Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

The Trickster Archetype in Pop Culture, Part Three: Tricky Ladies

jamie moriarty

I spent my 2017 academic year picking a fight with Joseph Campbell and his blithe assumption that The Hero can only ever be a dude. Well, as my focus shifts from Heroes to Tricksters, the same issues crop up. The most famous mythological Tricksters discussed in the field and in popular culture tend to come from the following list: Norse Loki, Greek Hermes, West African Anansi, Polynesian Maui, and various versions of the archetype that appear in Native American mythology in the form of the Coyote, Raven, and Hare characters. These are all Trickster gods rather than goddesses. Lewis Hyde—whose book Trickster Makes This World I’ve quoted a few times in this series—quite confidently declared that “All the standard tricksters are male”. And, in a broad sense, he’s correct. But does this need to be the case? There are plenty of folks—including one particular writer I’ll be looking at today—who say “c’mon, my guy” and disagree. Continue reading

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre

Hyouka and the Jerk-Genius Detective Trope

Hyouka (36)

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

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The Antihero is Always Right

For the love of God, someone send Nick Fury after Sherlock Holmes.

BBC Sherlock

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

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Filed under Things We Need to Stop Doing

The Great Carraway: Marvels of the ‘Pants’ Character

Story worlds are cool. Writers all over the world and throughout history have created an endless parade of fascinating and wondrous fictional realms that we as an audience adore to visit, and characters we love and love to hate. Wouldn’t it be the greatest epitome of awesome if we could really get into these places and meet them?

Well luckily, with a certain character type at the wheel, you can! Slip into their shell and walk around the story land as you please. It’s as easy as pulling on a pair of pants.

I’m trying something new these days: I’ve started playing Fate/Stay Night, delving into an adventure of magic, mythology and mayhem, and touching down into the visual novel medium for the first time. A visual novel is, in plainest terms, a complex Choose Your Own Adventure story, with graphics, voiceovers, and a lot of pages—basically you click through the story and are occasionally presented with different options that transform you from reader into player. What will you do in this situation? Every decision could affect the overall outcome of the story. There are different routes you can venture down, making the medium very interesting in terms of its virtually unlimited storytelling capacities.

But before we digress into that territory, let me tell you something I discovered while playing. I’m not very far in since the game is enormous, and that’s not even counting the alternate routes and storylines, so I haven’t been faced with many options yet. If they have come up, they’ve been menial things that aren’t directly involved with the big magical war going on in the shadows the protagonist has not yet stumbled into. For example, the first one you get is in the morning when Our Hero, Shirou, wakes up: does he go and do his normal morning routine, or go and help his friend make breakfast?

Super simple stuff, and I picked the breakfast one (because I harbour a sneaking suspicion that the character involved was placed to fulfil some sort of adorable docile housewife fantasy and it makes me itch. Go and assist your lady friend, Shirou. Look after your ladies. No ladies no life). My reasoning was that I’d hate to be the lazy-ass in that scenario, and you ought to help your friends out, especially if they’re being lovely enough to cook your meals. But then I backtracked and went “Hang on. Was I making that decision as me, or was I making it as Shirou?” Continue reading

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Filed under Pop Culture Ponderings

Sequelitis

I went to see The Hobbit recently, or rather, The Hobbit Part One: An Unexpected Journey, which takes much longer to type and is rather pointless when people know what you mean anyway. It was enjoyable enough as a rollicking little family fantasy adventure, and I left the cinema glowing from the short bursts of nostalgia it had delivered. And, of course, wondering when the next part was going to come out.

The Hobbit Part 2 promo

Where the dragons at?

The Hobbit is going to be split into three movies. Even after watching the first one and acknowledging that it would have felt painful and rushed had they crammed the entire book into one film (as my writing buddy and Supplier of Fun Facts tells me, a completely unabridged feature film of the average 50 000 word novel would go for around six hours), I thought that inducing mitosis on the films was a bit ambitious.

But then I remembered that the film culture we have at current is one that expects three billion sequels for everything anyway. Continue reading

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The Game is Afoot: A Sherlock Review

I found this really great fanfic… it’s like a modern AU of Sherlock Holmes? And it’s on TV. And it’s amazing.

Sherlock season 1 cover

As someone mystified by the Holmesian universe but never quite in possession of the mental energy it takes to chew through the stories, Sherlock seemed to be sent from Fiction Heaven itself (though the nature of its creators, Mark Gattiss and Steven Moffatt, also known for tormenting avid watchers of Doctor Who, would be argued by some fans to be less than angelic).

The richness of the original is there and the characters that so many people have known and loved over the century are as fascinating and delicious as they have always been, with the modern day setting only a light, satisfying tang over the top.

Continue reading

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