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Gender and the Modern Sherlock Holmes: Essays on Film and Television Adaptations Since 2009

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From his 1887 literary debut to his many film and television adaptations, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes has lost none of his appeal. Besides Holmes himself, no character in Conan Doyle's stories proves as interesting as the astute detective's constant companion, Dr. Watson, who somehow seems both superfluous and essential. While Conan Doyle does not depict Holme From his 1887 literary debut to his many film and television adaptations, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes has lost none of his appeal. Besides Holmes himself, no character in Conan Doyle's stories proves as interesting as the astute detective's constant companion, Dr. Watson, who somehow seems both superfluous and essential. While Conan Doyle does not depict Holmes and Watson as equals, he avoids presenting Watson as incompetent, as he was made to appear on screen for decades. A variety of reimagined Holmeses and Watsons in recent years have depicted their relationship as more nuanced and complementary. Focusing on the Guy Ritchie films, the BBC's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary, this collection of new essays explores the ideas and implications behind these adaptations.


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From his 1887 literary debut to his many film and television adaptations, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes has lost none of his appeal. Besides Holmes himself, no character in Conan Doyle's stories proves as interesting as the astute detective's constant companion, Dr. Watson, who somehow seems both superfluous and essential. While Conan Doyle does not depict Holme From his 1887 literary debut to his many film and television adaptations, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes has lost none of his appeal. Besides Holmes himself, no character in Conan Doyle's stories proves as interesting as the astute detective's constant companion, Dr. Watson, who somehow seems both superfluous and essential. While Conan Doyle does not depict Holmes and Watson as equals, he avoids presenting Watson as incompetent, as he was made to appear on screen for decades. A variety of reimagined Holmeses and Watsons in recent years have depicted their relationship as more nuanced and complementary. Focusing on the Guy Ritchie films, the BBC's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary, this collection of new essays explores the ideas and implications behind these adaptations.

26 review for Gender and the Modern Sherlock Holmes: Essays on Film and Television Adaptations Since 2009

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell

    If you've ever thought, "Hm, I'd like to read seven essays about how Irene Adler is naked in BBC Sherlock's 'A Scandal in Belgravia,'" then this might be a book for you. I read this book both out of a personal interest in Sherlock Holmes as well as the likelihood that I will be doing a thesis project on a parallel course later this year. Overall, I was a little disappointed by the overall focus on BBC Sherlock in the essays (CBS's Elementary and the RDJ/Jude Law films are also subjects), but the If you've ever thought, "Hm, I'd like to read seven essays about how Irene Adler is naked in BBC Sherlock's 'A Scandal in Belgravia,'" then this might be a book for you. I read this book both out of a personal interest in Sherlock Holmes as well as the likelihood that I will be doing a thesis project on a parallel course later this year. Overall, I was a little disappointed by the overall focus on BBC Sherlock in the essays (CBS's Elementary and the RDJ/Jude Law films are also subjects), but the essays that were good were very good indeed. I would also note that this book has some of the sweet naïveté that comes from being a few years out of date (Molly Hooper might become Sherlock's equal and loving partner? Mary Morstan's role in the family will be explored in many seasons to come? How adorable). But perhaps such ideas made sense in more innocent times. Since I am familiar with all three franchises, I'm going to comment on how the book covers each iteration as a whole, and then highlight a few of my favorite essays (and/or ones that I might find useful in said future thesis project). BBC Sherlock As I indicated at the beginning of this review, "A Scandal in Belgravia" and, indeed, the character of Irene Adler as a whole was a major focus of this book. At least seven or eight of the thirteen essays spend a little to the entire time dissecting the events of that episode. Several essays engage with how these adaptations compare with ACD's original works. A few also work with the queer undertones of the story. Characters such as Moriarty, Mary Morstan, Mrs. Hudson, and Molly Hooper get some attention (in that descending order). (And honestly, I'm a little sad that Mary and Molly didn't get more attention. Especially considering that they are in more episodes than Irene.) It will be a surprise to no one that there are many gender issues to explore in "A Scandal in Belgravia." Even though each essay had a nuanced subject to explore, each one seemed to start with a similar summary and rely on similar details throughout. It got to be redundant. "I Am Sherlocked: Adapting Victorian Gender and Sexuality in 'A Scandal in Belgravia'" by Lindsay Katzir was the most interesting Irene essay for me. Katzir responds to Moffat's claim that the original ACD story, "A Scandal in Bohemia," was anti-feminist, and defends the canonical Irene Adler to a modern audience. Furthermore, even though the modern-day adaptation might appear to be subversive regarding queerness/sexuality, ultimately the gayness is a distraction that "hides" the affirmation of hetero-romance in the show. (Also, this essay made sense of Irene's statement that she is gay, which I have always found very confusing considering her behavior in that episode.) "The Veneration of Violation in Sherlock" by Zea Miller spent time exploring how misogyny and gender-based violence appear in the show. Not only was it refreshing subject material, but it also brought to light compelling evidence suggesting that Sherlock spends a lot of time enforcing rape culture. Often through the character of Sherlock Holmes himself. Also, there were statistics, which I like. Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes Films There are two (2) essays that focus exclusively on the RDJ films, although it is often brought up in the way that scholars bring up similar works to show that they are aware of them but that they don't want to talk about them. They were interesting, yes, but the limited material did not cover expansive ground. Indeed, these essays were mostly about masculinity and queercoding (something that I felt the Sherlock section could have benefitted more from). That said, the issues of men and gender meant that there was not much in the way of exploring femininity or Mary Morstan (Irene Adler did show up a few times with significant discussion). (But still. Irene isn't the only woman out there, even if she is "the" woman.) "A Questionable Bromance: Queer Subtext, Fan Service, and the Dangers of Queerbaiting in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes and A Game of Shadows" by Hannah Mueller blew my mind a little bit. Specifically, she discusses how the films advertise a bromance and deliver on a lot of queer subtext without ever making Holmes and Watson canonically gay. This benefits the films' producers because then you get a fan base to get hyped about these characters, write slash fan fiction, etcetera—and all without having crafted good representation or, indeed, providing anyreal representation at all. How insidious is that, man? Elementary (Season 1 Spoilers ahead) Okay, perhaps these essays were the real reason I read the book. Elementary is, after all, my favorite show! And there were three (3) essays about it, which is not a lot, but whatever. Most of the content matter revolved specifically around Joan Watson and Moriarty, which makes sense. Gender-bending can be interesting to folks. My real disappointment was that, even though the third season was out when this book was published, Kitty Winter gets little more than lip service in the essays. Considering that her story deals with sexual assault/gender violence, I think her character deserved some exploration—especially in a book of this nature. But, I get it. It was pretty shocking for a woman to be a doctor back in 2015. "The Woman and The Napoleon of Crime: Moriarty, Adler, Elementary" by Joseph S. Walker was not the first essay to address the conflation of Irene Adler with Moriarty on the show, but he did it in an interesting way. Where many of the previous Adler essays made offhand comments about how nobody portrays Irene Adler correctly, and "look how Adler is ruined when you make her a villain/actually Moriarty," Walker goes the opposite direction. His question is, "How does Moriarty change as a character when she becomes Irene Adler?" And while there are some legitimate reasons to be frustrated with all the failed Irene Adlers over the last nine years, it's definitely cool to see a new dimension in Sherlock's nemesis. Where Irene/Moriarty represents the seductive possibility of reasserting [Sherlock's] license to act autonomously, Watson represents his stabilizing commitment to a world of collaboration, responsibility, and convention (132). Also, I don't think anyone else has summarized so well why I love this show. "Joan Watson: Mascot, Companion, and Investigator" by Lucy Baker was also intriguing. I liked that it explored Joan's race, for one thing—I don't believe any other essay spent as much time (and it wasn't even a lot of time) thinking about race, which is disappointing. (Where my intersectional feminists at???) Ultimately, it explored how the story grows and changes by making Watson a woman, and while I might have preferred a more expanded version, I was still pleased. Also, there was some good discussion of the sexual tension between Jamie and Joan, which nobody else thought to mention, either. This essay was just picking up after everybody, really. TL;DR: Overall, I would recommend this book to people who either really love or really hate "A Scandal in Belgravia." There was a lot of important stuff to think about with this book, and I may even be able to use a few essays in my thesis project. But, at the same time, I don't think this material is what I was personally looking for.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marzy

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mona

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fred

  6. 4 out of 5

    Annette

  7. 5 out of 5

    L.A. Adolf

  8. 5 out of 5

    Quidling

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maike

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anika

  12. 4 out of 5

    H

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rositsa

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Bradshaw

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ea

  16. 4 out of 5

    L.A. Fields

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hunting Violets

  18. 5 out of 5

    Claire Sheeres

  19. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

  20. 4 out of 5

    Saskia

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vanii EL

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aristocratisms

  23. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Bender

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Rohdenburg

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cerina witha Sea

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