When Ryan Murphy explains what he does as a TV showrunner, he admits it can sound kind of lofty. “The greatest thing that you have when you’re a showrunner is this opportunity to create worlds,” he says, laughing a bit. “And it always sounds so insane when somebody says, ‘Well, what do you do?’ And you say, 'I create worlds.’”
Murphy serves as the top creative voice on the TV shows he executive produces. His latest, Feud: Bette and Joan (debuting Sunday on FX), focuses on the friction between film legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. He says, “What I do is I come up with an idea like Feud, and then I … cast it — I go out to Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon. … And then I gather a writing staff and we wrote eight episodes, and then I directed three of them. … But also, like, I’m interested in everything else … the art department, the costumer, the director of photography.”
Murphy, 51, has compared the process of developing a show to having a dream — and his dreams have quite a track record. A short list includes the sexed-up, superconfident Miami plastic surgeons of Nip/Tuck; the crooning, occasionally dysfunctional high school students in Glee; the cavalcade of terrors in his American Horror Story anthology series; and the treatise on race, celebrity and policing offered by The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Hi ivy. I wanted to know how you evaluated John's reaction to Sherlock in TLD, both the long non-contact and blaming as well as the, um... physical encounter in the morgue. I can't find my peace with it. Feel free to ignore this though <3
We knew from the outset that this series was going to be about demons. What’s interesting, and unexpected, is that so far it’s been about John’s demons, not Sherlock’s. We didn’t really think about John having demons, but I think that was the point.
Everyone in this story has a high-octane dysfunction of some kind. What’s always been true is that Sherlock is seen as the sexy, amoral weirdo who is secretly normal on the inside. John is the opposite. He’s a milquetoast, average guy on the outside, and an violent, rampaging action hero on the inside. Both Sherlock and John aspire to be what they project themselves as, and do their best to fight, dismiss, and hide from their inner reality. That core conflict is the fuel that drives each of them to despair.
Resolving this inner/outer conflict is the overarching theme of Sherlock. We see this very clearly with Sherlock himself: this is the story of how Sherlock learns to accept his human needs and emotions and becomes a greater consulting detective because of it. But running in parallel, we’ve now discovered, is the story of how John reconciles his inner monster with his stout, ethical heart.
We always thought it was Sherlock who was striving, and often failing, to meet John’s high expectations. But it turns out that the opposite is also true: Sherlock’s (and Mary’s) idea of who John is forces him to be that man, too. John knows he fails, but he doesn’t think Mary and Sherlock know this, and surely they would reject him if they knew. They can’t know how he struggles to be who they think he is. This series shows us exactly how.
We think of John as being moral, patient, forgiving, and above all, profoundly fair. But he holds Sherlock responsible for Mary’s death when it was clearly not his fault. John is meant to be the good guy, but he cheats on his wife and lets his grief and his anger overtake him when he beats Sherlock bloody. These things are so inconsistent, and no one can tell you that better than John Watson himself. He hates this about himself. These are his demons. He cannot live up to the expectations he has set for himself, let alone those or the people he loves. He fails them, badly and repeatedly.
That’s why John tells Sherlock to go to Irene. Because he knows what Sherlock needs him to be, and he knows he cannot deliver. He is a fraud.
Sherlock knows all about being a fraud. He is not a sociopath; he’s a profoundly emotional man who wants to love and be loved. Of course we know that by now. We know that the best Sherlock is a blend of all that he is, not just one or the other. The same is true for John. The guy who sprained someone’s wrist for not answering a question, the guy who shot and killed an unarmed cab driver because Sherlock was about to voluntarily swallow a pill that might be poison, the guy who beat Sherlock until he was spitting blood, that guy, with his desire to be loving, normal, good, that guy has the capacity to be a hero.
Sherlock embraces John’s inner violence, he always has. It’s the thing that first drew Sherlock to John, his improbable contradictions. He accepts, and even depends upon, the monster in John.
Is this a template for a good, healthy relationship? Uh, no. Are you kidding? No, these people are not moral exemplars by any means. They are profoundly and dangerously flawed people. But they have the capacity to be good, to be great, even, with each other’s help.
The view of the black speech community which we obtain from our work in the ghetto areas is precisely the opposite from that reported by Deutsch, Engelmann. and Bereiter. We see a child bathed in verbal stimulation from morning to night. We see many speech events which depend upon the competitive exhibitions of verbal skills: singing, sounding, toasts, rifting, Iouding–a whole range of activities in which the individual gains status through his use of language. We see the younger child trying to acquire these skills from older children–hanging around on the outskirts of the older peer groups, and imitating this behavior. We see, however, no connection between verbal skill at the speech events characteristic of the street culture and success in the schoolroom; which says something about classrooms rather than about a child’s language.
There are undoubtedly many verbal skills which children from ghetto areas must learn in order to do well in school, and some of these are indeed characteristic of middle-class verbal behavior. Precision in spelling, practice in handling abstract symbols, the ability to state explicitly the meaning of words, and a richer knowledge of the Latinate vocabulary may all be useful acquisitions. But is it true that all of the middle-class verbal habits are functional and desirable in school? Before we impose middle-class verbal style upon children from other cultural groups, we should find out how much of it is useful for the main work of analyzing and generalizing, and how much is merely stylistic–or even dysfunctional. In high school and college, middle-class children spontaneously complicate their syntax to the point that instructors despair of getting them to make their language simpler and clearer.
Our work in the speech community makes it painfully obvious that in many ways working-class speakers are more effective narrators, reasoners, and debaters than many middle-class speakers, who temporize, qualify, and lose their argument in a mass of irrelevant detail. Many academic writers try to rid themselves of the part of middle-class style that is empty pretension, and keep the part necessary for precision. But the average middle-class speaker that we encounter makes no such effort; he is enmeshed in verbiage, the victim of sociolinguistic factors beyond his control.