Holmes and Watson need new punctuation

Saw Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows tonight, and had much great fun. Is it just me, or have we seen a tendency in the last 5-10 years for sequels to actually be better than the first movie of a series? If so, I attribute it to these being planned as series from the start, rather than the sequel being tacked on after the first one does well, and also on the way a second movie doesn’t have to spend all that tedious time setting up the characters and situation, but can just jump right into the story.

Anyway. That actually isn’t what I want to talk about here. Instead, I want to talk about slash, and how utterly inadequate I find that word for describing the situation with Holmes and Watson in this movie.

(I’ll try to keep this relatively spoiler-free, but I can’t promise about the comments.)

See, here’s the thing. To me — and I know people use the term in different ways, so this is just my own usage — slash is the process of taking the homoerotic subtext of a story and treating it as text. And one of the reasons I can’t call AGoS slashy is because it isn’t subtext. You simply cannot look at the interactions between Holmes and Watson in that film and think the story is not deliberately presenting you with two men who love each other very deeply, even if they can’t quite unbend enough to express that affection in direct terms.

The other reason I don’t want to call the film slashy is because, although you can find abundant bait there for imagining Holmes and Watson in a sexual relationship, I don’t read them that way. Partly this is because I get frustrated sometimes at how the slash lens tends to filter out all other possibilities for male emotional intimacy; we can’t let guys be friends or enemies even brothers without also sexualizing the relationship. That actually frustrates me sometimes, on par with my frustration over TV shows that like to use slashy subtext to engage the fans, but will never actually deliver on those wink-wink-nudge-nudge promises. (We can have slash, but almost never The Actual Gay.) Anyway, getting back to Holmes and Watson — sure, there’s certainly space there for reading it in that light. But I’m more interested in the story of two friends, because it’s a kind of friendship I feel I don’t see very often these days, where it isn’t all macho fellow-soldier camaraderie, but something with real vulnerability on both sides.

I don’t have a good term for what I see between them, in the first movie and especially the second. The closest I can come is a term my friends and I have used sometimes, “hetero lifemates,” for two straight people of the same sex whose friendship is of the lifelong kind. But it doesn’t quite hit the target I’m aiming at, maybe just because it’s unwieldy. Neither Holmes nor Watson would ever say it openly — let’s face it; they’re both late nineteenth-century men, and one of them is a rampaging narcissist — but they care as deeply about each other as either of them (okay, Watson) is capable of caring about anyone of the opposite sex. I feel like I need to resort to Greek here, except I don’t actually know which word I want. Agape? Philia? Eros? (Wikipedia claims that one doesn’t have to be sexual. Actual Hellenists, please weigh in.)

Whatever you call it, I’m fascinated by the way the movie embraces it, and does so without totally sidelining Mary Morstan. She doesn’t play a terribly prominent role, but they do make it clear that Watson isn’t marrying her just because it’s the sort of thing he’s expected to do. She and Watson have their thing, and he and Holmes have their thing, and it’s my sincere hope for all three characters that they manage to settle down into a dynamic that doesn’t force Watson to choose between them. Mary’s willingness to roll with various events suggests it may be possible.

I can’t refer to the guys as Holmes/Watson, though. They need new punctuation, something other than a slash. Any suggestions? 🙂 And, more to the point — what should we call this kind of thing, if it isn’t slash?

0 Responses to “Holmes and Watson need new punctuation”

  1. rosefox

    Holmes&Watson seems like an obvious choice.

    I don’t have a good term for what I see between them

    My mother would call them “dear friends”. (She and I once had a spat because she referred to my girlfriend as my “dear friend”, and when I protested that calling my partner my friend was closeting us, she retorted that it was one of the most intimate terms she knew, not to mention less childish than “girlfriend” and less sterile than “partner”.)

    • Marie Brennan

      “Girlfriend” is a confusing term these days, yeah; I think of it as only denoting the girl one is dating — which implies impermanence — but other people use it for female friends in general. And yeah, “partner” does seem a little sterile to me. It crosses over with too many work-related contexts for me to easily read it as romantic.

      (An ampersand is the likely choice for punctuation, yes. But I’m curious to see if any other good suggestions come up. <g>)

      • rosefox

        I enjoy taking “partner” very literally. My partners and I are collaborators. We build joy together. I feel like it speaks to the real-world-ness of our relationships, not just talking about how we feel.

  2. wojelah

    I want to cheer this entire post. I love shipping just as much as the next person, but a lot of the stories I love most aren’t any kind of ship at all – they focus on all the ways there are to, as you say, care about another person to the deepest extent possibly, without it being a question of a sexual relationship. It’s love of a sort that manifests as a kind of deep and abiding faith in a fellow human being. To me, the terrible risk of that kind of faith is both 1) their ability to hurt you and 2) your ability to hurt them. The tremendous reward is 1) their ability to care for you anyway and 2) your own ability to do the same. Sometimes it just isn’t. about. sex. And it seems so hard for that kind of story to get to an audience sometimes.

    • Marie Brennan

      One of the things you get early on in AGoS is Holmes continuing to be completely and totally childish about the prospect of Watson getting married — to the point where I was kind of fearing he would go full-bore House (if you’ve ever watched that show) and deliberately try to sabotage it, claiming it was for Watson’s own good. Fortunately, he doesn’t. This is clearly something that matters to Watson’s happiness, and that matters enough to Holmes that he gets out of the way. (Thus proving he’s a better person than Gregory House.)

      I think it would be very easy to read Downey’s Holmes as asexual but not aromantic. He’s capable of love — for one person, anyway — but never shows the slightest actual interest in sex that I can think of. As somebody who often finds the Hollywood obsession with sex tedious rather than interesting, I really like that.

      • toddalcott

        When I first saw House, the first thing I thought was “That’s interesting, it’s almost like they took Sherlock Holmes and made him a doctor.” It was years before I smacked my forehead and said “Oh shit! Holmes; House. I’m an idiot.” Holmes has Watson, House has Wilson, etc. Then Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie’s comedy partner, shows up as Mycroft, underlining the parallels even further.

        Anyway, I very much like the Holmes-Watson relationship in the Downey/Law movies — it’s really the first time it ever came alive for me. I don’t know why Watson was always presented as a flabbergasted boob in earlier incarnations, he’s not presented that way in the stories. Nigel Bruce played Watson as a man seemingly incapable of writing a business letter, much less authoring a series of gripping adventure stories.

        In the new BBC series Sherlock (which I strongly recommend) Holmes needs Watson because he needs someone to assist him, or rather, someone to witness his brilliance. That’s where the raging narcissism comes in. It’s stressed many times in the series that neither has sexual feelings for the other (maybe too many times, come to think of it). Watson needs Holmes because he craves the adrenaline rush, and Holmes needs Watson to be his sounding board, his punching bag, his errand-boy. Holmes not only has no sexual interest in Watson, he has no sexual interests at all — he finds sex “boring” and “dull,” his two most often-used perjoratives on the show. His affection for Watson is deeply hidden, but it is there: he often saves Watson’s life, but never makes a big deal about it. Rather, he treats it like a necessary but not-difficult chore.

        • Marie Brennan

          Yeah, House is very blatantly Holmes-as-doctor. But gawd, the further that series has gone, the more the writers have lost their grip on the balance between “brilliant” and “entertaining” and “jerk;” he’s just turned into an unmitigated asshole, and I don’t understand why any of the other characters — Wilson especially — keep him in their personal lives. (I stopped watching a while ago.)

          I quite like both the new movies and the BBC show (though I really don’t like the show’s Moriarty). I’ve been told that Holmes canon, being the inconsistent thing that it is, provides room for a variety of interpretations as to Watson’s competence; some adaptations have taken that as license to make him the bumbling foil to the genius Holmes. Me, I much prefer the approach we see here, where the two of them have one flavor or another of co-dependency, but both contribute worthwhile things to the whole.

          But then, I’m a fan of competence in general. I’d much rather watch a character who’s really good at the Thing They Do (whatever that thing may be) than one who seems like a dead weight around the protagonist’s neck. It’s one of the reasons I like Sahara: in most movies Steve Zahn’s character would be the bumbling comic relief sidekick, but there he’s the competent comic relief sidekick. More of those, please!

          • toddalcott

            I stopped watching House after the episode where he went to the half-way house to dry out a couple seasons back. It was too painful.

          • Marie Brennan

            I started the show in S5, backed up to S1, watched S6, I think, and then quit in S7. So I’ve never seen the middle. He was definitely a better character in the beginning.

          • ide_cyan

            S4 was my favourite, due to the varied supporting cast (the “Numbers” House was auditioning to be on his team — lots of silly games, but it made for a nice change of pace) and its shorter run (due to the writers’ strike).

          • Marie Brennan

            I did see the first two or three eps of that season, actually. It seemed fun, but by the time I was watching it, I was starting to get burned out on the then-current part of the show, so I never got further.

  3. carbonel

    If you go by historical usage, Holmes & Watson would fit the usage you describe, to compare with Kirk & Spock vs. Kirk/Spock.

    • Marie Brennan

      Does that mean “these two people in the story,” general friendship, or a serious long-term bond?

      • carbonel

        As says, in Trek fandom, the ampersand was used to describe close friendship as opposed to a sexual relationship. Most of the people I encountered who preferred that were of the YKIOKBYKINMK school, but there were also some rabid anti-slashers.

    • strangerian

      I was hoping someone would mention this. You’ll no doubt remember it yourself, but to unpack for 21st-century readers: Kirk and Spock as supernally close friends, without sex, was a biiig theme in 70s fanfic, just as slash was *also* developing as a genre. The soulmate-friends writers insisted on the ampersand, rather obviously because slash at the time was stigmatized by many fans and they were writing Something Else. (I’m not sure at this remove if K&S would map closely to smarm in the 90s. Those were two very different decades.) No doubt some K&S fans wanted to avoid the taint of Icky Gay Cooties, but there’s a valid distinction all the same. It may be time to resurrect the ampersand to define a friends-as-partners relationship that doesn’t include sex.

  4. juushika

    Akin perhaps to a romantic friendship?

    Not having seen A Game of Shadows but having seen the first Sherlock film, my opinion is similar to the one I have about the BBC Sherlock because they both handle the Holmes and Watson relationship in similar ways: I find the intimacy intriguing, but the ‘ship-teasing and general everything-but-the, no-actual-gay-allowed-here ethos is demeaning. It satisfies me in the sense that what I look for in media above all is an interesting relationship between characters, where interesting often also means unusual because the two are one and the same, and honestly half of what makes this particular relationship interesting and unusual is that it’s intimacy without necessary sexuality—but the way that it fails to deliver, that we look for “the gay” in subtext that’s got nothing sub about it but will never be text either because we just don’t do that, that’s icky; and creator and audience alike can both have a fetishized teasing thrill about it would the actual acceptance and normality that should be the nature of with homosexual relationships in popular media…

    Where was I? That aspect infuriates me, it’s demeaning, but it surprises me not in the least.

    It’s sort of the opposite of having a cake and eating it too, but I’ll still see A Game of Shadows sometime soon.

    • Marie Brennan

      I sort of feel — though this could very easily be my own personal reading, and not something that other people would agree on — like the second movie isn’t actually doing the “let’s enjoy the transgressive suggestion of homosexuality without delivering on it” thing, but rather is embracing romantic friendship or whatever we want to call it. Then again, the line between that and actual slashy subtext is so fine I’m not sure it exists anywhere but in the eye of the beholder. One person’s “they love each other deeply but aren’t sleeping together” may be another’s “oh just get a room and have mad monkey sex already.”

      (There is one scene in AGoS that’s a bit more slash-bait than most, as it involves a half-naked Holmes and some wrestling. But in general, I really do feel like the focus is on the emotional connection between the two men, and the film doesn’t try to deny or downplay that at all.)

      But yes, as a general thing, I think our narrative media has fallen into an obnoxious pattern of fetishization without acceptance and normalization.

  5. mindstalk

    Sequels better than originals:
    Gremlins 2
    Addams Family Values

    • Marie Brennan

      I’d also argue for The Dark Knight and X-Men 2, off the top of my head. Both of which very much benefit from not having to go through the familiar motions of the Origin Story.

    • toddalcott

      Not to mention Huckleberry Finn, The Godfather Part II, and the New Testament (apologies to Pauline Kael).

  6. arielstarshadow

    I get frustrated sometimes at how the slash lens tends to filter out all other possibilities for male emotional intimacy; we can’t let guys be friends or enemies even brothers without also sexualizing the relationship.

    So much this. I am so very tired of “OMG, men showing affection/caring for one another – must be gay, so let’s write slash for them!” I know why it exists, and I can’t fault it at all because there aren’t enough homosexual relationships shown in movies and television, but at the same time I find it so very aggravating.

    • Marie Brennan

      Exactly. I want to see this fixed in both directions at once: let’s get more Actual Gay onscreen, so that we don’t have as much need to sexualize every emotionally close male pair who shows up.

  7. aliettedb

    Partly this is because I get frustrated sometimes at how the slash lens tends to filter out all other possibilities for male emotional intimacy; we can’t let guys be friends or enemies even brothers without also sexualizing the relationship
    Yes, this. Thank you for this. I like seeing men as lovers (and wish we’d see more of those relationships on screen), but I do get frustrated at this filtering out of deep, non-sexual friendships. When I read some articles and blog posts on the Internet, I get the feeling that some people can’t envision any other kind of deep commitment than a sexual partnership. And it’s a shame, because there are so many ways to have relationships that don’t involve sex.

    • Marie Brennan

      Your phrasing reminds me that I don’t think this is just a homosexual issue; you get a fair bit of shipping for any close pair of men and women, too. (And TV/movie writers — TV writers especially — are so very fond of dangling UST-bait there, too.) Dear world: can we please not stop believing in simple friendship?

      • aliettedb

        Yup, that’s partly why it came out that way–I’ve seen it for any pair of close people regardless of sex…

  8. hawkwing_lb

    I need to go see A Game of Shadows. I enjoyed the first film a lot: it had a very similar (although more Hollywood) dynamic to the television show with Jeremy Brett, who is possibly my canonical Holmes. Intimate friendship, as opposed to romantic love of whatever sexuality, isn’t something that’s very prominent in film or television (and sometimes, I am inclined to think literature too). And it’s a great relief to see it acknowledged.

    (As a Classical historian type, I’d incline to call Holmes and Watson ἐπιτήδειοι καὶ φίλοι, close friends and intimates. Philia is probably the closest Greek word for what they have: in addition to its more common friendly meanings, Liddell and Scott have a citation for it as “the natural force which unites discordant elements and movements, opp. νεῖκος, Emp.18, al., Isoc.15.268.” Discordant elements and movements seem to encapsulate Holmes and Watson quite well, to my mind.)

    (Eros is one-sided desire, the impossible unrequited longing (as James Davidson has put it, eros is the arrow straining for its mark and never quite reaching it, because when it attains its goal, it ceases to be eros); and agape really only gains a popular currency with the onset of Christianity. Agape is interesting, because it seems (tho’ I am not a philologist or even a specialist in Greek language and lit) to imply regard, fondness and affection that’s not necessarily between equals, since it crops up with husbands for wives, parents for children, gods for mortals, and leaders for followers – but this is an impression that I’ve acquired: a specialist might have a different one.)

    (You might say I have something of a eros for Greek language matters.)

    • Marie Brennan

      I thought the second movie was a blast. Not without the occasional flaw, but it had me laughing so hard I almost fell out of my chair. And the whole ending sequence is brilliant.

      Thanks for the clarification of the Greek! Philia does seem a good match. I had thought agape was between equals, whereas philia was between (for example) parents and children — but that’s probably because filia is Latin for “daughter.” Anyway, I may try using that in the future, so that I have a simple noun to sub in for “the strong [slash] element” or whatever.

      • hawkwing_lb

        That’s good to know. I’ve heard a lot of not-so-good things because of the Irene Adler thing, but I’m looking forward to getting to see it anyway.

        And you’re welcome! The modern sense of agape has changed, too – if I said “s’agapo” today, that’s pretty much English “I love you.” (Languages = complicated. It makes me happy to be a historian.)

      • hawkwing_lb

        Now that I have seen it, I agree with you entirely about the ending sequence. (I am still cackling.)

    • starlady38

      As a (lapsed) Hellenist, I was about to second philia. I would also agree about agape being inappropriate here; there’s a reason the Christians picked it up to talk about various theological things. There’s too much of charity, and almost of (patriarchal) obligation, for it to fit Holmes and Watson.

  9. laurelwen

    I find this to be a very big problem with LotR as well. One of things I love about that movie is that it presents us with so many examples of deep, affectionate relationships between men that have nothing to do with homoeroticism, are in no way emasculating, and which are central to the structure of the story itself. Whatever your feelings about the presence of females (or lack thereof) in the story, it doesn’t change the value of those male relationships.

    But then come all the people who look at Frodo and Sam and immediately turn their singular relationship into a gay love story. Or Aragorn and Legolas, Legolas and Gimli, etc. I understand that sometimes it’s just fun to fantasize about things. But there are times when it feels like a cop-out to go directly to the slash, like somehow, addressing the real nature of the relationships is too difficult or even uncomfortable, so people head for the easier path of sexytimes.

    • wingsofawolf

      The Gundam Wing fandom, well known for its ample use of math to solve problems like these, uses Holmes+Watson to suggest something kind of cute and definitely *something*, but which is not actual slash. I agree that an ampersand is a good choice as well, though.

      I’m not sure what you would call them, exactly…. I think the most media is willing to do is suggest that a pair in this situation is “like family” (I.E. bleeping Supernatural, who insists on saying flat-out “yup, they’re totally into each other, but we’re not going there, sorry”) but that doesn’t work precisely, and neither does my mind’s helpful suggestions of “brothers-in-arms,” though I think that’s probably closest to what I want to say. I think that a female pair would similarly be called “sisters,” but it would almost work better, since sisters are seen as being allowed to be closer than brothers are; sisters remain close as they move on in life, brothers drift apart. Not that this is always, or even usually, the case, but that’s certainly the popular perception and has a lot of back-up in literature and pop culture. A relationship that is “brotherly” has also been sexualized more than one that is “sisterly.”

      I think at this point I, too, am feeling the urge to resort to either Greek or Japanese. In Japan, though, I think the relationship would still be called brotherly. We need more words to use for close, same-sex relationships between heterosexual people, but I think that references to family are all that’s easy to find.

      • Marie Brennan

        Yeah, and again, I want to keep it separate from the family thing, because that’s yet another flavor of relationship that I like and don’t want to conflate with other kinds. I don’t slash Sam and Dean Winchester, either: they’re brothers, which is different from what Holmes and Watson have, which is different from what Jack Harkness and Ianto Jones have. And I want different words for these things.

        • wingsofawolf

          I was actually thinking more Castiel and Dean, not Sam and Dean, who are so obviously brothers and nothing else in my mind that something else doesn’t even occur to me. Jared Padalecki also seems extremely straight to me. 🙂

          I think the English language is either having fail here or the words have fallen out of popular usage due to modern social expectations for men and women regarding relationships. I wonder if it would be worth it to look at the OED, given that English society in particular used to be so homosocial.

          • Marie Brennan

            You have phrases like “Boston marriage,” but other than that, I can’t think of anything that really fits into this gap. I think “friend” possibly used to have a stronger meaning than it does now, though.

    • Marie Brennan

      I’m pretty sure it’s LotR that made me realize I have this problem with slash, actually. I have absolutely nothing against people writing or reading it, and I totally understand how that’s driven by the still-persistent refusal to have overtly gay romance in most stories. But I don’t want to slash Frodo and Sam. I’m fascinated by what they actually have, which is a profound friendship of an officer:subordinate type that was so very clearly shaped by Tolkien’s experiences in the war. And it bugs me a bit when being around fandom means I can’t get the slash goggles off my eyes to see what’s there.

  10. eclectician

    Aubrey-Maturin I think is the accepted way to refer to the stories of Patrick O’Brian, which is the closest parallel I can think of to what’s going on here – perhaps unsurprisingly.

    • Marie Brennan

      My above comment to makes me like the notion of Holmes:Watson. Either way, you’re right that Aubrey and Maturin are a similar case.

  11. rachelmanija

    I think people so inclined tend to read absolutely all close fictional relationships as sexual because of the lack of actual gay sexuality in mainstream media. (Except for the very occasional movie in which the subject is being gay.)

    It would be impossible, in a mainstream Hollywood movie, for, say, Holmes and Watson or Professor X and Magneto to be openly stated to be gay, or to kiss, or to discuss dating each other. In a movie in which a man and a woman are close friends but not sexually involved, we assume that they were intended by the filmmakers to be just friends. But we can’t assume that in a movie about two men (or the extremely rare instances of a movie about two women.)

    Intended gayness must be filmically indicated similarly to intended close platonic friendship, because the alternative is essentially banned. Hence, it becomes very difficult to tell whether a relationship is supposed to be gay or not.

    I too am a fan of actual friendship stories. It’s comparatively rare to see them – between men in fic, and between women in anything.

    • Marie Brennan

      No disagreement here on the cause, nor on the fact that it really ought to be fixed. I’d much prefer we had accepted, overt homosexuality in stories, especially ones where that isn’t the point of the story.

      As I said above to Aliette, it does occur to me that this isn’t solely a homosexual issue, though. You get a lot of people who see an emotionally close male-female relationship and immediately leap to shipping them. (See also: “men and women can’t be friends.” To which I say, FEH.) We seem inclined, as a society, to read sex into everything, given half a pretext for doing so.

  12. starryniteynite

    I don’t read them that way. Partly this is because I get frustrated sometimes at how the slash lens tends to filter out all other possibilities for male emotional intimacy; we can’t let guys be friends or enemies even brothers without also sexualizing the relationship. … (We can have slash, but almost never The Actual Gay.)

    I think this is what annoys me so much about slash in general. Not every relationship out there is going to be sexual in nature, and dammit, if there is going to be romance, etc, I want to see it actually played out.

    I loved the relationship between Holmes and Watson here–it rang very true to the hetero-lifemate relationship. I was initially afraid they’d make Watson ‘choose’ between Mary and Holmes, but they juggled it perfectly–I especially loved that Mary completely understood that in marrying Watson, she was getting Holmes as part of the deal and that, in parallel Holmes recognized her importance to Watson. I couldn’t read any sexual interest into Watson’s feelings for Holmes, but Holmes I could see as being attracted to anyone able to keep up with him, regardless of gender.

    But, yeah, we need punctuation for denoting bromance vs slash (maybe a % since it has a ‘/’ in it?)

    • Marie Brennan

      I have nothing against slash as such; I’m just tetchy about the way it can take over the discourse.

      I’m not a fan of the word “bromance” either, though. Not sure why. It just rubs me the wrong way.

      • starryniteynite

        I’ve only been in fandoms where slash quickly falls into the ‘hate on the women characters’ trap, so maybe that’s where I have trouble. (I’m looking at you nu!trek ). But mostly, I just want a canonical example of a gay couple in a healthy relationship to ship without having to read between the lines.

        I think ‘bromance’ is too superficial for the Holmes/Watson dynamic, thinking about it now. it seems to be a term used in a humorous way, rather than a deeply emotional context. (there’s also a bit of the ‘no, we’re not gay!’ shaming aspect, which is rather distasteful)

        • Marie Brennan

          I’ve only been in fandoms where slash quickly falls into the ‘hate on the women characters’ trap

          Ah, yes. There, I agree entirely. This ended up not being that post, but The Other Thing I Don’t Like About Slash is the conditions that give rise to it: not just the lack of actual, non-sub-textual gay content onscreen, but the way that the slashiest fandoms also tend to be the ones with the smallest population of prominent female characters. Then the few women who are in the story tend to get booted to the sidelines, because they’re getting in the way of all the lovely ho-yay the fans want to have fun with (me, I’m looking at Supernatural).

          It does give me heart to have seen Yuletide requests that said variants on, “if you slash these two guys, please deal appropriately with this canonical het relationship; say it ended amicably or just write a version where they were never together, rather than depicting her as a bitch.” (On the other hand, I also saw a request that said “I think these two guys are really slashy also please don’t include this canonical het relationship because I think that female character got plenty of screen time in the book.” This for a fairly peripheral secondary woman who did not play a large role in the book. Yeah, man, I’m so bored with hearing about her; let’s get back to the guys whose slashiness is entirely in your head! <grrrrr>)

          Your diagnosis of “bromance” is a good one. The term just seems to express a discomfort with the entire notion of emotional intimacy, because it might get Teh Gay on these totally manly dudes.

  13. gollumgollum

    I was honestly surprised that AGoS wasn’t quite as slashy as i was expecting, based on what i’d seen from fandom. But a lot of my fandom friends call Sherlock and John (both in the movie franchise and the new BBC show) ‘married,’ which honestly works, in that ‘hetero lifemate’ sort of way. While it’s not exactly right, it definitely speaks to that level of commitment, and a marriage is something that i see as being so much more than just sexual.

    (SPOILER: I had a really hard time getting into this movie because of what they did to Irene; i’m interested in your read on that and how that affects–or doesn’t–Holmes and Watson’s relationship. But i honestly liked MI:4 much better, despite my loathing of Tom Cruise.)

    • Marie Brennan

      Oh, fandom in general has not hesitated to read the relationship as thoroughly sexual. And they certainly have textual grounds for it, too. But I don’t see UST there; I see love, which is a different thing.

      (SPOILER: I’m . . . undecided about the Irene thing, mostly because I’m unconvinced it’s quite what it appeared to be. At least, I think there’s room there for them to spin different answers, depending on what they decide to do. If it’s straight-up what it looks like, then I’m annoyed, because it comes across as “we never quite figured out what to do with this character, so.”)

      • gollumgollum

        There’s some interview Jude Law did where he disagreed with the term ‘bromance’ and instead called it a romance, although that’s based on tumblr caps so i don’t know if he actually said that. But yeah. Fandom.

        (SPOILER: If it isn’t what it looks like, they’ve still used her very poorly; either way, whether they did or not, they still (MAJOR SPOILER) fridged her, in that her sole purpose was to be a device to get Sherlock to feel bad. Regardless, it was a shitty twist for the woman who’s supposed to be as smart as Sherlock, and pretty well ruined for me what was otherwise a fun ride, and did so right from the start.)

        • Marie Brennan


          I’m not sure I agree about “her sole purpose was to be a device to get Sherlock to feel bad.” Yes, he was upset about that; but he was also upset about the threat to Watson and Mary. (The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but the presence of other things that filled a similar function is relevant, I think.) I feel — and, as with other things, this may be the eye of the beholder, putting a more palatable spin on it — like it was more a case of, “we need to get Irene out of the way, because there isn’t room in this story for two Sherlocks/distractions from the emotional story we’re trying to tell, and we’re not sure what to do with her anyway.” She was working for Moriarty, but putting her full-bore on his side would have been a) unsympathetic and b) unbalancing; the game with Moriarty was supposed to test Holmes to his limit, so if you put somebody else of equal brilliance on the opposing side, either Holmes loses or Moriarty and Adler end up not looking all that smart after all. Having Adler face-turn to join Holmes runs into similar problems; then she’s either superfluous, or she undercuts Holmes’ intelligence, by making it look like he’s not that smart after all, because he can’t take Moriarty on his own.

          The solution to this, of course, is to leave Adler out of it. If they really have fridged her, then I wish they had. But given the people and the intelligence involved within the story, I will not be surprised at all if Adler reappears in the third film, at which point I’ll see her minor appearance here as a device to make sure the audience doesn’t forget who she is. And given the Hollywood tendency to say that unless you see a body and a funeral, they ain’t dead, I do think there’s a chance of that. Which is why the movie wasn’t ruined for me, though I am bugged by the alternate explanation.

  14. d_c_m


    Thanks for writing this. 🙂 Once again homophobia leads to sexism and stops men from fully enjoying their emotional selves and lives.


  15. Anonymous

    I get it. If you’re operating on that little sleep, you’re as cognitively impaired as if you were drunk. It’s bad for you, and it’s not going to be a great experience for your audience either. There’s no point.

    – signed, also not a morning person.

    I backed out a con appearance for the first time ever this year. I was invited to discuss a specific topic, and they put me on a single and different panel on a totally unrelated topic, at an inconvenient time, with one other person who I’d never heard of. It would have also required leaving my vacation early. I felt bad for the one person on the panel, which may well have gotten canceled, but I did cancel.

  16. Marie Brennan

    My transliteration-fu is a bit on the weak side. Is that “filoi/philoi” in Roman letters?

  17. Anonymous

    I read Snyder’s The Gypsy Game so you wouldn’t have to, and found it mostly unobjectionable (didn’t object to “Gypsy” instead of “Roma” because it was written when that was still the neutral term) but not by far as strong and magical as The Egypt Game. Partly sequelitis, I think, partly because it felt like some things were put in to Make A Point, and I couldn’t even detect which point.

    For me The Egypt Game falls into the “this is fantasy, right?” category too, but if I’d read the other one first I wouldn’t have had that feeling, it’s just a normal fairly well written problem book.

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