Warning: All The Spoilers.

I didn’t like it.

Here is the short explanation as to why I didn’t like it:

Here is the long explanation as to why I didn’t like it:

Strauss was present at the first seminar, run by Mystery, at which students actually left the classroom to go “in field.” Mystery began by explaining the basic structure of seduction—FMAC, for find, meet, attract, and close. He explained the power of the mysterious “neg,” one of the great innovations of the seduction community. Strauss describes it thus: Neither compliment nor insult, a neg is something in between—an accidental insult or backhanded compliment. The purpose of the neg is to lower a woman’s self-esteem while actively displaying a lack of interest in her—by telling her she has lipstick on her teeth, for example, or offering her a piece of gum after she speaks. “I don’t alienate ugly girls,” Mystery explains. “I don’t alienate guys. I only alienate the girls I want to fuck.”

- Wesley Yang, Game Theory

The above quote comes from an article describing a tactic used by pick-up artists – or PUAs, as they call themselves – to attract women. There’s a reason why I’ve included here. Keep it in mind. We’ll get to it eventually.

First things first: A Scandal in Belgravia is a structurally awkward episode. It starts with Moriarty, but doesn’t end with him. The plot jackrabbits from one point to the next, so that someone is killed with a boomerang, and we’re never told why it matters. The continuity of Adler’s love for Holmes is shoddy to say the least, because if the end result is to be believed, she must have fallen for him before they ever actually met. Half the story falls by the wayside somewhere around the midpoint and is never actually recovered. The whole thing is set over a period of months, but with no real reason for why this needs to be so except that it brings the narrative timeline in keeping with that of the real world, and with the added consequence of making events seem alternately rushed or drawn out.

Next, as this has been my particular point of complaint with the show, let’s have a rundown of how the ladies are treated.

We’ll start with Mrs Hudson, who has three major appearances. During one, Mycroft actually yells at her to shut up, in response to which both Sherlock and Watson yell ‘Mycroft!’ back at him, horrified. This could count as a positive thing, except that, once Mycroft has mumbled an apology, Sherlock turns and says, ‘But really, Mrs Hudson. Do shut up.’ Later in the episode, American thugs break into Baker Street and, having hauled her viciously upstairs, tie her to a chair, put a gun to her head, and duct-tape her mouth. Sherlock comes to the rescue, and in a moment of genuine, angry revenge, having already tied the leader up, calls an ambulance to report the injuries he then goes on to inflict on the man – by throwing him out the window. Shortly afterwards, Sherlock comforts the shaken landlady, and when Watson suggests she go to stay with her sister, Holmes gives her a hug and says, ‘Mrs Hudson leave Baker Street? England would fall.’ Which is actually quite sweet.

The Christmas scene, however, where Mrs Hudson reports that she enjoys the holiday ‘because it’s the one day the boys have to be nice to me,’ is much more characteristic. For the second time in four episodes, Sherlock’s callousness towards Molly results in her being reduced to tears – a painful enough scene that both my husband and I had to look away, and which shocks even Sherlock enough that he asks her forgiveness and gives her a kiss on the cheek. Which isn’t sweet, because it shouldn’t have been necessary; it only looks that way because it’s better than the alternative, and given what happens overall, I’m disinclined to bestow a Not As Big A Jerk As He Could Have Been award on either Sherlock or Moffat.

There’s a token appearance from Watson’s new girlfriend, whose name Sherlock has forgotten, and who, later on the episode, dumps Watson when he, too, mistakes her for a predecessor. This does not make me think well of either of them, and nor does the passing reference Sherlock makes that ‘if I want to look at naked women, I use John’s laptop’ – a line which I found disproportionately offensive, if only because it makes Sherlock’s sexuality look crude and porny at a point when the rest of the episode is trying to show the opposite.

And then, most importantly of all, we have the Woman herself: Irene Adler, who in this incarnation is a professional dominatrix. As has been skillfully pointed out elsewhere, the disparity between who Adler is and why Holmes respects her in the original story and where she’s ended up now is breathtaking. Adler is meant to be the only woman who ever beats Sherlock: she has no sexual interest in him whatsoever – in fact, the story ends with her getting married to someone else – but her intelligence and skills impress him so profoundly that he keeps her photo and, as a direct result, stops devaluing the abilities of women. Instead, we get an Adler who acts as Morairty’s pawn; whose love for Sherlock undoes her so profoundly that she loses everything; and who, after unsuccessfully begging Sherlock for mercy and being cast out, is nonetheless overcome with gratitude as he rescues her from beheading at the hands of terrorists in Karachi.

Yes. You read that right.

I just… OK. Look. I’ll start with the positives: Adler and Sherlock have chemistry. Their banter mostly works, and there’s a few genuinely nice moments between them chock-full of well-acted tension.

But.

Adler – this Adler – is a dominatrix. Whatever you make of that choice (and we shall have words on the topic shortly), she nonetheless is one in both a professional and personal capacity. Now, bearing in mind that I know comparatively little about BDSM sexuality and culture, it still seems to me as though being a dom is an intrinsic enough part of her personality that, even had she really fallen for Sherlock in such a short space of time, the idea that she would beg him for mercy goes utterly against the grain; added to which fact, and no matter how sexually naive this series paints him to be, Sherlock does not strike me – nor, to judge by their banter, does he strike Adler – as a sub. Which would seem, you know. Important. Or at least, it should be, except for the fact that Adler is a prime time dominatrix: a dominatrix for the vanilla set, established as such only by her riding crop and aggressive demeanor. Crucially, it’s the latter that’s played as the primary evidence of her sexual proclivities; as though all doms only ever have one mode – conquer – and are never shown at their ease; or, more disturbingly, as though Moffat’s only means of envisaging a sexually and intellectually competent woman is to make her a dominatrix. As such, the climax of the episode is not, as Mycroft suggests, that Adler is ‘the dominatrix who brought the nation to its knees’ – instead, we take away that even a professional dom will submit on all fronts to Sherlock Holmes, because that’s how awesome he is.

Only it’s not awesome. It’s insulting.

As, for that matter, is the fact that he both guesses Adler’s measurements and then uses them as the pin to her vault, because she’s apparently so shallow as to have made them the keycode; as is the fact that he makes remarks about her age; as is the fact that she greets him naked; as is the fact that, given Sherlock’s best and only female adversary, Steven Moffat can find nothing better to do with her than make her a victim of her own ladyfeelings while Sherlock rides to her rescue.

All of these things irritate me – not just by themselves, but because they stand as testament to the fact that, once again, Steven Moffat has taken an existing concept with an established female fanbase and injected a dash of sexism and misogyny into the proceedings. Because of him, I have stopped watching Doctor Who. His are the only seasons I refuse to buy on DVD. I literally cannot bring myself to tackle the Christmas episode. And yet a significant part of the fan community for both series seems, if not exactly unaware of the problems, then unwilling to tackle them, or to let them spoil the moment, because having awesome shows that aren’t sexist is apparently less important than shipping Holmes and Watson. It doesn’t matter that, under Moffat, the Doctor and Sherlock Holmes have both become the same snide, angry, rude, sociopathic, lying genius who mistreats his friends and stays emotionally distant from the people who care for him, or that River Song and Irene Adler are essentially the same person. No: what matters are the quips, the nudity, and the hot young actors. And that bothers me.

Maybe I’m being uncharitable, or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. Either way, I cannot shake the feeling that the fan community is, aided and abetted by tumblr, rewriting the series in realtime, erasing the sexism in favour of focusing on how pretty Benedict Cumberbatch looks when wearing only a sheet; and while I am certainly sympathetic to the attractions of the later, I am fearful that the earnestness and immediacy with which fans are undertaking the former project is obscuring useful dialogue about why the sexism was ever there at all. By releasing sexually loaded clips of naked-Adler and naked-Holmes prior to the episode’s airing, Moffat made the fans invest in their relationship in a context-free environment. But the story he’s written is vastly less equal than the one most fans assumed must, naturally, exist; and because they are committed to its existence, it is the story they will continue to believe – not because it was told to them, but because they have told it to themselves.

Which begs the question: how do I square Moffat’s supposed sexism with the fact that he cheerfully panders to the female fanbase? For whom was the naked Sherlock meant, if not us? And it is at this point, ladies, that I refer you back to the quote above and invite you to consider an unwelcome possibility: that we are all of us being negged. Baiting his hook with ‘shiptease, Moffat has drawn us in, engaged us in conversation, and then insulted us to our faces. If, then, as a fandom, our main response is to continue talking about how hot the actors are as though nothing untoward had happened – instead of calling this bullshit – our reward shall be a shallow, meaningless fuck, the only long-term consequences of which are to leave us feeling dirty and Moffat with a freshly reaffirmed belief that what women viewers really want are men who act like bastards. Specifically, that we want fiercely intelligent (but handsome!) sociopaths whose rudeness is excused by genius, whose inability to display normal human courtesy and kindness is considered further proof of their worthiness, and whose star quality as partners is their ability to rescue their female offsiders from the consequences of having dangerous lady-obsessions.

Or, put another way: the scene in the episode where Sherlock acts like an obnoxious dick to Molly, and then buys her off with a kiss on the cheek when she cries? That is what Steven Moffat is doing to us. It does not compensate for the rudeness that came before. It does not compensate for the sexism. It does not compensate for stripping Irene Adler of everything that mattered. It will not excuse the inclusion of further awfulness in any future episodes.

And I am sick of people acting as though it should.

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Comments
  1. Simone Webb says:

    Brilliant. This is a lot better and more eloquent than my blog on the subject. :D

  2. dalekcat says:

    Also didnt Adler say she was gay? So why would she be in love with Sherlock? That was just lame.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Yeah, she did. I think the inference was meant to be that she was bi, but even so. Not well-handled.

    • Kendra says:

      In the scene where her and Watson are in the warehouse, Watson says ‘I’m not gay’ , Irene then says, ‘I am, and just look at us both’. They’re both smitten with Sherlock regardless of their typical sexual orientation.

  3. okelay says:

    I agree with pretty much all you’ve said here. It’s hard to enjoy moffat’s show when he repeatedly slaps you in the face. I’m adding this to a recopilation of posts regarding irene adler I’m making.

  4. Holger Syme says:

    This is really, really excellent analysis. Thank you!

    Quite apart from the obnoxiousness, and the sexism, and the extraordinary lopsidedness of Moffat’s imagination, his inability to write interesting women just sucks the life out of these shows. It wasn’t as evident when he was only writing individual episodes of DW, but as a show-runner, he’s simply a disaster.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Definitely. And it’s so frustrating, because he writes Sherlock and Watson – apart from the sexism, obviously – with such skill and joy and playfulness that I want all the characters to be up to standard. Only they’re not, because some of them have vaginas. *facepalm*

  5. adena70 says:

    Oh, this. THIS. Perfection. Thank you so much for sharing :D

  6. Vic says:

    I am happy that after a bit of googling I am not the only one who was disillusioned with the new episode. I honestly felt like I was watching some fangirl’s hypersexualised fanfiction put into camera rather than actual canon, considering how brilliant the first season was. Even the characters seem flanderized on their defining traits (with the biggest examples being Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson), which is not really something one wants for such a television show of subtiilities, but…

    Not only could I not get through the entire episode to even see the breakdown of Irene Adler (why would they break her down? why not just let her win? would it have hindered the story? no. in fact, it might have made it better; the whole point of her character (at least in Arthur Conan Doyle’s text) is not to be a love interest for Sherlock, but to be one of those few who beat him at his own game and put him back on the ground after being so cocky (as you so aptly pointed out!), and thus earn his respect, a rare commoditity for anyone!), but right away I was up in arms with the type of relationship presented between them – the shiptease, as you also kindly pointed out. Why ever did Moffat feel the need to erase the subtext of respect, a very high emotion) and replace it with a blatantly romantic story (with the “appropriate” sexual tension, of course) for the sake of fangirl squeals is beyond me? For either side of Sherlock or Adler, it is a gross misinterpretation of character and motivation. One may argue that Sherlock was merely fascinated with her in all ways an aromantic can (though, try as I might, it is difficult to see buried under layers of romantic cliches; it seems the episode is forcefully layered in order to bury this ignored subtext, if it even exists), but to have Adler fall in love with him and make that A SIGN OF WEAKNESS on her part? That is just so far removed from the source, and so far wrong in all other levels, that you might as well have written a new character with a different name.

    Thank you for pointing out all the other insults Moffat has added to injury, and apologies for the rant. It really is such a scandal that the series has season 2 begin with such a disenchanting start, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for what the next two episodes will bring. All I wish is that they’d kept all this nonsense out in the first place, instead of replacing the cool, hard intelligence that “Sherlock” should be.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I have no problem with fangirls, or fan communities in general, except inasmuch as, in this instance, some of them are letting the squee factor blind them to the presence of some truly heinous bullshit. The idea of creators who not only appreciate their fandoms but wink at them from time to time in the narrative is something I really enjoy; but Moffat is perverting that. His winks to the audience are, in fact, leers, and I do not like that so many people are so flush with the novelty of any sort of metaphorical eye contact that they’re either unwilling or unable to recognise the difference and call him on it.

      • Vic says:

        Very true. I guess having been in (or at least observed) very many fandoms where a frightening amount turn a blind eye away from anything that does not excite them, especially if it is something as important as what you are getting at, has left me a little jaded. It really is a shame.

  7. Denise says:

    I’m seeing a lot of criticism and push back over Irene Adler’s portrayal in fandoms like Livejournal. And I have no doubt that by next week’s new episode, ASIB will have been re-written in fifty different (better) ways.

    Except these stories aren’t being broadcast to 10 million viewers at once. Which is disappointing and frustrating.

    • fozmeadows says:

      The joy of fandom is that it rewrites everything, so that you get a near infinite number of iterations on the theme, many of which are as good as or better than the original, and all of which contribute to the creative dialogue. The curse of fandom is that, because it rewrites everything as a matter of course, it can be quite hard to critique the original without that process being seen as an attempt to invalidate all the fan-generated content and stories, and therefore earning the wrath of people who, quite understandably, want to make what they can of the good bits more than they want to get angry about the bad bits. And thus, conflict.

  8. Richard Peters says:

    Somebody sent me a link to this review. I think you make some interesting points. But I disagree with how you view the scene with Molly at the party.

    Sherlock was rude to pretty much everybody there, including Lestrade, telling him his wife was still having an affair. Lestrade looked crestfallen at the news. As for Molly, Sherlock was doing his deductive reasoning/showing off that he loves and then realised that man she was getting ready for was him. It showed him as cold and quite brutal with people’s feelings, he felt guilty about that and then kissed Molly.

    I think you’ve glossed over how Sherlock was rude to both sexes in the story, it’s like you’re saying he can be rude to men but not women.

    As for people shipping Sherlock/Irene, they’re far more likely to be shipping Sherlock/John from what I gather. And we’re never told why the hiker matters because it doesn’t matter. It was a sideshow to the main plot for Sherlock to pass the time with Irene as they chat in the room. “Smart is the new sexy” and Sherlock was seeing if she was smart enough to solve it.

    As for the portrayal of Irene Adler I think you can make a case for the highly sexualised way she was portrayed and perhaps could have gone a different route.

    Finally, your review brings up interesting discussion points that I missed first time round while watching. I don’t agree with all of them but always good to read people’s views.

    • fozmeadows says:

      To be absolutely clear: I am in NO WAY SAYING that Sherlock isn’t rude to men, or that being rude to women is somehow fundamentally worse than being rude to men. I am saying that there are no female characters in the show who ever come out on top with Sherlock, compared to the presence of multiple men who do; that where Molly is mocked for her appearance, her weight, her boyfriend, her romantic eagerness and her makeup – all things which are ultimately critical of her femininity – Lestrade is said, sans mocking, to have an unfaithful wife, which is still a form of rudeness than insults him by disparaging a woman’s sexuality; that the men Sherlock insults are allowed to confront his rudeness openly, angrily, whereas Molly is twice reduced to tears and Mrs Hudson never says anything at all, despite being constantly disparaged; and that Irene Adler, who is meant to be the woman who foils his plans and walks away triumphant is reduced instead to a woman whose plans are foiled and crawls away in shame, only to end up being rescued by Sherlock. And that all of this leads me to think there’s a trend of sexism in the show that goes beyond the motives of the characters and stems instead from the bias of the writers.

      I do agree that there’s probably more people shipping Sherlock/John than Sherlock/Adler, but right now, tumblr is pretty full of homages to both pairings. Thanks for stopping by, and even if we don’t wholly agree, as you say, it’s always good to encounter other people’s views :)

  9. About your (brilliant by the way) “short explanation”: we could add the uncanny similarities with an episode of Dr. Who in particular, although I’m certain it’s not the only one:
    So a national icon with superhuman mental powers meets an equally mysterious and alluring woman who is using her sexuality and low cunning to ingratiate herself with royalty. She ends up in danger and he tries to sort it out, but they end up running rings around one another and it’s the fact that she is his intellectual equal and almost always one step ahead that keeps him hooked. And he’s broody and mean to other people who fancy him and are doing a lot more to make his life comfortable than she ever will. And in the end she gets away. He’s left with a final communication about her, gazing into space.
    And then there’s a really silly ending.
    The girl in the fireplace, anyone? Nope, it’s supposed to be a brand NEW episode of Sherlock! It’s so lame it’s tragic…

    In any case, thank you for this amazing post!

    • fozmeadows says:

      Glad you liked it, thanks! Though personally I think there’s more of a similarity between River Song and Irene Adler than Madame de Pompadour :)

      • Oh I totally agree!
        More generally, I’m frankly aghast at the amount of similarities between Moffat’s Sherlock and his other shows (Doctor Who) as you so well pointed out here, or with his favourite film (The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes).

  10. tielserrath says:

    Aargh!

    *uncovers eyes*

    I really want to see if Moffat has made as much of a mess of this as I suspect he has – headline of an article in The Guardian ‘Is Sherlock Sexist’ seems to imply this, too. But I can only see it when it comes out on itunes, and I daren’t read anything before then for fear of spoilerz.

    Aargh!

    *frustrated hopping up and down*

  11. Watching Moffat’s stuff makes me think of one of my favorite quotes: “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I’m older, I admire kind people.” I’m younger than Moffat by quite a lot, but his writing still seems very college to me.

    The Doctor, under Davies, had plenty of faults, and occasionally got caught up in his own cleverness, but his admiration for humankind, and genuine respect and admiration for his companions always seemed genuine. Most importantly, the show was genuinely, passionately humanist. It was, at the end of the day, the Doctor’s ability to be human that saved the day, when it wasn’t other humans. That made it all the more profound on the rare occasions that he reminded us that he wasn’t.

    Under Moffat, it’s all, “I’m a hyperintelligent superalien — look at how cool I am!” And frankly, if you’re concerned about being cool, you are by definition not.

  12. mariethea says:

    You know, I read your post about the sexism of the first season of Sherlock, and thought about it for DAYS without posting. Because I thought:

    1)Mrs. Hudson is okay to me because she’s less a ‘character’ and more a trope and one I tend to like
    2) Donovan worked because that scene was more to show how awful Sherlock was to people, and I liked her anyway
    3)Sarah was cool because she showed up again in the 3rd episode and I figured that meant that okay, she got kidnapped, but after a solider did, so clearly she has a spine and she was classy and lovely
    4)There was no excuse for Molly, but I preferred to think that 3rd episode John chastised Sherlock on the entire excruciating exchange. As one fanfic put it, she seems to be in charge of the morgue at a place like Barts, so surely she’s competent and accomplished.

    All-in-all, I viewed it as more about Sherlock being quite frankly a jerk around a lot of awesome people.

    And then I saw the most recent episode and there was no longer any other way to look at it! It was excruciatingly awful. And like you, the Christmas scene with Molly was so so so bad that I couldn’t watch it, had to plug my ears. I sincerely hoped that Moffat would realize he’d written awesome women without realizing it and be illuminated to his neanderthal ways. But no. Clearly he realized they were awesome and went ‘oops, need to fix that’. I cannot express how disappointed I was: though I’m going to try. I found so much wrong in this episode, it’s definitely going to get me blogging again if nothing else.

    Also agreed with the flanderization of the characters. If any one of them had been recognizably untwisted from the first season, maybe I could have salvaged it, but since it wasn’t about anyone…

    Which brings me to what I thought the main problem was, storytelling-wise and aside from the sexism: the loss of narrative focus. The first three episodes structurally resembled the original series in that we, the audience, share Watson’s viewpoint of this very strange man whose motives and actions simply don’t make conventional sense, but since John has to do the catching up for us, we don’t get lost. This new story was all about Sherlock–and you notice how every single character was better informed about the plot than John was? It seemed a little awkward.

    Anyway, thanks very much for this post (do you mind if I use the pic to illustrate to everyone my problems with this ep?) and for the last one. Because without it, I wouldn’t have had any preparation at all for where this episode went. For the first ten minutes or so, I even loved it.

    • fozmeadows says:

      That’s a really good point about John not knowing what was going on; the whole structure felt disjointed to me, particularly in comparison to the first three episodes – which, despite the problems, I really quite liked – but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head as to why. Moffat, to give him credit, does many things well, but ladies and long games are not among them, and as Belgravia focussed on both, we ended up with a loss.

      And by all means use the pic; that’s what it’s there for :)

  13. jenni says:

    Although I haven’t seen the episode, I have read numerous reviews and agree with
    everything you say. For me, the main concern is when fans attempt to dismiss adler’s initial
    nudity with the excuse that Moffat had a “clever” reason for it. This does not attempt to explain
    the many other occassions when she was naked and I have yet to see a convincing explanation
    given. At the end of the day, its really about titillating the audience rather the respecting the
    source material.

    • fozmeadows says:

      The ‘clever’ reason for the nudity was ostensibly to prevent Holmes from guessing anything about her from her appearance, but that didn’t really work for me. In the same episode, we see him make deductions about Molly from her makeup choices and motives; Adler is wearing makeup, and earrings, and certainly has motives. The fact that she’s chosen to appear naked should give him clues aplenty as to her psychology, even if only so far as to acknowledge that she wants to unbalance him. And yet, nothing.

      • mariethea says:

        When she first came out naked, I actually approved, because the point (of discombobulating her visitors) did make sense, But making the plot point out of it was simply stupid–I mean whyyy? other than titillation of course.

        And EXACTLY on Sherlock’s lack of deduction. I mean, what? Even a childhood scar: unless she’s a robot or Moffat’s writing a stealth crossover, she should have had a childhood and Sherlock shouldn’t have any trouble seeing any scar. Appendectomy? Anything?

        As it was, when Sherlock went stupid, I knew I wasn’t going to like the rest of the episode. In fact,immediately after that scene, I told my brothers (watching it with me) that I hated they were turning the two into a romance. One said “you can’t know that yet!” “I don’t see that at all!” So for another 10 minutes or so I had hope. But wouldn’t that have been fun? An actual antagonism between Sherlock and Irene–or even better, the appreciation of the original story.It would have been fun to see Sherlock dealing with someone who was his intellectual equal.

  14. A post-script of sorts to the sexism-in-Sherlock debate:

    Steven Moffat Does the Classics

  15. me4evah says:

    I have read your other post about Sherlock and sexism from the first season. I LOVED it!! Thank you for being so right!!!! My friends love Sherlock and Doctor Who, but lately I’ve been steadily losing my undying love for both shows.

    I loved how you compared Steven Moffat’s technique to a ‘neg,’ it was a great comparasson.

    There are two episodes in the recent Moffat scripts that I have enjoyed, Season 6 Doctor Who The Girl Who Waited. I thought that this episode was the shining light of the season. Granted, it does have hints of sexism and it actually wasn’t written by Steven Moffat, but I thought it illustrated what Amy could have been. Actually, as I write this (I think as I write) it has more flaws than I originally realised (the whole premise is that Amy is angry that Rory and the Doctor didn’t save her), but it still is the episode that turned me around on the Ponds (she ends up surviving herself for 40 years and actually makes a sonic screwdriver!)

    The other episode was the 2011 Christmas special. I actually thought that it was much better or the sexism front than any of the other Moffat scripts. It centers around the idea that women are capable of hold the spirits of trees because women have the magical ability to bear children. Again, this show does have it’s own flaws, but it made me feel Moffat was reforming (very slowly). Unfortunately, then I saw A Scandal in Belgravia.

    Now more on topic, (I’m sorry this is long, but I don’t have a blog where I can write out my own rant) one thing that really made me hate Scandal was the fact that I was really really excited to meet Irene Adler. I loved the original story ( the first one I read) and I wanted to see the updated version. I thought the sexual aspect that Steven Moffat created doesn’t embody the essance of the original Conan Doyle character who was based on being smart and outwitting Sherlock Holmes, not “giving men what they want.” I knew immediately that Irene wasn’t who I wanted her to be from the first shot of her in lace underwear. I mean Irene was supposed to be challanging Sherlock not a professional hooker!

    Another flaw with the episode in general was I thought the plot wasn’t as “clever” in terms of Sherlock solving complicated riddles, and not enough action in terms of crime scenes and running around doing stuff. And I don’t think Martin Freeman (as John Watson) was utilized as well. I missed the dialoge between the genius of Sherlock and the kind of, what’s the word, normalness of Watson.

    In wikipedia I found a rebuff by Moffat in response to a woman declaring that Irene Adler was a regressive step. Here’s what was said:

    Jane Clare Jones, a in her blog on the The Guardian’s website, criticised episode writer Steven Moffat’s representation of Irene Adler, arguing that her sexualisation was a regressive step. She writes, “While Conan Doyle’s original is hardly an exemplar of gender evolution, you’ve got to worry when a woman comes off worse in 2012 than in 1891.” Jones argues that while Conan Doyle’s Adler was a “proto-feminist”, Moffat undermined “her acumen and agency … Not-so-subtly channelling the spirit of the predatory femme fatal, Adler’s power became, in Moffat’s hands, less a matter of brains, and more a matter of knowing ‘what men like’ and how to give it to them … Her masterminding of a cunning criminal plan was, it was revealed late in the day, not her own doing, but dependent on the advice of Holmes’s arch nemesis, James Moriarty.” Steven Moffat, refuted any suggestion that he or Conan Doyle’s creation harboured sexist views. WalesOnline quoted him:

    “I think it’s one thing to criticise a programme and another thing to invent motives out of amateur psychology for the writer and then accuse him of having those feelings. I think that was beyond the pale and strayed from criticism to a defamation act. I’m certainly not a sexist, a misogynist and it was wrong. It’s not true and in terms of the character Sherlock Holmes, it is interesting. He has been referred to as being a bit misogynist. He’s not; the fact is one of the lovely threads of the original Sherlock Holmes is whatever he says, he cannot abide anyone being cruel to women – he actually becomes incensed and full of rage.”

    What interests me about his rebuff is that he never addresses what Jones said. He never denies that Irene Adler’s femme fatal act is regressive, all he does is defend himself!

    I continue to love Doctor Who and the acting from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martain Freeman, but I still wish Russel Davies was showrunner and Steven Moffat didn’t get the encouragement from critics and fans.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Thanks for commenting, and thanks especially for mentioning that Moffat response; I hadn’t seen it before. It’s particularly troubling that he won’t address the issue – as far as he’s concerned, because he’s not consciously being sexist and hates the thought of misogyny, there cannot possible be sexist themes in his work. Which is, frankly, bullshit if you’ve ever read anything about unconscious bias, because the whole insidious thing about modern sexism (and modern racism, for that matter) is that they both occur in different forms to previous: they’re subtler, and they don’t name themselves as such.

  16. [...] detalles sobre el sexismo en el episodio se pueden encontrar en An Scandal in Belgravia y Steven Moffat, Sherlock, and Neo-Victorian [...]

  17. Patrick says:

    Thank you. I agree completely. This, and the paucity of POC in the series, and the Way we’re to laugh about sherlock’s sociopathy… The show is entertaining, but deeply problematic. A fantasy for privileged heterosexual white men (Not into Bdsm).

    • fozmeadows says:

      The sociopathy interpretation bugs me. I’m not going so far as to say it’s invalid, but from my reading of the books, he was never vituperative or impatient – he showed he was brighter than Watson, but never in a way that left Watson feeling like shit, or that made his clients uncomfortable.

  18. Davecw says:

    Personally, Foz, I think you’re injecting misogyny and sexism where none was ever intended. I think Moffat’s general aim was to present Sherlock and Adler as equals, without one ever being seen as superior to the other. I think it was a laudable aim, but it also seems that others find it unacceptable, or that any story involving Sherlock and Adler in unacceptable unless Adler crushes Sherlock.

    Lets start with the dominatrix role. Clearly, Adler had to have some mechanism by which she was obtaining embarassing details about important individuals. Far from it being simply sexist though, it’s worth comparing the subtle comparison that Moffat is making between Sherlock and Adler: the first time we encounter Adler she’s about to beat a prone princess with a riding crop. So what? Well, the first time we encounter Sherlock back in “A Study in Pink” what’s he doing? Beating a prone body with a riding crop. The die is cast.

    Likewise, we then have the now (in?)famous nude scene, which isn’t t really a nude scene at all, it’s a scene in which it’s made clear that Adler is naked. We’ve already seen how Sherlock obtains a great deal of information from how people are dressed, and her nudity is simply a means of confounding him. Although it also provides him with the key that every disguise reflects the individual. The entire incident leads to a very definite victory for Adler, which basically, those shouting sexism fail to see beyond the (completely unseen) bum cheeks.

    The boomerang incident is quite clearly intended to show Adler as being intellectually equal to Sherlock. Someone else has already mentioned this point, but it cuts to the heart of your somewhat blinkered view, Foz, that you can’t see the point of it.

    From there on in, both Sherlock and Adler are able to display great strength when emotionally detached and weakness when emotionally involved, and the balance is fairly even by the end. After that point victory goes to Sherlock and, yes, Adler is left begging for mercy. If you’re unhappy with that line, then that’s not much to hang claims of mysogyny on Moffat. Or even worse, accuse him of subconscious mysogyny when he wont admit to it (that is truly the worst of all arguments).

    And it’s worth remembering here that this is a woman who knows what men (and presumably women) want, so that might have been her play. In front of Mycroft it didn’t work, but when she needed to fake her own death in order to escape from Moriarty, it certainly did work. You can take that last scene one of two ways: as Adler having a final victory over Sherlock, or as Sherlock repaying a debt, as, after all, it was Adler’s call at the start of the story which saved his life. Those points though are frequently dismissed in favour of Sherlock-lords-it-over-Adler-in-the-end persepectives. Moffat, etc., etc.,

    Sherlock is basically mean to everyone, men, women, children, family, old and young. That’s a defining trait of his character in the current re-imagining. To accuse Moffat, again, of sexism and mysogyng by selecting only the female characters smacks of desperation. Likewise, the argument that the men get to shout back at him. Have you ever seen Lestrade shout back at him? He’s as crushed as Molly is.

    So I think there’s a tendency to construct sexism and mysogyny where it either never existed or was never intended.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Why is it the worst of all arguments to suggest that Moffat has put sexism into his work without intending to? Surely it’s more charitable to suggest that someone is being sexist unintentionally rather than as a planned course of action; unless you’re contending that it’s impossible to be sexist by accident, but I don’t see how you can support that claim, because unintentional sexism clearly does exist.

      The point about the boomerang incident is one of narrative dead ends. Yes, it shows them playing off each other – and that’s a nice touch, to be sure – but as a plot point, it suddenly stops being relevant halfway through the episode, even though it’s been set up as the whole opening premise. The fact that we never come back to *why* that crime was committed – and the fact that it lacks any bearing on the finale, when all those other little cases are cited as meaningful – seems like bad writing.

      The fact that, as you say, Adler has been turned into “a woman who knows what men want” – and that this knowledge is purely sexually derived – does strike me as being problematic. If she’d been written that way by Conan Doyle, it would be one thing, but Moffat has changed her into a character whose power comes from sex; and then he doesn’t even let her win at that game, and has her foiled at the end by her love for Sherlock.

      The point about Sherlock’s cruelty to women isn’t that he’s never cruel to men. It’s that always, the insults he delivers to women are based on their bodies, their looks, and their sexuality – which is NOT how he insults the men – and that, whereas Watson and Mycroft are shown to react angrily to his treatment of them, coming back with quips of their own, the women either cry or stay silent.

      Clearly, I can’t convince you of my perspective. But I think it’s worth your considering that I’m not the only person to have reacted this way. If I really am constructing sexism where none exists, then it should be statistically interesting that thousands of other people have been having the same reaction independently of anything I’ve had to say. You might not see sexism in the narrative, but that doesn’t mean none is there, or that those of us who find parts of the show offensive are wrong to do so. And I think it’s telling that you’re playing the intentionality card – that even if there *is* sexism in the show, the fact that Moffat didn’t intended it to be there should excuse or make it critically unimportant. That’s a ridiculous argument. A careless driver who causes a car accident can’t plead innocence on the grounds of good intentions; a journalist who unthinkingly uses racist terminology in an article can’t say they didn’t cause any real offense because of what they *meant* to do; and a writer who thoughtlessly includes sexist tropes in their narrative can’t be defended on the grounds that it wasn’t on purpose. The point is to take responsibility for your actions and then change your ways.

      The point is, they should have known better.

      • Mofftiss have said repeatedly that in the original ACD story, Adler runs away to a bad marriage, which is hardly a powerful move that would earn Sherlock’s respect. In this version, they’ve played a terrific chess game, and the ending restores Adler to power. Whether or not she continues doing the “recreational scolding” that’s made her a good living is moot. The scales are even — she blew the Bond Air project out of the water, but Sherlock had the last move in saving her life.

  19. Twigs says:

    This episode bothered me. I didn’t see as much sexism as is mentioned here (I see Sherlock as more of a misanthropist than a misogynist), but I was definitely disappointed by a few plot points.

    My main problem was with Irene Adler falling in love with Sherlock. I know very little about the profession of dominatrix and how that bleeds (or doesn’t) into personal life, but I would have thought that she would be extremely adept at controlling her own sexuality and desires. It may be that she is sapiosexual and is impressed by his intelligence (as she says, she “likes detective stories”) and I have heard of almost exclusively gay or straight people having exceptions for individuals, but it still seems like a cheap way of letting Sherlock beat her at her own game. As you said, “we take away that even a professional dom will submit on all fronts to Sherlock Holmes, because that’s how awesome he is,” and that she is portrayed as being “a victim of her own ladyfeelings while Sherlock rides to her rescue.” I think that really hits the nail on the head as to why this particular episode fell so flat for me.

    It does feel as if the single most important female character in the Sherlock Holmes stories, the only one Holmes actually considered as a rival and an equal, a lone heroine within the entire canon for us to cling to and our one reminder that Holmes didn’t think ALL women were idiots, was very much belittled in the new series. She is reduced to being another femme-fatale-turned-tame-and-devoted-wife, apart for the marrying and happily-ever-after bit. And the only reason they didn’t live happily ever after is because Sherlock can’t be tied down.

    I honestly can’t decide whether or not I agree with the decision to make her a dom. On the one hand, it means that she is experienced in the one area in which Sherlock isn’t, which is sex. It is a way (albeit a lazy one) to give her a form of power. However, the version of Sherlock in the books and the one I stand by is a man who is completely uninterested in sex, and thus knowledge of sex would be no advantage over him because he simply doesn’t care about it. He may have a personality disorder or he may be asexual; either way, “he is interested in what his brain is doing, not in the other end of his body,” to quote Steven Moffat. I don’t think that the Sherlock of the books would be at all impressed with the fact that the new Adler is a dom; I think the only way she could get his attention would be to show that she is his intellectual equal. While she does use him effectively to pass information to Moriarty, the new show relies too much on her making an impression on him using her sexuality instead of her intelligence; she gets his attention with her measurements, not her IQ. I think this can just be chalked up as another sacrifice of character purism to the alter of “sex sells,” because the majority of people don’t want to watch a show in which the main character has no romantic experiences whatsoever. That would eliminate sexual tension, the great attention-getter of telly. That’s fair enough because sex is a big chunk of what humans think about, except that Sherlock Holmes is one of the only famous characters to be exempt from this sphere of life. It comes down to purism vs. marketing again.

    In the end, I wish that even if there had been loads of sexual tension throughout the episode, that the pass code had been something completely different and that they had gone their separate ways without him having to save her from a fate that she wasn’t clever enough to save herself from. A stalemate with both parting in mutual respect, but with the case never quite resolved, would have been my preferred ending.

    My favourite Sherlock incarnation is still the Grenada series with Jeremy Brett. I have to admit that a big reason I watch the new series is to drool over Benedict Cumberbatch, but at least I recognise that and admit it to myself. I like some of the episodes and I’ll continue to watch the show, but in terms of staying true to the characters, A Scandal in Belgravia was a big disappointment for me.

    • Irene did NOT fall in love with Sherlock, and both Moffatt and Gatiss were very clear about that. They are like “cats, circling each other” say the two. It’s looking in a glass and seeing yourself, only not. Fascination and admiration do not equate to love.

  20. M. Portia says:

    I thought I might address your lack of knowledge about BDSM and professional Dommes. Although, a quick google search would have led you to ’10 things you don’t know about my life as a professional Dominatrix’ and lead you through the myriad of reasons women become Dommes. But I’d like to oblige you this once, and type out something I feel strongly about.

    Most of them don’t do it for the sex, although in Engand that area between prostitution and submission seems more gray. The reason you can hear about “dungeons” in the media, in the US, is because there is never any sex. A woman who becomes a professional Dominatrix renders a service which submissives may find arousing, but is, legally, merely referred to as sensual. She doesn’t even need to touch her submissive if she’s good. Beat him, bind him and verbally abuse, maybe, but not sex. Because Women become Dommes to make a hell of a lot more money than reatail workers. They act, some of them hate men and want to beat up men, assume a power role they can achieve no where else–and in this day and age, being a dominatrix is less demeaning than being a stripper or exotic dancer.

    So when Sherlock felt her wrist after she asked him, not for the first time, if he’d like to have dinner with her, he was feeling for what none of her clients received. Arousal, excitement, infatuation. She fell for Sherlock not to show that even a Domme would fall for him, but because only a woman with as supreme control as Adler had would be able to crack his shell. Only a woman as impressive as Adler would even make him consider his lonely life. Only a man as impassive to her manipulations, a man as strong as Sherlock could make her fall in love. It’s not that he’s so awesome that all professional Dommes submit to him, it’s that only a man as unique as him could make her cry. His significance to her, and their mutual respect, is what ends her strength. Here is the man that she didn’t know she was waiting for.

    Because, it’s a generalization that all women are taken by him and he considers all men his equals. I’d even argue that his actions toward Molly in the last episode show him to be much more simple than he likes to pretend. There are two in this tango–not just one-sided affection. By assuming that Adler is a Domme who submits, you miss entire point of your blog post–she is a person and so much more complicated than that. It’s a tragic, romantic love story after-all, not a scene from someone’s bedroom.

    Respectfully yours,
    M. Portia

    • D. Trig says:

      M. Portia — Thanks for this. Yup, it’s complex. That’s why it makes sense. D/s is complex. Passion is complex. All too much for some of the critics, apparently.

  21. chris says:

    You bring up some interesting and well-thought-out points, but I have to disagree completely on Moffat’s intent with the Molly scene in this episode. As the series has gone on (and I have not watched any beyind this episode yet so I’m not sure where it’s going), Holmes has gotten “softer” in terms of caring about others, and rather rapidly so. He went in A Study in Pink from being completely oblivious to allowing his feelings for Watson to be used against him in the cliffhanger of season one, and in this episode is shown to care enough about Mrs. Hudson to be vengeful rather than just cool and analytic in dealing with her assailants.

    The autistic detachment from the rest of humanity is one of the primary character traits of the Holmes character and a major theme of both this episode and the series as a whole. But at the rate Moffat was going, Holmes went from psychopath to normal functioning human in four episodes. The party scene where Holmes showed off by making fools of everyone else, most of all Molly, had to exist to keep that edge on his character. You were *supposed* to look away, and the I’m-sorry peck on the cheek wasn’t supposed to redeem Homes’ character but rather to demonstrate that he still doesn’t understand normal emotions enough to know that his behavior can’t be forgiven that easily or carelessly.

    The sexist quibble should be the existence of Molly’s character at all, purely an invention of Moffat and not canonical. She is smitten by Holmes despite consistent belittling and exploitation of her feelings, way beyond mere ‘negs’ (I’ve also read Strauss’ book and found it both fascinating and disturbing). That she would continue to be not only attracted to Holmes but also seek his favor, now *that* is painting a rather bleak portrait of women.

  22. Tom says:

    At last, someone who viewed this episode as the absolute train-wreck it really was. Ms. Meadows, your review is like an oasis of sanity on a Sahara of stupidity. This episode had no plot, no coherence, nothing bearing relevance to anything and stands out like a red letter day in what has otherwise been an excellent series. While thankfully its events were never referenced again, it even disrupts the continuity, thus lowering the whole tone of the entire series. Did you notice how Irene never actually “outwitted” Holmes? She just knocked him unconscious then escaped. Holmes gets knocked unconscious in practically ever episode! The combination to safe was her “measurements”? Measurements of what? Why her sudden appearance in Holmes’s dream? What, she’s psychic now? Why after claiming herself his intellectual superior is she suddenly gushing with praise in this dream? How did she even know about the case of the man who got killed with a boomerang and was never even mentioned again? Why would she care? What did that have to do with anything anyway? Who did she need protection from? Why couldn’t she protect herself? Why did she need Holmes to do it? What purpose did that serve other than reducing her to a stereotypical damsel in distress?

    It’s really a great pity because the episode got off to a great start. Moriarty, who considers top military secrets “boring” and can “get them anywhere” comes across the opportunity to commit a crime that is obviously vitally important to him. What is this crime? Erm, blowing a plane. What? Was blowing up a post-office a bit too ambitious for you, Jim? Why were there dead bodies on the plane? What information does Irene have that will enable Moriarty to blow up this plane? What is the significance of this particular plane? Why with all his awesome wealth and power can’t he just blow it up himself? Why are Mycroft and Watson suddenly so obsessed with Sherlock’s smoking patterns? I was watching the episode in a growing state of open-mouthed horror as the utter, Carollian absurdity unfolded before me. I have loved Steven Moffat’s tenure as the writer of Doctor Who and felt disgusted that he of all people would insult the intelligence of the viewing public by writing a script so inane and so appalling that I really don’t know what idiot would actually commission it for filming. Then I saw the reviews online and almost lost what little faith in humanity I had left. As Oscar Wilde once said “One of the prerequisites of sanity is to disagree with the majority of the British public.”

    Thanks again for a great review, Ms. Meadows.

    ~T~

    • fozmeadows says:

      Glad you liked the review! And love the Wilde quote – will definitely be using that one in the future :)

  23. Tom says:

    I disagree that Irene Adler and River Song are essentially the same person however. River Song is a genuine empowered female and she saved the universe. Irene Adler is supposed to be an empowered female but just comes off as a faux action girl.

  24. Caitlin says:

    A bit late, but I’ve just watched it. I had heard rumors about how Adler was terrible, so I watched the episode with apprehension. At first, I didn’t really get it at all. I thought she was amazing! But then these “huh?” sort of moments keep nibbling at the back of my brain. Like.. if her purpose of not wearing anything was so that Sherlock couldn’t get a read on her, then what was the point of her passcode being her sizes? Seemed a little weird, but I thought it was just silly writing or something. Didn’t truly bother me.

    And then Adler said she was gay. To be honest, that made me elated. You never find amazing lesbian characters in television shows! I loved the implications of that! … and then she won’t stop talking about how she wants to have sex with him. Towards the end, when she revealed it was all a ploy, I was okay with it. Then Sherlock turns it around and shows off that she loved him. So was she really a lesbian at all? (or is it just another “almighty cock” trope?)

    What really irritated me though, was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on until I read some reviews. Every single mistake that happens in the episode is because of “womanly feelings.” Every single one. The only reason she’s alive is because a man saved her. Then, to top it all off, I find out in the books nothing of that sort ever happens. Moffat makes such a big deal about how everything in Sherlock is cannonical, so why wasn’t Adler?

    And just an extra tid bit about how happy I am that I’m not alone in this.

  25. Vivi says:

    I generally agree with your analysis of Sherlock, but:

    “under Moffat, the Doctor and Sherlock Holmes have both become the same snide, angry, rude, sociopathic, lying genius who mistreats his friends and stays emotionally distant from the people who care for him”

    How was that not already the case with the Tenth Doctor? Or are you telling me Eleven actually managed to turn out even *more* despicable?
    (I really don’t know. I bailed on Moffat’s version of Doctor Who because the first two episodes willfully ignored the “genius” part in order to make the plot possible – the TARDIS doesn’t need him for maintainance, he still hadn’t learned not to make careless promises like the one to Reinette, and there were at least half a dozen easy ways to help the humans in “The Beast Below” after releasing the starwhale so his proposed lobotomy was completely unnecessary – and the rest of the Doctor’s and Amy’s characterisation was just too bland and unengaging to carry me through the plot weaknesses. At least Ten was interesting to hate and had likable companions for most of the time.)

    Seriously, I’ve had pretty much the same thoughts you describe about Tenth Doctor fangirls for years.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Seriously: Eleven is worse than Ten. Even accounting for my biases (viz: I like Ten), there is to me a sexist element specific to Eleven’s doctor that wasn’t there before in terms of how he treats the companions. That, and Ten was defined by this brutal sort of compassion, where any time he said “I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry,” you knew that someone was about to die or suffer horrifically; whereas Eleven just seems oblivious to suffering, and, indeed, causes a lot of it through sheer carelessness (which the Doctor has always done to some extent, but never, I feel, so obnoxiously).

      • Vivi says:

        True, I might hold the opinion that Ten was morally reprehensible in many things (*), but he was pretty much an equal opportunity asshole to most people. Though I have seen some people leveling the accusation of sexism at him for the particular way he stabbed Harriet Jones in the back and for using phrases like “you screamed like a girl”.

        (* And I never could believe his supposed compassion because something in Tennant’s acting made him look always emotionally distant and/or lying about what emotions he chose to show to the people around him, a kind of “empty inside” look that comes from a certain style of acting, and because the writing had him still cheery and flippant even when people started dying around him, even when he announced that he was going to kill somebody. His “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” often felt like an empty phrase to give pity without any meaning to the person who was suffering, like it’s just emotional masturbation, or to excuse himself before making someone suffer, without any responding guilt afterwards. It all came together to make him look like he had a case of narcissistic personality disorder and just said the expected phrases and pretended to feel compassion because not doing it would make him look bad or feel bad. If he really was capable of feeling empathy for other people and their suffering, he wouldn’t do the things he does (unnecessary cruelty to already incapacitated enemies, for example), and at least try to apologise after he mistreated a companion yet again.)

        Oddly enough, the relative lack of sexism in Tennant’s era was actually one of the few things I liked about his Doctor. I mean, I love Nine dearly for his moral integrity and a compassion I could actually believe in, but he was rather patriarchal. Consistently treating women nicer than men, a pathological need to keep girls out of danger while at the same time only seeming to start to respect men and boys after they proved their fighting capabilities… that kind of thing. And taking away Rose’s agency at the end, of course. I really thought Ten had learned at least not to do that anymore (even if he overshot to the other side by carelessly abandoning his companions in a ship with still active homicidal robots to go “dancing”…). Then he went and did the same thing, dumping her back with her family without consulting her, like she was six years old. Twice.

  26. Ahem. I stopped countering your comments after awhile. There are too many misreadings of the script to tackle. Here are a few observations:

    … so that [when] someone is killed with a boomerang, and we’re never told why it matters. — Among other things, it shows how Irene Adler’s mind works and confirms that she can keep up with Sherlock.

    … Adler’s love for Holmes is shoddy to say the least, because if the end result is to be believed, she must have fallen for him before they ever actually met. — Actually, she admits she became smitten with him during the six-month hiatus when she was playing dead.

    … Mrs Hudson reports that she enjoys the holiday ‘because it’s the one day the boys have to be nice to me,’ is much more characteristic. — Critic missed the lightness of the statement to Molly. She’s not being serious – they treat her consistently with respect.

    … Sherlock’s callousness towards Molly results in her being reduced to tears …. then gives her a kiss on the cheek. Which isn’t sweet, because it shouldn’t have been necessary; it only looks that way because it’s better than the alternative. — Shows that the gang has a humanizing effect on Sherlock and that he does have the capacity to feel remorse and shame for his behavior. It’s call “character development,” moron. A standard device in all good literature/fiction.

    … There’s a token appearance from Watson’s new girlfriend, whose name Sherlock has forgotten, and who, later on the episode, dumps Watson when he, too, mistakes her for a predecessor. — Duh. Sherlock’s hard-drive brain only keeps what’s necessary. John goes through alot of women, underscoring his character development 9see above) as a well-rounded man. Also underscores his devotion to Sherlock, e.g., “I was so alone and I owe you so much.”

    … disparity between who Adler is and why Holmes respects her in the original story and where she’s ended up now is breathtaking. — Which makes sense if you listen to Moffat explain that the original story has her running away to a bad marriage, while this story restores her power and mystique.

    … she would beg him for mercy goes utterly against the grain. — Idiot. She says she’ll have Sherlock begging for mercy. Do your homework.

    … professional dom will submit on all fronts to Sherlock Holmes, because that’s how awesome he is. — It’s a mutual admiration society. No one is submitting to anyone.

    I could go on… but I won’t.

    • D. Trig says:

      Colorada Jeannie —

      Good work, thank you. I find myself reading these freakin’ blog posts and comments around the web pontificating about how appalling “Belgravia” is and I just want to blurt to the lot of them, “You are so shallow, immature and just plain ignorant”.

      Yeah, we could go on…but we won’t.

      Take care.

    • Violet says:

      Colorado Jeannie, oh boy. Even at this late date I can’t help but correct you on a small but important matter. Adler did not run away to a bad marriage. She married in secret, presumably to protect herself and her husband (“a remarkably handsome” and “dashing” man, according to Holmes) from the king of Bohemia’s hired thugs, men who were harassing her at the time. Then she runs away with him, taking her photograph with them. In her letter to Sherlock she states that she “loves and is loved by a better man [than the king].” This is common knowledge among Holmes fans and you would know it if you’d read the story instead of regurgitating Moffat’s warped interpretation. Do your OWN homework. Kinda makes your insults (moron, idiot) seem ironic.

  27. Oops… I should have called you “moron” or “idiot.” I’m sorry. Forgive me. (Merry Christmas, Molly Hooper.)

  28. Yellowbug2001 says:

    I think she’s a reasonably strong and intelligent character… I can accept Moffatt’s explanation that she only “loses” once, and narrowly, after she beat Sherlock twice. And I think Lara Pulver did a very nice job with the script she got. The thing that really bothers me is that the episode gives absolutely no explanation for why Sherlock would still respect/ fancy/ whatever her and save her life after finding out that she’s a flipping terrorist traitor. I know the BBC Sherlock isn’t as “rah rah God Save the Queen” as the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock, but this is REALLY out of character even for the modernized Sherlock. In the original story I don’t think Irene was as much of an awesome feminist icon as people have built her up to be, but at least she was a reasonably decent lady who was motivated by love, and it was understandable that Sherlock would have a certain fondness for her.

    I’ve watched the episode three times now trying to find a way that Irene can be interpreted as being somewhat innocent of the intent to aid the terrorists, but the way it’s written and played, it seems clear that she knew exactly what she was doing.

    I think is a logical stretch to assume that she really didn’t know what the email was about before showing it to Sherlock. The email wasn’t even really encrypted (it was just a plain old list of airplane seats, and the flight number was right in the subject line!), so anybody who knew what they were looking for would have known immediately what it was. Second, if it took Sherlock “less than five seconds” to figure it out, surely people as clever as Irene and Moriarty are supposed to be could have figured it out after a couple of MONTHS. Finally, it makes absolutely no sense that Irene and Moriarty would have gone to such elaborate lengths to get Sherlock connected to the email if they really had no idea what was in it, except that some kinky M.O.D. man who was trying to impress Irene said it was super important… if that was the case, it could have been an encrypted egg salad recipe for all they knew, and wouldn’t that have been anticlimactic.

    But even if you assume that she really DIDN’T know what the email was about before she got Sherlock to interpret it for her, she then shows up cool as a cucumber on the plane full of dead bodies and starts merrily blackmailing the British government, which is impossible to explain unless you figure she was pretty much 100% comfortable with the fact that the information she provided had been used to aid and abet people who wanted to blow up a plane full of innocent civilians. She talks about how she just wants “protection” but if that was seriously all she wanted, she could have just gone straight to Mycroft, told him what she had on the phone and offered to exchange it for her personal safety without, ya know, actually sending the information to the terrorists, committing treason and putting innocent lives at stake. Or asking for a huge amount of money.

    So what on earth does Sherlock see in this disgusting person? Are we supposed to think he figures it’s OK that she’s some kind of Jihadist sympathizer because she’s smart and wears tight clothing? I have no clue. FWIW I don’t think Moffatt really intended her to come off as a truly evil person but it’s a pretty unavoidable conclusion from the plot and the script. It leaves me thinking that poor Molly Hooper could do a lot better than some stupid jackass who falls for nasty women for no good reason, and I don’t think that’s really what Moffatt was going for.

    • For what it’s worth, I entirely agree with you, and I’m immensely reassured whenever I see I’m not the only one who thinks that way.

      • Yellowbug2001 says:

        I’m really hoping for someone to tell me I’m wrong and provide a sound explanation for why everything about this episode makes perfect sense. :) In general I think it’s a brilliantly written and acted show and I really enjoy it, so it’s disappointing to come to the conclusion that “A Scandal in Belgravia” is just a sloppily plotted clunker.

    • Davecw says:

      I think I’ve mentioned this elsewhere in this thread, but it’s worth mentioning again in light of your comments. I think Sherlock was well aware, – or became well aware – that it was Irene’s call to Moriarty which saved his and Watson’s life right at the start of the episode. This, more than anything else, would have motivated him to save her life towards the end of the episode (and which phones playing such a predominant role). He just didn’t want to feel in her debt.

      • yellowbug2001 says:

        I don’t really think that interpretation is supported by the episode as written- the scenes of her reading the newspaper articles about Sherlock, plus Moriarty’s “I’m sending you a treat” text accompanied by the photos of Sherlock happen after the pool scene, which implies to me that she didn’t know about Sherlock’s existence until after the phone call. So if she saved his life with the phone call, it wasn’t intentional, and It doesn’t make sense to me that he’d feel himself to be that much in her debt unless she had PURPOSEFULLY saved his life. Plus the whole thing Mycroft says about him referring to Irene as “the Woman” as some kind of “tribute” to “the one woman who mattered” suggests that the writers want us to think there’s something going on there mentally/ emotionally beyond him just repaying a debt to her to even the score. That said, your explanation makes a lot more sense than the non-explanation provided in the episode, so I’ll sleep better at night thinking that’s what they MEANT to write. :)

  29. Chris says:

    There is nothing more to say than thank you very much for this comment! I was kind of bothered about how Mrs Hudson is depicted, but I never saw the dimensions of how the other women are affected by that non-progressive view on women. I don’t see it as mysogynic though, but definitely as not reflective and not progressive attitude towards women, it is quite mainstream – and yes, this is, what makes it so dangerous, because people don’t notice it anymore.

  30. L. Walser says:

    I know I’m quite late, but I only saw this episode last night. It upset me so much I had to go looking for criticisms like the ones I’d make (assuming I could find the words, my brain is still sputtering with rage). Yours is fabulously on.

    I urge everyone to google the original story–simply to get an understanding of what the original Adler and her story were like, and of what is corrupted, ruined, lost through Moffat’s execrable version.

    Irene Adler wasn’t a sex worker. She wasn’t a sadist. I wouldn’t mind making her a lesbian, but as a queer woman myself I do mind tremendously that they made her a lesbian who falls for a man (and not just falls for him, but is humiliated by him!) She wasn’t a criminal. The original story is a short and simple tale of a love gone sour, a private, intimate conflict. We get most of the information from only one side, the one hostile to Irene. In fact, part of the twist of the story is the revelation of her honour, ultimately extolled by all three men (Irene’s ex-lover the King, Holmes, Watson). Irene Adler doesn’t fall in love with Holmes, nor he with her. But he does end up respecting her, and through this experience, respecting women more. Finally, Irene Adler is the only person to outwit Holmes, ever.

    They rubbished all of this, in the most shameful, ugly, ridiculous way (beheading in Islamabad…?… interrupted by cavalry Sherlock…? I have no words.)

    Thank you for yours.

    • Vic says:

      I agree with everything wholeheartedly, but would like to clarify one tiny point: Irene Adler was not the ONLY person to ever outwit Holmes. In ‘The Five Orange Pips’, he mentions “I have been beaten four times – three times by men and once by a woman.”
      It is certain, however, that the loss to Adler was the one that stuck with him the most.

      Cheers!

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