Not having seen all of BBC Sherlock Series 4 (life is too short, especially at my age, and we really should reduce the amount of bad and horrible images and trash we lock into our brains and fill it with good things) and having too many serious issues to focus on at the moment (You see, Humans, this is why we can’t have nice things! We forget Why we aren’t suffering from economic collapse, terrorizing regimes, world wars, and disfiguring, disabling diseases like polio and suddenly think “Oh, the Great Depression, WWII, the McCarthy Era and near nuclear annihilation during the Cold War sounded like jolly times of camaraderie (especially if you were a straight, white male), and weren’t Thatcher and Reagan such lovely parental figures taking such good care of all of us and creating perpetual homelessness to allow us to say at least we aren’t homeless?”). So instead I’m providing links to an excellent review of Sherlock Series/Season 4 by Vox (which brings up several points I’ve been making since S3 Episode 3 at the least (okay, I’ve been complaining since Irene Adler in series 2, but the series didn’t completely derail until S3 E3)) and a compilation of reviews by various press:
(for those who didn’t click on the highlighted links above and want the links spelled out for them)
Seriously, you have to be white, privileged and probably male to say in 2015-2016, “Hey, the world is becoming a really scary place for those poor peasants who don’t have a lot of money. I think we should stop writing bright, witty, fun scripts with a sense that all people have some control over their lives and write dark, nasty, self-referential and self-applauding cynical scripts showing the non-wealthy — and psychopathic — that they are just mice to be toyed with by the fat cats.” Hey, Mofftiss, did you miss the history lecture where it was explained that Oswald Mosley and his buddies were wrong? Women are competent, capable humans without being whores, psychopathic killers, psychotic, camp followers, or submissive supporters. People of color and other ethnicities are not just tokens or excluded from positions of power. And a sense of personal control or ability to alter one’s environment, however slight, is a key aspect to successful human societies, and not just sentimental claptrap of unsophisticated and not cool. Cynicism doesn’t make you cool, sensitive awareness to your environment makes you cool.
This is why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series is enduring; intelligence, knowledge and persistence pushes back the darkness of ignorance, brutality and privilege. There’s a reason why Vanity Fair (subtitled “A Novel without a Hero” is a darling of the academic classes, but not as universally beloved as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or even Hound of the Baskervilles. Hell, it’s the reason why A Christmas Carol is more popular than Bleak House! (Why look. She apparently did read the classics and the literary critiques and yet still likes good television. How odd.) Soap opera has it’s place, but inspiration is enduring.
Look, a bit of side history that folks have apparently forgotten. “Star Wars” didn’t remain in the movie theaters for over a year and change the course of film history because the writing, directing and acting were so scathingly brilliant. You have to look at the times and the other movies that preceded it. By the mid-70’s much of the U.S., Britain and Europe were in the throws of declining economies, oil shortages, layoffs, inflation, rising crime and drug use, urban decay, and pretty bleak times. Movies were pretty bleak: Taxi Driver, Marathon Man, The Omen, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Robin and Marion, The Shootist, The Enforcer, Silver Streak (even the comedies were “life sucks and then you die”). There is a reason why Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture for 1976 that year! I mean, how do you choose among so many depressingly, gloomy alternatives? I mean seriously. We were ready for something positive! The year before Robert Mitchum is cutting off his finger in “The Yakuza” and that’s considered a positive outcome! On television we’re watching M.A.S.H. show us the insanity of war and laughing through our tears.
And after years of this relentless gloom and doom parade comes “Star Wars!” (it was — and remains — “Star Wars,” people. That’s what my poster says, that’s what my VHS tape says, that’s what my pre-release poster says. It ain’t “Star Wars: A New Hope.” It’s “Star Wars”. Thank you.) A movie that says that a “farm boy,” ne’er-do-well outlaw with a good heart, and an intelligent and plucky princess can make a difference against all odds (and remember “Rocky” won Best Picture just before the release of “Star Wars”…seeing a pattern?). We all went mad. Multiplexes showed it on as many screen as possible, and the lines still went around the mall to buy tickets eight hours in advance of the midnight showings that were tacked onto the schedule on weekends — six weeks AFTER it was released! In dark periods we don’t need — or want — more dystopian stories, we want stories of hope and a sense of personal agency (preferably without too much treacle).
“Star Wars” has endured because we go back to well-crafted stories of heroism and heroic journeys (surely Moffatt or Gatiss studied Campbell at Uni, didn’t they?). Yes, “The Empire Strikes Back” has better direction and cinematography (okay, the best), but we want and need our heroes to learn and triumph — and work for heroic causes!
In Doyle’s stories, Sherlock Holmes did not work out of greed or personal gain (except the pleasure derived from solving complex and interesting puzzles). He worked to increase knowledge (his own and ultimately general knowledge, hence, the monographs) and for justice. Mofftiss forgot this (or never noticed) along the way and present us not with an eccentric hero but with a self-absorbed “lad” (“frat boy” for U.S. readers) looking to stave off boredom and show off.
And just to remind us, I’ve found a couple of fan videos to “Holding Out for a Hero” (FYI, anyone who has links to some of the original ones from the 80’s and early 90’s, especially the mixed fandom ones, that used to show up at MediaWest*Con until you nearly went made from the song ear worm, please post the links below. Thank you!):
(I threw The Avengers in for Heidi and because I like the original Bonnie Tyler version of the song as well.)
Okay, I’ll will now make a noise like a hoop and roll away (the birds and wildlife are having trouble finding enough food in the 6″ of snow out back). Some day I’ll get back to my stack of Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels to review…