Dear BBC Sherlock

Dear BBC Sherlock,

I miss you.

Let me be clear, I don’t want you back. I don’t miss who you are–I miss who you were. In the beginning, you were a quirky show about an awkward sadboy and his grumpy hobbit boyfriend. You had compelling mysteries, beautiful cinematography, and characters I loved as if I knew them personally. All my friends told me how great you were, and they weren’t wrong. You were wonderful, and I fell in love with you.

And I miss who I was when I was your fan. You gave me something to be excited about–to believe in. You made me feel smart for liking you. You made me feel represented. I thought you understood me. I thought you were going to show everyone that people like me can have love and acceptance and success. I could imagine the happy ending you were going to give me.

Then you changed.

I don’t know. Maybe you were like this all along. Maybe I was just excusing all your many, MANY flaws. Maybe I couldn’t see the trees for the forest. But somewhere along the way…something broke between us.

You weren’t happy anymore. You were focusing on all the negative things. And anything that was happy, you felt you had to make negative. You weren’t content to just solve mysteries anymore. Everything had to be part of a big over-arcing plot that just came crashing down on itself. You fixated on all the wrong things. It was never about the drama, the intrigue, the plot twists. You just stopped caring. You just got bored. So you gave up.

I don’t miss that show. I don’t miss the arrogance, the cynicism, the way you mocked your fans like you thought they’d stay with you, no matter how you mistreated them. Well I didn’t, did I? I don’t write fic for you anymore, I don’t make art, I don’t reblog pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch’s stupid face to my Tumblr. I got you out of my life for a good reason. You weren’t good for me. You weren’t good to me. You were as abusive to me as all your characters are to each other.

I miss you, Sherlock. But I would never, ever watch another series of you, even if you were the last show on Netflix. ~TRL

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Irene Adler: Lost In Translation

To modern filmmakers, she is always the love interest. I have seldom seen them adapt her in any other way. In their eyes she is an archetypal femme fatale who is smart, and usually nefarious, but mostly sexy, and always powerless to Sherlock Holmes’s superior brain and also because she’s feemail, and as we all know, feemails are weak and can’t help but fall in love with the hero.

And yet there is but one woman to them, and that woman is the eternal Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable, but always sexy, memory.

“A Scandal In Bohemia” was the very first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read. She’s immediately introduced as the woman (The Woman) who utterly defeats Sherlock Holmes, the only one he respects and sees as an equal. As a burgeoning young feminist (and lesbian), I was so excited about this powerful woman who managed to gain the respect of Sherlock Holmes of all people.

I was subsequently disappointed with her many adaptations…

The Story

Irene Adler was an opera singer who has an affair with the King of Bohemia. They apparently had a compromising photo taken together, because all these years later, when the King is getting married to some other lady of nobility, Adler informs him that she has the photo of them, and that she will absolutely send it to his future in-laws. It’s not really clear why she wants to ruin the King’s reputation. It’s clearly not out of jealousy because she doesn’t care about the King. She doesn’t want money. She just wants the truth about the King to be known for what he really is.

This leads the King to hire Sherlock Holmes to steal the photo from her, since all his other attempts to get the photo have failed. Holmes manages to trick Adler into revealing where the photograph is hidden, but when he goes back for it, she and the photograph are gone, because she’s outsmarted Holmes. She’s no longer interested in ruining the King because she’s in love and she and her new husband have run off to America together. The end.

Historical Context

Arthur Conan Doyle was pretty liberal for a white, middle class man of the Victorian Age. He was friendly with Oscar Wilde and didn’t believe that homosexuality was deviance, but rather like a mental illness (and that was actually a progressive point of view for that time); he wrote a story about an interracial relationship (that produced a biracial child) in one of his stories–and it was actually sympathetic to the white woman who loved a black man; and for the most part he seemed to respect women as people. Doyle is like Star Trek: The Original Series–definitely suffers from the social prejudices and attitudes of the time, but still forward thinking in historical context.

It’s important to note that this is a story about the sexism of the Victorian age. The only two reoccurring women in the Holmes serial is Holmes’s landlady and Watson’s wife (or possibly wives because Doyle was shit at continuity). Women in Victorian literature didn’t have much agency. Even in Jane Austen novels, the female protagonists’ arcs often revolved around finding a husband. This is why Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play A Doll’s House was such a scandalous piece of literature. The main character, Nora, forges her father’s name in order to borrow money (because women weren’t allowed to own property or take out loans), and ends up leaving her shitty husband at the end. In most places, the play was banned from being performed at the time. Compare characterless homebodies like Mrs. Watson or Mrs. Hudson/Turner to a strong female character like Irene Adler, who has her own career, has affairs out of wedlock, and never once loses her power to a man. She outsmarts the smartest man in London, and leaves behind a letter that essentially says, “Suck it, Your Majesty, I do what I want.”

But why is this a feminist narrative? Well, I’ll explain, but first I have to explain the concept of…

The Unreliable Narrator

What’s important to remember as that this story is framed as a personal account from Watson, who doesn’t know what really happened between Adler and the King apart from the King’s own telling of it. We’ve already established Watson as an unreliable narrator (he can’t even remember if he’s married half the time), and so what we’re really getting is a tenuous third-hand account of the story of Irene Adler and her affair with the King. We never hear Adler’s side of it, so we have only the King’s point of view to go on–and of course that view is going to be biased toward the King. “Boo hoo, I’m just trying to get married for political gains and that mean old slut Irene Adler is trying to ruin it for me.”

When you really get down to examining the narrative beyond Watson and the King’s opinion of it, Irene Adler is the antagonist of SCAN–but not the villain. This is one of the rare instances where Holmes finds himself on the side of wrong. The King is trying to cover up a past affair before he marries somebody else so he doesn’t look bad, and Adler is trying to expose a powerful man as the jerkass he really is before he becomes even more powerful by marrying someone we get the sense he really doesn’t care about or love.

Why It’s About Sexism

At the beginning, Watson explains that Holmes calls Adler The Woman because she’s apparently the only female opponent that’s ever bested him. Before Adler, Holmes was actually pretty chauvinistic toward the intellect of women, and it isn’t until Adler knocks him down a sexist peg that Holmes realizes the error of both the King’s and his own ways. Holmes is humbled by the experience and realizes that she’s the real hero, and he admires her for her cleverness. He keeps her photo as a means of reminding him not be such a sexist dick.

For some reason, this always gets mistranslated two ways: 1) a smart, sexually liberated woman is inherently villainous, thus we get adaptions like Guy Ritchie’s movies and BBC Sherlock where Adler ends up working for bad guys (and it’s almost always Moriarty). Notice that she is almost never the one in charge; she’s always Moriarty’s stooge. Because God forbid a woman just be clever and do things on her own. And 2), a man can’t POSSIBLY admire a woman without wanting to have sex with her. Irene Adler spoke to Sherlock Holmes maybe twice in canon, and once was to ask him to be a witness to her wedding—to someone else! They were never interested in each other, and yet, in nearly every adaptation, she’s Holmes’s paramour.

Also, you’ll notice that Adler is always portrayed as very, very smart, but NEVER smarter than Holmes. She’s usually a damsel Holmes has to save. Because again, nothing is more threatening to a man than a woman who doesn’t need him. It drives me absolutely insane that modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes take one of the few proto-feminist characters of Victorian literature and diminish her into a sexy bad girl. I guess they just didn’t get the point of the story. Either that or modern filmmakers are scared of the gay subtext in Holmes and Watson’s friendship and decided to disparage that way of thinking by giving Holmes a girlfriend and Adler was the obvious choice she’s feemail and on Holmes’s level. Of course, we can’t have her be smarter than him! That would be like saying that men aren’t the best! Because women always have to be less good than men and fall in love with them and hey wouldn’t it be great if she were a dominatrix who prances around naked and also punches people but needs to be rescued by Sherlock Holmes because he’s just soooooooo irresistable even though you said you were a fucking lesbian FUCK YOU STEVEN MOFFAT-

What was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

And when they speak of Irene Adler, it is always under the dishonorable title…of Sherlock Holmes’s girlfriend. ~TRL

Neo-existential Nihilism On The Rise…In Cinema

Existentialism is a pretty ubiquitous term, as my History of Theatre professor once said to me. Essentially existentialism is the examination of the individual and how their own free will shapes the path that their life will take. This is going on the idea that there is no grand scheme or cosmic force that affects the universe or its events. An existential crisis may lead the individual to ask the questions, “What makes life meaningful? Does life mean anything at all?”

Well, a nihilist would say “no”. The word nihilism literally comes from the Latin word meaning “nothing”. A nihilist rejects all conception of intrinsic value in life and existence. There is no meaning to life, so why even try to seek it? Why bother with anything if there’s no point to living?

Take Sherlock. In the beginning, the show seemed like a fun modern imagining about a socially inept detective and his everyman best friend solving crimes and righting wrongs. But at some point…the story changed. By the last season, Sherlock and John were no longer solving crimes. It seemed like all their characters seemed to exist for was to suffer. It was no longer a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end, but just a montage of pain and suffering. It’s like the writers didn’t give a shit anymore about telling a story or honoring the original material. They just wanted to squeeze their money’s worth out of teenage girls in love with Burberry Cumbercooch’s lizard face. The writers presented these mysteries, like how Sherlock survived falling from atop a tall building, or where it was all leading with Moriarty, only to laugh in the viewers’ faces for daring to care about the story in the first place.

Or better yet, look at Star Wars. The original trilogy is a masterpiece in story telling. The reveal of Luke Skywalker being Darth Vader’s son is revered as the most amazing plot twist in cinematic history. People became enchanted with this idea that stories could be clever and tie together in ways you would’ve never seen coming but make perfect sense once the answer is revealed. But the new movie, The Last Jedi, seems to spit on one of the core reasons the original movies were so beloved. The makers knew that people would be speculating about Rey’s origins, because her character was purposely made mysterious to get you wondering about her, only to tell the audience that Rey’s parents are nobodies. There’s no grand plan, it’s just nothing, and the makers think you’re stupid for picking up on clues specifically put there for you, and for trying to solve a mystery when there never really was one in the first place.

Oscar Wilde once said “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” And nothing has proven him more right than this new age of social numbness, what I call neo-existential nihilism. It seems like humanity is caught in a backwards slide, losing more and more of our empathy day by day. A giant halfwitted bigot is running the United States, Congress is doing nothing to stop him, there’s a new hate crime or school shooting every week, and the only people who seem to give a damn about standing up to it is high school students–the same ones who are getting slaughtered. We live in a time when we care more about getting to own guns than the lives of children. It’s an idea that sounds like it belongs in a gritty dystopian society YA novel, but it’s not. It’s our horrifying reality now. Did we really, as a people, become so disenfranchised with our own species because of Columbine, and 9/11, and all of humanity’s other atrocities, that we lost the ability…to care?

6 Pairings That Romanticize Abuse

Abuse

Every time, I swear to God, every time I fall in love with a new TV show, some asshole comes along, sweeps up the main character, and brings down the entire show, causing me to stop watching in disgust. I’m not kidding, this has happened three times this year alone.

Abusive relationships being romanticized is one of the things that I absolutely hate with a burning passion. But gone are the days where the hero dudes go around smacking their girlfriends, because if that happened, everyone would be up in arms. No, TV and movies have found sneaky ways to paint abuse as “true love” and get away with it scot free. But luckily for you, my little raspberries, I’m here to expose their malpractices with the light of truth!

For this article, I’ve avoided obviously abusive pairings, like Joker/Harley Quinn and Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham, or pairings that have been beat to death by the mainstream like Bella/Edward (seen above) and Anastasia Steele/Christian Grey. I’m choosing to focus on those pairings who are the darlings of their fandoms, who can obviously do no wrong. Oh, but they can, my ducklings! They can. I’m about to rock your world.

**Warning: mild spoilers ahead for various media, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and BBC Sherlock.**

1. The Phantom and Christine Daaé, The Phantom Of The Opera

Because every girl’s fantasy is to be stalked by a murderer in the shadows and be forced into marrying him or have to watch her childhood best friend be strangled to death. I don’t give a shit how many roses he leaves in her dressing room – that’s f**ked up.

Not to mention, Christine is 18. Eighteen! She’s barely legal as it is. She claims that the “Angel of Music” (the Phantom) has been tutoring her and watching over her since she first came to the opera house. She’s been living there since she was eight years old. And thanks to Madame Giry’s flashback, we know that Erik is only a few years younger than Madame Giry – so he’s 40, at least. This is a fully grown adult who’s been stalking a child and gaslighting her until she’s old enough to bang. That’s disgusting.

But, you know. Some free music lessons and a candlelit boat ride through a swamp make everything okay.

Gaslighting: a practice in which the abuser gains the trust of the victim and uses that trust to manipulate them into doing things against their will, all while maintaining the pretense of someone who has the victim’s best interest at heart.

2. Rey and Kylo Ren (Reylo), Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

It honestly shocked me that this was even a popular pairing – or a pairing at all. Not as popular as Kylux (Kylo Ren and Armitage Hux), but it’s up there.

There’s not much to go on here, as there’s really only a couple of scenes between them, but what is there, is pretty frightening. I’m going to put aside the fact that Kylo straight up murdered Rey’s friend and father figure. I’ll even waive all the physical abuse in the lightsaber battles because, hey, this is Star Wars, and it isn’t exactly Star Wars without lightsaber battles.

But there is the creepy torture scene (torture isn’t a very good premise for a romantic relationship, now is it?) where Kylo is trying to get information out of Rey and threatens her with a line about how he can force her to tell him what he wants to know, and J.J. Abrams himself admits that this is supposed to be a “rape” scene. Getting inside a person’s head and violating their thoughts is mind rape. Plus there’s the disgusted, fearful look Rey makes as Kylo reaches toward her face that tells us all that Rey is in distress. Rey is trapped in the room, tied down, and can’t escape this situation, where she’s under the threat of physical violence and having her mind raped by Kylo. And that is abuse.

3. Kara Danvers and Mon-El (Karamel), Supergirl

This is what I was talking about earlier when I said TV shows often get ruined by some asshole (Mon-El) swooping in and becoming the protagonist’s “true love”. I’ve stopped watching Supergirl because my once beloved show about a strong, kind lady hero has been hijacked by this entitled jar of mayonnaise.

Upon crashing down in National City, Mon-El has done nothing by lie to Kara (not telling her that he’s the prince of Daxam), insult Kara and everything she stands for (“You fly around, rescuing people, like you’re just pure of heart, but that is crap. Because you love that attention. You love people loving you. You are not selfless.”), and go against Kara’s wishes (“You have ignored what I need from moment one today”), and generally just be a piece of shit (“I never said I wanted to save the world.” “Oh my God. You are so selfish!”). When she doesn’t return his affections, he whines and guilts her into loving him. And somehow – he ends up with her! What kind of message is that sending young girls?

Also, telling someone you allegedly love that they’re your “Kryptonite” (weakness) is NOT romantic. Love is supposed to make you stronger. If your romantic partner makes you “weak”, that’s a bad sign. Believe me, I know.

4. John Watson and Mary Morstan, Sherlock

I’ve been a little harsh on men in this list. But women can be abusers too, and this is a prime example.

Thanks to poor writing from misogynistic, self-satisfied dipshits, Mary Morstan’s characterization has been all over the place. But two things are for sure: Mary is a psychopath and a pathological liar. It eventually was revealed that Mary wasn’t as sugary sweet as she initially tasted. She was actually a killer for hire before meeting John, which she kept from him for almost an entire year, even after they were married. And the lengths she goes to keep that secret from him are outrageous. Namely, attempting to murder John’s best friend – the very same friend who had been missing for two years, whom John had been grieving over, which Mary had to know would devastate John at losing Sherlock all over again. But does she have any regards for his feelings? No. She would rather kill her husband’s dearest friend then have to come clean.

John does eventually find out, and naturally, is a little pissed off by it. So much so that he leaves her. When John finally does agree to speak to Mary again, she immediately guilt trips him – for being rightfully angry about Mary lying to him and trying to murder Sherlock. But for some reason, John takes her back and all is forgiven and forgotten.

(By the way, she never actually says that she’s sorry for shooting Sherlock in the chest. Not until she herself is dying, but honestly, series 4 is such out-of-character, bizarre, melodramatic, sloppily written horseshit that I don’t take any of it seriously. But that’s an essay for another day.)

And beyond all that…she’s just not a nice person. She makes fun of everyone, treating them all like they’re so beneath her. At one point she implies that John is so stupid, a dog is superior to him in intelligence. She’s manipulative, critical, and conniving. And yet, even though there’s little to no affection shown between John and Mary, she’s supposedly the great love of his life. His saving grace. His angel with a sniper rifle. *noise of disgust* Whatever.

5. Emma Swan and Captain Hook, Once Upon A Time

God, where do I BEGIN with these two?

Captain Hook completely ruined Once Upon A Time. He’s been sucking the soul out of Emma Swan for four seasons, and now she’s pathetic, codependent, and completely unrecognizable from the amazing, badass female protagonist that rolled into Storybrooke in a beat up Volkswagen seven years ago.

Hook started off, appropriately, as a villain. He gets into a sword fight with Emma right off the bat and makes lewd, rapey comments towards her. Emma was sensibly repulsed.

Then in season three, Hook decides he’s going to become the guy everyone loves – especially Emma. “I will win your heart,” he growls in her face. Again, another line that’s supposed to sound romantic, but is actually really gross.

Eventually, Emma was hooked (get it?), and her character development was sacrificed for makeout scenes with this guyliner wearing piece of shit. Like Mon-El and Mary, he lies to her constantly, doesn’t respect her wishes, manipulates her, and verbally abuses her when his world isn’t going perfectly ducky. In season 5, Emma saved Hook’s life by using dark magic, turning him into a Dark One (long story). She erased his and everyone else’s memory, but he does inevitably find out, and boy, does he drop that sweet boyfriend act fast. He hits Emma right in the emotional chink in her armor – by saying that all she’ll ever be is an orphan. He knows Emma’s trigger and uses it against her in the most brutal fashion possible. But are there ever any repercussions? Nope. Because Hook is the love of Emma’s life, and he can do no wrong!

Luckily, Jennifer Morrison, who plays Emma Swan on OUAT, has announced her retirement from the show after the end of season six, and this godawful romance can die a festering death. Let’s just pray Colin O’Donoghue (Hook) gets fired and the show is left to be run by the only two likable characters left, Regina and Henry Mills.

And number six…

6. Severus Snape and Lily Evans, Harry Potter

I get it, Internet. You pity him. He never got the girl of his dreams. It’s the age old love story: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy calls girl a racial slur – wait, what?!

There was no fucking excuse for Snape to EVER call Lily a Mudblood. James was bullying him, Lily stepped in to defend Snape, Snape got his sensitive little male ego bruised and had been hanging out with a bunch of wizard white supremacists, and called Lily the worst word possible. She was his best and only friend, and he called her that. So no, I don’t feel bad for Snape at all. Especially since he carried his butthurtedness against her and James past their deaths and onto their orphaned child who had endured domestic abuse for the last ten years of his life. Snape gets no sympathy from me.

Okay. Rant over. Hopefully next post will be something more cheery. Thanks for reading. ~TRL

Sherlock vs. Hannibal

hannigram-and-johnlock

**Spoilers ahead for Hannibal, as well as Sherlock.**

Hey, guys! You know that show about solving crimes where the two male leads are really gay for each other and they have a cop friend who is so done with everything and there’s an iconic scene about falling off of high stuff and all the seasons end on huge cliffhangers and the last episode kind of ends abruptly but left the internet in an uproar?

So to heal from my extreme disappointment of the last season of BBC Sherlock, I’ve been delving into NBC Hannibal to cope. It’s not the best substitute because while it is a mystery thriller revolving around the Very Heterosexual Friendship of two men, Johnlock is about two broken men who are best friends and heal each other, while Hannigram is, as I’ve mentioned before, about a psychopathic cannibal preying on the fragile sanity of an already unstable criminal profiler to turn him into a killer like himself – not exactly the poster child for a healthy relationship.

But you know what’s not a unhealthy relationship? Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller and his Fannibals. Unlike certain showrunners I could name, Fuller actually owns up to the homoerotic subtext he purposely puts into his show – and never shames or ridicules fans for shipping Will and Hannibal. Hell, he does it for us!

Image result for bryan fuller hannigram tweets

Image result for bryan fuller hannigram tweets

Image result for bryan fuller hannigram tweets

Yeah, it’s really great. Especially opposed to –

Image result for mark gatiss johnlock tweet

Like, REALLY, Mark Gatiss? REALLY? Was that comment absolutely necessary????

Sherlock is a testosterone-fueled, white-washed melodrama that started out amazing, and then got so far up its own ass it became a gross parody of itself. Its ultimate lesson is that you should forgive your abusers and that if you’re different, you don’t deserve to have love, no matter how much of yourself you’ve given for it (Mary very nearly kills Sherlock and John welcomes her back with open arms and Sherlock’s evil sister Eurus gets a hug from him even though she murdered his childhood best friend and almost does the same to John; meanwhile, Mary dies and John nearly beats to Sherlock to death even though it’s not his fault at all). Hannibal is a gorgeous piece of art that unapologetically paints a destructive love story in all its twisted beauty.

So yeah, Hannibal and its creators are the best. I highly recommend it.

Why All The Villains Are Gay

More than likely, you’ve watched a TV show or movie where the protagonist and their same sex opponent have…weird sexual chemistry. Maybe the villain gets up in the main guy’s personal space; maybe they make lewd innuendoes; maybe they tell the hero they were meant to be together or something. Sounds romantic, almost, in a really twisted way.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, about why a lot of villains are Ambiguously Gay, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a matter of homophobia (necessarily). Let me explain. On my blog post about Hannigram, I talked a bit about enemyslash, and why I thought Bryan Fuller chose to inject his series with an overdose of homoerotic subtext (if it can even be called subtext anymore). I mentioned that it was Hannibal’s intention to seduce Will to the dark side. Emphasis on the word seduce. In a similar fashion, Passion Of The Nerd covered the lesbian subtext between Buffy Summers and Faith Lehane in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Faith represents Buffy’s shadow self, Slayer power left unchecked. If Faith is symbolic of temptation to act out of selfish wants instead of duty and the desire to do good, it would make sense, then, that Faith would be…tempting.

Often times in film and television, the main character’s archnemesis reflects them, is their dark half, like Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello. A classic archetype for this equation is Professor Moriarty from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures. Both Holmes and Moriarty are geniuses, but whereas Holmes uses his wits to defeat crime and do good, Moriarty employs his in committing the crimes. Which is why BBC Sherlock, a slow burn gay romance between the famous consulting detective and his army doctor life mate, has produced one of the most overtly homosexual Moriartys in Holmes canon history (thank you, Moffat and Gatiss).

Usually, the dark mirror half can recognize themself in the light mirror half, and wants to combine their forces to be even stronger. Thus, the villain must seduce the protagonist to the dark side. To better mirror the two characters, they’re often made the same gender (since, you know, men and women can’t be equals, right?), so when you produce Doctor Evilman trying to coax Goodguy Heromale to the dark side, ho yay is bound to follow.

Course, I could be completely wrong and it could all be a plot for the viewing public to associate queerness with being evil, but I like to think positively, you know? ~TRL