Favourite screencaps of the day - That’s the press, baby!
So, just to complete the considerations I made in my post about “Sherlock Holmes and the problem of an ob-sex-ed society”, as well as in the ensuing debate, I’d like to spend a few words more specifically about the scene between Kitty Riley and Sherlock, and, even more specifically, about her asking Sherlock about his and John’s relationship, insinuating the possibility of a gay liaison between the two of them.
This because, every now and then, I happened to see suggested, here on Tumblr, that the figure of Kitty, in this scene, would conceal - and not very subtly - a sarcastic portrayal of the fandom (or at least of some fans) on the writers’ part.
So, let me state this here loud and clear: such an assumption is adamantly WRONG.
If you’re looking for any sort of irony about the fans - better, a certain KIND of fans - in the show, the right place to look for it could, at the most, be John’s Blog, and particularly the Jacob Sowersby character, with all his adoring comments and his little stalker-ish attitude. A mild irony, however, and quite benevolent, for that matter.
But Kitty Riley represents something completely DIFFERENT. She is NOT a fan. She is an unscrupolous journalist POSING as a fan, in the hope of worming out of Sherlock, in an underhand manner, personal information and gossip about himself, his flatmate, his work, and possibly the “dark corners” of his life and his personality, in the best gutter press style.
She represents the press - better, a certain kind of popular press, more and more aggressive in our societies - and, also and more specifically (and here we come to the connection with my previous post), the attitude of that kind of press towards sex and people’s private lives and personal relationships.
What I mean, is that Kitty Riley perfectly embodies that obsession with sex, and that attitude to over-sexualize every and each human relationship and interaction, that I described - as pathological - in that post. And she not only embodies it, but represents the exasperation of that tendency which we too often find championed by our media.
It’s a fact that the gutter press’ attitude towards sex is to rummage into people private lives to expose their most private relationships (even inventing them, on occasion, for lack of good stories), and to label people with sexual stereotypes - founded or unfounded it doesn’t really matter, provided they are “saucy” - suggesting, insinuating, implying, when nothing more can be found to feast upon, reducing famous people to their sexual lives, possibly with “scandalous” - or at least lascivious - undertones.
Which is what Kitty is doing here: even the way she phrases her question is a good example of the current widespread sexualization of any kind of human relationship: “You and John Watson: just platonic?” implies, in its choice of words, that Sherlock’s and John’s relationship must anyway have a (gay, in this case) sexual undertone: either they are lovers, or they are “platonic”, that is, in love but not having actual, “consummated” sex.
The phenomenon is already alluded to in a previous scene of the same episode, when John is looking at the newspapers and tabloids and points out the use of the word “bachelor” as referred to him and the clear insinuations that it brings with itself:
John is, reasonably enough, upset by it. Which doesn’t mean he is “homophobe” (he makes quite clear at the very beginning of the first episode that he is NOT). It just means that he, like any other human being, has the reasonable pretense (and right, even under the law) of not being misrepresented, in an aspect of his IDENTITY, in the eyes of his fellow human beings. And we know that, if Sherlock doesn’t care about what people think about him, John, instead, quite humanly, DOES care about what people think, both about himself, and about the people he cares for.
This is NOT a humorous moment in the series - these are NOT to be listed amongst the puns and jokes à la “head in the fridge”. Instead, here the writers are making the point that ONE THING are jokes and puns, and ANOTHER THING - a completely different thing - are insinuations and impositions about the sexual preferences and sexual lives of other people.
This is one of the few moments of serious social critic in the whole series.
Which is evident also because of the director’s choices in filming the scene. What is also interesting in the exchange between Sherlock and Kitty Riley in the toilet of the tribunal, in fact, is HOW it’s written and built up.
The scene clearly reminds some passages of Fatal Attraction. Kitty invades Sherlock’s privacy a first time by reaching him in the MALE toilet - a place where people can’t but feel extremely vulnerable, if exposed to the unexpected presence of a person of the other sex; she repeatedly gets into his personal space; she approaches him with open sexual avances; she even goes so far as to prevent him from exiting the toilet by physically blocking the door.
The whole scene is built as - and actually is a form of - nothing less than a SEXUAL ASSAULT on Sherlock by Kitty herself.
No wonder that Sherlock says her that “she repels him”.
Thus, the message of this scene is that pinning people to sexual labels - no matter if gay, hetero or whatever - to intrude in their private lives, to impose upon them our views about their sexuality, to reduce every relationship of theirs to a sexual relationship, is just another form of sexual violence. A violence which is too often perpetrated by our popular press. And, alas, also by some common people, in the fandom and outside of it.