In my post-series 3 re-watch, an interesting observation struck me: a large number of Sherlock’s female characters are involved in the media industry.
Jennifer Wilson supposedly worked in the media, which Sherlock deduced from the fact that she was dressed in a ‘frankly alarming shade of pink’ - the colour most closely associated with femininity.
Irene Adler used the media to her advantage. As Mycroft informed Sherlock, ‘She’s been at the centre of two political scandals in the last year, and recently ended the marriage of a prominent novelist by having an affair with both participants separately’ - she used public interest in private affairs to gain power. She also used the media to keep tabs on Sherlock, who she knew she would be facing as an adversary.
Kitty Riley worked as a journalist, and was a key player in Moriarty’s scheme to bring about Sherlock’s demise.
Janine also worked in the industry as assistant to Magnussen, the head of a major news corporation. Magnussen’s villainy, like Moriarty’s, was strongly linked to the media industry, and again, Janine is connected to that. She also has connections to Mary, who also fulfilled antagonistic narrative roles. She also takes her revenge on Sherlock for using her by selling false stories about their non-existent sex life to one of Magnussen’s rivals (another link between the media and antagonism).
The Empty Hearse, Anderson’s group of theorists after which the seventh episode is named, predominantly comprises of young women, and it was a young women who shared a theory and was the focal point of that group.
It’s also notable that Jennifer, Irene, Kitty and Janine are all associated with sex. Jennifer was a serial adulterer, Irene used sex as a form of power play, Kitty attempted to seduce Sherlock upon their first meeting and Janine used the sensationalism of sex in the media to take revenge on Sherlock. Both A Scandal in Belgravia and His Last Vow also contain shots in which Irene and Janine hold newspapers - tangible products of the media industry - while wearing red nail varnish, often used as a signifier of sex and sexuality.
So, what is the significance of this?
Sherlock as a programme is strongly based around the idea of perception. It’s Sherlock’s powers of perception that drive the crime-solving aspects of the narrative, and the way in which characters perceive events and one another form the shape of the programme. The majority of the characters whose perceptions have significant narrative impact are male - Sherlock, John, Mycroft, Lestrade, Moriarty, Magnussen, even Anderson. The media is an industry built around how we perceive others, and its feminisation within Sherlock provides a route by which women within the programme can use perception to shape the narrative, some of the instances of which I’ve already noted above.
What I am particularly interested in is the way in which these (sexually-confident) women explore male homoeroticism, homosexuality, desire and relationships. Kitty was digging for gossipy dirty, and asked a lot of questions. There was one passing line
With the exception of Jennifer Wilson, who of course never met Sherlock, all of these women discuss Sherlock, particularly with regard to John, in this light. Irene confronts John about his feelings for Sherlock - when he declares that he’s not gay, she responds “Well I am. Look at us both.” Kitty, when she first meets him, asks “You and John Watson - just platonic? Or can I put you down for a ‘no’ there, as well?” Janine, in one of her interviews, says that ‘I know some people thought he’d been having an affair with John Watson but I can tell you that’s definitely not true.’ Even the nameless young woman in The Empty Hearse, who had never met Sherlock, inferred homosexuality - her theory involved him kissing Moriarty. There are plenty of other similar inferences in the (feminised) media throughout the series, too - one newspaper refers to Sherlock and John’s ‘salacious home life’, and another refers to ‘confirmed bachelor John Watson’.
221beemine wrote an excellent meta entitled ‘Female Reading of the Male Gaze, and Sherlock’ which you can read here, in which she explores the female perception of Sherlock and John’s relationship. What is increasingly clear to me is that this perception is not exclusive to the programme, but is being increasingly integrated into it.
I’ll leave you to your deductions.
You know when I first started reading this, I thought, hmm interesting, I don’t think I’ve seen an examination of the women and media angle. Cool. Moffat habitually steeps his characters in sexuality, and that is doubly true for his female characters. Sexuality is his favorite toy, and he confuses his lustful eye for women with admiration. So I was curious to see if you were examining the problematic nature of professional women in Moffat’s world always using their sexuality. Sex is a valid tool, but it’s one he always introduces. The lack of variety is uninteresting, and with Moffat, it’s the patterns that give him away, not single bold instances. It’s a topic worthy of discussion in an essay, without a doubt.
Imagine my surprise when the discussion of female sexuality and the media turned out to be once again a meta about male homoeroticism. Apparently women (and their sexuality) in BBC’s Sherlock exist to serve as eyes on Johnlock and male homosexuality. Female characters and their sexuality, based on what you’re saying here, are there only to serve male sexual purposes, to be a witness with their perceptions, and presumably not allowed to participate.
These women aren’t exploring male homoeroticism. Irene is a study in the fluidity of romanticism- the lesbian who fell in love with a man. Does her situation mirror John’s? That’s worth discussion. But that’s about love, not sex.
Kitty was digging for dirt that she could use against Sherlock. There’s a nasty insinuation to that. Despite her claiming she could help him, she wanted to find any gossip she could use for a headline.She wasn’t perceiving anything; that was the show writers throwing in the running joke about queerness, and that is not good.
A passing line in a written Janine interview that was never spoken aloud involves no examination.Again, running joke in print newspaper that they knew only us hardcore fans would read. Jokes about gayness is not subtext; it’s homophobia.
Laura of the Empty Hearse, the fabulous Sheriarty shipper. Not much of a media-connection beyond the social media aspect of an average person. Gatiss is a prick for throwing in the tease of a kiss and laughing about it when people interviewed him about it. After seeing him discuss that, I honestly don’t know how anyone can think the writers are interested in exploring male homoeroticism with intent onscreen. And that’s not a ship slam- that’s a writers-slam.
It strikes me as incredibly problematic, to say the least, to reduce women and their sexuality to this level, especially when it’s not accurate. They have made a couple passing jokes to queerness, but the women’s sexuality is their own, and so much more important than simply serving as an eye to perceive male-male sexual relations.
My deduction is that johnlockers need to disappear off the earth and never inflict themselves on this fandom again, omfg are you people serious or just high all the time.
The whole damn show makes use of media, John is a fucking blogger, Anthea texts, Mycroft’s always reading newspapers, Molly has a blog, Mycroft texts, fucking Moran used a computer once, everyone watches TV, are you people that insane to…
Oh, fuck it. Johnlockers are so far from sane, it’s useless to try to talk reason with them.
Well, with that constructive commentary, which totally ignores the entire thrust of my argument, you’d better stop watching Sherlock, since Mark Gatiss has stated time and time again that one of the most influential films in his life, and particularly in his youth when he was coming to terms with his sexuality, is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, of which he said that ‘The relationship between Sherlock and Watson is treated beautifully; Sherlock effectively falls in love with him in the film, but it’s so desperately unspoken’ - in other words, that he, in that sense, ‘ships it’. Damn delusional Johnlock shippers.(Not ignoring petratodd’s commentary - I’ll respond to that a bit later when I have more time!)
Bedtime for me. ‘Night! x
And it’s possible that I’m reading it entirely wrong, but John seems pretty insecure otherwise, largely because of his preoccupation with what people might think. So I think Sherlock complimenting him on his appearance, not something he has made for himself but simply a part of who he is, is something that would mean the world to him.
Oh, I totally agree. While John is very self-confident about some things - his abilities as a doctor and soldier, for instance - he certainly needs validation and reassurance and acceptance in others, and I totally agree that Sherlock complimenting him would make him feel incredibly happy and loved and secure.
I have no idea, to be honest, but I don’t think there is no ‘usual’ - people are so unique and varied. I’m the polar opposite of you - maps are meaningless squiggles to me, I can’t intellectualise them, my visual capacities are just so bad - but I have other mental strong points. We’re a diverse species!
middle aged sherlock and john reading in bed, and sherlock trying to subtly steal john’s reading glasses because obviously he’s in denial about having getting old and developing presbyopia
Yes yes yes, and he just sees John in his features - his understanding in his eyes, his conviction in his brow, his altruism in his hands, his command in his shoulders, his bravery in the way he holds his spine and lifts his chin - and he’s the most beautiful person in all the world.
I wanted to have all of my meta accessible from one place, so here’s a list of all the analysis I’ve produced on Sherlock, which will be updated as and when I write more!
- A Defence of Shipping
- Sherlock & Romance, AKA Why So Many People Ship Johnlock
- "The damsel in distress"
- "My husband is three people": the three ‘spouses’ of John Watson
- "Johnlock cheapens John and Sherlock’s bond": I don’t think so
- "BUT HE’S MARRIED TO A WOMAN IN THE BOOKS!": A Defence of Johnlock Shippers
- Why canonical Johnlock wouldn’t be an issue regarding viewership figures
- 'Straight Until Proven Otherwise': The Issue With Steven Moffat on Sherlock's Sexuality [with additional commentary here]
- On Janine, the hospital scene and Sherlock’s (homo)sexuality
- Women & the media
- Every frame tells a story: the mise-en-scène of the confrontation scene in A Study in Pink
- How old are Sherlock and John?
- Sherlock Holmes and Sociopathy (Or Lack Thereof)
- Let’s Talk Costume: part 1 | part 2
- Costume in the Unaired Pilot
- On Irene Adler
- In defence of Sally Donovan
- On Sherlock and Aspergers
- Sherlock, John & religion
- Sherlock & emotion
- The Methodology Behind the Successful Establishment of Narrative in Crime Drama
- The sexual adversary: sexuality & villainy in Sherlock
- On John and Sherlock’s suicide
- Why TRF was the perfect end to Moriarty’s arc
- His Last Vow: Mary Mor
stan, keeping friends close & enemies closer and Mycroft Holmes as hero
- Mary’s vs. Sherlock’s motives in the 221b confrontation scene
- On Mary’s pregnancy
- On the train car scene
- On Sherlock & John’s one month separation
- Why isn’t Sherlock listed as one of John’s pressure points?
- The bullet wound: a question not of medicine, but of media
- On the length of and space between Sherlock series
Thank you, but I just find quotes so much easier to memorise than any form of visual imagery! I can reel off entire scenes of Shakespeare, but ask me to describe something much simpler from memory and I’m stuck.