Sherlock is one long gay joke.

Why the heterosexism in Sherlock is more annoying than the racism.

Alright, I admit that this isn’t entirely true. I was pitching for controversy. ‘Cause really, for all the quality of the production, we are talking about a three-episode mini series in which the middle episode was so appalling it should really have been marketed with a warning: “This programme was produced by white people and as such may be unsuitable for persons of a sensitive disposition or those who thinks Chinese people amount to more than just tea-obsessed circus performing gangsters.” Watching that episode was a distinctly uncomfortable experience.

Not enough to stop me from coming back, though. I suppose I could blame my flatmates and my love of social TV watching, but I don’t have even have that. It takes more than a FedEx arrow to make me turn off, I guess. Besides, I have a ‘give it a few episodes and see’ policy.

The racism was obvious and blunt, but the heterosexism is annoying, because it’s consistent, pervasive, and always always played for laughs, because goshdarnit those gay people are just hilarious, aren’t they?

There follows spoilers for all three episodes, including major spoilers for the miniseries finale.

It started off so promisingly, as well. With the first queer reference being to John Watson’s gay sister. Sherlock proved how smart he was by completely deconstructing the life and situation of Watson’s ‘brother’ Harry, missing by a pretty large margin when Harry turned out to be short for Harriet. (Cause you know, to the world’s second greatest detective, lesbians and men are completely indistinguishable). This wans’t problemmatic on its own. On its own is made me squeal in delight. “Yes!” I crowed, “there’s lesbians in that telly box!”

When you’re starved for representation, every little counts.

Also, there was a joke about Sherlock’s heteronormitive attitude.

But it wasn’t going to be just one joke. Let’s laugh at gayness became the flavour, not just of the episode, which was rife with “I’m not gay – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I’m not. Gay. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s really important you don’t get theĀ  wrong impression. Not that there’s anything wrong with that kind of thing.”

Hey, y’know? I don’t want to be told that’s there’s nothing wrong with me. I want to be treated like I’m anything other than a freak. And yes, one moment of straight boy panic might be funny in the right context, but not when it’s repeated an average of twice an episode, for crying out loud? Yes, sometimes hose moments of awkward exist in real life. Yes, sometimes straight people act in homophobic ways, even if their sister is a lesbian, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it every time I turn the TV on.

So with gayness firmly fixed as the punchline for every other joke on the programme (I’m not exaggerating. We had the “haha you guys had a ‘domestic'” joke, the “spending time with you is not a date” joke, the “I’m glad no one saw that, otherwise they’d think we were gayers” joke. I think someone on the writing team had a gay joke check list), the final epsiode decided to really up the stakes with some actual gay characters. One really unpleasant Flaming Sterotype, with pampered lifestyle, hairless cat and an actual honest-to-Bob House-boy, and not just one, but two Evil Gays, just for kicks.

Actually I think the second Evil Gay made a comment along the line of not being a Real Gay. But he’d minced onto the screen, provided a perfect set up for Sherlock to objectify the gay with a string of “no straight man cares about his appearance” gags, and turned up the depraved homosexual act for the finale. And this man, ladies and gentlemen, is the main villain of the piece. Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty.

So, y’know, if, like me, you were waiting to see if the gay jokes to shut the fuck up before you made an opinion on the show, then don’t waste your time. The whole set up had been established as “gayness is hilarious and queer people are evil!”. For just three episodes, that’s a pretty neat accomplishment.

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10 Responses to Sherlock is one long gay joke.

  1. Jennie says:

    But all that is OK, because the guy who co-created the show and wrote the last episode is GAY. It’s self-deprecation, d’you see? And gay men can’t be self-hating, just like it’s impossible for women to perpetrate misogyny…

  2. I think you’re reading this wrong, at least apart from the lesbian reference. I think Cumberbatch was playing Holmes as gay. The fact that those who knew Holmes from before, Mrs. Watson, the man in the diner, his friend in the bank, all seemed to assume himself and Watson were a couple suggests that he was known to them to be gay. The whole deducing Moriarty to be gay was amusing because it was no more than average gaydar, nothing at all special. For whatever reason, Holmes doesn’t want a relationship, and Watson seems very definitely straight, but I don’t think they were trying to make fun at gay people here. Maybe a comment at the semi-closeted, just because there was only so far they could deviate from Conan Doyle’s character, who was certainly sexually ambiguous.

    Whatever about that though, the Chinese episode was daft.

    • Debi says:

      Hi William, and thanks for stopping by.

      The idea that Sherlock was straight up gay is definitely not one that occured to me; that’s a really interesting way to look at it.

      I don’t think I’ll be giving it a second chance, because the Moriority thing and Watson’s near constant gay panic is still annoying, but if I ever do end up watching it agaion, I’m going to try your ‘Holmes is gay’ goggles on, and see if that makes it better for me.


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  4. Karl says:

    My reading was that they’re both very gay, but that Watson is so deep in the closet he uses “denial defense”. Don’t miss the shot of the two power plant towers in s2e1.

  5. Rongying says:

    Well I’m Chinese and I didn’t see any annoying racism in this show until now, funny isn’t it?
    Really, some white people are too sensitive about these things. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

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  8. Ana says:

    Y’know,this is old but FUCK i Can help it
    “Tjlc explained” search it on youtube or something,cause girl,it’s gonna change your mind(well this is reallyyyyy old so maybe you already know what i’m talking about)y’know i had the same issue that you and Oh boy that girl did help me.

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