Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thursentary: In Praise of Joan Watson

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I never considered Watson’s character extraordinary until I watched Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. Watson was a bumbling doctor, intelligent enough, but ordinary. The writing doctor, little more.

Joan Watson is my favorite character on Elementary. It’s fair to say that she’s the main character, and she deserves that station. She matters. I can’t wait to see more of her when I finally reach season four. And this is why.

She is extraordinary | Joan and Sherlock’s relationship is a joy to watch, not least of all because Sherlock considers Joan his equal. In other renditions, Watson appears as an overbearingly normal person—a sidekick. While Joan began as a student, Sherlock eventually makes her his partner because he finds her extraordinary and goes to fitting lengths to accommodate her presence in his life. He wants the best for her because she’s worth it to him. That makes for a precious friendship.

She is on equal footing | As stated, Sherlock finds Joan special. This does not just mean that he likes her as a friend, but that her voice holds a great weight in their cases and their friendship. Neither Sherlock nor the NYPD can brush her aside because her opinion is worth respecting—so people listen when she speaks.

She is intelligent | Joan weighs things with both logic and emotion; she makes decisions with both head and heart in mind. Just because her heart has a say doesn’t mean she makes unwise decisions. She often negotiates a compromise, which allows her to make good decisions without putting human beings at risk.

She is kind | Joan’s kindness extends beyond being nice. Sometimes Joan doesn’t seem nice—but that’s the point. She can make tough decisions and do something someone might not like at first (especially with Sherlock and his history of drug use). No matter what she does, however, she does it because she cares about the whole person she’s trying to help.

She has friends | Joan lives her own life. She meets up with people from her old work and college buddies and gal pals that women are wont to collect. She goes out to eat with her mom, she phones her brother, she dates people. Joan makes a point of cultivating a life beyond Sherlock and mysteries, and it is good for her.

She restarted | Joan, true to the Watson character, was a doctor before joining with Sherlock. Then she became a sobriety companion, and after that, a private detective. This gives Joan a level of expertise pertinent during cases, but it matters more than that. Joan has faced a lot of change in the last few years, so her ability to change, and what she changes for, always has significance.

She has a past | Smart people mess up sometimes. For Sherlock, that means getting sucked into drugs and losing himself. For Joan, that means causing a death as a surgeon. Since she’s someone who values people and helping others so much, she has a lot to work through. But she also has someone to work with.

She will help | When Joan saw that a teen girl was hurting after her mom’s death, she gave the girl her phone number. They were strangers, it was a “just in case” scenario, but the girl called. Joan sits with people out in hallways and has a heart for the homeless—she makes herself available to others because she understands that people are resources. She offers herself as one to make sure we don’t lose them in others.

And, she’s a good detective | Watson isn’t a sidekick because when Sherlock up and left, she started her own private detective business and she was great at it. Joan does more than simply exist to record Sherlock’s stories. She writes her own. And she writes them on her own terms.

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I just can’t help but admire Joan Watson. She’s a person, I guess, which is what makes her so easy to relate to. She’s normal, but she’s not less for it. In fact, it makes her partnership with Sherlock perfect.

*squee*

What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes retelling?


12 comments :

  1. I used to love BBC's Sherlock, and while I still enjoy it their portrayal of Sherlock (most of the time he's incredibly arrogant and disregards everyone's feelings--but he's gifted and special, so that makes it okay) really rubs me the wrong way. I read a good bit of Sherlock Holmes continuations/retellings when I was younger, and my favorite of those will always be the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer. They're wonderful. :)

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    1. I agree, it's as though it isn't just Sherlock who considers himself a god among men, but the writers as well. That makes it difficult for me to really appreciate all that's happening in the series. I haven't ever heard of that one, though. I'll have to look into it! :)

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  2. THIIIIIIIS. SO MUCH ELEMENTARY APPRECIATION RIGHT HERE. <3 One reason I do really love Elementary as my favourite (okay after the RDJ and Jude Law movies ahem) TV series retelling, is that Joan is a character all on her own. She isn't the sidekick. *sings praises to the universe* And I like and adore how Sherlock actually respects her. I'm really tired of the portrayal of SHerlock where he's 100% condescending and awful and treats John like nothing. Plus when I read the Study In Scarlet book, he totally never treated John as inferior imo.

    Plus Joan Watson = gender bent = my favourite thing of ever. I so so love how she's equal parts firm and DOESN'T let anyone mess with her, but totally is super sweet and kind too omg.

    Yes yes I'll stop now. 😂 But least to say, I love Elementary!!

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    1. (That's okay, to be fair they are an excellent pair of movies!) I really can't express how much I like what the writers have done to break away from previous portrayals of Holmes and Watson in film. I haven't read anything by ACD just yet, but it's good to know that he probably didn't intend for us to interpret Sherlock like that.

      Right? She is like a cinnamon roll who can kill you and in the best way.

      *hives* YAY ELEMENTARY!

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  3. I've only seen like one episode of Elementary, but I thought it was pretty good. I LOVED how they gender bent Joan. I might have to watch more in the future...

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    1. Let me be totally clear: it is good. You should watch more. Give it a chance.

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  4. Yes! While I love BBC's Sherlock with all my heart, I find that Elementary has a certain charm as well. I really like the dynamics between Sherlock and Watson in this show - especially like you said, the fact that Sherlock considers Watson his equal, his friend. They are brilliant together. Watson is clever, but above all she is kind, and that's a really undervalued trait.

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    1. BBC's Sherlock is very enjoyable, too. :) But, you're right, they make a point of trying to avoid being like Sherlock (on purpose, since they began around the same time period) and they don't devalue Joan for her womanhood or difference. It's what makes her strong and a perfect match for Sherlock. <3

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  5. Joan Watson is one of my favorite characters ever! I love how she doesn't just seem like a female version of Watson--she's Watson, just like Sherlock is Sherlock. Elementary handles the characters really well, and I really enjoy how it focuses on both of them by giving them lives outside of their cases. I think it really sets the show apart from other adaptations and retellings.

    (Also Joan Watson has one of the coolest wardrobes in TV.)

    Of the TV shows, Elementary is my favorite (I do like Sherlock though). But I think I'll have to agree with Cait that the RDJ movies are my favorites overall. It's a really close call though!

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    1. Right? It's a weird thing to say, but I totally get what you mean. It's not genderbent so much as retelling. But I agree, the way Elementary handles its characters makes it really seem like they BELONG to our world because they are so immersed in it. And that matters to me. It makes me happy. <3

      (Right? I need to find out where she shops, forreal.)

      You really can't go wrong with a Sherlock rendition, really. But I totally get what you mean. The movies are excellent, too!

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  6. I'm always so excited whenever I find someone else who loves Elementary! The only other Sherlock retelling I've seen is the movies with Robert Downey Jr, which I enjoyed, but I much preferred Elementary. They do character developments and relationships so well. I love how Sherlock value Joan as an equal, and Joan isn't afraid to call him out when he's being ridiculous. I also love that Joan isn't just a woman, but also a woman of colour - not least because I love seeing Lucy Liu inhabiting that role!

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    1. Well, it is great to find you too! *hives* I think the characters and their relationships is the main draw for me as well. And it's also good to see Joan as a woman of color considering how few there are in main roles. :) Lucy Liu always knocks me dead!

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