January 5, 2012
Posted by finn
This week Sherlock (the BBC series) premiered its season 2 with A Scandal in Belgravia. I have been watching series 1 and have thoroughly enjoyed it, except for the minor hiccup which is that Steven Moffat (and his team, but since he is the big shot he has final say on stuff) does not know how to write women that don’t succumb to the well known clichés used for depicting women in TV and Film. I already knew that going in or to be fair I assumed that his writing women on Sherlock wouldn’t much differ from his writing women on Doctor Who, especially since the source material stems from times in which women didn’t even have the right to own property, or study something that they wanted. I suggest you read “A Scandal in Bohemia”. It’s short, entertaining and even if you’ve seen the TV episode you won’t be spoiled about the ending, because it’s nothing like that. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Moffat’s writing has been discussed ad infinitum online. Just google it. I enjoy his shows as much as the next fangirl but I cringe whenever the woman (and it’s mostly just one) gets to fulfill her plot point in his brilliant storylines. People have called Sherlock sexist, misogynist and many other things. I’ll try to go the other way. I’ll say Moffat’s writing is very androcentric. It focuses on the male point of view and reaffirms the existing status of men in society. He recreates existing power structures by employing TV tropes and by gloriously failing the Bechdel test, which I’m very critical of (Yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition, deal with it).
I was looking forward to the TV version of “A Scandal in Bohemia”, because finally there would be a big female character that would show Sherlock that he is not invincible. But what they did with her was a gross distortion of her Victorian self.
Adler had to be gay because apparently only a lesbian dominatrix would be a good equivalent to a Victorian prostitute. But then again, we all know that lesbians are ugly hags who couldn’t get a man and since Adler is presented as a beautiful woman she can’t be serious about her gayness and falls for the irresistable Sherlock; who apparently failed biology. Dilated pupils and an elevated pulse can be symptoms of arousal, excitement, fear, drug use, poisoning, strokes and brain tumors amongst other things.
It seems to me that Adler being gay was to satisfy teen boy fantasies. But I will gladly refute that argument if you show me the stuff that was left on the cutting room floor. You know, the material that proves that they were indeed trying to point out that sexuality is fluid while hunting for photographs of what can only be Kate Middleton chained to Adler’s bed by pink fluffy cuffs.
But as it turns out our modern Adler has lost much of her wit. She went and asked the big bad man, Moriarty, for help on how to play Sherlock, because god forbid she would be clever enough to do that on her own. While her Victorian self was able to outsmart Holmes, modern Adler needs him to rescue her. Well, I guess that’s what you get for being a clever, independent woman playing with the big boys.
Now, of course, one could start arguing that the men on the show get treated disrespectfully by Sherlock too and that some of them even need his rescuing capabilities. But this is beside the point, because they also get to be the hero. I would not be writing this if the scales weren’t so horribly tilted.
The importance of entertainment media in our societal evolution grows steadily. What we see on TV we try to copy. To make it painfully simple, if malestream media shows you a rich, good looking guy in a Ferrari you will want to be that guy. If the guy became what he is by suppressing others we will think that this is just what we have to do to get there. And please refrain from telling me it’s not true. If it weren’t, commercials wouldn’t work.
So seeing the same stereotypes of women on TV will eventually lead us to a place where we forget that things can be different. Damsels in distress, the sexual predator, the chaste little girl, the asexual caretaker. Those are roles that in their various disguises women are allowed to fill. On and off screen. (For more on the role of women as virgin/whore read this)
Feminists pointing out that popular shows like Sherlock could easily nudge the status quo to change are not angry man-haters, who couldn’t get laid. They don’t project their fears on others, they are not trying to overpower anyone. They are asking for fairness and equality. I find it sad that young, intelligent women and men don’t seem to get that.
It is about equality, not about taking away someone’s rights.