The Deerstalker is Not Just a Hat
I’m literally about to scream, I’m so excited about what I just figured out.
(If anyone found this before me, I’m sorry I missed it. But I’m also not sorry, bc I’m really proud of myself for figuring this out on my own, tbh :)
Okay, I’m going to start with the conversation about the tabloids that John and Sherlock share in 221B at the start of TRF. Remember that this is just after the montage of high-profile cases that Sherlock has recently solved. The one that the Met praise him for results in the gift of a deerstalker.
In 221B, after Sherlock indicates on what page John can find his new tabloid nickname, the boys start having separate conversations at the same time. At the end of this separate-but-synchronized sequence, Sherlock says something really important that I only recently truly heard. (I’ve bolded the important part.)
SHERLOCK: Why is it always the hat photograph?
JOHN: “Bachelor” John Watson.
SHERLOCK: What kind of a hat is it, anyway?
JOHN: “Bachelor”… what the hell are they implying?
SHERLOCK: Is it a cap? Why’s it got two fronts?
JOHN: It’s a deerstalker. (Turns back to newspaper.) “Frequently seen in the company of Bachelor John Watson.”
SHERLOCK: You stalk a deer with a hat? What are you gonna do, throw it?
JOHN: “Confirmed Bachelor John Watson”!
SHERLOCK: Some sort of death frisbee?
Hmm… why does that sound familiar?
If you haven’t read any meta on the Hiker and the Backfire case, I suggest you do so now. LSiT has a really good one.
So, Sherlock is equating the deerstalker with a “death frisbee,” which we can very easily equate with the boomerang that kills the hiker in ASiB. And the boomerang, we know, is symbolic of John’s love for Sherlock.
Also, note that, while Sherlock is talking about the deerstalker and his confusion over it, John is talking about getting a 19th-century euphemism for a man that will never marry (often associated with homosexual men) as his tabloid nickname. Hmm.
They actually weren’t having two separate conversations, here. They were talking about the same thing, just from two different perspectives. John is focusing on the public’s attention to their relationship, and Sherlock is addressing it from the private angle (because the Hiker and the Backfire story is about how John finally has to admit to himself the full extent of his feelings for Sherlock).
This does all sorts of fun things to how the Sherlock Holmes Hat is addressed in the show.
The first time Sherlock takes up the hat/has John’s love, he has no idea of its significance. Literal: When sneaking out of the theater in ASiB, he uses the hat as a disguise, not realizing that the press would take it and run with it. Metaphorical: When John shoots the cabby in ASiP, Sherlock could never have guessed how significant John’s feelings for him would turn out to be.
Then there’s this beauty:
SHERLOCK: You’ve got a photograph of me wearing that hat!
JOHN: People like the hat.
SHERLOCK: No they don’t. What people?
(Hint: the “people” referred to here is us :)
Sherlock is uncomfortable with people seeing him wearing the hat/having John’s love. But he isn’t entirely sure why. When Sherlock follows up a statement with a question that contradicts what he just said, it’s as close as he comes to saying he’s confused. (See also: “Because they’re interested.”/“No they’re not. Why are they?”)
One of my favorite things is when Lestrade and the press want Sherlock to put on his new deerstalker at the press conference. The look on his face is priceless.
He is so uncomfortable with this, but he really doesn’t get it, as evidenced by his conversation with John in the next scene. (“Why’s it always the hat photograph?… What kind of hat is it, anyway?… Is it a cap? Why’s it got two fronts?…” etc.) Literal: Wearing this hat in front of people makes me uncomfortable because I don’t understand the fascination with it. Metaphorical: People seeing how John feels about me makes me uncomfortable because I don’t understand everyone’s attention to it/misinterpretation of it.
(Of course, they aren’t misinterpreting it, but Sherlock doesn’t know that until TSoT.)
EDIT: A few lovely people pointed out to me that I missed the scene with the deerstalker at the end of TEH, during the press conference outside of 221B. I’ve now got an analysis of that scene here.
And possibly my favorite part about the deerstalker?
Sherlock is going to be wearing it in the Special Episode. In public. Comfortably.
Because as of the end of TSoT, Sherlock finally understands John’s feelings for him. And it’s something he wants to get back (because he thinks he lost his chance to keep it), wants to show off, wants to have associated with him.
God, I love this show.