on 2014-02-16 11:58 (UTC)
synecdochic: torso of a man wearing jeans, hands bound with belt (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] synecdochic

i haven't written it down, no!

the biggest thing that annoys me about BBC Sherlock is that Sherlock is still the same abusive asshole after three series (and, in-show, something like 4 years), and how he doesn't respect John in the least. I can deal with the asshole part, but the way the text is telling us that John is his only friend, John is someone he cares about, John is someone he respects, etc, while Sherlock's actions are showing the exact opposite, just drives me up the twist. Sherlock's clearly capable of having emotions and empathy for other people (I do not believe the oft-repeated 'high-functioning sociopath' in the least; it's not at all supported), he just doesn't bother. The show alternates between wanting you to believe that's a deliberate choice to protect himself and something he can turn off when he thinks it's important enough, and wanting you to believe that it's something he just can't help and John is teaching him to be (or at least pretend to be) a better person, but neither reading is supported by Sherlock's actual actions; the show is aiming for "Sherlock is a misunderstood genius who can't function in the world because he is a robot space alien, and John is his long-suffering prosthetic emotions", and instead they hit "Sherlock is an abusive, petulant man-child who actively sabotages everything and everyone around him and John keeps allowing it to happen, if not actively enabling it, because he's terrified of losing his only friend". (With the 'again' tacked on to series 3.)

I don't find that admirable in the least and I want the show to stop telling me I should admire it. I want the show to stop excusing Sherlock's emotional abuse of the people around him. I want there to be actual, functional consequences for Sherlock and the shit he pulls, and I want John to either stop being so goddamn enabling or at least have someone point out that's what's going on. It's an incredibly ugly dynamic. Sherlock's active sabotage of every other human relationship John has or could possibly form is the way abusers isolate and prepare their victims. Even Mary: John could not form that relationship until Sherlock was out of the picture, and literally the first thing Sherlock did when he came back was try to disrupt it. (And the 'Sherlock was retroactively justified in trying to get in between John and Mary' thing from 3.03 is an example of what I mean by the show wanting you to admire it.)

I could put up with that if I thought they were doing it deliberately or if I thought there would ever be consequences, but the show is too in love with Sherlock to ever be willing to point out the abuse. We're expected to think he's a Misunderstood Hero instead, because the showrunners do not know they are writing something that edges towards an abuser and an abusive relationship, and I cannot deal with the dissonance.

(The dissonance thing is the thing I mean when I say "most TV does this". I apparently have serious values dissonance with a lot of TV, and I cannot take being presented someone who is a shitty excuse for a human being and being told I'm supposed to like them. There are shows that do present flawed or asshole protagonists without being apologetics for their flaws or treating them as the hero, but they are very, very few and far between. I blame, ultimately, Watchmen->the late 80s/mid 90s in comics, since that was the formative era for a lot of today's showrunners.)

And that is why I love, love, love Elementary, because the Sherlock in Elementary respects the fuck out of Joan, treats her as an equal both intellectually and emotionally, and is actively encouraging her development as a detective and an equal partner in their enterprise. Joan, meanwhile, is occasionally exasperated with him (he's occasionally exasperating!) and they have frequent clashes of "what is the right thing to do here", but both of their opinions and approaches are validated by the text, and they work out compromises together. The text is very clear about how both of their approaches stem from their life histories, and usually avoids presenting either of them as 'right' or 'wrong'. And they're generally both trying to make the other's life a bit better and both trying to make the other happy, even when they get the details of how to make the other happy totally wrong. It takes a few episodes to get there -- the really lovely bits of the relationship between them don't start to bloom until the second half of season 1 -- but I even like that too, because it means they've shown their work.

The relationship between BBC Sherlock and John is about disrespect, frequent trampling of boundaries, forcible isolation of someone who was already vulnerable, and apologetics, and the relationship between Elementary Sherlock and Joan is about mutual respect and cooperation, and that alone would make Elementary something I liked better even if the writers and directors of BBC Sherlock didn't want me to believe that the disrespect, frequent trampling of boundaries, and forcible isolation was something to admire.

Like I said, I'm still watching BBC Sherlock, partially because it is very good acting, partially because I want to see what the next trainwreck will be, and partially because I want to see if the unthinkable happens and the show realizes it's glorifying an abuser, but I have to brace myself really fucking hard to be able to handle it without twitching.

(This does not even get into the massive, epic, titanic problem BBC Sherlock -- the show itself, not the character -- has with women, but that's another rant.)

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