magnetic_pole: (Default)
[personal profile] magnetic_pole


Every age gets the Holmes it deserves.

Everything I know about the twenty-first century I learned from Sherlock (BBC, 2010):

*

All problems have solutions.

All solutions are rational.

Everything that is rational can be comprehended, analyzed, and discarded.

By you.

You know everything worth knowing.

You are the master of the universe.

*

Merit rises to the top. Raw intelligence, that's what matters.

You can't look for intelligence in the Metropolitan Police Force. Why even bother? The private sector is where insight is found. Trust the consultants.

The state is there to facilitate your work. And defuse bombs. And take the bodies to the morgue.

*

People respond to intelligence. They desire intelligence. They answer the text messages that intelligence sends. They fetch things for intelligence. They are willing to put up with the rudeness that occasionally accompanies intelligence. They ask intelligence out on dates.

Intelligence is sexy.

Intelligence is power.

*

It used to be that clients would show up on your doorstep with a story, a plea, a mystery. This used to be how the game started.

Now victims show up dead.

Easier that way, to assess their problems.

More efficient.

Besides, you'd rather text than talk.

*

Look at London. Bright lights, big city. It's beautiful.

The light is beautiful. The colors are beautiful. The clothes are beautiful. This whole show is beautiful.


*

London is safe. Clean. Well-lit. Seen through a plate of glass, a kaleidoscope of reflections.

*

This is a city of well-maintained classical buildings (distant past) and high-tech modernism (present and future).

No one of interest ever lived or worked in something built in the sixties, anyway.

*

Some people say London is a battlefield. You see it more as a playground.

*

Money is no object.

*

Buses and subways are for people whose time is less valuable than yours.

*

The vast majority of people in London are white. People who are not white are statistically more likely to be blood-thirsty, murdering villains. Or dead, victims themselves.

What? You're just counting. Numbers, hard numbers, that's what you want.

*

You just happen to be white.

*

Did that man just call his hostage a "stupid bitch?" Did he really? What right does anyone have to call any woman...

But, wait. He's a psychopathic murderer. That's how we know he's crazy.

Because no sane man would ever say that out loud.


*

Once, famously, a woman got the best of you.

Now, you get the best of the woman, every time.

Freak. Ha!

That was then, this is now.

*

Women protest that they don't want to take care of you, but they really do.

*

He taught me, rather than he learned me.

I was, not I were.

Hanged, instead of hung.

The man has killed his wife in a brutal stabbing, but what really rubs you wrong is his dialect.

Nothing like a death sentence to cure someone of being working class.

*

Homeless people, your "eyes and ears" around the city, emerge when they might be useful. Otherwise, they are invisible. Disinfect yourself after contact.

*

It doesn't help anyone to care.

*

Sometimes a disguise will gain you entry to an important place. Discard it as soon as possible. Don't even bother to keep up the pretense. You don't want anyone to mistake you for a working man.

*

On the other hand, people may assume you're gay. Don't worry. Don't protest. We won't go there.

*

Text flashes before you. Clues flash before you. Fast. Disorienting. Don't get distracted. The crucial details here are not factual, not for anyone except the master of the universe.

The key to this show, for lesser mortals, is character. Watch for Sherlock's expression. How does he feel about the situation at hand?

You spend a lot of time watching Sherlock's face.

Sometimes, you watch John watching Sherlock's face.

Funny how riveting a cold man's face is.


*

Selling drugs is dangerous; you can get out of your depth before you know it, in trouble, in debt, you'll kill your near-brother-in-law on the off-chance that you'll be able to sell something of his for a profit. Selling drugs leads to a life of crime.

Buying drugs and occasionally enjoying them, on the other hand, would be entirely fine. It would be interesting, actually. It would add to your mystique.

But of course, you're clean. Did everyone hear that? You're clean.

*

You are untouchable. Your friends are untouchable. The law exists to facilitate your investigations. When it's convenient.

The state itself is outdated. You have the world in your hand, on a mobile or a laptop. The new order is conflict-free and flexible.

*

Even when someone dies, it's not your fault.

People die, that's what they do.

Oh, sorry. Other people die. That's what they do.

*

You, on the other hand. You solve problems. Lestrade and Donovan and Dimmock have tried, but your methods have been tested in the open market, proved to be the best.

No problem is ever solved collaboratively. No assistance is helpful. No other types of intelligence are acknowledged.

There is no such thing as society, only individual problems, and individual problem solvers.

They should take your word as gospel.

*

People are taken hostage. Bombs are detonated. People are killed. A child's life is on the line. A roommate deals with loss. A woman grieves the man who would have married her. A man shakes in terror. A head sits in the refrigerator.

Their names and stories pass by too quickly to catch. None of them really matter, anyway. Only ninety minutes, total. Still two mysteries to go. Real problems are abstract, logical, and impersonal, unconnected to daily life, personal experience, local knowledge, or the vagaries of chance.

This is the great game. The one thing that matters in this game--

No, it's not that we win. We always win.

The one thing that really matters is that Sherlock Holmes might...

God, is that John?

He's got a vest! He's covered in explosives!


...the one thing that really matters...

Look at Sherlock Holmes' face. Watch carefully for any register of emotion. This is what we've been waiting for: a hint of anger, fear, or compassion. The show has been training you to do this for more than four hours, training you to search for the slightest sign of emotion in this man's face. You are riveted.

...the one thing that really matters is that Sherlock Holmes just might have a heart, after all.

Because that's what important. The master of the universe loves and suffers like the rest of us.

*

P.S. Thanks to [personal profile] rose71 for listening and, well, being [personal profile] rose71.
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Date: 2010-08-11 01:59 am (UTC)
glass_icarus: (holmes: hats)
From: [personal profile] glass_icarus
Oof, this is a powerful post (even not having watched Sherlock). &hearts!
Edited Date: 2010-08-11 02:00 am (UTC)

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From: [personal profile] glass_icarus - Date: 2010-08-11 02:43 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [personal profile] glass_icarus - Date: 2010-08-11 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [personal profile] wanderlight - Date: 2010-08-11 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [personal profile] annephoenix - Date: 2010-08-12 07:37 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2010-08-11 07:40 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] miss_haitch
Woah, this is chilling and powerful -- like glass_icarus I haven't watched the show, but I've read a handful of meta about it and this really resonates with the problems people have mentioned.

Date: 2010-08-11 03:05 pm (UTC)
sophinisba: Gwen looking sexy from Merlin season 2 promo pics (frodo thinking by alchehmilla)
From: [personal profile] sophinisba
Oh God, so much this. It is...yes, disturbing how riveted I am by his face, despite the awareness of how much is wrong with it all. /o\

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] wanderlight - Date: 2010-08-11 08:54 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2010-08-11 04:19 pm (UTC)
marina: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marina
Yeah, this. The idea that they're getting a second series fills me with UGH.

Date: 2010-08-11 04:20 pm (UTC)
heathershaped: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heathershaped
This is AMAZING. So powerful and SO true.

Date: 2010-08-11 04:37 pm (UTC)
woldy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] woldy
This is fantastic - utterly chilling, but all the more so because it resonates with what we're hearing from the UK government every day: that the market has all the answers, that the state is definitionally inefficient, that unemployed people need more 'incentives', that women are supposed to provide unpaid care. It's terrifying how many people in London see things like this, & I love that you've laid those messages bare for fans to ask themselves whether they're really okay with it.

That's all without even getting into the fact that the arch-criminal is an Irish bomber who doesn't care about the lives of innocent people. Pshaw, this isn't colonialism, this is just a couple of geniuses playing a game with their cellphones.

Date: 2010-08-11 11:52 pm (UTC)
starlady: "I can hear the sound of empires falling." (burning empires)
From: [personal profile] starlady
Yes, exactly this.

Date: 2010-08-11 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zahrawithaz.livejournal.com
Wow. Another non-Sherlock watcher (this may have decisively convinced me not to watch it in the future), and it's striking how many other shows this feels applicable to.

I love the way you point how the emotional investment in the lead is intimately tied to the show's political world-view. (Here via heather's rec, btw.)

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] lady_ganesh - Date: 2011-02-27 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2010-08-11 05:29 pm (UTC)
verasteine: Steve (Default)
From: [personal profile] verasteine
I'm a fan, but, wow, have you grabbed the things that make me uncomfortable about this show (and its producers) and lined it all up for me to see. I feel like I should come out with something more intelligent in response, but I need to process this. It's very powerful. Thank you for this.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] verasteine - Date: 2010-08-13 11:33 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2010-08-11 07:22 pm (UTC)
thoracopagus: (james: smoke in the old drapes)
From: [personal profile] thoracopagus
This pulled me in so thoroughly that there were moments where I forgot I was reading meta and not some sort of gorgeous, socially conscious fanfiction. Some of the best meta I have ever read and so spot on, thank you for writing/sharing this.

Date: 2010-08-11 08:49 pm (UTC)
wanderlight: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wanderlight
Maggie, this is FANTASTIC. ♥ Thanks so much for writing this; we can always trust you to be insightful & eloquent about things like this! It illuminates essentially everything I'm finding problematic with the show, and a lot of things I didn't even realise. It's a really good look at how media teaches us to be complicit in our own oppression and discrimination.

Honestly, I have no idea what to do with Sherlock. I really want to like it -- and there are aspects I love about it -- but it's so blatantly, casually offensive sometimes that I almost hoped it was trying to be ironic. Unfortunately, no. It's being very serious. Chinese people really are only about exotic circuses and smuggling rings! Women are only there for you to talk about them as sexual objects in relation to men! The sociopathic white man is a god, and should be treated as such! (I don't know enough about classic Sherlock Holmes to comment on this, but it almost seems like the way the premise is set up to idolise the protagonist, it paves the way for problems.) If we wrap it all up in a shiny package with desaturated colours & visual flair, and encourage everyone to identify with the dismissive gaze of the white male protagonist, no one will notice!

/rant ;)

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From: [personal profile] wanderlight - Date: 2010-08-15 06:50 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2010-08-11 09:18 pm (UTC)
scrollgirl: teyla is awesome; text: pax (sga teyla)
From: [personal profile] scrollgirl
*wild applause* I'm a fan in spite of the show's flaws, sucked in by the white male POV in spite of my objections, but wow, you really lay it all out. This was such a brilliant piece of meta/fic, perfectly incisive, and I only wish Moffat would read it and understand, truly comprehend.

Date: 2010-08-11 09:53 pm (UTC)
tielan: (go boom)
From: [personal profile] tielan
Here via [personal profile] glass_icarus. Haven't watched it and never really intended to. But, yeah, I figure this is why Sherlock is trending to be the next big fannish show in the mode of Smallville, SGA, Supernatural, and Merlin.

Date: 2010-08-11 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lizardspots
This was a powerful piece of meta. I personally believe that some of the things you highlighted are intentional decisions made by the writers in fleshing out modern!Holmes' shades of ugliness in character, and I am glad for it because so many other Holmes portrayals showcase his suave superiority with no ugliness to balance it out.

But the political constructs and role of women and appalling levels of racefail... yeah, I noted them and mostly attempted to separate it from the elements of the show that I do enjoy. This meta brought all those problematic areas into sharp clarity. Thank you for opening my eyes. :)

Date: 2010-08-11 11:21 pm (UTC)
ajnabi: cartoonic photomanip of my face (with some body) against a colourful patterned background (Default)
From: [personal profile] ajnabi
this is AWESOME. thank you for writing. seriously.

Date: 2010-08-11 11:35 pm (UTC)
nny: (please tread carefully)
From: [personal profile] nny
I love the way this is worded.

Date: 2010-08-11 11:54 pm (UTC)
starlady: Mary, Holmes and Watson at home in Baker Street (not impressed OT3)
From: [personal profile] starlady
Oh, wow. You're so right, and thank you for pointing it out so powerfully and pointedly.

Neoliberalism makes so much sense, it's so rational, it hides in plain sight by coopting us before we've realized it and never quite showing itself, in most if not all of the industrial democracies. And its messages are reinforced everywhere.

Date: 2010-08-12 12:53 am (UTC)
lotesse: (sherlock_clay)
From: [personal profile] lotesse
This may be the most lyrically artful critique of a show I've ever read - and after reading it, I'm still mainly struck by how absolutely on the analysis is. Maybe this is why that show failed so completely to win my heart.

Date: 2010-08-12 04:59 am (UTC)
epershand: An ampersand (Default)
From: [personal profile] epershand
Wow, this reads like poetry. It's brilliant.

Date: 2010-08-12 05:00 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: Jeune fille de Megare statue, B&W (league of extraordinary gentlemen)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
This is incredibly powerful. I watched the first episode, and I could point to a few things I didn't like, but I couldn't define the creeping sense of feeling undermined and sort of trampled by this narrative. You have brilliantly articulated why this narrative is so hard to argue against (so rational! so clean!) and yet so insidiously wrong. In Sherlock the State is dead. Thatcher wins.

Date: 2010-08-12 07:21 am (UTC)
st_aurafina: (3 pipe)
From: [personal profile] st_aurafina
Oh, this. This is what gave me the creeping horrors while I watched this show, and yet I could not look away. You explain it perfectly: this story is not for us and if we don't fit, we're invisible or dead.

Date: 2010-08-12 08:57 am (UTC)
vi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] vi
Here by way of [personal profile] glass_icarus. Though I haven't seen the series in question, this analysis is chilling and spot on. Thank you for writing it.

Date: 2010-08-12 09:12 am (UTC)
from: (love and hate and that)
From: [personal profile] from
Thanks for this post because it is a wonderful thing to engage with. I had a passing thought the other day that Sherlock was a bit like the news (like mainstream TV reportage transposed into the dramatic fiction genre) with problematic fundamentals that are slippery because they are connected to structures of thought. And you know, I enjoy the show as much as I enjoy the news and that's definitely something I want to keep considering. There's such a particular slant to them and your post has broken it down beautifully. I'm putting this in my memories.

Date: 2010-08-12 09:48 am (UTC)
ariadneelda: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ariadneelda
This is awesome meta. You pointed out everything that bothered me (besides the race and gender issues I could clearly see) that I couldn't put my finger on. Thank you.

Date: 2010-08-12 10:08 am (UTC)
torachan: (Default)
From: [personal profile] torachan
Excellent post.

I just finished watching episode three myself and ugh. I had high hopes for this series, but there is so much that bugs me. :(

here via heather

Date: 2010-08-12 10:19 am (UTC)
ishtar79: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ishtar79
This is just spot on.

I enjoyed the show on a superficial level but was unable to get into it, and this just covers every bit that caused me discomfort, as well as some things I didn't even realise were off.
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