Why Sherlock is immoral and we are for watching it
I have bemoaned that mystery is a genre where death becomes a 3D crossword puzzle; morals and emotions give way to macabre entertainment and dehumanisation. It is never so true than of Holmes.
The police – at least ought – to do their job to keep society safe. Even Gene Hunt , with all his prejudice and brutality, clearly has pride in keeping his city free of ‘scum’ and some of his brutality is down to his anger at what the criminal has done. And perhaps many of us could share that; believing we are sharing a room with a torturer, rapist or murderer – particularly if we have seen the distress of victims or mourners – we may want to exact retribution. Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars is one of the better crime shows because it does show caring and justice in its plots.
In Spooks, the spies believe they are defending their country against terrorism. People in the army believe they too are serving their people and keeping them safe.
However one might feel about the actual behaviours of these roles, the official principle is an admirable one. We could add doctors and lawyers as people meant to give a service to assist and make the world better.
But Sherlock’s work isn’t even like Batman who though wracked with his own vengefulness, still wants to make his city safe, as does V in V for Vendetta.
Sherlock seems to be a consulting detective just because it gives him kicks. In the BBC most recent series, he actually says he doesn’t care. Although Watson is upset by this, he is not upset enough to walk away from his friend. Sherlock says that caring is a mistake as it doesn’t help save the victims any better. This is rubbish: for some, caring is exactly what drives them. Emotional involvement is a different issue but caring doesn’t mean weakness or inaction. Superman’s enemies often try and trap him in this way, but Superman remains a hero who continues to win, not one who is lesser because he cares – but the reverse.
To get off on the dead is necrophilia, but it seems not only the fictional mystery solvers but all their fans see dead bodies as something to be excited over.
The thoughtlessness for victims and loved ones, the lack of respect for the dead are shocking. We would not like the police to deal with us like this. Yet we accept it in fiction.
The Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock is the most unpleasant one of all. Why is such a popular hero so arrogant? He is well called ‘the freak’ by one of the police, and a sociopath. So why make him a hero? He is even less pleasant than Jonathan Creek and unlike Liesbeth Salander, has no past and demons to wrestle with.
Unlike Stieg Larsson’s stories, the films of Sherlock have no social point, no alert of real life corruption, no moral conundrum. This is not so with the books where this is frequently the case and Sherlock does also care about justice and people in his own way.
Arthur Conan Doyle used his popular stories to bring up issues, such as the unfairness of divorce law for women; the poor heath and safety of miners; and I read Hound of the Baskervilles as having animal rights potential – an idea I will be exploring. There is frequently a moral conundrum in the plot. The Sherlock of the books is a warmer and more worthy character and this BBC updating has done the iconic detective no favours at all. In not being issue based, it has come furthest – not closest – to the author’s original intentions.