I know I’m a little late on the uptake, but I wanted to post my own response to the recent garbage put forward by Phillip Shreffler. Now, I’m not any big name in the Sherlockian fandom in any way(and yes, it is a fandom whether Mr. Shreffler wants to admit it or not), I’ve barely got any followers, but I’m a Sherlockian, damnit, and I’m an offended Sherlockian. So here is what I have to say.
Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I am under 25 (barely). Yes, I use the internet. And apparently these three simple things mean I can’t enjoy Sherlock Holmes in the correct way. I considered putting in the fact that I’m fairly well-educated, in the process of earning two master’s degrees in a well-respected American institution , as if this background should somehow help ease the fact that I have a vagina. But I decided that neither my education, nor anyone else’s, should have an effect on the kind of things one is allowed to enjoy, and, furthermore, if Mr. Shreffler is as old-fashioned as his remarks imply, he’d probably prefer that women stayed out of Academia and went back, quiet and obedient, to the kitchen.
I grew up on the Sherlock Holmes canon. When all the other kids went out to recess, I sat in the library and pulled out random books. It was in third grade, I believe, when I discovered Arthur Conan Doyle’s work and sincerely enjoyed it. I’ve read through all of the stories several times throughout my life, always finding new things to marvel at and new layers I didn’t see the time before. When my parents discovered how much I enjoyed the work, they introduced me to the adaptations featuring both Rathborne and Brett, but I was unimpressed. They were too close to canon, and I, as someone who was perfectly capable of visualizing the stories without the aid of the television, got bored quickly. I was severely skeptical when I heard of a new, modern adaptation, and put off watching it for quite some time. However, when I finally did watch it, I was floored. Not because I think being modern makes it inherently “better” or “easier for my young, simple mind to comprehend” but by the very fact that it isn’t an exact repetition of the canon. Gatiss and Moffat know the canon inside and out, and they play with it and twist it and when you know the canon beforehand, this gives BBC Sherlock a startling depth.
That being said, I know plenty of people who can (and do) watch and enjoy Sherlock without any prior knowledge of the stories. And you know what? That. Is. Okay. Mr. Shreffler can’t pretend for a minute that everyone who watched earlier Holmes adaptations had read the canon stories first. Do I think knowing the canon adds something to the experience of watching any adaptation of Sherlock Holmes? Yes. Do I think that people who haven’t read canon but still enjoy the BBC show are stupid, vapid fangirls? Absolutely not. Remove the fact that this is an adaptation of a book and BBC Sherlock still remains a fantastic program. The acting is brilliant, the writing is fantastic – over a course of only six episodes the audience is completely pulled in and emotionally attached to the characters, which is no easy feat. And while we’re on the subject, yes, I will admit to being attracted to Benedict Cumberbatch. But, magically, I find myself able to simultaneously appreciate him for the marvelous actor that he is and his stunning portrayal of Holmes. Imagine that.
Now, this business of “fandom” vs. “elite of devotees.” The whole idea is outrageous – that we are somehow better and more intellectual than people who, say, enjoy watching Doctor Who or Downton Abbey or, God forbid, Harry Potter. Furthermore, the historic evidence doesn’t hold. By claiming a true Sherlockian as someone not “fanatic” about the subject, Mr. Shreffler must be forgetting the people at the turn of the 20th century naming their children after the characters, or, better yet, those who outright mourned the death of a fictional character and attacked Doyle, forcing him to bring the detective back.
What originally brought me to Sherlock Holmes, as a young child, was the belief that this was a collection of stories that told me it was okay to be different, that two people with such opposite personalities as Holmes and Watson could be friends, and that being looked upon as strange and abnormal was sometimes a good thing. Apparently, I was wrong. Clearly what I should have picked up on was the need to be high-brow, arrogant, stifling, and judgmental of people who want to talk with me about our mutual interests. My mistake. Thanks for setting me on the right path, Mr. Shreffler.