Of Course You’re A Couple, Watson

Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC Sherlock looking out of frame with a questioning expression

Oh, lord, what is he up to now? And will I have to pick it up, clean it up, replace it, or apologize for it?


The short answer, John, is ‘yes.’

Irene Adler is, of course, absolutely right. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are definitely couple. Now let me perfectly clear here that I’m not talking about sex. I am on Moffat’s side that the two are clearly (okay, in Sherlock’s case not so clearly most of the time, but that’s another post) heterosexual. That’s why all the assumption by others that they are a gay couple is so funny. (I confess I crack up every time at the scene “Is your’s a snorer?” and John’s response “Got any crisps?”)

But there’s no denying that they are a couple with Watson in the “wife” role. Anyone with a partner recognizes the relationship in such scenes as:

“Just tea for me.”

“Well. You ask me to come. I’m assuming it’s important.”
“Oh, yeah, of course. Can I borrow your phone?”
“Mrs. Hudson’s got a phone.”
“Yeah, she’s downstairs. I tried shouting, but she didn’t hear.”
“I was on the other side of London.”
“It was no hurray.”

[Note the assumption by both John and Sherlock that it’s perfectly fine to expect Mrs. Hudson to drop everything and provide Sherlock with a phone. Worse than the “wife” role is the “mum” role.]

John does the shopping. John takes care of making certain Sherlock gets his payment from the bank, shows up all properly attired and on his best behaviour for press events and court, corrects or covers his social gaffs and so on. Even Mycroft puts John in the “wife” role at Christmas when he makes it John’s responsibility to stay with Sherlock because it’s a “danger night.”

“You have to say with him, John.”
“I’ve got plans.

Despite over a century since the first suffragettes and over 30 years since “women’s liberation,” the “wife” is still considered the caretaker and caregiver. Even The Big Bang Theory (Sherlock-mashup here), a show representing twenty-somethings in the L.A. area, continues the stereotype:

Penny: This is kind of nice. You reading. Me reading. We’re like an old married couple.
Sheldon: If we were an old married couple, the wife would serve ice tea and snickerdoodles.

I just hope Sherlock remembers their anniversary — and does a heck of a lot better than roses or chocolates or a head in the fridge.

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