people who would go on living together, perhaps adopting and raising a kid together and eventually retiring together is wonderfully sweet and satisfying, and seems to give this relationship the permanence I want to imagine for it. Culturally, that’s easiest to do in the terms of a romantic relationship.
3. The best Johnlock stories don’t always write them as straight romance. I’m more drawn to what I’ve affectionately taken to calling “Graylock” stories – fic about a friendship so close it makes one or both of them question whether it crosses into romance, or what difference it would make if they did have a romantic or sexual relationship. (Example, in comic form – this could be read as romance… or not.) The thing is that Johnlock stories are the one asking how close can this relationship get and still be friendship, or even whether there is a limit (is it a matter of if we get more emotionally intimate or entwine our lives more, then it will count as romance? Is romance just desiring sex, or a certain emotion, or what exactly?) Given how much of the show is about emotion and whether you can be fully human without experiencing emotions and particular love, this is a hugely important question with this show.
It also intrigues me philosophically: what is the nature of love? Of romantic versus platonic love? Do they run parallel to each other, or is one a lower/less intense version of things? I was just starting to fine-tune a syllabus that would be at least half about different types of love (and that’s not including the Augustine, which was officially about free will but love was certainly part of that whole story). So this is a topic I’m interested in outside of fanfic.
4. Having conversations with fannish friends about a lot of shows, I’ve noticed a frustration among people when a certain close friendship is written as romance – a lot of people seem to think this is less pure or noble than a friendship for friendship’s sake. Romance is a step down. Given the way in the Sherlock fandom most of the women characters are making moony eyes at Sherlock, talking about romance as a lesser form of love always strikes me as vaguely misogynist. Unintentionally, I’m sure, and it may be all in my head. But I can’t in good conscience go around thinking that it would lessen Sherlock and John’s friendship if they were romantically involved.
5. In my experience people who write John and Sherlock as romance think of them as one possible interpretation among many, whereas people who prefer to think of him as heterosexual or asexual seem to get frustrated at the idea that he’s not that way; it’s more of an exclusive interpretation Again, this is not intended as a blanket statement and is just my (limited!) experience. But part of why I so enjoy conversations and enjoying fan-creations (fanart, fanfic, etc.) is because it opens me up to alternate possibilities I don’t consider seriously otherwise. So as I’ve experienced it, people who enjoy Johnlock are much more in line with how I approach fandom than people who see him as heterosexual or simply not into romance at all.
Believe it or not, I didn’t sit down to write out why I tend to approach the characters in this way, though I found it interesting to do this. What I wanted to talk about, and what I see reflected in this list, are the ways our interpretations of different characters and story dynamics and the like have to do with… well, more than the original story. When I think about (say) Denethor, I will emphasize certain aspects of his character that are barely mentioned in the books (he’s a master of lore of the city, he’s more like Faramir’s character than Boromir’s) and underemphasize others. There’s a lot of willing when it comes to how I think of different people and events. And a lot of it has to do with my values and my experiences in the group of people talking about it more than anything in the original canon.
So this got me wondering – am I the only one? Are there things about your interpretation of Tolkien or Sherlock or whatever else that you find have more to do with who you are or what you want than what’s actually in the book or the novel. What else shapes the way you read the book? And how is the way you read the book or watch the show etc. different from the way you choose to work with the characters as a fanfic author?
Inquiring minds and all that.