Just do it already
September 10, 2014 8:32 PM   Subscribe

"And yes, I get that sexuality is fluid and all of that, but honestly, can't they just do it and get it over with? Either that, or shut up about it." Are Sherlock and Watson Gonna Bone, or What?

Make Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson gay lovers, fans urge BBC (Daily Mail)
Mr Gatiss, 47, told Australian gay magazine DNA: 'Oh my God. I get sent things that would make your hair turn white. It's not just Sherlock and Watson holding hands on a park bench, I can tell you that.

'Some of them are incredibly graphic but my goodness I've not tried half the things they're doing.'
Sherlock's Watson Is "Not Gay," But He's Not Straight Either: "But what bugs me about Watson's response to Mrs. Hudson is the pretty glaring reality that he does love Sherlock and wants to spend his life with him."

"The actor [Andrew Scott], who plays villain Moriarty, is more than happy with the amount of attention fans give to creating erotic fantasy starring him and Sherlock" (The Daily Mirror)

Vulture, Sherlock and Watson Are TV’s Best Male BFFs: "...the episode was, fully, a love story – and not the one between the newly wedded Watsons. 'The Sign of Three' occupies a place between buddy comedy and rom-com, emphasizing over and over how much Watson and Sherlock love each other. It's so much, you guys! They really, really love each other."

Previously: Moffat listens to fans?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (202 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
it's literally impossible for modern men to imagine non-romantic love
posted by boo_radley at 8:37 PM on September 10, 2014 [101 favorites]


From my perspective, sometimes it seems literally impossible to get straight people to allow that two same-gender characters with an intense relationship might be romantic or sexual lovers.
posted by wrabbit at 8:48 PM on September 10, 2014 [29 favorites]


Did boo_radley significantly edit his comment or am I hallucinating text?
posted by muddgirl at 8:52 PM on September 10, 2014


ugh moffat is such a garbagey ruiner, i don't even fucking watch this show and i despise him

RUINER STOP RUINING
posted by poffin boffin at 8:55 PM on September 10, 2014 [19 favorites]


it's literally impossible for modern men to imagine non-romantic love

And yet, Elementary has done it quite effectively.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:57 PM on September 10, 2014 [24 favorites]


honestly, can’t they just do it and get it over with? Either that, or shut up about it

I thought it was a cardinal rule of series television that as soon as you resolve the sexual tension by letting the characters bang each other then the show quickly starts sucking super quick.

See, e.g., Moonlighting.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:58 PM on September 10, 2014 [21 favorites]


This show is far better and more interesting if I watch it with homonormative glasses on, although I try not to get too invested in whether they'll actually get together on the show*. They don't always do a great job of telling the plot-related story (meat dagger? dude.), but boy are they doing a good job of telling the story of how much they love each other. I can't tell if it's intentional or just a strange emergent property of the story somehow.

Besides, there's a century-long tradition of shipping Holmes and Watson and reading gay subtext into every corner of canon, so I think somebody is going to do an adaptation where they're openly in love sooner or later. I just hope it's sooner.

* who am I kidding, this is a horrible egregious lie
posted by dialetheia at 9:00 PM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


wrabbit: "From my perspective, sometimes it seems literally impossible to get straight people to allow that two same-gender characters with an intense relationship might be romantic or sexual lovers."

So you're positing that all the shippers are gay? Because this seems more like an example of the fact that it's not just possible for straight people to accept that, but that it's fairly common.
posted by Bugbread at 9:00 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


MoonOrb: "I thought it was a cardinal rule of series television that as soon as you resolve the sexual tension by letting the characters bang each other then the show quickly starts sucking super quick."

I suspect the cause and effect might be reversed, there.
posted by Bugbread at 9:01 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is there any point to Sherlock at all other than shipping Sherlock and Watson? The actual plots are just so, so dumb. I've tried to give it a chance, I really have, but I finally gave up in disgust after the one where the key clue was a (spoiler alert, I suppose) fucking commemorative t-shirt from a secret CIA mind-control drug program.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


strangely stunted trees: "Is there any point to Sherlock at all other than shipping Sherlock and Watson?"

Well, I don't know about "a point", but if you mean "anything enjoyable", then, yes, some people do enjoy the show for non-shipping reasons (myself included). Different people enjoy different things.
posted by Bugbread at 9:09 PM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


boo_radley nails it. For Christ's sake, anyone who has actually read the stories and lived a bit knows exactly what kind of male friendship exists between Holmes and Watson and it is not a gay one. And wrabbit's rejoinder is just plain wrong, in my experience. Those same people who have lived a bit will equally have not the slightest difficulty "allowing" that two same-sex people in an intense relationship might be lovers. In fact, they won't have to imagine it because they will know plenty of gay people. It's actually quite ironic that trying to suggest gayness underlies every (or most, or famous) strong same-sex friendships shows a lack of worldliness or a want of broad-mindedness.
posted by Decani at 9:14 PM on September 10, 2014 [29 favorites]


muddgirl: " I hallucinating text?"

I did not edit anything. You are experiencing head-cannon comments.
posted by boo_radley at 9:16 PM on September 10, 2014 [31 favorites]


Much like the purloined letter, the clues are hidden in plain sight
posted by Renoroc at 9:17 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


#rathbone
posted by uosuaq at 9:18 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


What's the opposite of shipper? I'm that for nearly every character combination in every show.
posted by michaelh at 9:19 PM on September 10, 2014 [11 favorites]


Here's a classic set of essays by Neko's Muse, wherein she combs through every line of Arthur Conan Doyle alongside Baring-Gould's seminal Annotated Sherlock Holmes looking for gay subtext. If you weren't aware how deep into canon some fans go, it's a fun place to start. She finds an awful lot of gay subtext!

This came out of the Holmes/Watson community, which formed on the web after the internet started getting popular but before the BBC show came out. There's also a ton of great canon fic from that era, most notably Katie Forsythe's work (if you like her, she now writes BBC fic as wordstrings on AO3).
posted by dialetheia at 9:21 PM on September 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


Bugbread: Naw, not all shippers are gay. I added the 'sometimes' for a reason. In my experience, the 'why can't they just be friends' card is usually pulled by straight people, about two characters of the same gender, in order to silence queer readings offered by people of any sexuality.

I agree that it's a problem that friendship-love is devalued in Western culture, and that close same-gender friendships are placed under heteronormative suspicion. But as a queer person, being able to read Holmes and Watson as having a romantic/sexual relationship, among many other possible readings, is important to me. Very few characters are explicitly straight, they are just assumed to be. I'm tired of 'why can't men be friends without being read as gay' being used as a way to shut down queer readings of these characters. We are actually not suffering from a lack of portrayals of a platonic H/W relationship. No one is suffering from a lack of imagination with regard to their platonic friendship as nearly every portrayal is that of a close, presumed platonic friendship. What a lot of people do still seem to be lacking patience for is the potential for queer readings.
posted by wrabbit at 9:31 PM on September 10, 2014 [44 favorites]


I thought it was a cardinal rule of series television that as soon as you resolve the sexual tension by letting the characters bang each other then the show quickly starts sucking super quick.

"Castle" didn't appreciably change in quality when the main characters finally got together, which definitely bucks the trend. Oh, The Big Bang Theory didn't change much either, but whether or not it sucked in the first place is a matter of contention.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:36 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


One key difference is that on Castle they've been played as being obviously attracted to each other all along. There doesn't seem to be any attraction between Holmes and Watson at all.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:40 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


What's the opposite of shipper? I'm that for nearly every character combination in every show.

I don't know if there's a real answer to that, but I want it to be "sinker". People who sink other peoples' ships. I, too, am a sinker of a lot of very popular ships.

"Castle" didn't appreciably change in quality when the main characters finally got together, which definitely bucks the trend.

Castle is and has always been very much hyperaware of the Moonlighting curse. They're consciously and deliberately putting a great deal of effort into seeing if it is possible to avoid that trap.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:43 PM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


I read a while ago that "The Avengers" creator Brian Clemens' originally had the thought that Steed and Mrs Peel had had an affair at some time prior to her first appearance, but that they would be platonic in their relationship in the show. Patrick Macnee is of the opinion that they were basically getting it on all the time, and Diana Rigg is in the "enjoyably flirtatious as you see, and that's all it ever was" camp.

When I first encountered the show, I thought their relationship was all the more powerful for not being sexual -- as if they had a mutual admiration society going that they enjoyed to the maximum by leaving it precisely as it was and were emotionally mature enough to recognize that. I kind of stand by that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:48 PM on September 10, 2014 [13 favorites]


It's funny, I am very very pro marriage equality, and beyond that basic human rights angle I am fundamentally of the I don't care a wit about people's sexulaity... As long as it's consentual and basically non exploitive, sexuality is kinda whatever-floats-your-boat ho him to me.
I am pretty bog standard vanilla het, nothing particularly good or bad about that... But honestly? If I wasn't happily married there is a good chance I'd be living in a long term non sexual partnership with a guy. So, anytime I see stuff like this it rolls my eyes. It is as if no two people can ever be together without assumed sexual tension existing. Fer christsakes, the main article even manages to drag up the Ernie/Bert deride. TWO PEOPLE (OR MUPPETS) -MUST- EQUAL SEX, ALWAYS AND FOREVER.

Talk about overcompensating for puritanical wankerism
posted by edgeways at 9:49 PM on September 10, 2014 [28 favorites]


Lately I'm more and more glad that I rode the crest of the Sherlock/Dr Who reboot wave with a paper bag on my head (meaning I didn't see any of them), because nobody seems to like them any more.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:49 PM on September 10, 2014


To me there is a value in taking the Holmes/Watson dynamic from the Victorian setting, and it's perceptions about two close men, and sticking it in a 21st century context, where everybody is shouting for them to consumate their love. But if the dynamic changes, there is no more comparison.
posted by dry white toast at 9:55 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


dialetheia: "Here's a classic set of essays by Neko's Muse, wherein she combs through every line of Arthur Conan Doyle alongside Baring-Gould's seminal Annotated Sherlock Holmes looking for gay subtext. If you weren't aware how deep into canon some fans go, it's a fun place to start. She finds an awful lot of gay subtext!"

This was a much better read than the decider article. Take a look at the Greek Interpreter essay -- this was always the story that stood out for me in terms of gay subtext -- or especially Scandal in Bohemia. Compare how Neko's Muse discusses Sherlock introducing Mycroft to Watson in his club and the real emotional attachments between the characters. How Watson's longing brought him to Baker Street subconsciously. Coates' reading is more about a sense of personal agony at not knowing for 100% sure for realsies. We're reading about him and not the characters he's actually writing about. That's boring in comparison.
posted by boo_radley at 9:55 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


One of my favorite tumblr comments on shipping: "Shipping is such a strange concept. You fall in love with people falling in love."
posted by dialetheia at 10:05 PM on September 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Sherlock's a total asshole. Despite my best efforts, I still like John, so there's no way I could ever hope for John to get with an asshole. I only feel bad for him that he happens to be in love with one.

I think it would be better if Sherlock had a kind of frenemy-with-benefits thing with Moriarty and John had to deal with Moriarty at the breakfast table most mornings. I'd also like to see John trying to type up his blog while Moriarty and Sherlock rattle around the rest of the apartment bickering and playing house and generally being not-loud-enough-to-complain-about-but-irritatingly-loud. Or just sitting cuddling on the couch while watching something stupid on TV while Watson has to limp awkwardly by to get to the kitchen. Oh jeez, I can just see John bottling up all his anger until he ends up chewing the landlady's ear off complaining about all that.
posted by rue72 at 10:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [29 favorites]


One of my favorite tumblr comments on shipping: "Shipping is such a strange concept. You fall in love with people falling in love."

I tend not to be a shipper myself -- I guess the Buffy/Angel v. Buffy/Spike thing just wore me out for good -- but I like having shippers as part of a fandom.* It makes not-romantic and not-sweet shows feel much more warm and cuddly. I like how shippers are able to twist any and all scenes into the story of blossoming love, instead of the stuff that's shown more explicitly on-screen like, you know, people murdering each other and stuff.

*Sometimes it seems like a person starts de facto shipping herself/character, though, and that's when things start getting a little contentious and weird.
posted by rue72 at 10:12 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Whoever actually makes the first well-produced television drama to feature homoerotic tension between two assumed straight characters slowly simmering into an actual gay romance is going to have a huge fandom and make fucktons of money. There's clearly a desperate demand for that sort of story.
posted by almostmanda at 10:15 PM on September 10, 2014 [15 favorites]


Mark Gatiss (Sherlock BBC writer and co-creator) in an interview with Gay Times, February 2012:
I think when the day comes that you have a big detective show where the first half hour was this man at work, and he’s a maverick, and all the usual things… and then we went home and his boyfriend says, ‘Are you alright?’, [and] it was just a thing… then something would have genuinely changed. I think the problem still is, [being gay] becomes the issue. I think the thing with gay characters is that it has to be an issue, as opposed to being part of everyday life — which of course, as we all know, is what it is.
posted by dialetheia at 10:18 PM on September 10, 2014


It is as if no two people can ever be together without assumed sexual tension existing.

There have been hundreds of mainstream, professional Sherlock Holmes adaptions in which their relationship is read to be purely platonic. I can think of one in which Holmes directly states that he romantically/sexually loves Watson (The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, incidentally a big influence on BBC's Sherlock). The Victorian detective wives in Moffat's Doctor Who maybe count, as well, if they are read to be stand-ins for Holmes and Watson.

Basically, the overwhelming majority of professional adaptions present ACD's Holmes and Watson as having a platonic affection. Given all of the many many examples of Holmes and Watson being read as Just Friends, 'why can't anyone ever just read two people as friends,' applied to these two characters, is an absurd statement. Readings of their friendship as non-sexual are everywhere. Outside of amateur fan fiction, Holmes and Watson as Just Friends is by far the dominant reading. At this point, clinging to them always and forever being Just Friends in Every Adaption Amen Because Why Can't Anyone Be Just Friends is, to me, simply a refusal to acknowledge even the possibility of queerness.
posted by wrabbit at 10:21 PM on September 10, 2014 [18 favorites]


It is as if no two people can ever be together without assumed sexual tension existing.

I think this is only true if at least one of the characters is a man. (Even then, I don't think there's *always* sexual tension, it's just way more frequent). It's really unusual for a story of two or more female characters who have a close friendship to have people shipping them all over the place and yelling for them to finally hook up. I can't actually think of any show where that's been "a thing" among fans?
posted by rue72 at 10:28 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm cool with Holmes and Watson being gay (well, ok, Holmes is a big dick, so I'd rather Watson have someone else as a boyfriend, but, anyway), but I'm definitely on the "why can't anyone ever just read two people as friends" boat for straight male/female teams. Oh, hey, this show is about a male cop and a female coroner? They're going to bone eventually. Oh, a show about a female surgeon and a male nurse? They're going to bone eventually. A male administrator and a female professor? They're going to bone eventually. It's like all script writers are Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally.
posted by Bugbread at 10:28 PM on September 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


" What's the opposite of shipper? I'm that for nearly every character combination in every show."

It sounds like you're putting a whole fleet of ships in the water, Admiral.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:29 PM on September 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


At this point, clinging to them always and forever being Just Friends in Every Adaption Amen Because Why Can't Anyone Be Just Friends is, to me, simply a refusal to acknowledge even the possibility of queerness.

No, it's not. Sometimes it means you just don't ship it. I have zero interest in a gay Holmes/Watson adaptation, but if they adapted the Raffles stories with canon gay, I would be all over that, especially if they kept the Victorian setting.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:32 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


simply a refusal to acknowledge even the possibility of queerness.

To me it's nothing to do with queerness; it's the dynamic of the relationship. As above, Steed and Mrs. Peel, Luther and Alice Morgan, B.J. and The Bear... okay, never mind that one... are perfect as they are, and sucking face or anything else just takes it into an emotional territory that doesn't belong in that particular characterization. Obviously IMO, but in the opinion of the authors as well, it seems.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:33 PM on September 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's really unusual for a story of two or more female characters who have a close friendship to have people shipping them all over the place and yelling for them to finally hook up. I can't actually think of any show where that's been "a thing" among fans?

Marceline and Bubblegum sort of fit this. TheToast's Femslash Friday archive has some other examples. But, yeah, it's definitely less of a thing to read female friendships this way.
posted by almostmanda at 10:39 PM on September 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Compare how Neko's Muse discusses Sherlock introducing Mycroft to Watson in his club and the real emotional attachments between the characters. How Watson's longing brought him to Baker Street subconsciously.

Yes! The entries for The Three Garridebs and Charles Augustus Milverton also cover some key moments, including Doyle's famous "worth a wound" passage:
It was worth a wound — it was worth many wounds — to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
posted by dialetheia at 10:40 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's really unusual for a story of two or more female characters who have a close friendship to have people shipping them all over the place and yelling for them to finally hook up. I can't actually think of any show where that's been "a thing" among fans?

It's definitely "a thing" in anime. Sometimes it even happens (Sailor Moon, Samurai Flamenco).
posted by betweenthebars at 10:46 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Xena and Gabrielle.
posted by gingerest at 10:50 PM on September 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


It's funny, I am very very pro marriage equality, and beyond that basic human rights angle I am fundamentally of the I don't care a wit about people's sexulaity... As long as it's consentual and basically non exploitive, sexuality is kinda whatever-floats-your-boat ho him to me.

I dunno if that is a great typo or a great coinage, but either way.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:51 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


TheToast's Femslash Friday archive has some other examples. But, yeah, it's definitely less of a thing to read female friendships this way.

The whole reason that Femslash Friday exists is because it's so 'not a thing.' I get the sense that The Toast felt that they were inventing it. Other than a few anime examples (as betweenthebars mentioned) and a few Victorian pillow friends incidents, I also feel like they are dragging femslash into the spotlight where it hasn't been before.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:52 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Whoever actually makes the first well-produced television drama to feature homoerotic tension between two assumed straight characters slowly simmering into an actual gay romance is going to have a huge fandom and make fucktons of money. There's clearly a desperate demand for that sort of story.

Xena.

Now I suppose you could pull out the wriggle words "well-produced", but Xena will always be the first show that took awesome homoerotic chemistry and fan-longings and made it canon.

As for Sherlock: why can't we just have it as Sherlock is pan (as he clearly is), but John is straight and loves Sherlock but not that way, while Sherlock loves to get his goat with the excessive flirting?

That's how it would work out in real life, anyways. Orientation-discordance is unfortunately way too common.
posted by jb at 10:53 PM on September 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


Previously: femslash fridays
Previously: slashy mc slash slash
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:59 PM on September 10, 2014


It's really unusual for a story of two or more female characters who have a close friendship to have people shipping them all over the place and yelling for them to finally hook up. I can't actually think of any show where that's been "a thing" among fans?

Rizzoli and Isles!
posted by sigmagalator at 11:07 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


There doesn't seem to be any attraction between Holmes and Watson at all.

Is this how other people read it, too? I always thought they were pretty clearly played as being attracted to each other on the show (I'll spare everyone the gifset essay). My husband and I constantly remarked on how attracted to each other they were the first time we saw it, before I even knew about fandom.
posted by dialetheia at 11:08 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I get the sense that The Toast felt that they were inventing it. Other than a few anime examples (as betweenthebars mentioned) and a few Victorian pillow friends incidents, I also feel like they are dragging femslash into the spotlight where it hasn't been before.

Is my impression seriously skewed by fanfiction and anime, then? Because as far as I can tell, people will ship any pair of close, friendly characters, and any pair of bitterly opposed characters, and any pair of unassociated characters they just happen to like. Same-sex ships end up being common because so many friend pairs are "obviously" romantic.
posted by Rangi at 11:15 PM on September 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Ah, true. I don't watch Anime and never watched Xena, so those didn't come to mind. But yeah, I can think of plenty of shows where female characters have close friendships and neither within the show nor among fans is there all that much shipping of them. Including BBC shows. It's harder for me to think of shows that feature close relationships among/between male characters where there's not shipping going on about those characters. As soon as a guy enters the picture, I think that there's wayyyyy more likely to be shipping, both het and slash.

Like, if Sherlock were about two female friends who did a bunch of detecting, I don't think there would be anywhere near as much discussion about sexual tension, and really, really doubt there would be a strong fan push for getting the friends to settle down together/date/marry as part of the show. I doubt that it would become the focus of the show and the mysteries would become basically the B-plot to the will-they-won't-they game. I mean, obviously there's no way to say for sure since that female-leads-Sherlock show doesn't exist, that just is my sense based on what kinds of "shipping" and generally "alternative universe" ideas seem to be popular in general.

On Dracula last season there was even a whole "simmering unrequited love" between Lucy and Mira and nobody cared. I mean, nobody cared about the show overall so that's not all that shocking, but I personally was interested in that show's use of the character's slowly increasing vampirism as a metaphor for the character's inability to keep herself fully closeted, especially within that show's setting, which was a sorta-steampunk-sorta-realistic version of the Edwardian era. That metaphor of turning into a monster or losing control of your identity is really common when it comes to exploring homosexuality from a guy's point of view, but I haven't seen a lot of that on TV from a woman's POV, so I thought it was cool. But that show went down the tubes and never really got a toehold with fans (though there were plenty of reasons why, I don't think "lack of potential for male slashfic" is necessarily super high on that list).

OK, that was sort of a wondering digression, but I guess what I'm saying is, it's not so much that *people* can't be seen as de-sexualized or that *people* can't have love without sex on TV, it's that *men* often can't. I don't know why, and it seems weird to me now that I think about it.

I always thought they were pretty clearly played as being attracted to each other on the show (I'll spare everyone the gifset essay). My husband and I constantly remarked on how attracted to each other they were the first time we saw it, before I even knew about fandom.

I thought that Sherlock was definitely supposed to have been attracted to John from the first, and that was part of the reason he was into the roommates idea? But I haven't seen the pilot for a long time, so could be mis-remembering. As for John, I think that Sherlock's right and he just happens to be drawn to sociopaths. I haven't ever gotten a specifically sexual vibe from him toward Sherlock, but who knows.
posted by rue72 at 11:16 PM on September 10, 2014


Put it another way, I would have no problem with a gay Watson. (Sherlock, as jb points out above, is nonspecific to the degree that sex means anything to him personally, which doesn't seem to be much.)

Replace the women in Watson's messed up romances in the first couple of seasons with men, or hell, replace Mary with a bloke and for my money it changes nothing. But having him and Sherlock become intimate just doesn't fit. I'd stop watching because it would just be less interesting.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:17 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't want them to bone ... the unspoken tension is much more fun.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:34 PM on September 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've been avoiding watching more of show partly because augh Moffat but mostly because I am just so, so sick of queerbaiting, so tired of the haha-someone-thought-they-were-gay jokes, so ready to start screaming WE LIVE IN A POST TORCHWOOD WORLD, ASSHOLES, JUST QUEER THAT SHIT UP ALREADY
posted by NoraReed at 11:37 PM on September 10, 2014 [18 favorites]


Whoever actually makes the first well-produced television drama to feature homoerotic tension between two assumed straight characters slowly simmering into an actual gay romance is going to have a huge fandom and make fucktons of money. There's clearly a desperate demand for that sort of story.

Surely you mean Welcome to Night Vale: The TV Series.
posted by sukeban at 12:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [12 favorites]


I don't get why people feel the need to come into a thread declaring that they haven't seen Sherlock/Dr. Who or whatever show because they despise Steven Moffat and express opinions based on... not having see the shows. I mean, I could understand if someone who has actually seen them expresses an opinion about them that I don't necessarily agree with, because people like different things and I'm fine with that. I unabashedly LOVE Sherlock, so much so that I've bought the Blu-rays when I rarely do so for any show or movie. I've seen each episode more than once and listened to the commentaries and just... adore the show, flaws and all. I've spent more time thinking about Benedict Cumberbatch than I care to admit. But it's all fun, it's good TV. I have this Grantland review bookmarked because it summarizes how I feel about the show so much better than I can: "There’s something uniquely exhilarating about watching an unapologetically smart show made by unapologetically smart people." I personally don't care if Sherlock and Watson are gay or straight or whatever... and I enjoy reading about all kinds of interpretations and opinions, if you've seen the shows.
posted by misozaki at 12:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


I watched Sherlock.

The first episode had a villain that was obvious for some time before Sherlock figured it out, and the second had some really odd ideas about the Triads.

The third had a deranged Moriarty and a lot of bombs and guns, but I think it was the best of the lot.

Overall I'll just say that my ideas about what a Sherlock show should be were different than the writers. They can have all the sexual tension they want and it will not make up for episode 2.
posted by squinty at 12:16 AM on September 11, 2014


Misozaki, out of 52 comments, only 2 are ugh Moffat I don't watch the show. Not everyone agrees about the quality of the show or the nature of Sherlock and John's relationship, but people are discussing what they've actually watched.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:21 AM on September 11, 2014


Yeah I guess I'm dragging a few more over in my mind from the recent Dr. Who thread, which I didn't comment in because I don't feel very strongly about it.
posted by misozaki at 12:34 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Misozaki, out of 52 comments, only 2 are ugh Moffat I don't watch the show.

That number really ought to be zero, though.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:44 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


John/Mary/Sherlock OT3. 8D (The answer to any love triangle is a pile of bodies and lots of giggles).

The big problem with trading sexual tension for relationship is that often the relationships are boring (Moonlighting; Remington Steele) because the basis of the tension wasn't "these are two different people with different ideas and behavior" but "we can't have sex because of REASONS." Once REASONS are gone, any dynamism goes with them. Castle and Bones ended up avoiding this trap because the characters have real differences that persisted long after they started having sex - which is more realistic anyway.

And in conclusion - THREESOMES, people.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:15 AM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm super ok with people imaging gay tension between characters. Wrong or right doesn't come into it, because the author is very much dead. I have never really shipped anyone, although I was convinced for a long time that Luna Lovegood and Harry Potter were going to get together (I had made many predictions for the sixth book. That was my least succesful!).

My favourite moment of homoerotic tension comes from that classic of the genre, LOTR: Return of the King. I went to see this in the cinema with my mother, who I had told before hand of the clear sexual tension between Sam and Frodo. So when the film got towards the first of many endings, where all the hobbits come in and Frodo gives Sam the dreamiest of all the dreamy looks, my mum started sniggering. I heroically resisted, until the marriage scene shortly after. Aragon is waiting for his bride to appear, and soon enough, there she is: It's Legolas! Seriously, for those who didn't notice this, rewatch the film and tell me Legolas isn't hoping to take the place of the bride at that wedding.

Anyway, this finally broke me and I broke out into barely suppressed giggles, which only made my mother worse. Long story short, we got a lot of glares of resentment as we left the cinema...
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:38 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


I really think everyone is off base with this Sherlock/Watson shipping thing. I mean, obviously it's Sherlock and Lestrade that should be getting together for a good grudgefuck.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


"At this point, clinging to them always and forever being Just Friends in Every Adaption Amen Because Why Can't Anyone Be Just Friends is, to me, simply a refusal to acknowledge even the possibility of queerness."
But the real actual unambiguously explicitly stated story of Sherlock Holmes is an exquisitely queer one worth refusing to erase by painting a bland account of lust over it like some kind of teenage Ecce Homo. I mean, if mutually angsty unfulfilled gayness is your thing then don't let anyone stop you from shipping it, but Sherlock Holmes is one of the very few asexual characters in fiction who is not an unrelatable villain. Sherlock Holmes and Watson are so much more than Just Friends, in The Adventure of the Three Garridebs after Watson gets superficially wounded by a bullet,
"It was worth a wound; it was worth many wounds; to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation."
Watson clearly loves Sherlock in a non-sexual way we've somehow forgotten how to recognize or honor, but Sherlock also explicitly loves Watson in a deeply queer asexual way that is not really expressed in modern fiction at all outside of these stories or those directly inspired by them. Just because you might not be able to relate to the love that Doyle took great pains to portray as complex, beautiful, and pretty abundantly clear does not mean that it does not have value and just because your specific story is not being told does not mean other's shouldn't be.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:03 AM on September 11, 2014 [44 favorites]


What I like about the relationship between Watson and Sherlock isn't whether it's actively sexual or not but that it's a trauma bond. Watson is back from an environment that was life and death and bored out of his ever-loving mind with normal people and their normal rules and then wham, there's a sociopathic smart guy offering a life of - not real authenticity, maybe, but what reads like it. It's the better half of some of the reasons abused kids end of with abusers - adrenaline is a powerful rush. And of course that reads sexually at times just like it does it in the body.

I love that Mary is of the tribe as well.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


Bugbread: Naw, not all shippers are gay. I added the 'sometimes' for a reason. In my experience, the 'why can't they just be friends' card is usually pulled by straight people, about two characters of the same gender, in order to silence queer readings offered by people of any sexuality.

There was a study done once, of fan fiction writers - and it found that the group which writes the most guy/guy fan fiction, overwhelmingly, was straight women.

As for "why don't people ship two women who are friends"? Oh, I've seen that too. You may not see it as much because there so rarely ARE two women in a given show who are that close, or hell, there so rarely are two women in the cast. But there's Rizzoli and Isles fanfic, yeah...I also know that Olivia Benson slash fic exists where she gets teamed up with one of the two big female D.A.'s that have been on the show.

People can, and do, ship ANYTHING. They ship the brothers in SUPENATURAL. They ship all the kids in HARRY POTTER. They do inter species shipping with STAR TREK and DOCTOR WHO.

Now, I'm not going to deny that there aren't people who will say "ugh wny can't they just be friends" because they're uncomfortable about same-sex relationships. But that percentage of people is probably much smaller than you imagine. More likely that they are saying it just because they want to appreciate all the other stuff in the show that ISN't sex, and are frustrated when people are playing just that one note in discussions. Or they are frustrated that the only kind of love depicted on TV is romantic love, when real life has so many other kinds of love to offer.

And I submit myself as exhibit a for that last one - I was saying "ugh, what can't they just be friends, guys" to people about Mulder and Scully.

Go check out stuff on fanfiction.net. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:10 AM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Unspoken tension is obviously the most fun. Besides, I am quite sure that part of the fun of shipping is the fact that you, the shipper, are the one who gets to define how much further that relationship goes.

You could undoubtedly also have a great show about two detectives who are literally gay lovers, but it would be a different show.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:32 AM on September 11, 2014


When I first encountered [The Avengers], I thought their relationship was all the more powerful for not being sexual -- as if they had a mutual admiration society going that they enjoyed to the maximum by leaving it precisely as it was and were emotionally mature enough to recognize that. I kind of stand by that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:48 AM on September 11


I felt the exact same way about Mulder and Scully in The X-Files. In fact, I remember a couple of TV critics talking about how fantastic it was to see a man and a woman in a professional relationship and friendship relationship that wasn't a comedy (and there for the relationship was reduced to Straight Man/Funny Man) and that wasn't sexual. They were simply two adults who worked together and were also friends.

I remember being genuinely angry when I discovered that there was a whole cadre of fans out there who insisted that Mulder and Scully lovers, and who apparently weren't going to rest until they convinced Chris Carter to incorporate that into the canon.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Pro tip: "Elementary" is better.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:02 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Pro tip: Elementary is completely different, and you like it more. That's not actually the same thing as "better".
posted by Grangousier at 5:15 AM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


Do shows like this do any sort of polling or script testing to determine what the audience might like? Or is it solely what the writers think the audience will like?
posted by pseudonick at 5:22 AM on September 11, 2014


Perhaps someone in this thread will know the answer to this:

About seven or eight years ago, I read an essay by a gay historian in which he theorized that Conan Doyle actually wrote Holmes with a lot of textual cues that readers were accustomed to interpret as gay. That is, all the stuff that we think of as canonical Holmes - being all etiolated, the drugs, the weird aesthetic sensibility, the protean physicality - would actually have been read by contemporary audiences as signaling homosexuality, just as surely as "and he's a confirmed bachelor [wink]" would have been in the sixties. The author did not feel that the audience was meant to assume that Holmes and Watson were involved, just that Holmes was basically written as gay. It didn't seem like a wildly implausible essay - I remember starting it and thinking "yeah, right" but being very convinced by the textual evidence from other non-Holmes contemporary writing.

But I read the book in a space where I was volunteering, did not note down the name of the book or the author and have never been able to find it again.

Does anyone have any ideas? It was in a book of essays that had some kind of gay history angle.

I have mixed feelings about the whole "Watson and Holmes should actually get together on the show" thing.

1. I am very uneasy with the way that women, both queer and straight, write and talk about fandom-y sexual relationships between men. I mean, it's romantic pornography and up to a point all bets are off (by which I mean, write all the fic you like), but these relationships seem seldom to be much like what actual gay relationships are like. I would not want people to think that a fangirl-driven Holmes/Watson relationship had anything to do with actually representing gay lives on television.

2. I think that while it's not, like, super terrible and immoral for women to get all hung up on fantasy gay relationships, it is worth asking oneself why this happens. Partly, of course, it's porn. But I think there's a lot of other stuff going on - I don't think it's just a dearth of female characters, I think it's about internalized stuff and how it's way easier for straight women to envision two men (one of whom is often, in fanfic, at least lightly feminized) having an egalitarian relationship than it is a man and a woman.

3. I think that it's going to be much more profitable for Moffat et al to keep both the shipper and non-shipper dollars by doing no such thing.

Part of me just doesn't actually want any ship - gay, lesbian, trans, miscellaneously queer - to ever, ever become canon. First off, write your own fucking GLBTQ characters into the actual show from go, showrunners. And second, the whole point of fanfic etc is that the canon is stupid (on at least one level). Do you really actually trust any of these people to depict a queer relationship of any type that isn't horrible and stupid and banal and basically assimilationst?
posted by Frowner at 5:25 AM on September 11, 2014 [14 favorites]


I've been avoiding watching more of show partly because augh Moffat but mostly because I am just so, so sick of queerbaiting, so tired of the haha-someone-thought-they-were-gay jokes, so ready to start screaming WE LIVE IN A POST TORCHWOOD WORLD, ASSHOLES, JUST QUEER THAT SHIT UP ALREADY

Touchwood is sadly a prime example of making queerness safe for a straight audience. As much as I'm frustrated by the queerbaiting here and everywhere else, I don't know if I'd prefer to have them do another safe-for-straight-people gayness-is-so-daring plotline.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:42 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


As much as I'd like to see more non-hetero relationships normalized on TV, I don't understand why everyone on TV -- male or female, straight or gay -- need to be fucking each other. It's quite true that sometimes people of the same gender fall in love. It's also true that sometimes two people, regardless of gender, are just friends. I've been re-watching The X-Files and what I like about it is the friendly, professional relationship of Mulder and Scully. I like it on Elementary, I like it on Sleepy Hollow, and I liked it in Doctor Who with Donna.

I've never worked in a place where everyone was taking turns boning each other or worrying about boning each other, so these sorts of relationships just seem so much more mature to me. When the characters are constantly fixated on who wants to fuck who, it feels like I'm watching the adventures of high school kids.

It also feels like something of a cop-out to me when you have the two leads hook up. In a friendly, professional, or platonic relationship, you have to address what motivates these two characters to interact the way they do, and how they feel about that. Put them in bed together and bam, they love each other, so that's sorted. Holmes confides in Watson because he loves him. Scully trusts Mulder's crazy theories because she likes fucking him. The Doctor chose this person to travel with him because she's a cute little wisp of a thing. I loved the moment in Doctor Who when he told Donna he wanted a mate. Someone to be a friend.

I've had far more friends and co-workers in my life than I've had lovers. I couldn't imagine living in the TV world where every single person I spend time with had to be treated as a potential bed-mate.
posted by Legomancer at 5:59 AM on September 11, 2014 [17 favorites]


What's the opposite of shipper?

Noromo.

I believe it originated or was linked in particular toward not shipping Mulder and Scully, but I still use it for other fictionalized characters in media.

It is possible other shows yielded show-specific terms as well.
posted by mayurasana at 6:03 AM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm a straight dude who has no problem imagining two straight guys having a powerful nonromantic love, a straight guy and a gay guy having a powerful nonromantic love, two gay guys having a powerful nonromantic love, etc.

These two characters aren't, in my reading, sexually attracted to one another, but maybe it's human nature to want a complimentary pair to fuck.
posted by echocollate at 6:05 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


but these relationships seem seldom to be much like what actual gay relationships are like

Shipping is basically the western version of yaoi/"boys love" manga, most of which strikes me as deeply heteronormative under a gloss of queerness.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:11 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's literally impossible for modern men to imagine non-romantic non-sexual love

I hate the whole FTFY thing, but... Isn't this really the nut of the issue?
posted by saulgoodman at 6:14 AM on September 11, 2014




Wow, if nekosmuse reaches any farther they'll dislocate their shoulders. Have they never read any other Victorian fiction?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2014


"Sherlock" is the series for which I'll scream if they don't hook up, and "Elementary" the one for which I'll scream if they do. They're both wonderful series and Holmes interpretations in very different ways.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:17 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think that while it's not, like, super terrible and immoral for women to get all hung up on fantasy gay relationships, it is worth asking oneself why this happens.

The same study I found actually did that. And one woman's response was quoted, and was something like, "okay, imagine a guy is a scoop of ice cream. One scoop is good....but two is better." Sometimes it's purely about two hot guys being better than just one.

Or it may be similar to why there's so much porn marketed to straight men which is about two women hooking up - subconsciously they may be sort of inserting themselves into the action in some weird sort of fantasy threesome thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:23 AM on September 11, 2014


Also there is a whole lotta "ugh slashers are terrible weird straight girls who don't know anything about gay people and are creepy and ruin everything with their romancing" in this thread. Could we not do this, please? It is old and tired and sad.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:28 AM on September 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


I have nothing against shipping Watson and Sherlock, but through the majority of the Sherlock stories I've read and even in the tv show, I just don't see the seedling or implication of anything other than a platonic love and affection. Though, I will admit, I've been told repeatedly that I'm rather blind to flirtation.
posted by Atreides at 6:41 AM on September 11, 2014


And yet, Elementary has done it quite effectively.

I still remember all the claims that Elementary was being homophobic and less “progressive” than BBC Sherlock or the RDJ movies for casting an Asian woman as Watson. Because it was gay erasure, you see.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 6:42 AM on September 11, 2014



The same study I found actually did that. And one woman's response was quoted, and was something like, "okay, imagine a guy is a scoop of ice cream. One scoop is good....but two is better." Sometimes it's purely about two hot guys being better than just one.


I would find this so much, much more plausible if there weren't such a vast amount of romantic slash fic, and if it didn't so, so often fall into the whole "one character is strong-jawed and not good at feelings, the other character is smaller and softer and does the emotional work" template. I mean, I've read fanfic following this model which struck me as very well-written and in many ways very emotionally astute, but unless all the gay men I've ever met are just outliers, it is not especially astute about gay relationships. And then there's the whole "gay characters who mysteriously don't have any gay friends" bit, of course.

If it were primarily porn, I'd buy the whole "two guys better than one" business, but I don't feel like that applies when it's 135,000 words about how Strong Jaw is a crusading lawyer/cop/veteran and Feelings Guy runs a coffeeshop (and I think there's a law that every ship featuring actual adults has to have several of these stories) and they meet cute and eventually adopt a baby.

If it is really straight women thinking "it's much funner to envision two cute guys dating and adopting a baby than it is to imagine straight people", then I think one has to ask what about this particular fantasy is better and funner and what that says about how women imagine gay men.

ugh slashers are terrible weird straight girls who don't know anything about gay people

Again, I wouldn't care much except that I have a couple of queer (one older who identifies as gay, one younger who is gender non-conforming but AMAB) who have expressed to me how squicked they have been by interactions with women (not particularly distinguishing queer or straight) shippers who've said really creepy things about gay men and - on one memorable occasion - done the whole "you are so bishonen, make out with this dude for us" thing. (And of course, I've read many gay men saying the same thing on the internet, but I don't know them personally.) I think there really is a change in quantity leading to a change in kind - when slash fic is just this fanzine-then-internet thing mostly among women, it doesn't seem to impact gay and queer men's lives, but once it turns into this giant fandom financial thing, it seems to spill over and become kind of bleah.

Bear in mind, I read fanfic. I am perfectly happy to read shipper fanfic if I like how it's written. (The Violet Hour, which is a Sherlock AU set in the 1920s, for example, is simply fantastic.) It just seems like there's something rather odd going on. I don't think it's about "ew, shippers are weird women [lots and lots of women shippers are queer] who ruin everything" but I do think that there's some deep emotional stuff about how we all grow up thinking about women and relationships and sexuality, and things get projected onto gay men in a really unexamined way.
posted by Frowner at 6:52 AM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think one has to ask what about this particular fantasy is better and funner and what that says about how women imagine gay men.

Or, perhaps, what that says about how women/straight relationships are portrayed by mass media, and why many women don't find those portrayals relatable or compelling.
posted by almostmanda at 6:56 AM on September 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


Or it may be similar to why there's so much porn marketed to straight men which is about two women hooking up - subconsciously they may be sort of inserting themselves into the action in some weird sort of fantasy threesome thing.

It's also worth noting that other erotic/romantic/porny/etc. material often employs a variety of techniques to willfully diminish the "main character" who would theoretically be the audience self-insert. POV porn often reduces the male actor to a camera man. Certain popular romance series feature lady protagonists who are inoffensively bland and fairly passive - the drama often happens around them, or because they exist and are desired, rather than because they do anything in particular.

Yes, of course there are counterexamples, but I'm not saying that all material does this: just that much of it does, and quite purposefully. People's romantic and sexual fantasies often revolve around idealized and objectified bodies and relationship types: a big genre for straight men comprises visual depictions of women having sex for no other diegetic reason beyond the fact that it is possible, just as a big genre for straight women comprises stories about steamy, ambivalent relationships between men who have preexisting stories beyond the fanfic. There's no internally consistent reason to insert men into the former, or women into the latter.

...

Because it was gay erasure, you see.

There was never such a thing as straight Erasure. (rimshot)
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:57 AM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I stopped watching after season 2 not for any framework reasons (i.e. not Marxist enough, not Imperialist enough, not Feminist enough, not Gay enough, etc.) but because the stories were absolute garbage but Holmes (the original) was largely asexual and I got that impression in season 1 as well.

Of course Moffat and Gattis do write fan fic level stories that are meaningless and without real consequences so whatever the character of a person in one episode (and that's being generous, more like 5 minute blocks of an episode) it can be changed in the next, and then changed again just because hey, let's try this.

Whoever actually makes the first well-produced television drama to feature homoerotic tension between two assumed straight characters slowly simmering into an actual gay romance is going to have a huge fandom and make fucktons of money.

Trailer Park Boys...
posted by juiceCake at 6:58 AM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


Watson clearly loves Sherlock in a non-sexual way we've somehow forgotten how to recognize or honor, but Sherlock also explicitly loves Watson in a deeply queer asexual way that is not really expressed in modern fiction at all outside of these stories or those directly inspired by them.

I don't have enough favorites for this, seriously. I am deeply invested in this relationship being a real emotional thing, and also in the fact that they don't need to make out for that to be the case. I'm a queer female for whom a lot of the people who have meant most to me in my life have been people who I never had sex with. It happens. It still matters.

That said, I totally ship Will/Hannibal in a much more physical sort of way, because it's more appropriate for those characters in my head. And I can't think of a lot of female/female pairings who I feel that way about, but there's a reason the Bechdel Test is a thing. If more of my media actually had female characters who were that close, I totally would. There's a lot more movies than TV shows on my list, for some reason. I really wanted that to be how Bend It Like Beckham worked out. As far as I'm concerned, it's canon for Foxfire. Close female friendships that verge on romance doesn't need to be something I get out of fiction, though, it's been the drama-tastic story of my life entirely too many times.
posted by Sequence at 6:58 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I would find this so much, much more plausible if there weren't such a vast amount of romantic slash fic, and if it didn't so, so often fall into the whole "one character is strong-jawed and not good at feelings, the other character is smaller and softer and does the emotional work" template.

But that's an orthogonal issue - it doesn't contradict the "two scoops" premise.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:59 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


deeply heteronormative under a gloss of queerness.

It can look like that, and it certainly has some very specific tropes and rules for how it usually plays out, but it's much more analogous to certain lesbian subcultures with specific butch/femme roles; they look a lot straighter to outsiders because straightness is a standard lens.

I follow a lot of fandom people, including Sherlock fans, and almost all of them are queer women. This isn't to negate that there are lots of hetero women writing gay fanfic, but it's frequently a way to explore queer identities safely. I think it's pretty unfair to characterize fanfiction as not a realistic portrayal of actual queer relationships-- don't get me wrong, it usually isn't, but there aren't exactly a lot of romance novels that give realistic treatment to hetero relationships, and much of that fanfic fits a similar niche.

I've read a LOT about fandom stuff, including slashers and yaoi fans and whatever else, over the years, and while I think that it is worth looking at why many women choose to write about men instead of women, how that relates to a general dearth of good female characters, shaming of women's sexuality, etc, and I don't think that heaping more shit on an already stigmatized art form is productive, especially when that art form is doing something kind of revolutionary by creating a gigantic folk art movement to create sexual and romantic content for demographics largely ignored by mainstream content producers.
posted by NoraReed at 7:00 AM on September 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


DAMMIT, STICHERBEAST.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 7:01 AM on September 11, 2014


I'm an atypical member of the Sherlock audience, in the way that I enjoyed the first two seasons when they were doing one-off mysteries, absolutely hated all of the continuity stuff, and barely tolerated the relations between characters as being a necessary part of the show. Needless to say, I didn't make it far into season 3. I don't think I'm ever coming back to the show, but it would be interesting to see what happened if they stopped playing at the relationship between H+W and made it explicit.
posted by codacorolla at 7:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or, perhaps, what that says about how women/straight relationships are portrayed by mass media, and why many women don't find those portrayals relatable or compelling.

Well, yes, but we're not talking about femme slash or straight romantic fic or genderswap - we're talking about women responding to a show by saying "I am dissatisfied with the women characters so I will write romantic porn about two men".

I don't think that heaping more shit on an already stigmatized art form is productive, especially when that art form is doing something kind of revolutionary by creating a gigantic folk art movement to create sexual and romantic content for demographics largely ignored by mainstream content producers.

But what do you say to, for example, gay men who think this is all kind of gross and creepy? To me, that's kind of a trump argument - it seems like women writers using an actually existing marginalized group to symbolize the experiences of women, and I am uneasy with that.
posted by Frowner at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


DAMMIT, STICHERBEAST.

what did i do

is it my skunk tail
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


For me, sexual tension on a mystery series is the death of a thousand almost meaningful looks, dragged out over months of blatant cliffhangers of "are these characters going to act like normal human adults and come to a decision about this already?" It doesn't help much that the principles often have the chemistry of wet noodles.

And it's the 21st fucking century. Take that subtextual gun off the mantel and pull the trigger or don't make a point of flashing it every second episode with "oh, we're not a couple."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:09 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sherlock's a decent show, even if it's a bit predictable at times.

I'm very happy that at least some television and film media has now matured to a point where GBLTQ relationships and marriage are being shown as ordinary and natural and loving, and not just as a damned punchline. But at the same time, I don't think everything needs to be "queered up" (as someone put it above) just for popularity's sake. If Gatiss and Moffat want to put Sherlock and Watson into more than just a "buddy/platonic life partner" relationship, then okay. I'd watch. They're already interpreting the stories beyond Conan Doyle's originals, so the argument that they'd be screwing up the source text seems moot.

But for heaven's sake, I would hope they'd do it well. Not sloppily tack on John and/or Sherlock being bi or gay for the hell of it, but show it as a natural evolution of both characters.
posted by zarq at 7:09 AM on September 11, 2014


But what do you say to, for example, gay men who think this is all kind of gross and creepy?

"I'm here, I'm queer, I'm going to write some stuff about dudes fucking, smooching and/or cuddling, please don't read it if that's not what you're into, though obvz if it is and you want to share recs, shoot me an email."

I mean, obviously it's not cool to creepily fetishize real people. That's not an okay thing to do. I'm a woman who sometimes dates other women; I find it annoying as fuck when men do the hurf hurf lesbians are hot thing too. But I'm not doing that and I don't think I'd hang out with people who do that because it's creepy and weird.
posted by NoraReed at 7:13 AM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think if "everything" were getting queered up we'd have noticed.

I think it's funny (read: sad) that there's a hint of GLBTQ romance in the air and suddenly the rest of the world freaks out and says PLEASE LEAVE US OUR PLATONIC FRIENDSHIPS. Won't anybody please think of the poor, misunderstood straight friends across all media? I mean, what with all the queer couples on TV shows and books and movies and comics and... oh.
posted by lydhre at 7:14 AM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


we're talking about women responding to a show by saying "I am dissatisfied with the women characters so I will write romantic porn about two men".

Well, right, it's two sides of the same thing. Why are queer romances so intriguing for women? I think a lot of it is straight romances being bogged down by worn, sexist tropes and baggage. If you ship queer romances, you're probably going to encounter fewer instances of women dying to inspire a man to take action, or women being damselled, or character assassination when your favorite character goes baby- or wedding-crazy. These tropes are offensive when I see them in portrayals of straight relationships, but aren't as prevalent and played out when it's two dudes.
posted by almostmanda at 7:17 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


But what do you say to, for example, gay men who think this is all kind of gross and creepy?

What do you say to gay men who don't think it's all gross and creepy? That's kind of the trouble. It's like lesbian porn--the opinions of actual lesbians on it vary wildly and the number of people who'd say it shouldn't exist at all are, I suspect, much outnumbered by the number who would just prefer said lesbians were more realistic. I mean, at this point, I'm not a gay man and I'm seriously weirded out by the direction a lot of slashfic has gone in recent years, but I don't think it's fundamentally about the male/male content, it's a combination of relatively young and inexperienced writers, a kind of insular community, that sort of thing. All the alpha/omega stuff and weird AUs does not get less weird if it's written about fem or het pairings, and I'm pretty sure if we had more close female pairs of main characters, the fic would get just as unrealistic.

I am so, so not into a lot of the stuff that's out there right now, even where I am kind of emotionally invested in the relationships themselves, but it's not like unrealistic porn is just a fanfic problem.
posted by Sequence at 7:19 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think if "everything" were getting queered up we'd have noticed.

Oh, don't get me wrong: that's my take on it as well. It was just such a noticeable phrase (and typed in all caps,) that it stood out.
posted by zarq at 7:20 AM on September 11, 2014


It's anecdotal (Camille Bacon-Smith) and incorrect that most slashers are straight women. Surveys done by fans in a wider variety of communities have found that the majority of slashers identify as queer.

Some slashers are homophobic, sexist, objectifying of queerness, etc. But I think it's suggestive of a deeper problem here that anyone wanting Holmes and Watson to be explicitly queer in this adapation or in other adaptions is being characterized as just wanting them to have sex. Queerness =/= sexualness, and wanting to see two complex characters, who many people for decades have read as queer, portrayed as explicitly queer one day =/= just wanting some porn. No one wants to retroactively erase their close platonic friendship, or Sherlock Holmes's ambiguous asexuality in all adaptions and replace it with gay sex. A lot of people would like a mainstream adaption in which their reading of Holmes as queer is explicitly validated instead of ambiguously implied. I think it's a derail to ascribe what for many people is a queer representation issue to prurience, or pathology, or the dissatisfaction of straight women with mainstream media.

Now, I'm not going to deny that there aren't people who will say "ugh wny can't they just be friends" because they're uncomfortable about same-sex relationships. But that percentage of people is probably much smaller than you imagine. More likely that they are saying it just because they want to appreciate all the other stuff in the show that ISN't sex, and are frustrated when people are playing just that one note in discussions. Or they are frustrated that the only kind of love depicted on TV is romantic love, when real life has so many other kinds of love to offer.

Okay, so keep watching all of the SH adaptions in which they are depicted as platonic friends. I will too, because I also like that reading of them. But why pre-emptively shut down other possible readings and depictions just because you prefer one over the other? One mainstream example of a queer Holmes and Watson will be a drop in the bucket in comparison to all the options we have for platonic Holmes and Watson.
posted by wrabbit at 7:21 AM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


I wonder if some of the pushback isn't against a less-than-nuanced view of sexuality as a wildly malleable thing. On an individual basis, sure sexual preference and attraction vary greatly, but identification as "straight" or "gay" is deeply psychological and personal, and I can understand how the idea that we're all x% into men and y% into women, and you never really know, etc., would trigger a kind of annoyed sensitivity in some people, and this whole Sherlock/Watson thing is just a cultural surrogate for that.

I feel like I really mangled that explanation. I'm pretty tired this morning.
posted by echocollate at 7:40 AM on September 11, 2014


If Gatiss and Moffat want to put Sherlock and Watson into more than just a "buddy/platonic life partner" relationship, then okay. I'd watch.

I probably would, too, but there's a part of me that would be annoyed about it. The same part that got annoyed when Moffat gave the Doctor romantic interests.

I'd really love to see more depictions of deep, platonic love in the media. I think that's one thing we're really missing in our culture and our lives. A few decades ago, even in the US, it wasn't uncommon for adults, regardless of gender, to sometimes develop deep, abiding affection for each other that transcended ordinary acquaintanceship and fair weather friendship, but that didn't involve expressing intimacy sexually. Sex was often explicitly or implicitly off the table (even if there was a subtle subtext of physical attraction) because of its tendency to complicate relationships, as these kinds of platonic relationships were viewed as far more important than sexual ones. In fact, for most of modern and ancient history, platonic love was idealized as the highest, truest form of love, and not just due to some misguided puritanical impulse (hell, even the Greeks idealized platonic love when they weren't too busy orgy-hopping).

Why not let them hooking up stay fantasy, so fans of the show can still get themselves wound up by watching the knock-off fan porn? Lord knows, the allure of the fantasy will evaporate almost instantly if it ever becomes real. That's how these things always go. The reality of Watson and Sherlock hooking up would soon take all the fascination out of what now seems exciting as an unrealized potentiality.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:43 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


wrabbit: From my perspective, sometimes it seems literally impossible to get straight people to allow that two same-gender characters with an intense relationship might be romantic or sexual lovers.
In general I would agree with you, but in this specific case, every bit of explicit evidence points to neither character having a sexual interest in the other, nor in any men at all.

IOW, Occam's Razor says Watson is straight, and Sherlock is not gay nor bisexual. You, as the audience member, are free to interpret otherwise, but it's hardly fair to insist the artist (writers & producer, in this case) explicitly force the storyline to follow your personal arc.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:43 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I also agree with everyone saying that there is a dearth of complex, intimate, non-sexualized, long-term friendships in mainstream media. But there is also a dearth of complex, long-term queer relationships in mainstream media that are not reduced to sex or sexuality. We happen to have a lot of examples of Holmes which portray the former, which I appreciate a lot. We don't have any for the latter, and I at least would like one.
posted by wrabbit at 7:49 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


2. I think that while it's not, like, super terrible and immoral for women to get all hung up on fantasy gay relationships, it is worth asking oneself why this happens. Partly, of course, it's porn. But I think there's a lot of other stuff going on - I don't think it's just a dearth of female characters, I think it's about internalized stuff and how it's way easier for straight women to envision two men (one of whom is often, in fanfic, at least lightly feminized) having an egalitarian relationship than it is a man and a woman.

You're over thinking this. Women who are attracted to me enjoy gay erotica for the same reason that men attracted to women enjoy lesbian porn: it's two hot people getting it on. If you're exclusively straight, you might prefer this to opposite sex erotica/porn, as then you're potentially attracted to both people.

As for the "reality" - it's no more real or unreal than hetero romance, erotica or porn - that is, not very real at all.
posted by jb at 8:00 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I probably would, too, but there's a part of me that would be annoyed about it. The same part that got annoyed when Moffat gave the Doctor romantic interests.

The elimination of the sexual tension in The Doctor / Clara's relationship has improved the show hugely. Clara's character is much stronger for it -- i.e. she's actually starting to have one; because now they're having to write her as a person rather than an MPDG. The most recent episode had her being herself, expressing her own interests, grooving on other people ... it was by far the most interesting she's ever been.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:03 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


slash is different from shipping - shipping is rooting for a plausible relationship based off canon relationships or hints, eg Buffy & Angel or Buffy & Spike or Willow & Xander or (the original big fandom ship) Crusher & Picard. The relationship may or may not be canon, but fits with the orientations and attractions shown in canon.

Slash is romantic/erotic fiction against orientation lines. A big part of the storyline in a lot slash fiction is the angst over someone who was supposedly hetero feeling attracted to someone of the same sex, and agonizing about it for ages. It's not the queer thing being taboo - slash comes out of Star Trek and (regardless of the queerless tv) Star Trek future isn't homophobic. It's the personal confusion. Queer as Folk slash, for instance, would have to involve Nathan falling for a girl.
posted by jb at 8:06 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


You're over thinking this. Women who are attracted to me enjoy gay erotica for the same reason that men attracted to women enjoy lesbian porn: it's two hot people getting it on. If you're exclusively straight, you might prefer this to opposite sex erotica/porn, as then you're potentially attracted to both people.

Just to clarify - if we were talking about porn, I would find this a relatively convincing argument. I think that unless you read fanfic [or perhaps you do, in which case I apologize] you may not be aware of the many, many novels' worth of light romance with porn elements which strikes me mostly as being about, like, romantic fantasy - very much taken up with people having nice jobs and lots of money and tragic-romantic problems and True Love and so on. This isn't at all parallel to fake lesbian porn, unless fake lesbian porn routinely has, like, 25,000-word stories about the fake lesbians making the big serious relationship decision to move in together, digressions on buying houseware, extensive passages about how one fake lesbian left her corporate gig to run a coffee shop, etc. The fantasy element is very much a social fantasy.
posted by Frowner at 8:08 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm against the idea of a romantic/sexual relationship between Holmes & Watson in this particular show - not because of gayness or straightness or whateverness, but simply because it's antithetical to the way Sherlock's character has been presented in the show.

I'm not crazy about labels, but he's basically been presented as asexual - a "high-functioning sociopath" with no real clue how actual human interaction is supposed to go except how it appears on the surface. [SPOILERS AHEAD] This is why it's so shocking when Sherlock appears to be dating the bridesmaid he met at John's wedding, and such a satisfying explanation when he turns out to have been faking it.

Yes, it's possible that the show could take a left turn whereby John (or somebody else) "teaches Sherlock how to love" or some shit like that. But man, that would be a terrible betrayal of a complex, imperfect character. We don't want to see Sherlock become a real boy - his separation from humanity is part of the point.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:09 AM on September 11, 2014 [13 favorites]


I have to admit, I think Dr. McCoy has a huge crush on Spock. Looking now I see that the internets got there decades ago. Shows how interesting I generally find this crap.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:09 AM on September 11, 2014


I have to admit, I think Dr. McCoy has a huge crush on Spock. Looking now I see that the internets got there decades ago.

In some other FPP someone mentioned seeing that they saw a slash fic which paired up Jack Harkness....and the Tenth Doctor's severed hand.

Internet Fanfic is the lab which proves Rule 34 Of The Internet is a thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Never happen. There's a reason why The Doctor kept that hand under the console. It was a very practical place for it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2014


I'm queer and all for queer Holmes/Watson, but the "why can't you just tell us so we WILL KNOW" logic of the author irks mr. Why do you need some British dudes to validate your reading of the characters? If you want them together, why can't you write it that way yourself, or just take the time to look up one or two of the fifty gazillion stories fans have already written on this topic? Why do you need to have everything spelled out explicitly and given ONE MEANING and only one meaning forevermore? (Of course there are ways to write "they bone" that don't do this, but.)

Probably I'm just old.
posted by subdee at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


NoraReed: I follow a lot of fandom people, including Sherlock fans, and almost all of them are queer women.

jb: A big part of the storyline in a lot slash fiction is the angst over someone who was supposedly hetero feeling attracted to someone of the same sex, and agonizing about it for ages.

Just wanted to second these bits - everyone I know who is really invested in shipping John and Sherlock is queer, including myself. A lot of us are specifically bisexual and are hoping to see John portrayed as a bisexual man coming to terms with his sexuality; many of my favorite fics focus on his coming out story, starting with accepting it himself (something a lot of us struggled with, and some of us came to later in life like John would have in this adaptation). As jb points out, this is consistent with classic slash tropes, but for a lot of us it's also a safe way to work through those issues.

Likewise, I think it's unfair to lay the responsibility for the lack of women in fanfiction at fandom's feet, when they are just responding to the characters presented to them in mainstream media. Sure, it would be great if they all woke up tomorrow and wrote original works of fiction with fantastic female characters (and some of the fics already do have fantastic OFCs), but the showrunners REALLY aren't giving them much to work with. If these young women see male characters as the default, I have a hard time placing the fault with them - that's what has been modeled in damn near every story they've seen in their whole lives. I wouldn't place the responsibility for changing that at the feet of a bunch of powerless teenaged girls.

I'm not sure how to respond to the "fetishizing homosexuality" and social fantasy stuff. I mean, obviously fanfic is a social fantasy, and I think it's probably true that women like writing male characters because it allows them to sidestep a bunch of uncomfortable stuff from their own lives about gender roles. I just don't see anything wrong with that, is all, especially since I think it leads people to be more open-minded about sexuality and gender roles in their own lives. While obviously a lot of them write unrealistic sex scenes and waaay overdo the top/bottom dynamic (this is a big one, especially with the bizarro Omegaverse stuff), I really do think it's overstating things to say they're fetishizing homosexuality. That may be true for a minority of people, god knows I don't follow every shipper, but I think it's wildly overstating the case for most fans. Most stories I've read, the focus is squarely on their relationship, not on the sex (though there is plenty of sex, don't get me wrong).

it's antithetical to the way Sherlock's character has been presented in the show.

Not being sarcastic, but have you seen the third season yet? The Sign of Three is basically his extended love letter to Watson. I can't read the ending as anything but Sherlock being heartbroken and returning to drugs, which is basically what happens in canon:
"The division seems rather unfair," [Watson] remarked. "You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?"

"For me," said Sherlock Holmes, "there still remains the cocaine-bottle." And he stretched his long white hand up for it.
Why do you need some British dudes to validate your reading of the characters?

I hear this, and to a large extent I agree with it, but I think it's important to people because they want the representation. People are tired of having to hide everything gay in subtext and would like it to be out in the open for once. I wouldn't care so much if people would stop telling me my queer interpretation is "wrong" or they "just aren't that way and you're reading way too much into it" or whatever. It would be a big statement that a queer reading (of this show or any other) is perfectly cromulent.

Like wrabbit, I get frustrated when people act like a romantic interpretation of the characters is tiresome or worn-out or overdone even though there still hasn't been a single adaptation where it's been explored. We have room for a 22nd century Robot Watson interpretation, but a single romantic adaptation would be too much and would somehow undercut all the great queer-asexuality and/or platonic friendship? Robot Watson is fine and inventive, but bisexual Watson is totally unrealistic? I think there's room for all of those stories and it's really unfortunate and a bit hurtful that the queer readings receive by far the most critical and dismissive treatment.
posted by dialetheia at 8:44 AM on September 11, 2014 [15 favorites]


Like wrabbit, I get frustrated when people act like a romantic interpretation of the characters is tiresome or worn-out or overdone even though there still hasn't been a single adaptation where it's been explored. We have room for a 22nd century Robot Watson interpretation, but a single romantic adaptation would be too much and would somehow undercut all the great queer-asexuality and/or platonic friendship? Robot Watson is fine and inventive, but bisexual Watson is totally unrealistic? I think there's room for all of those stories and it's really unfortunate and a bit hurtful that the queer readings receive by far the most critical and dismissive treatment.

Speaking solely for myself, I don't see any problem with a queer interpretation of Sherlock and John. I just don't think that's what's going on in this particular show, and I think going there wouldn't be true to the characters as they've been established this time around.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2014


Speaking solely for myself, I don't see any problem with a queer interpretation of Sherlock and John. I just don't think that's what's going on in this particular show, and I think going there wouldn't be true to the characters as they've been established this time around.

That's fine! And to be crystal clear, I don't think that someone who doesn't ship it must be anti-gay or anything like that. I strongly disagree with your interpretation of the BBC characters (to my mind, they've been slow-building the romance since the first episode and it's absolutely true to character, and it's taking all of my forbearance not to flood this place with endless gifs and meta to make that case) but I just wanted to make it clear that I don't ascribe homophobia to anyone just for not shipping it or not seeing it in the show. I just want bisexual Watson to get the same respect as robot Watson.
posted by dialetheia at 8:59 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree that it's a problem that friendship-love is devalued in Western culture, and that close same-gender friendships are placed under heteronormative suspicion. But as a queer person, being able to read Holmes and Watson as having a romantic/sexual relationship, among many other possible readings, is important to me. Very few characters are explicitly straight, they are just assumed to be. I'm tired of 'why can't men be friends without being read as gay' being used as a way to shut down queer readings of these characters. We are actually not suffering from a lack of portrayals of a platonic H/W relationship. No one is suffering from a lack of imagination with regard to their platonic friendship as nearly every portrayal is that of a close, presumed platonic friendship. What a lot of people do still seem to be lacking patience for is the potential for queer readings.

But consider this. It's true there a relatively few examples of same-sex relationships that are definitively romantic/sexual in mainstream fiction.

But if you want an example of a non-romantic/sexual relationship in mainstream fiction that no one assumes is actually romantic/sexual, there are, as far as I can tell, none. Zero. Every relationship (same sex or otherwise) is shipped by somebody.

So that tells me that it's impossible in our culture to have a relationship that won't be assumed by some people to be romantic or sexual. There can never, ever be a definitively non-romantic/sexual relationship, same-sex or otherwise. And that kind of sucks.
posted by straight at 9:03 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


What I'd like to know is, are there many bisexual or gay men who feel that a Sherlock/Watson relationship will validate them? If this is about the representation of bisexual women, why doesn't Mary Moran come out as bisexual and hook up with one of the women characters? (I'm sure there's fic, etc etc) If it's about just how awesome Sherlock is, why isn't everyone writing genderswap?

I feel like a big takeaway from being involved in GLBTQ stuff has been, for me, that my experience as a queer and gender non-conforming person can't stand in for the experiences, wishes and lives of other non-straight people. Representing me or tailoring queer representations to fit my tastes does not count as representing other GLBTQ people just because we're all not straight. My experience isn't the same as a bi dude's experience, for instance, and I would not accept that if television was filled with bisexual male characters than I was somehow represented through some transitive property of queerness.
posted by Frowner at 9:05 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


That's fine! And to be crystal clear, I don't think that someone who doesn't ship it must be anti-gay or anything like that. I strongly disagree with your interpretation of the BBC characters (to my mind, they've been slow-building the romance since the first episode and it's absolutely true to character, and it's taking all of my forbearance not to flood this place with endless gifs and meta to make that case) but I just wanted to make it clear that I don't ascribe homophobia to anyone just for not shipping it or not seeing it in the show. I just want bisexual Watson to get the same respect as robot Watson.

And, conversely, I could certainly be wrong in my interpretation of the BBC characters. For what it's worth, my wife agrees with you, although she may just want to see Benedict Cumberbatch gettin' busy.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:05 AM on September 11, 2014


This isn't at all parallel to fake lesbian porn, unless fake lesbian porn routinely has, like, 25,000-word stories about the fake lesbians making the big serious relationship decision to move in together, digressions on buying houseware, extensive passages about how one fake lesbian left her corporate gig to run a coffee shop, etc. The fantasy element is very much a social fantasy.

That's exactly what lesbian romance stories written for lesbians are like. Women of all orientations like a lot of story and romantic buildup in their romance/erotica.
posted by jb at 9:09 AM on September 11, 2014


My experience isn't the same as a bi dude's experience, for instance, and I would not accept that if television was filled with bisexual male characters than I was somehow represented through some transitive property of queerness.

Don't worry about any of this happening anytime soon - bisexual men are the least represented of the LGBTQ community on television.
posted by jb at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


sorry - don't know if very very least, but oppression Olympics are unproductive. suffice to say that bi men are substantially under represented about queer characters in our media, compared to gay men, gay and bi women.
posted by jb at 9:17 AM on September 11, 2014


dialetheia: "We have room for a 22nd century Robot Watson interpretation"

I was going to say something about Watson's role as that of the scribe and how in many stories he ought to just fade into the background in that character-as-audience/ "BUT DOCTOR!" sort of way. But no, he was literally a cyborg in that show.
posted by boo_radley at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


And what's up with that cartoon Holmes' lordosis?
posted by boo_radley at 9:30 AM on September 11, 2014


If this is about the representation of bisexual women, why doesn't Mary Moran* come out as bisexual and hook up with one of the women characters? ... I feel like a big takeaway from being involved in GLBTQ stuff has been, for me, that my experience as a queer and gender non-conforming person can't stand in for the experiences, wishes and lives of other non-straight people.

I agree with this, but this stuff works on multiple levels. Bisexual erasure is such a huge thing (even in this thread!) that regardless of whether the character was male, female, or gender fluid (I can dream) I would be thrilled to see a decent portrayal of a bisexual character on television, especially if it included the reactions of the people around them and their transition from thinking of themselves as straight to accepting themselves as queer. Just because my particular experience wouldn't be perfectly represented doesn't mean it wouldn't be meaningful. I do not want to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

As an aside, I think it's a little gender-essentialist to imply that the experience of a bisexual man would not have commonalities with the experience of a bisexual woman, or that there's something inherently problematic about bisexual women interpreting their experiences through that lens. I don't need the characters I identify with to share my gender, largely due to a lifetime of training in all other forms of literature and entertainment, and while I agree that it's a problem that there aren't more women characters involved in all of this, I don't think it's inherently problematic that people identify with and learn from characters of other genders even if the experiences don't map perfectly. Part of the fun of switching to male characters is that they are "allowed" to express their sexuality and desire more explicitly, so to the extent that the reader/character genderswap allows women to get access to feelings that might otherwise feel off-limits or socially unacceptable, it can be a valuable growing experience. Obviously they shouldn't stop there, but those intermediate steps are still generally progressive, not regressive.

* I HOPE SO MUCH THAT SHE IS MARY MORAN, that is the only way I will accept the absolute travesty of an ending to His Last Vow and a terrible half-adaptation of The Empty House. This was probably a typo but it's also a leading fandom theory! One reason nobody is identifying hard with Mary is that she is probably a villain and (spoiler alert: read the canon!) will almost certainly die next season.
posted by dialetheia at 9:42 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


We don't have any for the latter, and I at least would like one.

Fair enough, even though that wouldn't necessarily suit me. Sherlock's one of my childhood's last remaining great asexual heroes! But definitely agreed there aren't enough non-trivial depictions of same sex relationships and they could reasonably go that way in the series as it stands today.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:52 AM on September 11, 2014


Slash is romantic/erotic fiction against orientation lines. A big part of the storyline in a lot slash fiction is the angst over someone who was supposedly hetero feeling attracted to someone of the same sex, and agonizing about it for ages. It's not the queer thing being taboo - slash comes out of Star Trek and (regardless of the queerless tv) Star Trek future isn't homophobic. It's the personal confusion. Queer as Folk slash, for instance, would have to involve Nathan falling for a girl.

I've been in fandom for more than half of my (admittedly rather short) life and I am pretty sure that practically no one means that when they say "slash". A quick google search for the phrase "slash fiction" confirms this.

I'm queer and all for queer Holmes/Watson, but the "why can't you just tell us so we WILL KNOW" logic of the author irks mr. Why do you need some British dudes to validate your reading of the characters? If you want them together, why can't you write it that way yourself, or just take the time to look up one or two of the fifty gazillion stories fans have already written on this topic?

Mostly because representation, but also because there are some (IMO quite valid) readings of the whole "everyone thinks they're a couple"/other misc gay jokes thing as queerbaiting, as in, having pseudo-queer characters who can be read that way but are still "comfortably hetero" enough for predominantly straight audiences. It's arguable which shows do that and which don't, especially because there are some times when same-sex couples are never explicitly stated for censorship reasons (Xena) or because the networks won't let them for various reasons, including keeping it hetero enough for international audiences (Adventure Time).

There are, of course, a lot of different opinions on what exactly counts as queerbaiting: has Teen Wolf been doing it with Stiles (and is that even their worst offense, considering the total disrespect they've generally been treating their canonically queer characters with, such as killing them off/randomly removing them from the cast/deciding to respond to cries for bisexual representation by making a lesbian character bi)? Is Supernatural doing it with Dean? What about other stuff that isn't really queerbaiting but is still sort of queerbait-adjacent, like Rowling saying that Dumbledore is gay after the books are out instead of in them, or characters who are only shown to be queer in supplementary material, such as Gaeta in Battlestar Galactica?
posted by NoraReed at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Slash is romantic/erotic fiction against orientation lines. A big part of the storyline in a lot slash fiction is the angst over someone who was supposedly hetero feeling attracted to someone of the same sex, and agonizing about it for ages. It's not the queer thing being taboo - slash comes out of Star Trek and (regardless of the queerless tv) Star Trek future isn't homophobic. It's the personal confusion. Queer as Folk slash, for instance, would have to involve Nathan falling for a girl.

While this is technically true to the roots of slash, I would say a majority of mainstream fandom doesn't view it this way any more. There's a huge amount of slash now that just entirely dispenses with any angst about orientation or same-sex attraction. I mean, partly this is because otherwise you end up with a lot of tediously samey stories and writers don't necessarily want to go over the same ground again and again. After all, part of the appeal of fan fiction is that you don't need to set everything up from scratch every time, you can build on an existing canon and shared ideas about that canon. So you get a lot more fics now in which the characters are just assumed to be bi, and the angst is about being attracted to/in love with that particular person rather than a person of a specific gender.

Fanfiction used to make more of an effort to justify making characters gay or bi, barring those fandoms where fans assumed the characters probably wouldn't have any hangups about sexuality thanks to their background or setting. Fans now seem to fall more on the side of "bi until explicitly proven otherwise," and by explicitly proven otherwise, we're talking the character straight up saying "I'm straight," or "I'm asexual," or "I'm only into ____." It's a reaction against pervasive heteronormativity. Also, y'know, hot people boning.

When it comes to Holmes and Watson, I think it's important to remember that these are two of the most adapted literary characters in the Western canon. Holmes and Watson have been mice, robots, doctors, women, different races...but god forbid one or both of them be bi/gay, and gay for each other? Since the 00s alone, we've had House and Wilson, the RDJ Sherlock Holmes, BBC Sherlock, Elementary, and any number of other adaptations. Most of these have been or are going on at the same time, so at any given time, you have multiple Sherlock Holmeses to choose from. So to get upset about having just one of these many adaptations having an explicitly romantic Holmes/Watson relationship seems to me to be kind of disingenuous. It's not like you're ruining some precious, untouched canon. There are a lot of interpretations of these characters, and the fact that we have yet to see a mainstream adaptation in which they're gay despite the fact that queer readings of them are not at all a reach really stands out.
posted by yasaman at 9:58 AM on September 11, 2014 [9 favorites]


Slash is fan work which features two characters of the same gender in a romantic or sexual pairing. It only appears to be "against orientation lines" if you assume everyone is straight until proven otherwise. It's sexist to default to assuming someone named 'Dr. Rogers' is a man, and it's heterosexist to assume that every character is 100% straight until explicitly, to your satisfaction, proven otherwise.
posted by wrabbit at 10:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


slash is different from shipping - shipping is rooting for a plausible relationship based off canon relationships or hints, eg Buffy & Angel or Buffy & Spike or Willow & Xander or (the original big fandom ship) Crusher & Picard. The relationship may or may not be canon, but fits with the orientations and attractions shown in canon.

Holy shit this made so much more sense when I realized you meant BEVERLY Crusher. For a minute I was flabbergasted.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:01 AM on September 11, 2014 [10 favorites]


If we're going to have queer Holmes, let's have unambiguously queer Holmes ala Baker Street. Not Watson stuttering and changing the subject, or the Ritchie camp humor. The standard IMNSHO can be seen on Orphan Black which gives us a half dozen lgbtq characters, only one of whom is remotely self conscious for all of one episode. Not that OB is perfect, but I'd much rather have Felix, Tony, or even the morgue attendant over tongue-tied Watson/Holmes subtext.

It's a problem that really frustrates me about fandom right now. So much energy spent on half-assed subtext and ambiguity. And the whole thing of stringing that ambiguity along for months of narrative time is a shitty plot device.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:04 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


This sort of stuff makes me uncomfortable because it parallels the speculation and scandal that surrounds queer male sexuality in real life.
posted by yaymukund at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mostly because representation, but also because there are some (IMO quite valid) readings of the whole "everyone thinks they're a couple"/other misc gay jokes thing as queerbaiting, as in, having pseudo-queer characters who can be read that way but are still "comfortably hetero" enough for predominantly straight audiences.

This is a huge part of it, too, thanks NoraReed. I feel like they've gotten much better at treating the "aren't you a couple?" lines seriously as part of the text instead of as a jokey queerbaiting thing, especially circa the 3rd season (that's why nobody liked it! too much fanservice!) but actually following through on some of it would redeem a lot of those otherwise-obnoxious "but I'm not gay! LOL FOREVER" jokes.

As far as I can remember, Watson has never once claimed to be straight, only that he isn't gay and Sherlock isn't his boyfriend (he said, wistfully...). This gets at the bisexual erasure issue - I've been in the same situation, sick to death of people calling me a lesbian throughout my adolescence (usually with the intention of cruelty) because it wasn't true and felt like a lie, but I was still definitely not straight. Now I have the opposite problem, being married to a straight dude so I present as straight by default unless I make a specific effort to say otherwise.

Discomfort with labels, especially the labels other people place on me, has been an absolutely essential feature of my experience as a bi/pan person throughout my whole life, and the way they treat that aspect on the show is really pretty great in certain ways IF AND ONLY IF they're actually building toward some realization on Watson's part and not just making a long tedious joke about how un-gay Watson really is. If the whole thing turns out to have been a long exercise in queerbaiting, I'll be really disappointed. Since I'm unfortunately accustomed to being disappointed about this stuff, and especially since it's a mistake to trust Moffat (though I trust Gatiss more and it's too bad he gets left out of these discussions because Moffat takes up all the air in the room), I won't take it too hard.
posted by dialetheia at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2014 [5 favorites]


Also, getting into the "plausibility" of a lot of different ships ends up just sort of marginalizing relationships that are entirely plausible given their use of Standard Romantic Tropes but potentially less marketable because of their queerness, so the standard for "plausibility" ends up being way higher for a same-sex relationship than a hetero one, because of heteronormativity and whatever. So people are way more likely to say based exclusively on the "text" (the movie itself) of The Winter Soldier that Steve's likely to get together with Agent 13/Sharon Carter, even though about a third of that movie looks like a romcom about Sam and Steve.

This sort of stuff makes me uncomfortable because it parallels the speculation and scandal that surrounds queer male sexuality in real life.

I'm sure there are places that treat it like that, but the shipping stuff that I see really doesn't reflect any of the scandal that I see around speculation about real-world relationships; it's rarely about anything that's actually scandalous and more about that one scene where they (touch each other/take care of one another while sick/look like they are pining/etc) and omigosh, melt!!!!! Mileage may vary by fandom, and I would expect that this would be worse in real-person slash communities. I mean, there's stuff that's gossip-worthy and stuff that's squee-worthy, and while there is some overlap, I think most of it is in the "oh good those crazy kids finally got together" category than the "oh goodness did you SEE who STEVE brought home" category. Except without the creepy/grossness that comes from having that kind of conversation about real people. I love talking about fictional character relationships for this reason; it sort of uses up the impulse to gossip about people except you can't harm anyone directly (only indirectly if you end up reinforcing a bad cultural narrative), plus the people in question are manufactured to be significantly more interesting than real people.

Regarding a bunch of other comments: I also wish there were more characters who actually canonically identified as asexuality; there's a similar thing going on with asexuality as with bisexuality in that people who might be identified as such often don't get to explicitly say the name of that sexual orientation. Hell, while I'm wishing, I wish there were more poly folks on TV too (though I'd rather see asexual people).

And HOLY BALLS is Orphan Black great about this. I fucking love that show. It's so great. I love that Tony shows up and they're just like "oh there is a clone who is trans" and don't, like, do some trans 101 bullshit with the audience, they just expect people to figure out what "trans" means and fucking move on, and it's not that hard to infer.
posted by NoraReed at 10:29 AM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Holy shit this made so much more sense when I realized you meant BEVERLY Crusher.

I wouldn't be surprised to find the Jean-Luc/Wesley kind of shipping out there too....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:31 AM on September 11, 2014


I think shipping and slash goes south when it has an obsession with claiming "canon" (the fundamentalism of reading lit and media), "endgame," or that a fan interpretation must be made explicit. I think it works best as an alternate interpretation or commentary.

But I tend to crack ship things like Captain Jack, Captain Jack, Captain Jack, Tardis, Captain Jack, Captain Jack, Sonic Screwdriver, because an egocentric omnisexual, a time machine, and an omnipotent vibrating phallic object is, at a minimum the start of a dirty joke.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think when the day comes that you have a big detective show where the first half hour was this man at work, and he’s a maverick, and all the usual things… and then we went home and his boyfriend says, ‘Are you alright?’, [and] it was just a thing… then something would have genuinely changed.

You should watch Caprica.
posted by corb at 11:02 AM on September 11, 2014


But that would be the only reason to watch Caprica.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:09 AM on September 11, 2014


I liked Caprica :'(
posted by NoraReed at 11:23 AM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am not done with House of Cards yet, (S2E3) so I don't know if it comes up again, but I thought the issue of Frank's sexuality was interesting. It was probably the most human we've seen him when he was discussing his relationship with his high school friend. It never inspired me to ship him with anyone, mind you, because everyone on that show is completely reprehensible, or dead. Anyway, I'm hoping it DOES come up again. (No spoilers!)
posted by Biblio at 11:24 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


so often fall into the whole "one character is strong-jawed and not good at feelings, the other character is smaller and softer and does the emotional work" template

Huh. Not fanfic, but I'm struck by how this applies to Legend of Korra. Is there a label for this?
posted by weston at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2014


There probably is. For a second I considered finding it on TVTropes and linking you to it, but I sort of want to get something done today, and if I go on TVTropes I won't come out until I am desperately in need of sustenance. If you are braver, have freer time, or are less of an addictive reader, though, you might check it out-- there are trope indexes for romance and love tropes that will probably help you out.
posted by NoraReed at 11:42 AM on September 11, 2014


n=1, but in this gay guy's opinion it feels way more true to how the characters have been depicted in the series so far that Holmes is queer (maybe gay, maybe bisexual, maybe without much interest in sex period but probably not aromantic), but Watson is straight, as Blasdelb and jb mentioned. I just don't think it'd be realistic for Watson to be attracted to men and still not aware of it at this point in his life. He's a little inhibited, but he's not that repressed. It would feel like a huge pandering Gay Ex Machina for him to discover feelings for Holmes now.

With Holmes, though, there are a lot more hints that he's at least somewhat fluid. That scene where he demonstrates an intimate but slightly contemptuous knowledge of mainstream gay party culture is a big one for me - the specifics and the emotional valence where he delivers those lines make it sound like his experience is first hand, not academic. I could totally buy that he has some attraction to men and maybe gave the gay "scene" a brief try before he realized that it bored him just as much as pursuing women.

And while I'd love to see some more casually gay, stereotype-busting characters on TV somewhat a la Caprica, it'd also be great to have another positive representation of a male mixed-orientation friendship in mass media. I think it would be good for people to see that contrary to some of our cultural programming, a queer and a straight man can have a relationship that doesn't involve holding a torch or being a creep (even if there's attraction there!) but that does involve mutual respect and caring for each other deeply.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:14 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Slash is fan work which features two characters of the same gender in a romantic or sexual pairing. It only appears to be "against orientation lines" if you assume everyone is straight until proven otherwise. It's sexist to default to assuming someone named 'Dr. Rogers' is a man, and it's heterosexist to assume that every character is 100% straight until explicitly, to your satisfaction, proven otherwise.

In ST TOS everyone was straight - as with TNG (except for Data, presumably, though he was only hetero onscreen). It was a very queerless world (the closest we got was an alien who was female & hetero, when her society was primarily agender & homosexual - great episode, esp for the 90s - but that was all). It was a heterosexist time.

And yeah, my understanding of slash comes from the mid-to-late 90s, BBC I'm old. Back then, Kirk/Spock or Paris/Kim was slash, but BEVERLY Crusher/Picard or Buffy/Angel, Buffy/Spike were shipping. And the slash stories did angst on coming out. I realized that was part of what made them interesting character stories and really raised the stakes.

Now in a more queerful world with canon gay characters, the same tones as that slash would only be achieved if a lesbian found herself falling for a man, or a gay man for a woman. Captain Jack & anything is shipping, but lacks the angst of classic slash.
posted by jb at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I do get a queer but mostly asexual vibe off of Cumberbatch's Sherlock.
posted by jb at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know a ton about slash fic so sorry if this is way off base. It seems like while sure, Star Trek's society probably isn't nearly as homophobic as ours, our society is the one in which people are actually reading and writing slash, so it seems like that's necessarily going to inform how people have tended to imagine those characters dealing with their sexuality. If there is a decline in how much angst these stories impart to later-in-life revelations about orientation, that's probably mirrored changes in our own society that made those revelations more acceptable and less taboo. After all, there are lots of ways to raise the stakes in a romantic relationship beyond the "closet/coming out" aspects - triangles, existing relationships that the new feelings threaten to disrupt, being attracted to someone you hate, etc.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2014


jb: ...But what makes you think any/all of the ST characters were canonically straight? I'm only casually interested in ST, but as far as I can remember none of them identify themselves to be straight.
posted by wrabbit at 12:30 PM on September 11, 2014


I just don't think it'd be realistic for Watson to be attracted to men and still not aware of it at this point in his life. He's a little inhibited, but he's not that repressed. It would feel like a huge pandering Gay Ex Machina for him to discover feelings for Holmes now.

I agree with this premise, but I read Watson as aware of his feelings from the beginning but simply unwilling to act on or accept them, so it wouldn't be a stretch in my read of the show. He's so clearly attracted to Sherlock in the Study in Pink Angelo's scene, licking his lips and unable to repress a smile when Sherlock says he doesn't have a boyfriend - as the fandom saying goes, "when the world's most observant man says you're coming onto him.... you're probably coming onto him."

The clearest textual evidence for his feelings and awareness of them is in Hounds of Baskerville, where Watson repeatedly makes it clear that he's more comfortable with the way people see them and being thought of as gay. John doesn't even object this time when the gay innkeeping couple (why is everyone else in this show gay except John and Sherlock?) asks if his is "a snorer." The bit where he and Sherlock bicker, "can we not do this?" "what?" "the flipping your collar up so you look cool, with your ... cheekbones ... " is much, much further than they'd previously gone with respect to Watson expressing his attraction to Holmes aloud. Martin Freeman is a pretty fantastic actor, and if the look on his face in that scene isn't helpless attraction, I have no idea what else he could possibly be trying to express. I could point to another hundred facial-expression/too-long eye contact examples like this but I'll spare everyone.

Anyway, I agree that it would be a huge switch if Watson truly didn't have any feelings for Holmes until they decide to go that way, but my read of the show is that if you look for it, it's been there all along. "Want to see some more?" "Oh god, yes." Another key piece of evidence is Watson's clear and exaggerated jealousy of Irene and Janine. He counted how many texts Sherlock got from her - of course he's jealous. "You've texted him A LOT!" "You flirted. With Sherlock Holmes?" etc. For a straight dude with no romantic interest in Holmes, he sure does get extremely jealous in a hurry whenever a woman expresses interest in Sherlock.
posted by dialetheia at 12:42 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


(why is everyone else in this show gay except John and Sherlock?)

Maybe because the creators are interested in creating openly gay characters even though Sherlock and John will not be gay. They talk about the innkeepers on the commentary - originally it was a female character, but they decided on a gay couple instead.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:05 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's made clear that Sherlock continues to have a relationship with Irene Adler after the events of A Scandal in Belgravia, and even if we don't see them banging it is shown to have sensual and intimate overtones a bit beyond anything we ever see him have with a chap. His only explicit sexual relationship is a manipulative sham but it is a heterosexual one which he engaged in with enthusiasm and ability, and it's shown that he and his lover/dupe still think well of each other in the end. So I can't help thinking that the "he's probably gay to the extent that he wantsta make-a the sexy-time with anyone at all" notion isn't really held up by the evidence.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Counterpoint:

It's made clear that Sherlock continues to have a relationship with Irene Adler after the events of A Scandal in Belgravia, and even if we don't see them banging it is shown to have sensual and intimate overtones a bit beyond anything we ever see him have with a chap.

Irene is the closest he has to an intellectual equal. Recognizing that someone is (nearly) as smart and cunning as him is the closest Sherlock gets to sexual feelings. (IMHO)

His only explicit sexual relationship is a manipulative sham but it is a heterosexual one which he engaged in with expertly faked enthusiasm and ability, and it's shown that he and his lover/dupe still think well of each other in the end.

FTFY, etc.

Again, none of us can no for sure what is in the mind of the creators - this is just my interpretation. I think Sherlock is too superior and alien to to be sexually attracted to anyone, male or female.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Licenced Trek novelist David Mack on sexuality in trek.

"straight in canon" is one of those phrases that make my eyes twitch. At least in presentation, the principal male leads of ToS got multiple explicit straight signifiers over the run and movies while same-sex attraction is a matter of eyebrow interpretation. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence in looking at heteronormative texts. Characters don't say "I'm straight" because it goes without saying. (That's a descriptive statement of how fiction and sexuality is read, not prescriptive or ideal. It's true in coming out as well. Some people just can't put 2+2 together unless you explain it to them.)

Or rather absence of evidence is everything because the characters are nothing but a limited set of inferences beyond screen and page. K/S requires a subversive step beyond the text and constraints of '60s tv adventure. I don't think it's a big one but it is a retelling or reinterpretation beyond the sources of the time.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:25 PM on September 11, 2014


FTFY, etc.

When my point was that his gayness was surmise, injecting the same surmise all over again into my sentence isn't fixing it. I was talking about sexuality as depicted as opposed to inferred or imagined or even winky-winky hinted at by screenwriter teases. That was the entire point of my comment. (And PS, the FTFY thing is kinda deprecated as something we don't do around here anymore.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:56 PM on September 11, 2014


The point is, interpreting characters as straight by default because of heteronormativity, straight because they have heterosexual relationships, or straight because they read as straight to you is just that: an interpretation. It's not the truth any more than reading the characters as queer based on other textual cues is the truth. Both are one of many possible interpretations given the evidence, lack of evidence, cultural context, textual context, word of god, or whatever else you want to focus on in order to come to your interpretive conclusions.
posted by wrabbit at 2:05 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


I know - I regretted it immediately upon posting.

I interpreted your prior comment to mean that Sherlock can't really be asexual because, although the relationship with the bridesmaid was a manipulative sham, Sherlock nonetheless engaged in it "with enthusiasm and ability," which I took to mean that you were suggesting that Sherlock is at least capable of enjoying sex with another person (a woman, in this case).

I added "expertly faked" because I think any enthusiasm on Sherlock's part was put on, and that there's no evidence that Sherlock actually felt anything romantic or sexual towards the woman. He could therefore still be asexual, albeit someone who is capable of emulating what sexual attraction (and performance) looks like.

If I misinterpreted your comment, I apologize.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:07 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


The point is, interpreting characters as straight by default because of heteronormativity, straight because they have heterosexual relationships, or straight because they read as straight to you is just that: an interpretation. It's not the truth any more than reading the characters as queer based on other textual cues is the truth. Both are one of many possible interpretations given the evidence, lack of evidence, cultural context, textual context, word of god, or whatever else you want to focus on in order to come to your interpretive conclusions.

In the case of ST:TOS, however, interpreting characters as straight by default because of heteronormativity is a reasonable conclusion, given that it was a mainstream television show written in the 1960s and heteronormativity was much more of a thing then than it is now. I could be wrong, and Roddenberry could secretly have thought Sulu to be gay all along, but it's still a reasonable guess that the interpretation at the time was that they were all straight.

That's not to say you can't retcon queerness in there after the fact, but it's not unfair to assume that the writers of TOS (consciously or subconsciously) thought of the characters as straight (because it would have been highly unusual at the time for them to think anything else).
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:12 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I find I enjoy the series a whole lot more by not giving a crap about such questions.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:13 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's not actually important to me -- even in the limited sense that a given treatment of a fictional character is important to me -- that he be straight. In fact if he were shown capable of "faking" an apparently highly performant same-sex liaison to further some purpose that would seem to me to be equally in character. Though there is something quite scary about a guy who can not only perform against orientation, but so well as to be regarded by the other as not only a great bang but an insatiable one, it wouldn't be any scarier than some of his other traits. Again, just pointing out that everything remotely explicit seems to point in only one direction.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:14 PM on September 11, 2014


Though there is something quite scary about a guy who can not only perform against orientation, but so well as to be regarded by the other as not only a great bang but an insatiable one

They didn't do anything, though - you must be misinterpreting. That's why she says "Just once would have been nice" to him in the hospital. He literally slept in a drug den rather than come home to face her in bed. He wasn't insatiable, she lied to sell that story to the tabloids.
posted by dialetheia at 2:16 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ah. Missed that, or rather the meaning of it. Thanks. That actually invalidates about two-thirds of my point.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:17 PM on September 11, 2014


It's not important to me either, but a beanplating discussion is an excellent way to procrastinate at work. In my interpretation of the character, since Sherlock is basically asexual, but "the most observant man in the world", he should be equally able to emulate an opposite- or same-sex relationship, and either would be equally meaningless to him. So I wouldn't consider it "perform[ing] against orientation," except in the sense that any sexual behavior would be against his orientation.

Also, (on preview), dialetheia makes a great point. I'd forgotten that Sherlock didn't actually consummate that relationship.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 2:19 PM on September 11, 2014


Though there is something quite scary about a guy who can not only perform against orientation, but so well as to be regarded by the other as not only a great bang but an insatiable one,

But one could easily say that Sherlock is bisexual, right? So he's skillfully and enthusiastically faking with a woman, but could easily skillfully and enthusiastically fake with a man. (Which is where the "bisexual erasure" thing comes in - once we're parsing things for minor textual cues, there's no reason we can't argue that he's bi.)

I add that I don't have much of an opinion one way or the other except that I don't find Watson very convincing as a non-straight guy. If the show wants to devote a lot of screen time to further character development on these lines, that's fine, but....I dunno, he is just played as really straight IMO.
posted by Frowner at 2:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I will take one thing back -- if Watson's failed romances had not been hetero, there would have been no Oona Chaplin scenes. Less Oona equals more bad.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:23 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, Elementary is better by pure deduction.

Gosh.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:02 PM on September 11, 2014


I get a bit annoyed when "it's all interpretation" gets brought out as something meaningful. Sure, it is but not all interpretations are equal and a mess of ambiguous looks and translations from Vulcan don't really measure up to Kirk knocking boots with various women or Spock's pon far smolder with Chapel.

Some reframings are transformative and that should be owned as something different. Romeo and Juliet inhabit the Elizabethan stage. Tony and Maria inhabit post-war NYC, and get a better supporting cast and tragedy in the bargain, from the contrasts between veterans Doc and Shrank to the ambiguous Anybody's. Slash at its best is similarly transformative, which gets lost if you try to spin it as a plausible interpretation of what the original text "really" says.

And as I wrote above, I'm even more annoyed at how Trek, SuperWhoLock, and Teen Wolf are pushing weak "fanon" built on ambiguity when SFF is having a queer and multicultural renaissance. Watson's "I'm not gay" doesn't hold a candle to Rupetta, Ancillary Justice, two new fiction anthologies, (Ochs has a nonfiction anthology due out this year), three stories in the first Terra Nova collection, Best of All Possible Worlds, Kingdom of the Gods, and a mess of short fiction. Reading explicit and unambiguous characters like me has soured me on queering the subtext of ambiguous looks and phrases. In or out, yes or no. Trying to play the middle is half-assing it in this decade.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:35 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have to say I enjoy Sherlock; I enjoy the interplay between them because I have several pretty loving male friends. I'm fortunate to work in a profession where hetero men are not afraid to hug or express their fondness without any undue regard or speculation or most importantly, anyone caring at all.

Which is what I don't. It's always sex, sex, sex with you people. You're absorbed with it. Who cares? I've read and reread the Doyle stories over the years, was amused by the deep and abiding concern some people seemed to have (see link above) regarding their sexuality in the books, and I didn't care then. Be nice if we could get to the point where it doesn't matter instead of trying to make everything into some kind of gender war.

Like Sherlock. Don't like Elementary. People like different stuff as someone above pointed out. And I could give a rat's ass if any of them are gay. Who cares?
posted by umberto at 3:48 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


People who want to see themselves represented in fiction care. As we've stated. Repeatedly. In this thread.
posted by NoraReed at 3:50 PM on September 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


There is plenty of fiction out there that represents quite a lot of people, as has been stated, repeatedly, in this thread.

Sherlock Holmes as a character, and Watson, as far as I know, are in the public domain. Relying on Steven Moffat to represent anything of any complexity is a hopeless task.
posted by juiceCake at 3:56 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's always sex, sex, sex with you people

For the vast majority of the shippers I know, it's not about sex, it's about love (sure, non-platonic/erotic love, but not just sex). Not that this invalidates your point, but the whole thing might make a little more sense that way.
posted by dialetheia at 3:56 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think - and mind you, I am just thinking and could be wrong - it's in part because of how beloved Sherlock Holmes actually is. Like, it's no big deal really if someone adds a gay detective. Bigots aren't threatened by that. But if Sherlock Holmes, beloved hearthside companion, were gay, that would be transgressive and scary. So in some ways, making existing old stories have previously straight characters now gay feels like a strike back, perhaps, against people who want the gayness not to touch their precious.
posted by corb at 3:57 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


There is plenty of fiction out there that represents quite a lot of people, as has been stated, repeatedly, in this thread.

cool I'm sure we'll go find another well-budgeted, smart detective show with A-list actors, but queer characters

oh wait

there aren't any

because queer representation isn't that prevalent
posted by NoraReed at 4:06 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


Thus far, Elementary has done a great job of having a straight man and a straight woman live and work together with friendship, emotional intimacy, and negative sexual tension. Which was a pleasant surprise.

But in the world of Sherlock, Watson's relationship to Sherlock is given undue regard and speculation by a Greek chorus of third parties who go to the mantel every other episode, point to Chekhov's gun, and suggest that Watson's feelings look like homosexual love.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:45 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


cool I'm sure we'll go find another well-budgeted, smart detective show with A-list actors, but queer characters

Exactly this. Please point me toward the Emmy-caliber acting happening on your favorite queer detective show and I'll be all over it. Maybe they're doing it right in your favorite subgenres, but those aren't necessarily my favorite subgenres.

Besides, people have been speculating about their relationship practically since the stories were written, it's not a new phenomenon by any means. Here's an essay from noted Sherlockian and Baker Street Irregular Rex Stout in 1941 positing that "Watson was a Woman", pointing out the ambiguous nature of their relationship in the canon. This started with Arthur Conan Doyle, the fandom (and even the queer part of the fandom) has a really long history, and if anything it's just remarkable that there hasn't been a romantic adaptation already.

So in some ways, making existing old stories have previously straight characters now gay feels like a strike back, perhaps, against people who want the gayness not to touch their precious.

This is very astute, corb. What's hurtful about this attitude (not your stating of it, the attitude itself) is that I'm a lifelong Sherlock Holmes fan too, and he's as much mine as he is anyone else's. I read Hounds of the Baskervilles when I was 8 years old and I've been a huge nerd fan for life.

My queer romantic reading does not infringe on anyone else's straight platonic reading any more than their reading infringes on mine. Likewise, a single romantic adaptation is not going to ruin the character for anyone, any more than the many straight Sherlocks have ruined it for me.

I am a queer Sherlock Holmes nerd and I should be allowed to want a queer Sherlock adaptation without being blamed for the death of male platonic love or any other such nonsense.
posted by dialetheia at 5:05 PM on September 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


I can't resist pointing out four high-quality fanfictions which explore the domestic relationships of an asexual Sherlock and a heterosexual John and their deep love for each other.
No porn here, we're British.
posted by Jesse the K at 5:23 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Frowner: I think that while it's not, like, super terrible and immoral for women to get all hung up on fantasy gay relationships, it is worth asking oneself why this happens. Partly, of course, it's porn. But I think there's a lot of other stuff going on - I don't think it's just a dearth of female characters, I think it's about internalized stuff and how it's way easier for straight women to envision two men (one of whom is often, in fanfic, at least lightly feminized) having an egalitarian relationship than it is a man and a woman.

I ended up thinking a lot about this when I was big into Yaoi (Quatre/Trowa 5eva) and grappling with the rather profound misogyny expressed by a lot of Yaoi Fanfiction writers and fans - pretty much all of whom were women/girls. The misogyny was expressed in two ways. First of all by hatred of and marginalization of female characters, especially those seen as a "threat" to the desired pairings (in my own beloved Gundam Wing, Relena is usually hated for getting in the way of Heero and Duo as a couple). Second of all, it's played out on the bodies of the male characters, where one is given traditional "feminine" traits and the other traditional "masculine" ones, and then the relationship often becomes powerfully heteronormative, just heteronormative through the bodies of male characters.

One of the most interesting examples of the misogyny, backlash to it, and the effect presumed gender has on how we view characters is when a character who had been presented as male in a manga and the related anime was revealed as actually female in manga book, like, 18 out of 24. And I mean actually female as not transgender, but pressured to present male (the series also has a transgendered woman in it). A huge amount of people who loved this character when they assumed he was male suddenly hated him - the characteristics of cruelty and aloofness which had made him desirable as a man made him undesirable as a woman. A subset who had disliked this character when he was male as a sort of lazy villain (cold, manipulative, emotionally-torturous villains are not uncommon in manga) suddenly like her as breaking the usual gender assumptions. It was fascinating to watch all of the gendered assumptions suddenly get highlighted because of a canon reveal like that.

I posit that for a lot of girls and women who become invested in Yaoi and similar writing of male/male relationships are actually playing out a lot of our own internalized gender ambivalence and reactions to gendered violence and pressures on the bodies of the more important male characters. The focus in particular on cruel male characters, the wanting to fix them on the part of male heroes, etc... is all playing out the pressures that a "good woman" can fix the man she falls in love with in a safer way than playing out the same dynamic in male/female pairings might (though those exist as well). In addition, the portrayal of male heroes with extreme "feminine" characteristics is a way of making those characteristics more important and good because they are played out through a male figure. It also, both deliberately and inadvertently, leverages on both misogyny and homophobia in ways which can become extremely ugly.

I know I'm deeply ambivalent about my own attraction to "dark" male figures and I've played that out in various ways in various forms of fiction.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:24 PM on September 11, 2014 [11 favorites]


But if Sherlock Holmes, beloved hearthside companion, were gay, that would be transgressive and scary.

....Unless he always has been....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


I couldn't imagine living in the TV world where every single person I spend time with had to be treated as a potential bed-mate.

But if you want an example of a non-romantic/sexual relationship in mainstream fiction that no one assumes is actually romantic/sexual, there are, as far as I can tell, none. Zero. Every relationship (same sex or otherwise) is shipped by somebody.
So that tells me that it's impossible in our culture to have a relationship that won't be assumed by some people to be romantic or sexual. There can never, ever be a definitively non-romantic/sexual relationship, same-sex or otherwise. And that kind of sucks.


Seconded to all of that. Honestly, it gets old for me when everything and everyone boils down to Teh Fuckinz all the time. I don't care whose gender/sexual orientation/whatever (this crap is even worse with male/female partnerships that haven't boned yet), but it's the culture or hormones saying that you can't be close without wanting to do a little dick-slipping. But I'm the sort who hoped that say, Brennan and Booth wouldn't bang (and how they handled that sucked) for a nice change.

I think Sherlock is too superior and alien to to be sexually attracted to anyone, male or female.

This gets my vote as well. Look, if I thought Sherlock was a guy with a libido and with any remote idea of how to handle feelings/relationships, I'd say go to it with the shipping. But I think the character is written, intended, and mostly performed to be superior and alien and not get our romantic ways. It's kind of funny to see how Sherlock has feelings for a dude that he can't handle so well, but I don't think it's all that sexual-ish. They have close feelings for two remote guys, but I just kinda doubt those two would ever start slipping dicks with each other because Sherlock can't really handle that level of physicality/emotion.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:21 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


Someday I will write my epic musical production about a Sherlock Holmes convention divided by the warring factions of sneering aromantic book-traditionalists VS fervent slasher fanworkers, Sharks VS Jets style, until the looming threat of a Michael Bay Holmes-adaptation approaches and all fans are united in their horror. THE END.

Pulitzers! Tony Awards! Millions of kudos on AO3! Glory will be mine!
posted by nicebookrack at 9:06 PM on September 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


I would totally give $5 to a kickstarter campaign for that musical
posted by NoraReed at 9:13 PM on September 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's always sex, sex, sex with you people. ... Be nice if we could get to the point where it doesn't matter instead of trying to make everything into some kind of gender war.

Queer people have a pretty long history of having, by necessity, to be covert about their sexuality for at least part of their lives. We are used to having to read between the lines to find each other, whether that's in real life, in art, or in pop culture.

I can understand if this is not something you're personally interested in, of course. But if it makes you uncomfortable, as indeed it seems to, that's hardly a moral directive for anyone else.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:20 PM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would watch your musical AND nominate it for Yuletide.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:26 PM on September 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


jb: ...But what makes you think any/all of the ST characters were canonically straight? I'm only casually interested in ST, but as far as I can remember none of them identify themselves to be straight.

They were consistently only shown to have sexual/romantic feelings towards members of the opposite sex. Even the android, who you think would have no preference, only ever was shown as sexual with someone of the opposite gender of the one he was made in imitation of.

At one point, the best chemistry ever in a Star Trek series was between Harry Kim & Tom Paris; apparently the episode "The Chute" pretty well spawned the pairing in fan fiction, based on the great chemistry. Paris was then paired off with a female character he had little to no chemistry with.

Am I heterosexist? or were the tv shows I was watching? I never assumed all the characters on Buffy or Xena were straight, because non-hetero attraction was a possibility in those universes - and trust me, I was desperate for queer media in the 80s and early 90s. I used to watch hours of "Are you being served?" just for the wonderfully fey Mr Humphries.
posted by jb at 10:24 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


They were consistently only shown to have sexual/romantic feelings towards members of the opposite sex.

Well, there was that one episode where Riker feel in love with a hermaphrodite.

But she was a lady hermaphrodite (there was a ham-handed allegory about transgenderism), so I guess that proves your point.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:22 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's literally impossible for modern men to imagine non-romantic love

That is so sad. And true. (in the aggregate, on an individual level, I'm finding it's less and less true for me as I get older)
posted by DigDoug at 8:19 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Queer people have a pretty long history of having, by necessity, to be covert about their sexuality for at least part of their lives.

To be fair, assexual people do to--particularly among boys, virgin-shaming is a huge and very painful part of socialization.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:17 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


A side note on the "but Elementary!" discussion: yes, it portrays Sherlock and Joan as platonic. But it did instead ship Joan and Mycroft.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I agree that it's perfectly reasonable to read ST characters as straight due to their depiction, but by that logic, it's also perfectly reasonable to assume not a single one of them ever washes their hair, talks to their grandparents, gets an erection, or does paperwork. There's a thin line between "I read this character as straight due to X, Y, Z," and "This character is straight." The way the latter presents a (however convincing) interpretation as the truth and implicitly denies the validity of queer interpretations just bothers me.

I've been thinking about Dumbledore... Can you imagine the reaction if a bunch of fans had got together to publicly claim that they read Dumbledore to be queer? There would have been an outcry, not only from the usual save-the-children conservatives, but from all kinds of people who would point out that he's not explicitly flagged as queer, that he's not depicted as being in queer relationships, that there's no indication that queer sexuality even exists in the HP universe, et cetera. Probably all of the same stuff we're going through here. It took JK Rowling declaring him to be so for most people to see and accept it, but according to her and fans who had read him to be queer already, it was already always a potential for his character.
posted by wrabbit at 9:57 AM on September 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you're assuming that all characters on a show like Star Trek are straight because none of them are shown to be queer (let's assume shows with quite large casts that obviously aspire to represent wide swathes of humanity) then you're almost forced to assume that the Star Trek future has bred out homosexuality, right? Based on simple percentages, you'd expect a certain number of ST characters to be non-straight.

I'd argue that in a human world universal straightness requires far more explicit justification than the presence of queer people, because you have to assume that something existing among actual humans for as long as we have records has suddenly stopped existing in Harry Potter or Star Trek or wherever. You'd have to assume, for instance, that there had been some kind of genetic tampering or pervasive mental conditioning, or a moment in the Wizarding Wars when someone cast a very large and powerful spell....and that these things just aren't spoken about. Which would make a great, creepy plot point - the Star Trek universe is only possible because [various groups] have been bred out because they are deemed immoral or useless, or there's a secret Straightness Police that is so secret and so effective that everyone is afraid to talk about them, etc.
posted by Frowner at 10:05 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


But it did instead ship Joan and Mycroft.

Such a strange little decision. Nothing about Joan's character suggests she'd be attracted to a greasy dilettante, and the actors have such anti-chemistry together that they seem to repel each other in every scene. I suspect their relationship is mostly to show the audience that Sherlock and Watson are never, ever, ever, ever getting together.

Like, ever.
posted by Georgina at 10:24 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


it's literally impossible for modern men to imagine non-romantic love

It's worth pointing out that this purported drop in male platonic expression is caused by of homophobia and sexism leading to increased sensitivity to looking gay or feminine ("no homo"), not due to queer shipping ruining stories like Sherlock Holmes. That's obvious, right?
posted by dialetheia at 10:54 AM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


>I posit that for a lot of girls and women who become invested in Yaoi and similar writing of male/male relationships are actually playing out a lot of our own internalized gender ambivalence and reactions to gendered violence and pressures on the bodies of the more important male characters.

Deoridhe, I agree, and it's a very complicated issue because I think that often (at least in English-language TV, which is what I'm pretty much obsessive about), female characters are so commonly marginalized or erased that the storylines or themes that are disproportionately relateable or common for women are given to male characters.

I don't think it's *just* that fans are focusing in stories/themes/situations that are salient and relatable to women but erasing female characters from those stories/themes/situations, I think that the shows themselves are doing that, too.

As a viewer, on the one hand, I'm happy to see those relatable/salient/interesting things explored, and if they're explored using a male character who just happens to be played by a gorgeous man, fine with me! But on the other hand, it does get me down that a lot of the time it seems like *either* there are female characters/actresses on-screen *or* stories/themes/situations really salient to women and girls get explored in depth on-screen, but that both those things never seem to happen at once.

This comes up for me in basically every show I get really into (off the top of my head, Vampire Diaries and Hannibal both made me feel like this), and I always feel really torn, because I both love the (male) characters who I feel have so much depth and are being used by the show to explore so many interesting and important things, and wouldn't ever wish them away, but I also end up really frustrated that the characters who are the most relatable and connect-able and loveable for me, a woman, and apparently for many/most of the fans for any given show, are pretty much always male. (And not just male, but nearly always white, straight males).

I think that a lot of fanfic writers are amazingly good at intuiting how a show works and even how shows-in-general work, and they echo that understanding in their writing. When lots and lots of those writers erase female characters in order to more thoroughly explore, basically, the parts of the show they think are most emotionally powerful and important, I think that they're often just doing what the show does and what shows in general do. But since fanfic writers and fans in general don't have the credibility of actually producing the show, and also are in the low-status position of putting a lot of unpaid effort and work out there, in a largely for-women/girls, by-women/girls environment, and also are usually less schooled and less apt and less supported in terms of their actual writing than the professionals who produce/write the shows are, they get raked over the coals for it in a way that the show's producers and writers don't.
posted by rue72 at 11:22 AM on September 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


A side note on the "but Elementary!" discussion: Irene creates Joan Watson fanart. She definitely doesn't ship Mycroft/Joan.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:37 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm glad someone pointed me back to this discussion.

I tend to see BBC Sherlock as tending toward asexuality but he and Watson are clearly romantically attracted. As a viewer (and occasional fanfic reader in that fandom), I find that space infinitely more interesting than locking romantic attraction to sexual interest. I tend to share some of the concern about and/or disinterest in reification of gender (or butch/femme) norms in slash when it's those liminal spaces where gender doesn't dictate how the relationship "ought" to go that interest me in fic. It's interesting to me to see that kind of queering of relationships played out as series canon in general but particularly for the BBC Sherlock adaptation.
posted by immlass at 2:48 PM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you're assuming that all characters on a show like Star Trek are straight because none of them are shown to be queer (let's assume shows with quite large casts that obviously aspire to represent wide swathes of humanity) then you're almost forced to assume that the Star Trek future has bred out homosexuality, right? Based on simple percentages, you'd expect a certain number of ST characters to be non-straight.

No, but we're not talking about a real world. We're talking about a fictional creation. In that fictional creation, all of the women were shown to love wearing heavy amounts of makeup, even by tv standards, and even though they made the occasional nod towards "choice". None of the regular characters on TOS or TNG were shown to have romantic or sexual feelings towards people of the same sex/gender. They were on DS9, or at least Dax seemed to be bisexual/pansexual.

The lack of queer content did not go unlamented; fans were begging for a little bit of reality in the fictional 24th century. But I'm not straight-washing the characters as they were shown when I say that they were presented as straight (or asexual, in the case of Data - but even then, all his sexual or romantic exploration is with women).
posted by jb at 7:47 PM on September 12, 2014


back on the slash thing: now, I haven't read THAT much, but I never noticed any top/bottom, uke/seme dichotomy in Star Trek slash. Mostly depicted versatile relationships based off either deep friendships or the "I can't stand you, but I'm inexplicably drawn to you" classic romance trope.
posted by jb at 7:55 PM on September 12, 2014


wrabbit: I agree that it's perfectly reasonable to read ST characters as straight due to their depiction, but by that logic, it's also perfectly reasonable to assume not a single one of them ever washes their hair, talks to their grandparents, gets an erection, or does paperwork.

Of course, because characters are plot devices, not people. They are as they appear on the page or screen, and going very far beyond that is wishful thinking on the part of the audience.

It's not that queer interpretations are invalid. It's that James T. Kirk, Dean, Stiles, BBC Watson, and even Dumbledore are not in the same league as Sieh, Bel Thorne, Kenya Rosewater, Chrysoberyl, Sky Silvestrie, Hath rem ir Estraven, etc, etc, whose sexuality made it openly to the page or screen. And I get a bit tired of being told that I'm "represented" through "interpretation" by texts that either don't deal with the subject at all, or do so in even fewer words than Alexandre Dumas used to describe his lesbian lovers over 160 years ago.

K/S involves a fair bit of nurturing roses from something that, in terms of sexual orientation, is manure. Doing so is a subversive act, and I have little patience for apologia that Roddenbery or Berman were really hidden Delaneys giving us carefully coded opportunities.

Frowner: I'd argue that in a human world universal straightness requires far more explicit justification than the presence of queer people, because you have to assume that something existing among actual humans for as long as we have records has suddenly stopped existing in Harry Potter or Star Trek or wherever.

Or just that the writers demonstrate the same biases as over 90% of English-language fiction and drama. Just as characters are plot devices, not people; settings are plot devices, not places. The Hogwarts and the Federation reflect the kinds of diversity that the creators are willing to stick their neck out for.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:13 PM on September 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


And I get a bit tired of being told that I'm "represented" through "interpretation" by texts that either don't deal with the subject at all...

Well, that's not what I've been trying to say at all, if that's what you've been thinking. I've been trying to argue that queer readings of 'presumed straight' characters are valid readings, not that queer reading is at all a substitute for explicit representation. I hope my other comments in this thread make it clear that I'm very hopeful for an explicitly queer Holmes and believe it is important as a queer representation issue.
posted by wrabbit at 8:47 PM on September 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


NoraReed: "I'm sure there are places that treat it like that, but the shipping stuff that I see really doesn't reflect any of the scandal that I see around speculation about real-world relationships; it's rarely about anything that's actually scandalous and more about that one scene where they (touch each other/take care of one another while sick/look like they are pining/etc) and omigosh, melt!!!!! Mileage may vary by fandom, and I would expect that this would be worse in real-person slash communities. I mean, there's stuff that's gossip-worthy and stuff that's squee-worthy, and while there is some overlap, I think most of it is in the "oh good those crazy kids finally got together" category than the "oh goodness did you SEE who STEVE brought home" category. Except without the creepy/grossness that comes from having that kind of conversation about real people. I love talking about fictional character relationships for this reason; it sort of uses up the impulse to gossip about people except you can't harm anyone directly (only indirectly if you end up reinforcing a bad cultural narrative), plus the people in question are manufactured to be significantly more interesting than real people."

Umm, I didn't mean to suggest anyone would be homophobic for enjoying Sherlock or writing fan fiction. It's wonderful that people use this form to explore their own feelings about gender and sexuality. It makes me wish I understood it better.
posted by yaymukund at 10:18 PM on September 12, 2014


dialetheia wrote:

"The bit where he and Sherlock bicker, "can we not do this?" "what?" "the flipping your collar up so you look cool, with your ... cheekbones ... " is much, much further than they'd previously gone with respect to Watson expressing his attraction to Holmes aloud. Martin Freeman is a pretty fantastic actor, and if the look on his face in that scene isn't helpless attraction, I have no idea what else he could possibly be trying to express. I could point to another hundred facial-expression/too-long eye contact examples like this but I'll spare everyone."

Yes - this! This was the dialog and interaction that convinced me that, in this particular incarnation of the famous duo, Watson was crushing on Sherlock, because I could not believe that one straight man would single out cheekbones (in an admiring way) to another straight man. Maybe I'm 100% wrong but I was convinced that either the writers were trolling their fanbase, or trying to throw them a bone for an illicit *squee* type thrill.

I mean, Watson is practically screaming, 'OH GOD THOSE CHEEKBONES - SO GORGE - I WANT TO DIE!"
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:59 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


cool I'm sure we'll go find another well-budgeted, smart detective show with A-list actors, but queer characters

oh wait

there aren't any

because queer representation isn't that prevalent


I guess the D-list writer is not a factor in your assessment. I'm suprised that anyone is looking to Moffat to represent anything. He just represents mediocrity. He's great at that.

He's definitely not the man to put forth any sort of complex ideas or socially relevant commentary. Why look at only the actors and budget but entirely forget the fact that the showrunner is an incompetent buffoon?

Then again I'm not the sort that looks to mainstream horrible drama to represent anything. I expect representation from competent writers. So I understand your point. You won't see what you want to see. See The Wire for example for gay characters, straight characters, devious characters, moral characters, etc. Sherlock isn't close to the same league as any television show that is at all decent.

I am a queer Sherlock Holmes nerd and I should be allowed to want a queer Sherlock adaptation without being blamed for the death of male platonic love or any other such nonsense.

No one is saying you're not allowed to. Just as you're not saying none of us are not allowed to want an asexual Holmes without being blamed for the death of male platonic love or any other such nonsense.

it's literally impossible for modern men to imagine non-romantic love

No it's not.
posted by juiceCake at 6:50 AM on October 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


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