For some TeeVee viewers in the world, the new series of SHERLOCK has started. For U.S. viewers who don't know how to do anything, it won't be seen until May. It's January now, which means that in FIVE MONTHS y'all will get to see SHERLOCK.
In the olden days, when physical films and/or videotapes had to be physically sent over to another country on a tramp steamer, this probably made sense. But it doesn't now. At all. But no mind. I've seen the first two episodes and I also saw THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, which was my first exposure to the series. These two things actually DO have something in common -- the concept of a gender-defying woman.
In the case of DRAGON TATTOO, that woman is obviously Lisbeth Salander, and based on interviews with the writer, director and actress, a lot of thought went into the concept of the character. Mostly, into what they didn't want her to be. And then why is she who she is? Why does she act the way she does? Dress the way she does? Why is she so good at her kind of research? What results from this is fascinating, complex, contradictory but logically created character.
And then there's SHERLOCK and the introduction of Irene Adler. One of the things I like most about this version of SHERLOCK is how Mark Gattiss and Steven Moffat have updated the characters and the world. This Sherlock is not afraid of technology. He even uses it to his advantage. So does Watson, who isn't a musty old book writer but instead writes a blog. The writers have given this a lot of thought and it's always fun to see it manifested. For those who haven't seen any of the new series yet, there's more and it's delightful.
Anyway. The original incarnation of Irene Adler was basically the Victorian version of Barbara Stanwyck's BABY FACE -- a user of men, a social climber, etc. Kind of a typical female character of that time. But she was unique in that she was able to pull the wool over Holmes's eyes, and he never forgot it. So good for her, then, right?
The other recent version we have of Adler is from the Guy Ritchie movies, in which she is an American (which she is in the Holmes stories but not in the BBC version) but also a skilled thief. What I like about this Adler is that she defies convention. She doesn't have to be a fucking courtesan, thank you very much, because she has skillz. She's a bold, blustery American. Which seems kind of perfect.
The Adler in SHERLOCK is a dominatrix.
The way she is presented and written and edited makes it clear that the writers consider this a bold, fresh choice, leading me to believe that they have never seen an episode of any American crime show. Now, I understand that in the updating of Irene Adler you may go there. At first. But then you SHOULD go, "Yeah, we COULD do that, but it's a bit lazy, isn't it? Shouldn't we come up with something that is a bit more bold? More fresh? More distinct?"
There are a lot of men who think that women use their gender and their sexuality as a weapon, which is essentially what Adler does and it supposedly blinds Sherlock to who she is.*
This is not true, and all you have to do is watch the rape scene in THE ACCUSED to get that. How many times has a female victim been told that she was asking for it? Which, by the way, is never the case -- women simply do not ask to be raped. But how many court cases have there been where a famous athlete, for example, claims that the woman he assaulted deserved it, or was asking for it?
I think that men think women do this because men CAN use their gender and sexuality as a weapon. They can get aggressive and in someone's face and they can threaten each other and usually, one dude backs down. So I suppose it makes sense that they would think women can use their sexuality to do the same thing, only it obviously doesn't work that way.
Women, let me ask you this -- if you can avoid it, do you stop for gas at night? When you're walking down the street and a few dudes are walking towards you, do you take off all your clothes and face them boldly, using your sexuality as a weapon? NO YOU DO NOT. While 99.999% of men aren't ever going to do anything to you, there's always that wild card. So you just never know, and you have to always protect yourself. And that's not even counting the guys who will whistle, or say dumb shit like, "Hey, smile!" Like we're there to entertain them which, let's face it, some of them believe.
Based on this incarnation of Irene Adler, that's what Steven Moffat believes. It's as if Adler knows that when she strips totally nekkid, or cracks that whip, all men immediately bow before her and are incapable of thought. This is stupid of Adler but in the fictional world in which she lives, that's kind of how things work. Because Moffat doesn't make her ashamed of her sexuality, or her body. But the way she wields it is the sort of male fetish fantasy that doesn't exist anywhere, y'all. She knows being so unselfconscious in front of Holmes is going to fuck with his radar. But not because that's how human nature works. No, she knows it because that's how human nature works in Steven Moffat's mind. And frankly, it diminishes Holmes somewhat for me. I think less of him because he doesn't see through this shit right away and turn the tables on her.
You see, Adler is putting this on. There's nothing emotional or personal about it. It's a game with her and for Holmes to not see that, well, it doesn't feel like Holmes. This is Moffat using a woman to fuck with Holmes, but the woman doesn't get to use her intelligence. She gets to use her -- well, you get the idea. She uses the only thing that Moffat seems to recognize in women, which was also present in the Christmas episode of DOCTOR WHO. There, he had a perfectly organic reason for Madge's strength -- the fact that she was holding onto such incredible grief and being strong for her kids. But no, instead he dives right for the uterus. Disappointing.
So although I quite enjoyed aspects of Adler in the new SHERLOCK, and very much enjoyed the interplay between Holmes & Watson and MY GOD the Sherlock/Mycroft stuff is utterly magnificent, I thought Moffat really missed the boat on much of Adler. And seeing THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, I wondered how much more effective Adler would have been if she had been more Lisbeth Salander.
Lisbeth hides her gender and sexuality and creates an armor of protection around herself. She doesn't do this because she wants to fuck with men and play games. She does it because she's trying to fucking SURVIVE. She didn't sit there and one day go, "So here's my plan to totally transform myself." She just DID IT. And if you asked her why she cut her hair like that, or pierced what she pierced, or ANYTHING, she would just stare off to the side and not answer you. Lisbeth is only female when she's violated by a monster (but boy, does she turn on him in a satisfying way) or when she chooses to be with Mikael. But even then there's something off about her. Lisbeth is the woman who slips through the cracks, but doesn't moan about it. She just tries to live. She is barely contained rage but her control is magnificent. And if you apply that control to her mind-fucking Sherlock Holmes, I think it would be pretty interesting.
How would Holmes react to a woman who didn't use ANY of her male-perceived weaponry, but who instead was bristling with contradictions that aren't the society-approved ones? How would Holmes deal with a woman who is wearing such a mighty figurative suit of armor? How do you predict what a character like Lisbeth is going to do? Well, all you CAN predict is that she'd survive. Because that's how she's created herself. Adler, on the other hand -- I don't want to spoil anything for y'all but there's a twist and a big disappointment at the end that is just SO VERY MOFFAT.
But Holmes vs. Lisbeth Salander, that is interesting. Because she isn't going to give him ANYTHING, but she can become anyone. She plays things even closer to the vest than HE does and on a certain level, they are equally damaged. She's nobody's fantasy. But she also doesn't dwell on what's happened to her. She just creates another wall to slide in next to the existing ones. And then she matter-of-factly goes about the business of fucking people over in unbelievably creative ways.
If you haven't seen SHERLOCK yet, just keep Lisbeth in mind when you do. It'll be interesting to hear what y'all think.
Also, this week's episode of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES was frakkin AMAZEBALLS.
*That's not how I read it at first because I gave Moffat the benefit of the doubt but based on interviews, that's exactly how it happened, which is rather a great disappointment.