True Lady Confessions: I Like Elementary More Than Sherlock

NB: Some pretty minor spoilers here. I kept the really good stuff out. But if you care about a super minor character in Elementary, you’ve been warned.

 

My first exposure to the Sherlock Holmes tales came when I I was thirteen or fourteen years old. My Nana was a Reader’s Digest subscriber and would regularly purchase the big anthology collections they sold under the World’s Best Reading imprint. You know the ones, the big hardcovers with the embossed covers? I loved those things – so many stories in one convenient package! If memory serves, theSherlock Holmes volume came into my hands during sometime away from school- either a sick day or summer vacation – and so I read every single story in rather rapid succession.

So ol’ Sherlock and I have a history together, so I was excited when the BBC’s Sherlock first aired.  Here was a character who seems like such a product of his Victorian roots, dusted off and updated for our shiny modern times. The stories were flashy and fun, and while I don’t entirely get the crush everyone has on Benedict Cumberbatch, I will admit that he’s charming and urbane and enjoyable to watch dashing around solving mysteries. So when I heard that CBS also had an updated Holmes story, set in New York and with Lucy Liu rather improbably playing Watson, I was dismissive. How could regular old American network television compete with the stylish offerings of Masterpiece Mystery and the BBC?

So classy. So British.

So classy. So British.

And yet…I kept hearing things. Things that implied that CBS’s Elementary was quite good. And well, I do like Jonny Lee Miller, who plays their Holmes, and we had just finished up with a season of Deadwood and had a hole in the schedule, and it was still winter…I mentioned to Mr. Menace (who’d seen it) that I wanted to give it a shot. The fates smiled and boxed set of season one came into our possession, and we were off to the races.

Within an episode or two I could easily agree that the show was quite good, and really a very different approach to telling a Sherlock Holmes story. Miller and Liu have a good (non-romantic! This is important.) chemistry, and the writing is sharp. It took until Season 1 episode 19, “Snow Angels,” for me to realize how much more I like Elementary’s take on Sherlock Holmes overall, though.

This isn’t to say that I don’t still enjoy Sherlock – I do, very much. But “Snow Angels” drove home all the ways that an American tv show, not even on cable mind you, but on regular network television, is way more progressive than its slick British cousin could ever hope to be.

Feel the intensity.

Feel the intensity.

The revelation came at the appearance of Ms. Hudson, Elementary’s take on Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock’s landlady in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales. Here, she’s first presented as a potential client and powerful intellect in her own right, who does eventually come on to help keep the brownstone clean by the end of the episode – not the landlady, but a similar role to what Mrs. Hudson does for Sherlock in the stories and in the BBC’s show. She also happens to be a transgender woman.

This alone would make for fairly progressive television, but it gets even better:

1. Only one reference is made to the fact that she’s a transgender woman – after that, we all move on.

2. She’s actually played by a transgender actress, Candis Cayne.

All in all, it’s a small role in one episode, but it’s a pretty big social statement to make. And once it sunk in, I realized how many the show is making. Many of the major supporting characters are played by actors of color  – I couldn’t think of any on Sherlock. While Elementary kept Sherlock Holmes a white, British man, it took the second most prominent character, Dr. Watson, and made her an Asian woman. And rather, as I feared, than make the relationship between them romantic, it is instead a true partnership. Dr. Joan Watson is becoming a detective in her own right on the show, and it ‘s clear that she’s with Sherlock because he respects her. As I thought about Sherlock’s Watson, played by Martin Freeman, I realized that while *I* really like him, because Martin Freeman is adorable and loveable and an all-around great actor, I couldn’t really figure out why Sherlock likes him so much. Yes, he’s up for adventure and doggedly loyal, but what attracts the greatest mind in the world to those qualities?

From there, it was a short leap to the most damning truth of all – I like Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes more than I like Benedict Cumberbatch’s. The Holmes that Sherlock has created is certainly quirky and brilliant, but he’s also very clean and very, very cold. We’re told that he’s a recovering drug addict, yet it seems entirely unlikely watching him in action. We’re told he loves Watson like a brother (more than his actual brother, in fact) and yet I can’t seem to see that affection or figure out where it springs from. This Sherlock is almost like a robot – almost every time we see him do something real and human, it’s part of some cunning plan he has.

See how spiffy he is? Neat as a pin.

See how spiffy he is? Neat as a pin.

Miller’s Holmes, on the other hand, while also a bit emotionally distant on the surface, is clearly a seething mass of feelings at his core. Miller plays him with a ramrod straight posture that is offset by constant, twitching energy. He’s always fidgeting and bouncing and exercising. Calm, then explosive. It feels very much the way a man still haunted by his demons would act. The writers show him coming to terms with these feelings, as well as the repercussions of his choice to keep other people at arm’s length, for the most part.

Broody Holmes. Look at that scruff!

Broody Holmes. Look at that scruff!

And his affection for Watson seems genuine and slowly earned over time. Part of this is easily explained by the format differences between the two shows - Sherlock’s “seasons” consist of three long-form 90 minute episodes, more mini-movie than anything, while Elementary has 24, 45-minute long episodes in which to draw out the drama. There’s just more time for things like character development and relationships. But I can’t help but feel that Sherlock ends up feeling a little empty by comparison – more flash and less substance than Elementary has to offer.

That’s not to say I’ll stop watching Sherlock – ultimately I’m glad to have two great Holmes tales to enjoy instead of one. But I’d be curious to hear what the rest of you think – do you watch one of these shows? Both? Which do you like more and why?

Oh, and before I let you go, can I tell you about a super cool event coming up that the Ladies are going to be a part of?

If you don't come to our event, Kermit will be exasperated.

If you don’t come to our event, Kermit will be exasperated.

On Sunday, April 27th at 6 pm, we’re teaming up with Bone Daddy Burgers to bring you a spring fling you won’t want to miss!

It’s going to be an entire evening of food and fun. First, Bone Daddy’s will provide some of the best burgers and fries you’ve ever tasted (even the veggie burger is out of this world!)
There will also be a raffle with some out of sight prizes, including Boston Derby Dames tickets.

Then at 7, the Ladies will be offering a FREE Muppet viewing party! This will be open to the public but seats are first come, first served – the best way to ensure a spot is to go the earlier event.

For the burger portion of the evening there are a very limited number of tickets, so if you’re interested, don’t delay, get ‘em now! There are a variety of levels to choose from, depending on how much swag you want to take home. http://www.gofundme.com/6luyc8 The magic happens from 6-7 pm, and the Ladies will have a table!

All proceeds from the party will benefit Bone Daddy’s expansion of their food truck empire.

It’s all going down at Comicazi, 407 Highland Avenue, Somerville – just steps away from the Davis T stop, so if you’re local, join us.

 

Sailor Moon: 15 vs 30-something

There has been a lot of talk with the release of the first image from the new Sailor Moon reboot. And by “talk” perhaps what I really mean to say is excited squeals coming from the direction of my house. The thing is that no matter how excited I am to see Serena and her crew again, there is a nagging concern I’ve been having. Now that I am a grown woman, perhaps my tolerance for the girly,  glittery splendor of Sailor Moon will not be what it was.

We’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog that we try to look at things from a female perspective. In other words, as women, how are we experiencing the world around us in ways that are different from men? What makes us feel empowered? What doesn’t? And now,  many years later, where does Sailor Moon fall on this spectrum?

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Yes, I’m still watching Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Coulson-Agents of Shield

To say that MAOS (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) started off slowly could perhaps be the entertainment understatement of the year.  A show that started with so much hype and promise – they were bringing back Agent Coulson for Pete’s sake -  missed the mark by quite a bit in the first half of its first season. From a viewer’s perspective, when the show first started it felt like it could have been titled anything….there wasn’t much to make you feel like you were watching something based in an established universe. Continue reading

My (Favorite) Hero: An Examination of The Flash

A while back, in my original Three Things post, I mentioned that Starman is one of my favorite comics series of all time. While that’s certainly true, and it hasn’t really been topped, at least in terms of superhero comics, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Jack Knight is my favorite hero. He’s up there, easily in the top five, but when it comes to super-powered do-gooders, my heart belongs to the fastest man alive, The Flash.

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3 Things: Animated Series My Friends Aren’t Watching But Should

There is a bit of a hidden agenda in my post for this week. And by “hidden,” I actually mean not hidden at all. My friends and I share a lot of similar fandoms, but there are times when I am DYING to talk about a show and then I am shocked to discover that none of my friends are watching it. It kills me because deep down in my heart I feel like they should love them too. No really, we have so much in commom, why not these too? So this week, I am using my blog time to not only try to convince the other ladies to check these shows out, but also try to find some like-minded blog readers who would like to chat about how awesome these shows are.

Phineas and Ferb

Hey you! Stop the eye rolling, I mean it! This show is hilarious and has an amazing sense of self awareness that can be hard to find in shows that are aimed for kids. Yes, it’s Disney. Yes, it is well established that I have been brain-washed by the Mouse. But hear me out.

Phineas and Ferb are two brothers who happen to be super geniuses. Each episode, they come up with some sort of crazy project to do that day and the hijinks begin. So far they have invented the best ice cream in the world by sending cows into space, turned their entire downtown into a giant board game, and even had a special where they team up with the Avengers. They have a pet platypus who is a secret agent assigned to fighting the worst evil villain in the world. Oh, and they have an older sister who spends way too much time chasing them down in hopes of ratting them out to their mother.

Where this shows really shines is that you can tell it has been created and written by people who spend a lot of time thinking of ways to reference things that both the children and the parents will enjoy. In fact, there are times that I even suspect that many of the references are going right over the kids’ heads. This feels especially true when things happen like the kids finding out that their mother was an 80s pop icon known as Lydana (whose song strongly states that she is a girl who wants to have fun, not unlike a certain other 80s Pop icon we know).

The continuity is great, the characters call themselves out on their various traits and taglines, and every episode features a song! Ok, I realize that the song might not be a selling point for everyone, but seriously, if you can stand the cute, the show might really be worth your time. And really, any series that will take the time to write a song about having squirrels in your pants is a-ok with me.



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Bechdel Test: The Pixar Films – Part One

It’s time once again for the Bechdel Test, that ever-popular method of kind of sort of determining the feminist value of movies and other works of fiction. As I’ve said before, the Bechdel Test is actually better at identifying trends than it is at determining the quality or feminism of an individual film. So when I do the Bechdel Test, I like to apply it to groups of movies. Last time, the Disney princesses took the test. This time, it’s Pixar’s turn.

Why Pixar? Well, obviously I like animation. If I’m going to be spending some time scrutinizing a bunch of movies, it might as well be movies I’m interested in. Pixar also has a good-sized but still manageable catalog of films, enough to make for interesting analysis without taking me months to tackle. The Pixar films also make for a good comparison with the Disney Princess movies. They share many aspects beyond being animated, yet also differ in the kinds of stories they tell and the eras the movies come from. And finally, Pixar has been criticized in the past for making largely male-centric movies while relegating their female characters to secondary, though still strong, roles. While subjecting the Pixar movies to the Bechdel test may not support or refute this criticism, it could shed some light on the subject.

In case anyone has forgotten, the Bechdel Test consists of three rules. First, the movie in question must contain at least two female characters. Second, two female characters must have at least one conversation with each other. Third, at least one of these conversations must be about something other than a male character. The rules seem simple, but as I found out when applying the test to the Disney Princess movies, there’s a lot left to interpretation, such as what counts as a conversation, whether the mere mention of a male character disqualifies a conversation, whether the presence of a male character disqualifies a conversation, and so on. Since the Bechdel Test was originally written as the topic of a single page comic rather than a serious attempt to analyze film, there’ say lot of ambiguity.

So that’s the preliminaries out of the way. On to the films! Continue reading

Comic Characters You Should Get To Know: Beta Ray Bill

Thanks to the movie franchise, most people can pick Marvel’s Thor out of a line-up.

But Thor isn’t the only hammer-wielder in the Marvel universe.  I would argue he isn’t even the most interesting.  In this lady’s opinion that honor goes to Beta Ray Bill!  (With a close second to Throg- but that’s another post)

Yes, his name is a little goofy, but don’t let that stop you from learning more about Bill.  Note: This write-up will contain spoilers for the comics listed.

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Bill, bustin’ on Thor

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3 Webcomics The Red Menace is Reading

While paper comics are my first love, since I was a wee Menace in the early ages of the internet I’ve also enjoyed the storytelling bounty that it provides. It’s hard not to when there’s such a wide variety of great tales and art out there, much of it provided for free.  Certainly, that very benefit has its downside – often the best artists get jobs that allow them to create AND pay the bills, and that can mean that a story you’ve been invested in doesn’t get finished. But the risk is minimal, the rewards can be great, and you can find some really great tales that you might not see in the comic shop.

So without further ado:

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Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter

Update schedule: M/W/F

Plot:  Okay, this is going to sound a little crazy. Monster Pulse is about a group of kids who get exposed to a top-secret chemical that’s been developed by a shadowy government agency. When the chemical comes into contact with a human body, it changes one of that person’s body parts into a monster that can act independently of that person (though they seem to be connected to and protective of them.) The kids team up to fight the shadowy agency and try to prevent any more folks from losing vital organs. I told you it was weird.

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A Real Grown-ups Survival Guide to Disney World for the Mostly Disinterested

There are a lot of guides out there for adults who are planning to visit Disney World without children.  As I have been planning my most recent trip down there, I have found these guides to be rather useless.  The problem is that many of these guides operate under the following assumptions: a) I’m rich  b) I like to golf and c) everyone in my party loves Disney.  I know that is might be hard for us Disney-philes to understand, but it is very possible for a person to visit a Disney Park and not really be all that into Disney movies, characters, music, and whatever new thing The Mouse and his minions are providing for us to throw our money at.

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100% Pure Unadulterated MAGIC!

As you read this post, I am (hopefully) down in Florida, literally rolling around is all the sugary sweet Disney goodness…because that’s the kind of girl I am.  Along with me however, are The Boy, Tiny Doom, and her partner in matrimony, the Goog.  Neither Tiny Doom nor The Goog hold a candle for the Disney Parks like The Boy and I do, so part of the challenge in planning this trip has been to find a decent balance.  How do grown-ups with varying levels of interest in Disney enjoy a vacation together?  Well, here is a list of what I have been focusing on.

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