I recently watched the first season of the BBC series “Sherlock,” a modern-take on the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. (Two disclaimers – I have not seen season two of the series, but wouldn’t recommend it based on a few things I’ve heard, and I’ve never seen the Robert Downey, Jr movies, so I don’t know how they compare.) I found the series highly entertaining, especially for avid Holmes fans, who will notice many clever tributes to the original stories. It was intriguing to see how the writers adapted not just the characters (Watson, for example, was wounded in modern Afghanistan, just as the Doyle has him wounded there in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, but he blogs about Holmes’ escapades instead of publishing them) but also the small details of the cases (Holmes surmises someone is an alcoholic — not because their pocketwatch is scratched where an unsteady hand wound it every night, but because their cell phone is scratched where an unsteady hand plugged it into the charger). While the homosexual jokes got old, I found the three episodes, on the whole, quite enjoyable.
They did inspire me to re-read the original stories, something I haven’t done yet but hope to soon. One thing I’d like to investigate are the character traits of Holmes. In the BBC series, he is odd, rude, and conceited. Was he always like this? Did I just manage to look the other way? I always really liked Sherlock Holmes… was I blind to his personality? How much of this Holmes was the product of the writers’ interpretation and how much was authentic?
By the third episode, my hero was no hero at all. He saved lives and outsmarted criminals and his eccentricity was strangely charismatic. He had grown on me. But a man in a white hat, he was not. And then he admitted himself:
“Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist and if they did I wouldn’t be one of them.”
That led me to ponder the rise of the antihero. I remember reading an article after the release of Spiderman 2 that bemoaned that fact that even our superheroes had become melodramatic and fickle. Peter Parker was going emo on us, wondering if he should still be Spiderman. Superman Returns gave us another emo superhero that lacked a little super and that almost lost Lois to James Marsden. What was the world coming to?
It’s nothing new, of course – antiheroes have been with us in literature for quite some time. But these days they seem to dominate the landscape. The larger-than-life, white-hat-wearing heroes seem almost non-existent in television and movies, and coupled with the fact that they seem less prevalent in real life, too, the antihero seems to be the best we can do.
I know some will say it’s art imitating life. We live in a fallen world, and it’s not realistic to have sinless, irreproachable characters.
But golly, can’t we have something to strive for? Maybe every father isn’t Ward Cleaver. But every father isn’t Al Bundy, either. I think our lives could use a little more Mr. Cunningham and Dr. Huxtable. (This is an interesting look at the way television father’s have changed since the days of Mr. Cleaver: Ten TV Dads, chronologically)
What’s wrong with holding someone up as a model – a hero- someone we can really emulate? When my favorite character from a current BBC show fell last Sunday, I almost threw something at the television. Until now, he had been strong, wise, and loving while his world was at war (literally). He had shown compassion to servants, love to his wife, constancy amidst strife, humor and patience with the six women in his life. He seemed to be the rock, the one who held the world together.
But he’s only human, the show’s creators seemed to want to show us.
Oh, so it’s too much to expect all that from a man? Strength, love, wisdom, constancy, compassion, humor, patience. That’s not realistic?
What a sad view of the world.
Bring back the white hat, and maybe some men will rise up to be worthy of it.