“The obsession, particularly online, with the homoerotic tension between
Sherlock and Doctor Watson… The template for us was the Billy Wilder
film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, which deliberately
plays with the idea that Holmes might be gay. We’ve done the same
thing, deliberately played with it although it’s absolutely clearly not
the case. He’s only a brain, ‘everything else is transport’ to him and John clearly says, “I’m not gay, we’re not together” but the joke is that everyone assumes that in the 21st century
that these two blokes living together are a couple– what they wouldn’t’
have assumed in the 19th century. They’d have assumed they were bachelor
best friends and now they assume they’re lovers. That’s
obviously such fun to play with and the fact that people now assume, in a
very positive way, that they’re together is a different joke to it
being a negative connotation.” Mark Gatiss in The Gay Times, February 2012
Hmm, I’m actually not so sure about that. Because I never got this joke (and no, that’s not a generation thing. I’m round about the same age as the show creators). Honestly, to me, two blokes sharing a flat in central London in the 21st century are just two blokes sharing a flat because it’s fucking expensive. I’d never assume anything else.
Even if one of the man was depicted as obviously gay (Girlfriend? Nor really my area. - Boyfriend? I know it’s fine.) - I wouldn’t assume any kind of romatic interest between them. I can’t see a joke there either.
But when their flat sharing gets laden with innuendo? For example, their landlady asking them if they share a bedroom. Another acquaintance taking them for being on a date. Those two blokes gazing at each other as if they were about to eat each other alive. One of the man killing for the other, who, in return, protects him from being prosecuted… Well, then I’d start to assume something’s going on - because it is shown to me and hammered home.
Only, I can’t see a joke there either…
So, what Gatiss described in the above interview wasn’t what happened. They were not just showing us two blokes living together. Because then no one in the 21st century would think of them as a couple. Moffat and Gatiss had to actively insert innuendo for their viewers to catch up on their ‘joke’ in the first place. They encouraged this on many levels: text, acting choices, casting, costume, music, lighting, cinematography.
They actively implemented homoerotic (sub)text in their show - only to lament at the same time that people cought up on it? That some viewers expected something to come out of it. Because, in the 21st century, no one thought it possible that it could just be a lame joke! Because there just is no joke to it.
The viewers took the positive attitude Gatiis desrcibes a step further and expected positive representation from the writers after playing with the inherent homoeroticism of the original stories. The fandom was far more advanced than the show runners, it seems.
And why play with the
it in the first place? I really can’t see where the fun might be in there, apart from cracking some cheap gay jokes that feed an outdated no-homo attitude?
What is there to play with when it’s not an issue anymore? And if it’s still an issue, I’m not sure that making fun of it ist the appropriate approach to it.