Gay Sherlock Holmes Academic Literature Review of Modern Era Works (in progress)

[in progress]
Gay Sherlock Holmes Academic Literature Review

Sherlock Homes Movies by Guy Ritchie

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) 
The affection of Holmes for Watson and his disapproval of Mary Morstan is very overt in Robert Downey Jr's portrayal.  However, Restrepo (2012) describes this overt performance as "camp". Exaggerated costumes and humor deflect and tension that would drive an intimate homo-social relationship in a homosexual direction. (A similar role is now filled by the term "bromance", which acknowledges and neutralizes homosexual interpretations of a close male friendship.) Such a tension would not have been in the original works when first read by a Victorian era audience, where same sex friendship was presumed platonic and normal, and so free from 'homosexual anxiety'.

Sherlock by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (BBC)
Gay readings of the BBC Sherlock and Holmes expressed by supporting characters, but disavowed by the characters and their creators. Moriarty also only "plays gay".  Nevertheless, a slash fandom thrives for this show. Particular note has been made of Chinese fans of homoerotic material from the BBC show. Media reports both made fun of the interest and disproved of Chinese state suppression of homosexual material (Hampton, 2015).

A Scandal in Belgravia (2012)
As with the original, his episode is used to argue that Holmes is fundamentally heterosexual (Fogle and Maisano, 2014) because of is emotional response to Irene Adler.

Elementary by Robert Doherty  
The gender-swapping of Watson in Elementary removes the homosocial core of the original stories and replaces them with a figure that is female and challenging rather than male and essentially adoring (Conroy 2015).

Watson, when cast as male, both introduces and defuses homosexual readings of he Holmes/Watson gay relationship.  Modern version of the story preserve the anachronism of close bachelor male friendships which would be considered unremarkable in the Victorian era.  However instead of modifying them to an acceptable modern equivalent (neighbors, impoverished flatmates, business partners etc) they maintain an arrangement of two men living and working together purely on the basis of personal affinity.  In the Guy Richie movies Holmes' motives can be read as either possessive friendship or unrequited love and in the BBC television series Holmes is shown as asexual or celibate but with a quirky attachment to Watson that has no particular explanation. 

Only Elementary deals with this issue directly by giving Watson a professional reason to be present inn the house, and making Moriarty and Watson female, providing a romantic attachment between Holmes and Moriarty and a TV-standard unresolved tension between Homes and Watson.  While this solution allows Elementary to deal with female characters in a much less misogynist manner, it is also in many ways a simply deleting the homosexual tension of the anachronistic aspects of the Holmes/Watson relationship that is relatively uninteresting. Maybe one day a version of this story will deal defy with issues of gender and sexual orientation, but to my reading none have managed it so far.

  • Conroy, M., & Feder, S. (2015). THE CASE OF THREE SHERLOCK HOLMES.
  • Fogle, K. A., and Maisano, T. (2014). The New Sexy: A Rhetorical Analysis of Sherlock. Conversations: A Graduate Student Journal of the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Theology, 1(2).Hampton, D. R. Slashy Rotten Pervs: Transnational Sherlock Fangirls and the Politics of Pathologization.
  • Caro Lancho, M., & Martín Alegre, S. (2013). Holmes and Watson or Sherlock and John.
  • Restrepo, V. R. D. J. U. Paying the rent and other queer issues surrounding Neo-Victorian representations of Sherlock Holmes.

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