Warning: Semi-professional rambling ahead
Having read many comments, posts and extended essay on the subject of the Holmes Brothers and their myriad of psychiatric problems – I feel that I too should throw something into the psychoanalysis pot. In my case it’s going to be a much loved copy of the Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry.
However, even this ambiguous portrait of female power proved too much for Moffat to stomach. Granted, he allowed her to keep her smarts. But, at the same time, her acumen and agency were undermined every which way. Not-so-subtly channelling the spirit of the predatory femme fatal, Adler’s power became, in Moffat’s hands, less a matter of brains, and more a matter of knowing “what men like” and how to give it to them; of having them by the sexual short and curlies, or, perhaps more aptly, on a nice short leash. Her masterminding of a cunning criminal plan was, it was revealed late in the day, not her own doing, but dependent on the advice of Holmes’s arch nemesis, James Moriarty. A move that, blogger Stavvers noted, neatly reduced her from “an active force to a passive pawn in Moriarty and Holmes’s ongoing cock-duelling”.
More troubling still, Moffat’s Adler blatantly fails to outwit Holmes. Despite identifying as a lesbian, her scheme is ultimately undone by her great big girly crush on Sherlock, an irresistible brain-rot that leads her to trash the security she has fought for from the start of the show with a gesture about as sophisticated – or purposeful – as scrawling love hearts on an exercise book. As a result, Moffat sends Adler out into the world without the information she has always relied on for protection, having made herself entirely vulnerable for the love of a man. Lest we haven’t got the point yet, Holmes hammers it home. “Sentiment,” he tells us, “is a chemical defect found in the losing side.”
And then there was the jaw-dropping finale, which somehow managed to smoosh together a double-bill of two of patriarchy’s top-10 fantasies. All those troubled by female sexual power – or the persistent punctuation of orgasmic text alerts – were treated to the sight of the vamp laid low, down on her knees, about to have her block knocked off by a great big sword. And, at the same time, our hero miraculously appeared to save his damsel in distress. Medusa and Perseus, Rapunzel and her prince, all wrapped up in a potent little bundle. Symbolically speaking, it was really quite impressive. But for those of us crazies who like to think that women are, y’know, just regular human beings, it was, politically, really quite regressive.
Thanks to the team at MX Publishing, we’re excited to bring you this exclusive interview with Sherlock producer Sue Vertue on the genesis of the BBC series. The interview was carried out as part of this month’s Sherlock Holmes week and in support of the Save Undershaw campaign, for which Mark Gatiss is also a Trust patron.