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Sherlock Holmes: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

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So this particular thread is not super-active (and there is not a lot of activity here for the show in general, which is completely understandable, considering that the show's last new episode aired in January 2014), but I'm going to drop a grenade in the character thread here and ask if anyone wants to discuss the theory that Sherlock is head-over-heels in love with John (which kind of goes along with the theory that John is a closeted bisexual in love with Sherlock and that this is actually a romantic story we're watching unfold).

On Tumblr, there remains a sizable, active contingent devoted to Sherlock that has maintained this reading of the show, which admittedly is way controversial to the extent that the writers and actors from time to time have outright denied that they are driving toward "Johnlock". The Tumblr contingent, though, has some persuasive counter-arguments for why the production team should possibly not be believed (e.g., citing Chris Carter's change of heart in coupling Mulder and Scully after years of denials; contradictory quotes out of Moffat's and Gatiss's own mouths where they have explicitly and alternatively said things to the effect that Sherlock was asexual, celibate by choice and not asexual, not gay, "finds no woman [romantically] interesting", etc.; quotes from the creators where they have effusively said that a significant inspiration for this adaptation is "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes," a movie of questionable critical quality where the director has said that he wished he had been able to state explicitly in the film that which was heavily implied--that Holmes was gay and in love with Watson. Over at TWoP, though, which had a very active show thread for the two year hiatus between S2 and S3, this topic rarely if ever came up (maybe just a bit when the show first came on and people speculated about the odd Angelo's conversation in ASiP where Sherlock said that girlfriends were most decidedly not his area, but offered just a simple "no" to the question of whether he had a boyfriend). Or if it did come up, it was never embraced by more than a few. I remember there was one poster in the halcyon days of the immediate post-S2 aftermath who hinted that this was their interpretation, and I definitely didn't buy it at the time.

But reading lots of stuff about the show right before and right after S3 has personally brought me around to the fact that it's there subtextually, even if the writers don't play it out (which I now understand is problematic in teasing the idea of representation of oppressed groups only to deny it in payoff).

So is Sherlock gay? Just the S3 evidence starts to stack up. Magnussen said to Sherlock in HLV with some disdainful wonderment, "Look how you care about John Watson." John is Sherlock's singular pressure point. Although we learned that pressure points are not solely romantic interests (see the jury forewoman in TRF and Mycroft in HLV), we also learned that Sherlock was about to die from the gunshot wound until the thought of John in danger made him restart his own heart. When he was shot, Sherlock had a vision of Mary shooting him in her wedding dress (a symbolic gesture that his heart was broken by John's marriage, given that he could have envisioned her in any manner of attire, but no, we saw the wedding dress).

On the tarmac in HLV, Sherlock teases that "there is something that he should say but had never said," and many in the thread that I read immediately post-episode maintained that Sherlock was always going for the punchline that he ultimately uttered, or else was just going to tell John that he (platonically) loved him. But Sherlock had already announced to a roomful of people that he loved John (platonically) and that John had saved his life in so many ways, and so if there was something serious coming on the tarmac, what could it have been? "I am in love with you" becomes a candidate that's hard to dismiss.

John got a little handsy with Sherlock when they were drunk, and people say John just lost his balance, but why is that action there at all? Why have John say, "I don't mind," and Sherlock say something in response like, "Anytime"? In the TEH reunion scene, there is a song playing in the background as John tackles Sherlock, and it's a song about the return of a lost romantic love. Sherlock's parents are dressed like John and Sherlock when we meet them. I mean, this stuff really starts to stack up. I will say that there is some way far-out analysis that goes a lot deeper than any of these preliminary points that I can never believe the writers remotely intended, but I do think this works as a love story, and I would love to see it confirmed in the show (whenever it comes back in earnest).

Edited by Peace 47
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I don't think the show is going there textually. I see where you're going in terms of subtext, and I agree things could be seen that way (although each of the things you mentioned could just as well have a different explanation).

While this show is probably not the one to do it (and that's kind of a shame as the chemistry between them is wonderful), I reckon one of these days someone is going to go there in terms of the story.

I personally think sexual orientation is more of a dual dimmer switch for two different "male" and "female" lights, and either of them can be positioned on a continuum between on and off. It'd be interesting to see how John would handle an attraction to Sherlock that's at odds with his assumption that his "male" switch is at zero. I do think Sherlock would be more matter of fact and accepting about his own attraction to John.

Edited by Miss Dee
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It'd be interesting to see how John would handle an attraction to Sherlock that's at odds with his assumption that his "male" switch is at zero. I do think Sherlock would be more matter of fact and accepting about his own attraction to John.

I just have a lot to say about this topic now, so bear with me! People have pointed to John being bisexual and closeted, but actually aware of his feelings. John says that he's not gay a couple of times, which is true--bisexual is not gay. To this end of John being bisexual and aware of it, I really don't know how to take the scene from "A Scandal in Belgravia" (where John is facing off with Irene at Battersea) anymore, other than to see it as Irene confronting John with the truth that he is utterly infatuated with Sherlock, and John tacitly admitting it through his little rueful huff. She says "Look at us both" in reference to their both being obsessed with Sherlock, and she is later shown to have fallen for Sherlock, so what does that make John? Irene is repeatedly shown to "know what people like," and there, she is blatantly calling John out on the fact that he likes Sherlock.

At the wedding reception, when John is "bouncing around Sholto like a puppy," Mary leans into Sherlock and says, "Neither of us were the first, you know." The first what? If you're looking for a platonic reading, you could say, well, Mary meant that Sherlock isn't the first person that John idolized: there was Sholto before him. But Mary includes herself in that "neither of us were the first," and John's relationship with Mary is not really one of him putting her up on a pedestal like you might assume to be the case in his interactions with Sholto. One common element could be that John had romantic feelings for all 3 (and that Mary feels secure in acknowledging that because she's the one who actually got John in the end). And there are several times when John doesn't really act like a bro with Sherlock: for example, why is he so put off by Sherlock kissing Janine that he has to turn away? He's not congratulating Sherlock on landing a woman: John's brain is so fried by it that he cannot even focus on the case for several minutes afterward (and this after the beginning of the episode when John was supposedly jonesing for a case).

To me, it does seem more clear now (moreso than after S2) that Sherlock is gay. When Janine makes a joke at the wedding about having sex with Sherlock, he reacts with bafflement and mild disgust. So you could just say that Sherlock is not in for casual sex. But he then enters into an actual (fake) relationship with Janine, and they never have sex then, either. Janine tells Sherlock that "just once would have been nice," and Sherlock responds a bit defensively that he was waiting until they got married. Is that being a gentleman and not taking advantage of the situation, or is it not being into women? And then Janine says she "knows what kind of man Sherlock is." She even says regretfully at the wedding, pre-relationship, that she wishes Sherlock wasn't "whatever he was" (she doesn't finish the thought with gay, asexual or anything like that) and Sherlock says, "I know," softly right as John appears in the doorway. "Whatever he is" that is keeping Sherlock and Janine from a relationship in TSoT reads to me as "in love with John."

Sherlock being infatuated with John also helps me understand one thing that I really disliked about "The Empty Hearse" when I first saw it: I couldn't understand how Sherlock seemingly matured in a lot of ways during his time away--having conversations with Mycroft about lonliness and how it is okay to be different; acting kindly towards Molly (except when calling her "John")--and then turning around and acting like such an emotional disaster with respect to John. If Sherlock is in love and only just realizing it when he's lost John, it makes sense to me that he would act so stupid: like Molly said, love makes us do silly things.

Edited by Peace 47
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I am in the middle of watching my way through the 3 series that have aired so far - just finished The Hounds of Baskerville - so I can't say definitively yet, as to what the real status of 'current' relationship is between Sherlock and John.  (will revisit this again after I finish 3.3, His Last Vow


But my own personal take as to what is "going on" between them is pretty much just exactly what we see on-screen.  John is - at the very least - a very slightly bi-curious male, with a heavy lean towards females, but I actually think he really is straight.  I honestly see any 'feelings' he might have for Sherlock being more about a really strong "bromance", rather than attraction or non-platonical love, etc.


On Sherlock's end, I could see him being either straight or bisexual, bi-curious at least.  But just like we've been shown on screen, "feelings" and "emotions" are a weakness to him.  In his sociopathic-like self evaluation, they get in the way of his 'high-powered engine' of a mind functioning at peak efficiency.  It isn't that he couldn't or wouldn't be attracted to one sex, or both, its just that he has no time or will to expend the effort on 'mundane' and 'boring' things;  relationships (friends even) are mundane and boring [in his 'world'].


JMO, and YMMV.



ETA:   After watching the whole (to date) series, I stand by my earlier assessments of sexual orientations and desires - although, considering things that happened in S3, I would consider Sherlock much more a definite hetero-lean.  And I think the reason people mistake S/J for being a gay couple is because other than for familial connections, people just don't openly show raw concern and 'love' for each other like they do [especially in the case of John].  That's just not the way it is, nowadays.


Again, JMO and YMMV 

Edited by iRarelyWatchTV36
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In his sociopathic-like self evaluation, they get in the way of his 'high-powered engine' of a mind functioning at peak efficiency. It isn't that he couldn't or wouldn't be attracted to one sex, or both, its just that he has no time or will to expend the effort on 'mundane' and 'boring' things; relationships (friends even) are mundane and boring [in his 'world'].

Setting aside the sexuality question, I agree with you that Sherlock does believe that emotion compromises the work. (He says as much in ASiB when he notes that if you're sentimental, you lose.) But is he unwilling to expend time and energy on relationships as you suggest? Or is this just a defense mechanism where he purports to be a rock and an island only in an effort to protect himself? (And is he willing to open himself completely to the right people?)

Sherlock is over the moon and rendered catatonic by the idea that John considers him a best friend. And Sherlock subsequently throws himself wholesale into wedding planning, even though his inbox is "bursting" with cases (e.g., the incident with the speech wherein he calls on Lestrade for reinforcement in the writing of the thing; the attention to wedding scheduling and the color of the bridesmaid's dresses; Sherlock telling Mycroft that he couldn't refuse John's request to be best man).

I actually think he's willing, but he's got miserable self-esteem and has not felt loved enough to give his heart over before. In ASiP, he tells John that people normally tell him to "piss off" when they hear his deductions. In TBB, we learn he apparently was not well-like at university and that this hurts him still.

I think there are many stories out there where same-gender friends (men) share love and emotion such that it is not a rarity to see it happen. And it's not as though we automatically think "gay" when we see it: J.D. and Turk; Joey and Chandler; House and Wilson (another Sherlock and John iteration) come to my mind off the bat (though I know that people do see romantic underpinnings to all of these, too).

But there are inevitably the in-universe jokes with those relationships, right? There's the comment in the story about being mistaken for gay at least once or twice. The couple either laughs it off or has their moment of gay panic, and then it's business as usual.

And that does happen in Sherlock, too, but where it really didn't feel like a joke was at the wedding reception when Sherlock mentioned he had been tutoring John in dancing, and John made the "we're not gay" joke. Sherlock could have laughed there, and it could have been another in the long line of them, but he looked hurt and eventually turned away, left lonely in the middle of the dance floor with no partner. This, after his smile faltered earlier in the conversation too (off of the comment about not being needed) and John then had done a double take at it. And my question is why? Why is the moment there?

I know this is random, but there's a great moment from "ER" where Doug jokes with Carol about being relieved that they weren't pregnant after Carol had had a pregnancy scare. And she looks at him simply and says something like, "I don't want to joke about it anymore" (this time, she wanted it to be true) and he nods, and they sit quietly with this new understanding. I honestly thought of that moment when viewing that scene. This wasn't playing the moment for jokes like at the Baskerville inn with the gay innkeepers, or Angelo bringing a candle to Sherlock and John's table, or Mrs. Hudson again mistaking them for gay (which even that one professional S3 reviewer said was an awkward and unneeded joke if they weren't going to do more with the question of Sherlock and John's relationship). This was (only to my eyes) the show kind of saying that all this was not funny anymore.

I have no answers to any of this, obviously. I do think it's interesting to talk about the implications.

Edited by Peace 47
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