Weekly Forum #38

Today’s discussion topic is from our fellow JHWS member “Gwen.” Thank you!

Is there one thing that has evolved in the greater Sherlockian world that you wish you could just make totally disappear?

(Gwen’s answer is “probably… that deerstalker.” For me, I’d say I wish the misconception that Dr Watson is some nature of boobus brittanicus would totally disappear…)


13 Replies to “Weekly Forum #38”

  1. Following in the point that Carla brought up, the portrayal of Insp. Lestrade in the Rathbone Bruce movies. With the exception of one movie, The portrayal of Iestrade can be summed up in a line from one of the other movies where Watson turns to Lestrade and says” Holmes told us to act causal not Idiotic” or in words to that effect. WAtson and Lestrade desrve better.

    1. Thank goodness for Colin Jeavons and Rupert Graves. They play Lestrade quite differently, but I think they do a lovely job.

  2. Apart from the obvious misconceptions about Dr Watson, I’d say:
    – the omnipresent Moriarty and the Spectre-like nature of his organization in many adaptations
    – the romantic liason between Holmes and Irene Adler
    – a Holmes that is so eccentric and/or grumpy to be rude. Holmes is a gentleman and he can be gruffy or impatient at times, but never rude. (we can do without RDJ’s behaviour at the restaurant, thanks!)

    1. I pretty much agree with you on all counts. Particularly the one about the romantic liaison. It’s not that I’m against Holmes expressing romantic sentiment – I simply feel that the idea does Irene Adler an injustice. It feels as if, unless conceived very carefully, the concept overlooks her unique aspects (particularly as one of the few to cleverly best Holmes at his own game and who has his respect) and dilutes her down to a one-dimensional romantic interest.

  3. The over-supply of pastiches, far too many for any one person to read, and especially the badly-written, or the improbable, such as Holmes meeting every prominent person who ever lived in both the 19th and 20th centuries or engaging in very un-Sherlockian activities.

    A good pastiche honors Holmes and Watson and the originals; bad ones simply use the names to enhance the writers’ egos.

    1. I’m in agreement – I usually find those sort of pastiche a little too difficult for me to enjoy. It definitely has an appeal to others, but it just doesn’t work for me.

      Usually… Though, I admit, right now I’m reading that sort of pastiche right now and it’s not working out too badly. It’s in Japanese and it’s about the famous writer Natsume Soseki meeting Sherlock Holmes. It shouldn’t work that well for my tastes, if not for certain historical facts:

      Soseki actually did spend a year studying English in London. He ended up taking daily lessons about Hamlet at the abode of the eccentric retired Professor Craig on Baker Street around 1901-1903.

      Soseki mostly hated his time in London, had terrible stomach troubles, and was dreadfully homesick and lonely (his most famous novels were yet to be written). He had a hard time finding a place to stay and had to move to several different places during his short time there. This is all fact. The novel I’m reading plays with this idea by having Professor Craig recommend that Soseki visit his neighbor about his troubles because it seems that someone is driving him out of each new place he moves to.

      I almost gave up on the novel a few chapters in, when Soseki finally meets the great detective and sees him as some sort of mad fool. I thought that this was the author suddenly turning the story around to disparage Holmes.

      But then, in following chapter, Watson takes up the narrative and you get a very different point of view of the proceedings (Holmes is actually quite brilliant and it is Soseki who has a jaded view of things) and then goes into a rather strange and interesting mystery that doesn’t involve Soseki (not yet at least). So I’m curious to see how this turns out: if Soseki’s skewed view is the one the reader is supposed to believe is true, or if Watson has a better grasp on things than the morbid student from abroad. The result will either have me enjoy or absolutely despise the book.

      So far, I think this is one of the only pastiche I’ve read involving a prominent person. I usually don’t get past the blurb at the back of a book.

  4. One must remain neutral on certain subjects or personal opinions could be mistaken for editorial opinions. Let me say that it is an incredibly wider greater Sherlockian world than in the past (although, when you think about it, it was pretty wide in the olden days) but really it all depends on what the word “Sherlockian” means and there is no true consensus on the definition in the twenty-teens.

      1. Since the question is “Is there one thing that has evolved in the greater Sherlockian world that you wish you could just make totally disappear?” that would imply a broader question than, say, deerstalkers or pastiches. The “greater Sherlockian world” could mean those things about the culture of Sherlockiana and as Holmes has a reach in media that didn’t exist 30 years ago, the character’s presents in areas perhaps inconceivable a generation or so ago does indeed generate deeper thoughts of what is Sherlockian. The question is both personal and wide-ranging.

  5. Pippin: Exactly! I chose the deerstalker because it is, to me, the symbol of the ‘appropriation’ of Holmes & Watson. That simple interpretation of cloth cap punches the hole in the levee, and the flood begins…

  6. As for the deerstalker, true, Doyle never used that word, but I believe he honored Paget’s famed illustrations of Holmes in SILV by writing “…while Sherlock Holmes, with his sharp, eager face framed in his earflapped travelling cap…”. If that’s not the “ear hat” made famous by a recent actor I don’t know what is. For things like the deerstalker and a romantic relationship with Irene Adler, we Sherlockians have no one to blame but ourselves–one Sherlockian posits a theory, it takes hold in the community or at least has currency, then somehow that theory is out in the general public, who don’t know it’s source and think it Canon.

    Brad Keefauver’s post of Sept. 24 highlights the “greater Sherlockian world”.

    1. Gwen, let me just clarify that I’m not minimizing your point about the deerstalker–the Inverness, deerstalker and calabash or meerschaum have become like Charlie Brown’s yellow and black zigzag striped shirt, a uniform the character must be in to be recognizable. I think that in a large part it’s we Sherlockians that are responsible for the cracks in the levee, then forces of nature beyond our control widen the breaches until the flood.

      We Sherlockians in our insular world play the Game, we know the rules and boundaries, but the Canon is not ours to own. When popular culture comes along and uses advertising, plays, radio, television, movies and pastiche to comment on the character, we hope those other creators know the source material and we are delighted when they add knowing winks for us fans. We are now, and have been for a little while–since the Great Boom of the 70s–at a place where those creators of extra-Canonical material do not have to read all or any of the stories to tell their own versions, the archetypes of Holmes and Watson are so well-known that one only need to consult the concordances, encyclopedias and wikis the Sherlockians have created and then those things that were a part of the Game, the Martha of Mrs. Hudson, the Hamish of Watson, that lost weekend in Montenegro with Holmes and Adler, the winks we gave each other in our journals, become the new “canon” for a new generation.

      1. Not sure if it’s just post “The great boom” stuff… The Canon used to be the subject of parodies, cartoons and the like almost since the beginning, and they used some pretty far-fetched extra-Canonical concepts and ideas back in those days, too (Holmes as a drug addict, Watson as Boobus Britannicus – it was not invented by Nigel Bruce -, and so on). Reading early parodies is a fascinating, albeit somewhat depressing, experience.
        My impression is that popular culture takes what it pleases from the Canon (since it is, after all, a popular subject), at random, varying with the times, and there is very little that we can do about it. Just laugh at the most blatant misconceptions and try to correct some, if and when someone is willing to listen.

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