Thursday, December 15, 2016

Why Does Watson Sleep So Much?

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When we meet Joan Watson on Elementary, she is asleep.

Introducing a character through his or her morning routine is nothing new—everyone does that. As the show progresses, though, Watson continues to receive an inordinate amount of characterization through her sleeping habits. Like, a lot. Joan reads in bed, surfs the Internet on her laptop, naps. Sherlock often wakes Joan up in the morning, but he’s also deactivated all her alarms so she would not wake up on time. He’s brought her breakfast in bed, and even picked out her outfit for her because he’s been so eager to leave. Joan has woken up to find Clyde (their pet turtle) crawling on her, and to find Sherlock has redesigned the entire space around her.

Like I said: a lot. This, of course, begs a question. Why does Watson sleep so much?

My first instinct is to examine the BBC’s Sherlock, which does not often feature sleeping characters. The first time I remember Holmes falling asleep is in “A Scandal in Belgravia” (2x1), when Irene Adler drugs Sherlock before making her escape. Sherlock dramatically ends up in bed and is incoherent and groggy. Sleep, in this case, is weakness. Sherlock would have been in active pursuit of Adler; she reduced him to an “inferior” state and thus displayed her own domination. The fact that she does this to one such as Sherlock communicates the real danger of Adler’s character to the audience.

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The other time I remember Sherlock and John falling asleep was in “The Sign of Three” (3x2) when they get drunk and are stupid. Lestrade yells at them during their hangover. They deserve it.

(I also remember Sherlock got shot one time, but I'm leaving that out for various reasons.)

Neither example is particularly flattering. Both suggest why Sherlock might resist sleep in general. First, sleep is a humanizing thing. It is a vulnerable state, an inactive state, and people who seem to need more of it appear to fit less in our capitalistic society (think babies and old people). The less Sherlock and John sleep, the more they are protected. They get closer to solving the crime and traditional victory. That’s the BBC.

As I’ve mentioned, Elementary isn’t much like that at all. Watson often sleeps—it is part of her daily routine. Even Sherlock has fallen asleep once or twice on the show (to his dismay), and tends to wear comfy-looking sweats and a t-shirt when he rests. Which I mention because they seem like normal pajamas compared to the aesthetic of some aforementioned programs, but why name names?

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Anyhoo. Watson sleeps. Sherlock (rarely) sleeps. And this matters a great deal to Elementary for a reason I’ve already mentioned: it is a vulnerable state. And through vulnerability, companionship forms. Sure, it is funny when Joan wakes to find a turtle in her bed, but it’s also a demonstration of familiarity. How many people do you feel comfortable around, not just in your pajamas, but in your messiest state? Hair unbrushed, drooling, unaware, unprepared. Joan doesn’t always appreciate Sherlock’s presence in her bedroom, but their confinement contributes to their closeness. They get to see each other in a way few others do.

What’s more, Joan functions better as a detective when she sleeps. As a health professional, you’d expect her to value sleep anyway. And she does. Nonetheless, Joan is still the best Joan when she is well-rested. Whether he likes it or not, Sherlock is the best Sherlock after a good sleep, too. This matters even more for Sherlock, since tiredness can trigger a relapse in an addict. Joan’s good habits don’t just improve Sherlock’s life (sometimes), but they also protect him. Heroin has the potential to ruin his life again—so Joan watches out for him.

That is the best thing. This is a detective show and a murder mystery show, but it is also a show about taking care of yourself and one another. Emotionally, physically, scientifically. Sleep is not a weakness. It’s a strength. An opportunity to build trust and to maintain sobriety. Also, it is funny.

Obviously, there’s an important message here:

Be a good detective. Get some sleep.


Do you think the media tends to portray a positive or negative aspect of sleep?


8 comments :

  1. Your blog posts are so clever and unique! I've never really paid attention to these details and now I'm trying to figure out how I missed them!? Excellent work. :)

    I think usually sleep is portrayed in a negative way—as a vulnerable or weak state, like you've pointed out here, or as something to be avoided because of nightmares or lack of alertness or even productivity. Which is really weird, when you think about it...

    Sherlock and Joan have an amazing dynamic and so much of it comes from their familiarity and ease with each other. I love how the writers show their closeness with little details too, like how they often end the day with a chat about their cases or their lives.

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    1. Oh, thanks! I'm glad I brought a new detail to your attention.

      Right? Most of the media I can think of really doesn't portray people who decide to get enough sleep in a very nice light.

      YES. The way they can just share everything with one another is something I love most of all about this show!

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  2. This is so cool! I haven't seen much of Elementary but it sounds like a pretty great show. I like that, that sleep is a strength despite the fact that it's often portrayed as a weakness in the media.

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    1. *nods* It is a different spin than most shows tend to take, which only adds to its coolness in my opinion.

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  3. Loved my visit here today. Alexa's December post sent me over! I haven't seen Elementary, so I'm at a loss about its take on sleep, but enjoyed the discussion. I think it was Poe who likened sleep to "Little slices of death..." Another take on sleep.

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    1. I'll have to thank Alexa! That's quite interesting for Poe to say... I'll have to look into the context.

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