I listen to a lot of podcasts these days. When I moved a few months ago, my commute went from being five minutes to being an hour and a half, one way. Since I spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, quietly (or, you know, not so quietly) hating that one driver who decides to go 5mph in a 35mph zone, I listen to podcasts, because they keep me focused on something other than my irritation at every other driver on the road. (Look, I’m not saying I have road rage. I’m saying I have perfectly understandable road frustration that might come across as wrathful.)
Given that my two big interests in life are theatre and Sherlock Holmes, I naturally listen to a lot of podcasts about those two subjects. And even then, it’s mostly Sherlock Holmes- I work in a theater almost every night and every weekend, sometimes I don’t want my volunteer job to follow me home! And while listening to podcasts (and reading lots of blogs, because my job isn’t always fast paced and I gotta entertain myself somehow), I’ve noticed a very frustrating trend among those that are pan-Holmesian, and that’s to bash Elementary at every opportunity they get.
Look. You don’t have to like Elementary. You really don’t. Those of us who are fans really don’t care if you like it or not, and we’re sure as hell not going to try and convert you unless you show interest. We honest to God do not care if Elementary is your least favourite adaptation in the world. But that doesn’t give you free rein to make Elementary the punch line to all your jokes.
Way too often I’ll be listening to or reading a recommendation for some obscure, off-the-wall SH adaptation, and I’ll be enjoying myself thoroughly when BAM! “But hey, at least it’s not Elementary!”
“The case is weak- but at least it’s not Elementary!”
“The characters really don’t resemble Holmes or Watson at all- but at least it’s not Elementary!”
“It’s terrible in every regard- but at least it’s not Elementary!”
I wish I could say I’m exaggerating, and I am, but BARELY.
What frustrates me even more about this sort of thing is that people who are doing this are also going out of their way to find good things to say about some, frankly, terrible adaptations. I love me some Asylum Holmes, I do, I watch it frequently- but I’m also not going to hold it up as a paragon of Holmesian adaptations. It’s pure crack, and it’s enjoyable crack, and it’s worth watching, but still. Not a paragon. Same with Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. I love that show to pieces, I think it’s great, but if you asked me if it was GOOD, I would… hesitate. I’d be doing a lot of hedging, trying to explain that while it’s enjoyable, it isn’t GOOD. Probably 50% of the pastiches I own are utter dreck, and I love each and every one of them and take great pride in owning some of the worst out there.
Loving truly terrible adaptations is part of Holmesian fandom. Loving truly terrible adaptations and clinging to the one canonical aspect present in order to redeem ourselves in our own eyes, at least, is part of Holmesian fandom. It’s a time honoured tradition. Watching people participate in this time honoured tradition turn around and spit on Elementary as if it isn’t worth the slightest consideration? Makes me utterly furious.
If you claim to be pan-Holmesian and take such care to lavish praise on each and every other adaptation, then take the time to consider the reasons why Elementary deserves just as much love as Asylum Holmes, SH22, Wilmer Holmes, Cushing Holmes, Gillette Holmes, Howard Holmes, Ritchie Holmes, McKellen Holmes, BBC Holmes, Russian Holmes, and New Russian Holmes, among so many others. If you claim to respect all Holmes adaptations, then consider what Elementary has to offer to the fandom as a whole. Give it just as much consideration as you give the most obscure adaptations out there. It deserves it.
You don’t have to like every adaptation to be a pan-Holmesian fan. You don’t. I certainly don’t like them all. This isn’t about policing who get to be a True Fan. But I do ask that you respect the place of adaptations you don’t like have in our fandom. If you don’t like Elementary, then just don’t talk about it in your podcasts and blog entries. As frustrating as silence is to us, it’s better than the attempts to make Elementary into the big joke of Holmesiana, which is a slap in the face to those of us who enjoy it.
Better yet, if you host a pan-Holmesian podcast or blog, and you don’t like Elementary, why not invite someone onto your team that IS invested in Elementary? Someone who actively likes it rather than tolerating because they feel like someone has to be able to talk about Elementary since you’re pan-Holmesian? Elementary deserves real consideration in pan-Holmesiana, not just a grudging nod. Surely, if we can talk seriously about the merits of every other adaptation out there, we can talk seriously about Elementary.
I want to be able to enjoy Holmesian podcasts. I love Sherlock Holmes with every fiber of my being, and listening to people gleefully talk about it should be one of the best parts of my day. But until people stop treating Elementary like it’s a joke, like it’s the punch line to every bit of Holmesiana throughout time, I have to spend the entire time braced for impact, which really limits my ability to enjoy anything at all.
And that really fucking sucks.
You can do better. Elementary certainly has things that can be critiqued (just talk to the Joan Watson Deserves Better contingent!), but it deserves critiques, not laughter.
We’re not your punch line. Please stop treating us like we are.
“An Open Letter to Pan-Holmesian Fandom: Elementary is Not Your Punch Line,” ©language-escapes, originally posted September 2015