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Monday, December 28, 2009

Sherlock Holmes and the Curious Case of the Sub/Text (Spoilers)

I am not a fan of Sherlock Holmes really at all; I think he's annoying. However, I like Robert Downey, Jr. and Rachel McAdams, and I think Jude Law is a good actor even if he is very, very pretty, and I found the trailers intriguing because they were so NOT what Basil Rathbone would approve of. And I am glad I saw the film.

It wasn't perfect, but it was very good, and Guy Ritchie's take is a new one. Fanboys all over Topless Robot and Great White Snark have been getting their boxers in a bunch over Holmes' boxing, etc. scenes, but the fact is that the character's written (read: canon!) history mentions not only boxing, the use of pistols, swords, and staves, but also some martial art whose name I have forgotten. Holmes was young once, and so was Watson, and that is what this movie is about. The fanboys also disapproved of the movie's villain being an occultist, whining that this was incongruent with Ritchie's purported portrayal of Holmes as the thinking man's action star. All I can say to this is, Hello? Do you know ANYTHING about Arthur Conan Doyle? The man was an enthusiastic spiritualist, dabbled in theosophy, and believed in fairies. I wouldn't have been surprised to see Aleister Crowley make an appearance in this movie (word is Lord Blackwood was based on him).

And, yes. The gay subtext is there. And I am glad! There was always a homoerotic undertone to the Holmes/Watson relationship, YES FANBOYS EVEN IN THE BOOKS WHICH YOU HAVE CLEARLY READ. There are interesting homosexual notes in a lot of Victorian literature. Book!Holmes is a misogynist and a sworn bachelor who happens to be very attached to his doctor in a time when homosexuality was illegal and immoral, and when homosexuals were considered "inverted" people. Movie!Holmes is clearly jealous of Watson's engagement and apparently attracted to Irene Adler. Being that the character of the bisexual is rarely found in Victorian literature, movie!Holmes presents a predicament. Personally, I read the film as portraying Holmes as a straight man enduring the changing of a deep friendship. There are plenty of guys who are jealous of their friends' girlfriends or wives, and they aren't always gay. Current American society has a real problem with male friendships, something I would like to see change. Women are allowed to link arms, even hold hands, in public; allowed to hug and kiss (if only on the cheek); but men are restricted to shallow friendships and shaking hands. Now, the addition of Irene Adler might have been to give movie!Holmes a beard. However, the filming of their scenes together (particularly the first scene Irene appears in and the scene in which she is not very heavily dressed) are shot to show that Holmes IS looking at her with desire. If Ritchie intended to really go whole hog and have the Holmes/Watson slashationship, surely he's smart enough to have shot the Irene/Holmes scenes without any indication of desire on Holmes' part. RDJr's facial expressions and movements are part of his acting, obviously, and they show that the character wants Irene. So I found her presence+Holmes' jealousy of Mary, Watson's fiancee, to=Holmes as a straight man who wants his working relationship and friendship with Watson to go on unhindered and unchanged.

Of course there is the possibility that Holmes wants very much to be straight but is not, and therefore attempts to look at Irene in the way that a straight man would. It is also possible that Watson, a character portrayed as very neat and dapper, is using his engagement to Mary to force himself into a heterosexual role. It is worth noting that book!Watson is a reputed womanizer, something which men have occasionally used to make other men think they're not gay.

At any rate, I think that RDJr. and Jude Law were very aware of the homoerotic things going on in between the lines of Conan Doyle's writing. Jude Law is a big Holmes fan and has read most of the works, I believe. I think that they did intend to act a fine line between a closeted gay male relationship and a straight male relationship, and I think they did it well. If viewers see their portrayals as gay men, that's great. If they see them as straight men, that's good too. Either interpretation works toward acceptance and tolerance.

...I can't be the only one who thought the hog-factory-conveyor-belt scene with the Holmes/Adler/Watson sandwich was totally erotic. Can I? o.O

ALSO these bear repeating (and repeating, and repeating):

Hot DAMN, former drug addict!

1 comment:

Rebecca, The Clothes Horse said...

There was definitely a bit of a "bro-mance" going on. I can see the homo-erotic thing, but I also think it is completely common for people to have co-dependent, same-sex relationships without it being sexual, you know? But Jude Law always seems to have a gay vibe to me...

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