The BBC released Sherlock in 2010. It starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson. I have watched this series more times than I will ever admit because the number is embarrassing. My favorite character is Mycroft Holmes as played by Mark Gatiss. I couldn’t tell you why because as we have discussed, I am not a good critic.
I am going to take this opportunity to say something that I have learned about myself. It occurred to me, as I was watching Sherlock for the umteenth time, that I did not want to date or marry or be romantically involved with a man like Sherlock or Mycroft. I wanted to be them.
I wanted to be the smartest person in the room, or the person who was the British government (as Mycroft is often described). All these years of watching these clever, dangerous, powerful men, I thought I was supposed to be attracted to them (which is usually clued by how good looking the men who play these characters are). But where was that attraction supposed to lead? Was I supposed to want to date them? Or have sex with them? Was the attraction meant to disappear when the lights came up or the TV show ended?
It never felt quite right because these men seemed as if they would be a nightmare to deal with in real life. I couldn’t even build a proper fantasy around them because I would begin to think about how irritating they would be to take to dinner.
And yet there were certain characters I remained interested in. Sherlock. Mycroft. That crazy murderous Bourne character. They were all so clever and they always solved the puzzle, meted out justice and came back alive.
If I had zero interest in fantasizing about being the woman who waited at home while they saved the day, why did my mind cling to these types of characters?
And then Sherry Thomas wrote her version of Sherlock Holmes where Sherlock was Charlotte Holmes. And that is when I finally figured it out.
I wanted to be Sherlock but Sherlock was always a man and that got in the way of my ability to imagine myself in his place. That is what we often do with fiction, we imagine ourselves as the character we are reading or watching or hearing. But when that character isn’t like us, there can be a disconnect. In fiction, powerful men are often portrayed as the man “every woman wants and every man wants to be.” And so I tried to put myself into the “every woman wants” him category and missed the fact I wouldn’t mind being as smart and ahead of everyone else as he always is.
And so here is yet another example of why representation matters. Get out your pens and pencils, dust off those typewriters and get to work. All the young dudes are busy working on their screenplays, ladies. Time to get cracking on yours.