This post consists of three parts: a reminder, a rant and a recap. Or, if you want to look at it that way, a reminder and two rants. Let’s get down to business.
Warning for some bad language in the rants. Also, some spoilers for all of Sherlock so far.
1. Reminder: the Mental Health Reading Challenge starts tomorrow. I’m very excited. More info + signups here.
2. Rant: This rant is about queer baiting.
“What is queer baiting?” you ask, a quizzical expression on your face.
The term refers to what happens “when people in the media (usually television/movies) add homoerotic tension between two characters to attract more liberal and queer viewers with the indication of them not ever getting together for real in the show/book/movie”. says Wikipedia.
You shrug. “So what?”
It can even add up to the point where it hurts the queer audience. Queer baiting often plays potentially queer hints and references as mere jokes, but “if the representations in question utilize humour, are queer people in on the joke or are they the joke?” (a
Is representation a joke? I think not. If you do, that’s your opinion but I’m going to take a wild guess and say you probably don’t feel very marginalized in your daily life. I see way too few characters with disabilities on television. I see way too few women and when I see them they are often portrayed as erratic or superficial. That fucking hurts me.
Storylines where a character can’t be fulfilled until they have overcome a disability fucking hurt me. Representation like that makes me feel as though I’m not enough. I was very angry when John Watson’s limp on Sherlock turned out to be psychosomatic, because it looked as though he only became a competent and interesting character when the disability was cured. That fucking hurts me.
Now, I’m personally not gay. I am, however, a student of cultural analysis and a vocal advocate for equality. I believe in the importance of equal representation in media such as television, and that’s why I’m really kind of angry at the creators of Sherlock: Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.
Here comes part 3: a recap of the relationship between John & Sherlock so far. Alternative title: a second rant: John & Sherlock LOVE each other.
When they first met in A Study In Pink, John and Sherlock had the following conversation in a candlelit Italian restaurant:
Dr John Watson: You don’t have a girlfriend, then?
Sherlock Holmes: Girlfriend? No, not really my area.
Dr John Watson: Oh, right. Do you have a boyfriend?… Which is fine, by the way.
Sherlock Holmes: I know it’s fine.
Dr John Watson: So you’ve got a boyfriend, then?
Sherlock Holmes: No.
Dr John Watson: Right. Okay. You’re unattached, just like me. Right. Good.
Sherlock Holmes: [pause] John, um… I think you should know that I consider myself married to my work and while I’m flattered, by your interest…
Please keep in mind that the gentlemen knew each other for less than a day at that point. Keep in mind that Sherlock has some serious issues about opening up emotionally, and that Sherlock, the most observant man in the whole wide world, had somehow gotten the idea that John was romantically attracted to him. A few scenes later, they looked at each other like this.
And in the same scene, Sherlock forgot all about personal space.
After that, there are numerous moments where John and Sherlock talk about the fact that so many people think they’re a couple. They’re not a couple and I’m not arguing that they are. However, the characters as well as the audience are obviously aware of their chemistry.
In season three, the writers actively engaged with the fan community by inserting a group of people who had been speculating on the Reichenbach-mystery. Personally I found this to be a somewhat offensive account of fanculture, considering the people who make Sherlock would be out of a job if it wasn’t for their huge fanbase. Nevertheless, The Empty Hearse engaged with the gay subtext of the show. AND THEN PASSED IT OFF AS A SILLY JOKE. That’s queer baiting.
But for me and my fellow Johnlock-shippers, season three was an incredible rollercoaster. In The Sign Of Three, our boys got drunk together for the very first time. This scene culminated in a lot of awkward silence and John touching Sherlock’s knee. John apologizes for the physical intimacy and Sherlock replies: “I don’t mind.” A few days later, John got married and Sherlock made the saddest face in human history.
In the third episode of season three, His Last Vow, we almost got a love confession out of Sherlock. Almost, but not quite. The atmosphere was there. The emotionally charged acting was there. And then Sherlock said:
Now, I was fine with all of that. (Obviously, I wasn’t fine. I was an emotional mess.) But all of this can be passed off as “bromance” and/or the emotional and sexual repression of the stereotypical British bloke. But then the new trailer for season four turned subtext into text:
And now I’m thinking: will they genuinely address the potentially romantic nature of Sherlock’s feelings for John? If not, I shall be most put out. And probably rant at you some more about queer baiting.