Hyouka is a series about solving mysteries, but it’s also a story world where mystery novels exist, so naturally they come up in conversation. Protagonist Oreki shows little interest in whodunnit books like those by Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie, but this is understandable because Oreki doesn’t show much interest in anything—in fact, his motto in life is “If I don’t have to do it, I won’t. If I do have to do it, I will do it while expending as little energy as possible.” His best friend Satoshi, by comparison, is much more engaged with the world and with things generally, and in this particular case, is vocally interested in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Oreki asks him if he’d call himself a “Sherlockian”. Satoshi looks a little awkward and says no, he wouldn’t.
Now, this is Satoshi being humble because he’s not as much of a superfan as he could be, but because my main association with the phrase “Sherlockian” is the fandom for the BBC series Sherlock, my first thought was that he was actually embarrassed about having a blog and an AO3 account dedicated to the Steven Moffat show. And that funny little thought inspired me to rewatch this video essay about the many pitfalls of Sherlock—one of which is the show’s utter unflinching reverence for Sherlock Holmes himself, in all his glowing embodiment of the “emotionally detached, logical, and actually a real jerk, but we all love him because of his mega-genius detective skills” trope. And that got me thinking about Oreki, who is very much the Holmes of Hyouka. Yes, Oreki, mister “I don’t care about anything, but I’m good at solving puzzles so people admire me, especially that cute girl over there” himself.
By all rights he could have been just one more obnoxious example of the jerk-genius archetype that has evolved from Holmes, but interestingly Hyouka’s narrative makes a conscious effort to steer him away from it. That same arc with the “Sherlockian” conversation takes a wonderfully meta dip into mystery stories and their revered problem-solving protagonists, and in the end points out that this is nothing worth aspiring to—which ends up being a fun bit of genre play as well as great step in Oreki’s character development. Continue reading
I’m talking about fan service again—not so much the “oh look, boobs!” fan service but pandering to fans on a textual level. Which is an odd thing to say, since every piece of fiction is written for an audience, and showrunners of ongoing series are smart to listen and react to that audience, as it can let them know what the fans are enjoying and finding problems with. This age of communication and breakdown of barriers between creators and consumers (think Twitter interactions and mainstream access to conventions and panels etc.) is giving way to a new breed of fiction, which can much more effectively be improved and aimed to its audience. However, there comes a point where one has to ponder if waving to that pre-established audience and giving them what they ‘want’ has gotten in the way of the story you were trying to tell.
Supernatural has announced that it’s doing a “musical-ish” episode for its 200th show. Well, the creative team has announced that—Supernatural is many things and by this point a giant heaving clusterbomb of convoluted fan-creator connection, but I don’t think its gained sentience yet. Anyway, I only know of this because I’ve seen fans delighting over the announcement, and also know from watching that same circle from the periphery that a musical episode (inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s famous ‘Once More With Feeling’) is something fans have been speculating on and wishing for for a long time. It seems their words have been heard. I’m not going to peer too much at the Supernatural team for this since they’ve done plenty of ridiculous stuff and at 200 episodes something like this is a reward for sticking around through all of it. But I do have an issue with the practice of gift-wrapping tossed-around fan ideas and publishing them.
In case anyone’s wondering, I’m still mad about Sherlock season three. I have no shame in admitting I adored the show at its beginning, but I have even less in declaring I now find it a self-congratulatory swamp of silliness. The entire third season, though this is an oxymoron, felt like fanfiction of itself. The focus shifted from the compelling mysteries (the point of the show, its plot spine) to more domestic and character-central plots, including a whole episode devoted to Sherlock’s Best Man speech (and also John’s wedding, I guess, but Sherlock’s orating seemed to take up the entire thing) and so, so much glimmering emphasis on the unbreakable bond between the detective duo despite John quite rightly being furious with Sherlock at the start. Because JohnLock is alive and real, and their interactions are what the fans want to see, right? Continue reading
I’m really bad at reading subtext, okay. If two characters have got the gay for each other, you have to tell me outright, otherwise I’m going to fall into the complacent mistiness of believing they really are Just Friends. I have no problem believing, for example, that someone would damn themselves to an eternity fighting in a time loop to save someone’s life out of platonic love. Friendship is magic, alright, and we need more narratives that show the power of non-romantic relationships. That being said, we also need more queer representation, and the two can often get tangled up in a weird sort of meta limbo.
On the one hand, I’d love to see a canon queer relationship on TV, on the other, I’d love to not have any fictional relationship in my face without proper build-up—it’s the old conundrum: people adore love stories but aren’t comfortable with couples, and thus writing them goes in all sorts of strange and dramatic directions. It’s better, then, to draw out the possibility of a romance for as long as possible, making the audience believe in the pairing and support it, so that when they do get their happily ever after it’s much more satisfying. There’s an art to teasing something like that out, but, unfortunately, it runs into and can cross over with a nasty little practice called queerbaiting, dangling the possibility of a non-traditional-heterosexual-straight-as-white-bread romance in front of the audience without there ever being a chance of it actually happening.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends. There’s also an important distinction to make between authorial intent and audience interpretation—the audience is quite within their rights to take the relationship between two friends (or enemies, for that matter) and interpret it as something romantic or sexual, and do with it what they will in their own hearts, minds and internet dealings. That’s what fandom is about; taking the source material and playing with it like putty, stretching and squishing it to explore it from every angle, especially ones the writer didn’t or wouldn’t themselves. However, there’s a gulf between the audience reading into things their way and the writers deliberately putting something there to be read. Which they do not always do with the best intentions. Continue reading
For the love of God, someone send Nick Fury after Sherlock Holmes.
What are you smirking about, you life ruiner
I have no problem with characters that are terrible, or even just irritating, people. Lots of characters that I enjoy immensely in fiction are people I would either outright avoid or attempt to sucker punch if I met them in real life. It’s why I love villains, and antiheroes, and made-up people whose diabolical behaviour, snark and flaws I can study in a detached sense. But only to a certain point, and that point is where these characters start actually getting called, as they say, on their crap.
When a villain or antagonist acts awfully, we know it’s not alright because they’re portrayed as the villain and (hopefully and presumably) defeated or at least confronted by the hero or protagonist. Their blatant assholery or people manipulation or flat-out evil is pointed out as a bad thing and within the story world it’s brought to justice. The problem arises when these negative traits appear in the heroes of a story, and the story then goes ahead to treat this bad behaviour as, sub-textually or otherwise, the morally right thing. Protagonists will be rude or downright horrid to other characters, make a mess of things and act, whether in sweeping gestures or in everyday circumstances, in ways that we as members of a polite society are pretty sure we shouldn’t if we want to be accepted and not spurned, or at least complained about when we can’t hear.
Yet, these characters will go on like this undeterred because they make up for their behaviour by doing things no other character can do with whatever main character power-up they have, and thus they’re never (or at least very rarely) reprimanded for the things they do, in more ways than one. If the other characters just brush it off, it’s cemented as an okay thing to do in-world, and from a meta perspective, this character is still being portrayed as the hero of the story for all their awfulness, and thus the message being beamed to the audience is that this is the right and proper thing. And that makes me grind my teeth. Continue reading
Innnnn this corner we have the BBC’s latest phenomenon Sherlock, an adaptation/homage to the world’s most famous fictional consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, transplanted into modern day London. Innnnn the other corner we have CBS’ Elementary, which is… the same thing, but in modern day New York. The two face each other off grinding their heels into the ground. Now taking bets! This is a no-holds-barred smackdown match event! This opening would have been a lot punchier if I had a better grasp of fighting sport lingo.
If you follow this website in which I blog into the void, you will know that I very much enjoy Sherlock (as well as admitting its critical flaws). Naturally, as one of many who went about this, I was quick to side-eye CBS’ announcement of their Elementary project. Yes, I’ll admit it, I was brutally sceptical. Which, in my defence, was warranted given how many organ-failure-inducingly awful American remakes or knock-offs have been made of British television shows. It simply wasn’t enough for the American market to enjoy Sherlock, they had to go and make their own. It grated upon me. But not so much anymore, I am joyful and actually pretty surprised to admit.
Is one better than the other? Does it all come down to another little rivalry between the UK and the US? Let’s step back and look at this objectively. Having recently finished season one of Elementary and waiting (c’mon, Win network) for Sherlock season three, here is my personal notes of critique, comparison and congratulations (It’s even relatively spoiler free!) Continue reading