Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In Which "The Lying Detective" Bums Me Out

So Sherlock season four came out.

I didn’t like it. I won’t go into all the reasons why, since spoilers are unfashionable and Sherlock doesn’t deserve that much of my energy anyway. Still, one aspect of Episode 2, “The Lying Detective” just bugged me.

That aspect is called Sherlock’s drug use.

For those who haven’t seen the episode (and in the least spoilery summary possible), the gist is that John is mad at Sherlock, so Sherlock takes SO MUCH COCAINE that he is literally weeks from death. By the end, we find out that Sherlock’s dangerous drug use was a ploy to trick John into rescuing Sherlock from the bad guy and himself. John then realizes how silly he was to be mad at Sherlock and they live happily ever after. The end.

Problematic much?

To be clear, it is not so much the cocaine that bothers me. The canonical Sherlock Holmes dabbled in cocaine, and most other Sherlocks do, too. I’m reluctant to say cocaine is “fine,” but last semester I read High Price by Dr. Carl Hart—it addressed harmful assumptions about drugs and racism in the United States, so I don’t want to perpetuate those. Suffice it to say that while cocaine can bring iffy baggage with it, there are totally ways to do Sherlock Holmes that incorporate his drug use and are still awesome. (Plenty of renditions have already succeeded—I love Elementary and the Robert Downey Jr. movies. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro comes to mind as well.)

“Sherlock uses cocaine.” Whatever.

“Sherlock uses cocaine to destroy himself and manipulate his best friend.” How ‘bout no.

There are psychological rules for what counts as manipulation. This might not meet that definition. Nor was this exceptionally odd for Sherlock. We know Sherlock nearly kills himself over his cases more than is healthy. And I’m sure there are people out there who found “The Lying Detective” perfectly acceptable—to be fair, it was much better than its predecessor. Shouldn’t we leave room for drama? Don’t we want to see Holmes and Watson at their limits?

I’m not going to say no. But I am going to say that Sherlock played with John’s brain. Even if he had good-ish intentions (don’t think Mary is off the hook for all of this), this was a plan to get what Sherlock wanted—not necessarily what John wanted, or even needed. Respect for John’s time, emotions, and even safety were thrown out the window.

Sherlock invaded John’s boundaries. Sherlock forced John to be responsible for his life—if John never stepped in, Sherlock would have died. It would be “John’s fault.” Which means Sherlock essentially threatened to kill himself to maintain their relationship. I don’t count that as a good thing.

Friendships are demanding things. You have to give and take, and sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it is beyond rewarding. Sherlock Holmes, if nothing else, is a demanding person. Part of the joy in watching Sherlock Holmes stories, for me, is getting to see what Sherlock and Watson give to one another. Their friendship is infamous not because of their similarities, but their complementary natures. And we’ve had over 100 years to consider the ways their friendship can fail… but also why it always rises victorious.

I struggle with the end of this episode. John was mad at Sherlock for a silly reason, so some element of forgiveness was necessary. But good friends also don’t abuse drugs to resolve their disagreements. Not like Sherlock did. That was a breach of trust, and so I’m still kind of mad about what that behavior took away from the friendship. How can John really trust Sherlock after that? BBC Sherlock shouldn’t make it harder and harder for me to say that Holmes and Watson are an amazing team, but it seems like each new season proves me wrong.

What did you think of BBC Sherlock season four?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Top 15 of 2016

You may recall that last year I published my “Top 15 of 2015,” and since increasing the number of books you can highlight indefinitely seems silly to me, I’m sticking to the same pattern as I did last year. I read 201 books during 2016, but I will promote my favorite fifteen. All my reactions are confined to 100 characters or less, not including spaces.

And, as before, these are in order by author’s last name.

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton—an adorable book about adorable warriors that kind of reminds me of Tangled, now that I think about it.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black—contemporary fantasy is my jam, and all of the romance, and the twins are so enticing. Which is why I got it for Christmas.

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duvyis—wow. This might be the most powerful book on my list, and I must reread it, because DISASTER and DIVERSITY blow my mind.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton—after six years to think about it, I still favor Darry, but I have more sympathy for the other boys now.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis—MURDER? And LUTHERANS? And FEMINISM? What more could I ask for from a contemporary?

The Host by Stephenie Meyer—this was a blast. I wasn’t sure what I’d think, but I was really impressed with the sci-fi romance vibe. And yaaas aliens.

Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer—this was actually amazing, especially because I started to see prejudices I didn’t even know I had. Also, SQUEE.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson—ALL Y’ALL MADE ME THINK NOAH DIED WHEN HE WAS THIRTEEN OR SOMETHING. This was amazing, but c’mon, “tragedy” is so vague.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath—this is a terrifying and depressing book. But Plath just writes like a bedazzling machine, and I like the shinies.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler—okay: haikus, about boobs, read by Sir Patrick Stewart. There, I just made your 2017.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby—this is probably the most interesting Hades/Persephone retelling I’ve read in a long time. And the characters rock.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo—despite potentially problematic tropes, it was fast-paced and fluffy enough for this girl.

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab—Schwab is hit-and-miss with me, so I was pleased to find this book FABULOUS. Monsters and music are so delicious.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley—having written an essay about how incest is key to all the main relationships in this book, I cannot leave it off.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker—I don’t know what to praise about this book that hasn’t been praised before. Still need to listen to the musical.

Interestingly enough, my top books are all by ladies this year. And that does not bother me, even a little bit! I look forward to reading similarly awesome books over this next year.

What about you? What were the best books you read in 2016?