Sexism In Sherlock

Posted: December 12, 2011 in Critical Hit
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday, my husband and I rewatched Season 1 of Sherlock. It’s an awesome show, and one that was made even better by repeat viewing in all respects save one: the treatment of the women. I’ve blogged before, pointedly and with bitterness, about the terrible things Steven Moffat routinely does to his female characters in Doctor Who, and though his motives seem to stem more from ignorance than malice, the results are nonetheless unpleasant.

Early on, we’re introduced to Molly Hooper, Sherlock’s contact at the morgue. His obliviousness to her interest in him is played for laughs, which is fine and as it should be; what’s less fine is the way he consistently and cruelly criticises her appearance, which is also played for laughs. In A Study In Pink, he remarks on the fact that without her lipstick, she doesn’t look as nice; it makes her mouth ‘too small’. In The Blind Banker, he defuses her legitimate anger at his behaviour by complimenting her hair, which Molly accepts with a giggle. Finally, in The Great Game, Molly brings in a fake boyfriend, Jim, to try and attract Sherlock’s attention. As the boyfriend turns out to be Moriarty, the implication is that he’s duped her into friendship, though we don’t find this out until later. In the meantime, however, ‘Jim’ has pretended to be gay, which Sherlock points out (there’s a lot of guff about personal grooming and choice in underpants, which feels hideously superficial until it’s revealed that Jim has, in fact, slipped Sherlock his number) – and that might be fine, too, except that he also takes the time to tell Molly ‘You’ve put on three pounds since you’ve been with him.’

‘Two and a half,’ says Molly, desperately.

‘Three,’ Sherlock says again.

The encounter ends, not unsurprisingly, with Molly fleeing the room in tears, and even though Watson points out that Sherlock has been unkind, this is on the basis of so callously revealing her boyfriend to be gay, and not for the remark about her weight.

Next, we have Mrs Hudson. Given the character’s origins, it’s less surprising that she’s given short shrift, but her treatment by the other male characters nonetheless rankles. At two points in The Great Game, she’s shown nattering pleasantly (or trying to natter pleasantly) with Holmes, Lestrade and Watson: in both instances, she is rudely ignored, while in one they actually walk away and leave her talking mid-sentence. Again, this is played for laughs, the implication being that Mrs Hudson, above and beyond being a genial, clueless landlady, is so utterly irrelevant that nobody needs to even acknowledge her presence or attempts at conversation.

Sargent Sally Donovan gets a slightly better deal, in that she’s the one woman shown to interact aggressively with Sherlock, calling him Freak and telling Watson that he’s a psychopath; but we’re also meant to dislike her for this very same reason. She’s also a WOC – the only non-white cast member, in fact – and given the unfortunate tendency of the TV industry to continuously cast black women in angry roles, this facts strikes me as being doubly unfortunate. And then, of course, Sherlock makes the obligatory remark about her sexuality, pointing out to Watson that she’s been sleeping with her (equally unlikeable) white colleague, Anderson, saying she clearly spent the night at his house and must have ‘scrubbed your floors, going by the state of her knees’. Which – as ever – is played for laughs.

Charming.

Then we have Mycroft’s female assistant, Anthea, who’s shown as being aloof and disinterested in Watson to the point of outright rudeness. Texting almost constantly, she only looks up to rebuff him and, on their second meeting, professes not to know him at all. We’re meant to find her vapid and distant, despite the fact that, as Mycroft’s assistant, she must be exceptionally intelligent and capable. Her characterisation might be brief, but she nonetheless fits the pattern of how women on the show are treated.

Finally for the recurring characters, there’s Sarah, Watson’s love interest. As is par for the course, we know almost nothing about her except that she’s a doctor and a love interest; she obligingly takes on Watson’s locum duties when he falls asleep at work and then gets thoroughly damselled at the end of The Blind Banker, with the intervening time spent being sneered at by Sherlock. Not exactly an offensive piece of characterisation, but hardly stand-out, either. Besides her attraction to Watson, her passivity is her only defining feature.

And the one-off female characters are hardly treated any better. The primary victim in A Study In Pink is female (and one cannot help but notice how her love of pink has been tied to her femininity for the purpose of the plot); in The Blind Banker, Mei Lin Yao is killed while trying to escape a female villain who is herself killed at the end of the episode; and in The Great Game, the gallery owner, Ms Wenceslas, is shown up by Sherlock after trying to exhibit a forged painting. In the same episode, two women, a man and a child have explosives strapped to them: the middle-aged woman is called a ‘stupid bitch’ by Moriarty, while her blind, elderly counterpart is called ‘defective’ and then blown up for trying to describe his voice. Add to this another female victim – Connie Prince, a celebrity makeover artist – and a wife who colluded in her husband’s disappearance in order to collect insurance money, and the scoresheet for female characterisation remains steadfastly at zero.

But wait! I hear you cry. What’s wrong with having female victims and villains? They can’t all be men, and it’s not like there weren’t male victims and villains on offer, too!

Which, yes, of course; and under ordinary circumstances, unless there was an established pattern of preference for pretty female victims, I’d be happy to leave well enough alone. But in Sherlock’s case, these otherwise ordinary oneshot characters all stand as testament to the fact in nearly five hours of television, every single female character is either a villain, a victim, a dupe or a damsel: someone to be arrested, avenged, ridiculed or rescued. And under those circumstances, no, I do not care that a few male characters also suffer the same fate, because as the entire narrative premise is centred on Two Exceptionally Awesome Men Being Awesome And Exceptional, there is no imbalance between clever/likeable and stupid/unlikeable blokes to merit the comparison.

I am not asking for a female character to be smarter or better than Sherlock Holmes: it is, after all, his story. I’m not even arguing that it ought to pass the Bechdel test (which it doesn’t), even though I’d love it if it did. I am, however, deeply disappointed that not even one female character is anywhere near the equal of Watson, Lestrade or Mycroft, or who at the very least could engage in some sort of banter with one or any of them. There is a great, yawning gap between “as smart as Sherlock Holmes” and “gormless passivity”, and while we have male characters aplenty who fit that bill, not a single woman does. The only woman described as clever, in fact, is the victim in A Study In Pink – but seeing as how she’s already dead, that doesn’t add much to the overall quality of female repartee.

But then, the show is the brainchild of Steven Moffat, who hasn’t got aspectacular track record when it comes to writing women, and to whom the following quote from 2004 is lamentably attributable:

“There’s this issue you’re not allowed to discuss: that women are needy. Men can go for longer, more happily, without women. That’s the truth. We don’t, as little boys, play at being married – we try to avoid it for as long as possible. Meanwhile women are out there hunting for husbands. The world is vastly counted in favour of men at every level – except if you live in a civilised country and you’re sort of educated and middle-class, because then you’re almost certainly junior in your relationship and in a state of permanent, crippled apology. Your preferences are routinely mocked. There’s a huge, unfortunate lack of respect for anything male.”

Which, um.

ABOUT THAT.

And it angers me. It angers me because I tend like, if not love, the stuff Moffat works with – Doctor Who and Sherlock and Tintin – but am forced to do so in spite of what he believes and says and writes about my gender. And I am SICK of it.

 This piece  is also posted here.

Comments
  1. […] writes about “Sexism in Sherlock” (Moffat’s version, and so by extension, also Doctor Who), and Feminist SF reviews This […]

    • Rebecca (Liz) says:

      At this stage I feel obliged to point out that gender is not the same as societally-imposed gender role. I would like, of course, to point this out to Mr Moffat but, barring that, I will have to say it to the internet.

  2. Deb Kalin says:

    Wow. He said that?

    He actually THINKS that?

    I think he’s quite badly out of touch with both genders there.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty bad. The only concession I’d make to the fact is that he said it six-odd years ago, and so has potentially grown up and more intelligent since then, but barring any evidence to the contrary in the shows he writes, I’m thinking probably not.

      • Deb Kalin says:

        I loved and will always love ‘Blink’ – but his work to date, when he has executive control, is increasingly crippled by this.

        • fozmeadows says:

          My intuition is that, when it comes to the female characterisation, you can feel the subtle presence of RTD in Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace. Granted, Davies did have a penchant for giving his heroines angry/unlikeable mothers who disliked the Doctor (and absent fathers to boot – both things were true of Rose, Martha and Donna), but the heroines themselves were always awesome, and the mothers, despite their flaws, were characters in their own rights, particularly Jackie. Whereas Moffat’s Amy seemingly has no family or friends besides Rory: she’s isolate in her need for the Doctor. It’s a massive change of pace from the get-go, and as the series goes on, it only becomes more obvious.

      • Deb Kalin says:

        Absolutely. I’ve actually stopped watching New Who this past season, which is something I still grieve over.

  3. As much as I love those two shows (and think Sherlock was probably one of the best things on telly last year), I completely agree with this post. And that comment of his near the end… ugh… It makes me want to punch teddy bears in the throat😡 Especially since I’ve known several men who were FAR more needy/clingy than any female I know😐

  4. tielserrath says:

    Wow – now that really is spooky:

    http://autistwriter.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/sherlock/

    We seem to have exactly the same issues with this programme!

    • fozmeadows says:

      Spooky indeed! Or alternatively, we are clearly both sensible ladies who love Sherlock Holmes, while Steven Moffat is a tragic sexist.🙂

  5. Melaszka says:

    Agree so much with this. In the Conan Doyle stories, the jibe about the amount of weight put on is actually directed at John – depressing that in a modern update, Gatiss chose to deploy it to reinforce hackneyed stereotypes about women and weight. And the scrubbing your floors line makes me seethe every time I watch the DVD.

    I didn’t mind Anthea’s treatment of John, though – unlike the Molly/Sherlock interactions, here it is the man’s overkeeness and romantic ineptitude which is played for laughs and I didn’t find Anthea rude, merely adept at nipping unwanted amorous attention in the bud.

  6. Kat says:

    I really find that attitude disgusting. Unfortunately, one could argue the source material is even worse. Sherlock Holmes was a callous, racist, sexist jackass. No wonder Moffat was drawn to the show.

    • fozmeadows says:

      See, I’m not so sure about the source material being worse. I’ve been reading through the books recently, and while there’s certainly awful racism in The Sign of Four (evil cannibal pygmy with blowdarts!), in the short story The Yellow Face, the happy resolution is that a white, rich woman whose first, now deceased husband was African American and whose daughter is black discovers that her new, white, English, aristocratic husband sees nothing wrong with any of this, and is delighted to raise her daughter as his own, though she’d been frightened he’d disown her. Which, given that this was the 1800s, is sort of a Big Deal. Plus and also, in the story The Five Orange Pips, Holmes takes on the Klu Klux Klan. So from that, I’m going to assume that, awful imperialist/racist language of the era and stereotypes about pygmy savages not withstanding, Conan Doyle was actually reasonably progressive. I also keep noticing that on multiple occasions, Sherlock talks very praisingly about women’s intuition – which, yes, is a problematic notion, in that it ascribes Magical Ladypowers on the basis of having a vagina – but in one story, he goes so far as to say he’d wager the intuition of women against anything science could prove, and he always treats his female clients well. And then there’s the very first story, A Study in Scarlet, where the whole, deeply sympathetic backstory is of a woman trying to escape from religious fundamentalist Mormons in Utah to be with the man she loves. Easily half the book is her story, and Doyle treats it with dignity and kindness.

      Actually, this is something that bugs me in Guy Ritchie’s film adaptations as well as Moffat’s series: the idea that Holmes is, essentially, a rude bohemian and/or a high-functioning sociopath. The books are very, very clear and consistent on the fact that Holmes is always considerate of Watson’s needs and wants, and is similarly polite and sympathetic to his clients. Some of this can be put down to Victorian politeness; much of it cannot. He praises Watson’s abilities far more often than he puts him down, and is actually quite modest when he explains how he reaches his conclusions, saying that there’s nothing remarkable about it at all. He’s meant to be a people-watcher, an actor and a psychologist as much as he is a scientist – his deductions come from a knowledge of human nature at least as often as they come from observable facts – but that element of his character is erased in the modern versions, because we find it funnier to watch him dumping twelve kinds of shit on Watson and being rude to Lestrade as a matter of course than to see him being kind. He claims to disdain the company of women because having a wife and family would distract from his work, but he’s so impressed by Irene Adler that with everything he could ask of the King of Bohemia as thanks for his part in solving the case, he only asks for her photograph to keep.

      Holmes is an eccentric. He’s very bright, easily bored and a very messy lodger. He takes cocaine to keep himself from the doldrums when caseless and depressed, and is constantly working on chemistry experiments as a background hobby. His mannerisms are such that he appears disconnected with people, and when on the trail of a case, he’s very happy to put suspects off their balance by being rude or displaying his uncanny knowledge of what they’ve done. But he respects Watson, and likes him; he never gets jealous of Watson marrying Mary or barges rudely into their home-life at all hours – in fact, he’s always sure to ask Watson if he can get away to help with a case, if Mary will mind, if someone will be able to cover his practice, if he needs more sleep. Our culture loves mavericks to be assholes, though, and so Holmes has become, in popular consciousness, an asshole. And that bothers me.

      • EA says:

        Yes but at least Conan Doyle has the excuse of living in Victorian times! Sexist and colonial attitudes, however unpalatable, were the norm then. Moffatt doesn’t have the same excuse, apparently just a general dislike of women.

        His comment about “There’s a huge, unfortunate lack of respect for anything male” made me laugh. Really? Because I can count on one hand the number of decent female characters on TV nowadays. The fact that female characters are generally described as “love-interests” says it all really – their personalities and characters defined only by their relationship to a man. Molly’s behaviour demonstrates this perfectly. Imagine this scenario in true life. If anyone (male or female) spoke to me the way that Moffatt’s Sherlock speaks to Molly, I would write them off as a rude, ignorant tw*t, wonder why I fancied them in the first place and just not give them the time of day.

        And seeing as Moffatt apparently dislikes me because of my gender, I have no hesitation is saying that I can’t stand him either, his crass attitude and his cruddy writing and I dearly wish he would hand the reins over to Mark Gatiss who would do a much loved hero greater justice.

        • fozmeadows says:

          I don’t know enough about Mark Gatiss to wish him good or ill, or say how well he’d do with the show on his own. But part of the problem of female characters in TV is that there’s a dearth of female writers on board. So rather than hand the show over to Gatiss, I wish it could go to a team with more female writers.

      • EA says:

        I really liked Crooked House and The First Men in the Moon which Gatiss wrote. Mind you, his Who stories have been pretty poor, but Moffatt has been such a dreadful disappointment after the thoroughly enjoyable Who story “Blink”. You make a vert good point that female writers should have more input. Mind you, they don’t always get it right either. Perhaps a less cliched attitude in general is needed towards TV writing – it does all seem to be very formulaic nowadays.

      • EA says:

        Perhaps that’s why The Killing has been such a success on British TV – a fully rounded female leading character with her own personality and her own single-mindedness to solve crimes rather than, as Moffatt puts it, “hunting a husband”. It’s something you don’t often see portrayed.

      • Emma says:

        Spot on comments – particularly your comment about our culture loving mavericks to be assholes. Sadly very true.

  7. Especially sad because twenty years ago Moffat was saying very feminist things, and created one of my favourite fictional ladies!

    I am going to wait to hear back on the Irene Adler situation.

    • fozmeadows says:

      I just saw your post about Press Gang and Amazoned it almost immediately afterwards because dude, GIRL REPORTER IN THE EIGHTIES! Played by Julia Sawahla, aka Saffie from Ab Fab and Lydia from the original BBC Pride & Prejudice miniseries! Opposite Soap from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels! How could this NOT be awesome and I thing I needed to see? But yeah, it does make me wonder what happened to Steven Moffat between 1993 and 2004 that his views on ladies suddenly turned saddening. Still, I shall choose to be optimistic and see it as a sign that he might one day be able to change back.

    • Lynn Walker says:

      He created one of my favorites, too — River Song.

  8. Ekpo says:

    ^
    Moffat went through a difficult separation and eventual divorce from his first wife which was the basis for a sitcom he did called JOKING APART and anecdotes around the production at the time and since then suggest that the experiences changed his perception somewhat to women.

    But that’s just a guess and from what I can tell, PRESS GANG notwithstanding, Steven has always had more ‘laddish’ and male centric influences than someone like Davies ever did. RTD was the kind of DW fan who liked the female companions growing up because of how brave they came accross whilst Moffat was the kind of fan who liked the female companions simply because of how pretty or sexy they were or in some cases how little they wore and at it’s most suspect that comes across in Amy’s overall presentation and characterisation. I don’t believe the character of Donna Noble or the decsion to cast Catherine Tate would ever come from Moffat for example.

    Honestly a guy who lists his obsessions since childhood as James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Tintin (along with DW) is going to come across as sexist in his writing because none of those influences are inherently female friendly.

  9. […] treatment of female characters left something to be desired (some spot-on analysis can be found here). The show re-imagined almost everything in Doyle’s stories in 21st-century terms — […]

  10. Excellent analysis. It gets worse in the new season, I think; here’s my rant about what Moffat has done to Irene Adler.

  11. Simone Webb says:

    I a) agree with this immensely, and b) have linked you in my blog post ranting about A Scandal in Belgravia: http://blogwasred.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/sherlocked-the-humiliation-of-irene-adler/

    I really find Moffat’s fuckery incredibly disappointing, because he’s such a talented writer otherwise.

  12. Deborah Burt says:

    Until I read the quote, I was going to defend the show by mentioning that the mistreatment of females by Sherlock (and by Moriarity when victims were strapped to bombs) is unattractive, as unattractive as Sherlock’s lack of empathy for any victim (i.e. when he said to Watson, “Would caring about them do anything to save their lives?” and went on to let Watson know he himself is not a hero to be worshiped). John Watson seems to highly esteem all human beings, male or female, and in many ways he is the true star of the show. (At least he’s my favorite. He puts up with Sherlock’s insanity and is truly Sherlock’s only link to reality. John Watson is just what Sherlock needs to put his genius to practical use.)

    OK, but then I read that quote, and cringed😦 Ick. I could plausibly agree with him on the second half of the quote, that men in middle class Western world could use a little more “props” and not be treated so much like sex-crazed animals without brains. But not at the expense of women. Gee whiz!

    • fozmeadows says:

      I’ve seen Moffat say subsequently that that quote is actually a line from Coupling that the interview misattributed to him, and not something he actually said. So, not sure – I’ll have to look it up.

  13. […] Siehe auch: Stephen Moffat’s wanton women Steven Moffat, Sherlock, and Neo-Victorian Sexism Sexism in Sherlock […]

  14. conr says:

    I’m wondering where Mark Gatiss is in all of this. Gatiss is equally in charge of Sherlock, has written the same amount of episodes as Moffat (2 of 6), and in fact wrote “The Great Game” – from which you draw a lot of your points against Moffat. Why is everything that Mark writes used as evidence against Moffat?

    • fozmeadows says:

      It’s a fair point! They’re definitely collaborators, though, and there’s no way of telling (except to ask) who was responsible for which line. I suppose if I’m blaming Moffat for Gatiss’s works, it’s because I have a problem with the way he treats women in Doctor Who, too, so my assumption (which, granted, may be inaccurate) is to see his hallmark in the negative treatment of women in Sherlock. I will say that Gatiss also wrote The Hounds of Baskerville, though, which I actually quite liked – it had some decent female characters and no sexism, so I’ll give him credit for that!

  15. […] And while I have loved this modern take I have also being doing the reading, notably here at this blog and also this one. It’s not to say I agree one way or another, or that it’s settled […]

  16. Mel says:

    In some ways the biggest clue is in the change of title for the first episode. In “A Study in Scarlet” the title comes from something Sherlock Holmes said – “the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life”. Steven Moffat changed it to “A Study in Pink” and had the female victim wearing pink clothing. (Alarmingly pink if I recall correctly.)

    Even if we ignore the female – pink thing, look at the wonderful words Arthur Conan Doyle used to set up his title and compare them to what Steven Moffat came up with. (Sometimes I really hate television.)

    • riks says:

      Well said! Yep, I would like a list of these examples and to send the long longgg lists to everyone who thinks Moffat and co. can do no wrong.

  17. riks says:

    This post, God bless this post, I am sincerely glad to see people write about these sort of issues instead of just keeping quiet. Media and real life are mirroring each other, and most people (people who still have morality and integrity) wouldn’t keep quiet if they saw something blatantly wrong or disturbing in real life why on earth should they not voice their opinions and concerns about TV and radio or literature, that wether we like it or not, have a big impact on people. People who tell you to just not watch the show or tell you to shut up are discouraging genuine intellectual debate and conversation, exchange of opinion, and such angry responses, when you are trying to tell something while backing your opinion and findings with facts, works against human growth in general, learning and expressing and actually trying to understand and see where other people come from with their findings, they are cutting themselves off from psychological and spiritual growth by acting like they themselves know best out of everyone when they have nothing to contradict others with. Goodness, I totally digressed, so sorry, I just get passionate about these things because the apparent small things really do show how people behave when it comes to the bigger things.
    It is sad that a man over a hundred years ago could write more diverce characters that represent humans well in their good traits and also their faults. But usually the faults are adressed and they learn from them unlike in bbcSherlock. There are problems in how Sherlock behaves that are sometimes addressed but then ignored because “whatta hey let him be a jerk as long as he keeps doing that mind palace thing and doesn’t do anything we’d need to actually arrest him for” It really saddens me because in the original stories Sherlock Holmes admitted his own faults on several occasions with heartfelt apologies, he was the first to list his failed cases, John Watson wasn’t a opinionles awe struck sidekick and Irene, she wasn’t THAT, whatever that joke is that Steven Moffat reduced her to.
    And Molly, it still makes me ache how Sherlock belittles her amd that sorry excuse of a an apology at the christmas party, the only thing that made it even slightly believable was Cumberbatches acting. And Sally, Mrs’ Hudson and Sarah, and all the rest of the oh-please-save-me-Sherlock-comedic-relief-squad is just unbelievably insultingingly treated. I dread for Mary’s future in this adaptation..
    Every time I think of this show and watch it come out of it with more loathing for the writing, which is such a shame because the show has a heart that is there thanks to the original Conan Doyle stories and the wonderful acting of the cast and the brilliant camerawork and editing.
    If Cumberbatch didn’t bring some humanity into Sherlock’s character the show would be even more disturbing and blatantly unsettling to watch (compare the scripts and how Cumberbatch interprets it on screen, he really brings a humane side to the character that is missing from them scripts).

    I’m glad to see that I am not the only one who can’t ignore the obvious lack of morality and shove it out of my mind so it wouldn’t taint the well written parts of the show.
    And I really really wish this wasn’t just an ego trip for Moffat and Gatiss, people telling them that they can do no wrong really isn’t helping. I feel sorry for anyone who agrees with Moffat’s view on women and I feel very sorry for him because he is in a position of power in the media to influence minds and views on the world and I hope he will see reason, I really really do, if not for the sale of storytelling than just for his own sale and his character.

    Long rant that could have been longer because I have so much pent up emotion about this, but long story short I am so glad you have shared your opinion, thanks for the good read!

  18. swanpride says:

    Mmm….but how about looking at it from the other side? Ignoring Sherlock, John, Mycroft and Lestrade, who are male because her canon counterparts are male too, every single male character on this show is either a criminal, a victim or an a-hole. There are some female characters who are neither, though. Since this article only refers to the first season, I keep it to that (Mrs. Hudson as well as Molly get some really good scenes in the second season), but for example John’s therapist and Soo Lin’s boss are both neither victims nor criminals.
    Sally is written as the antagonist, but she is a competent antagonist, practically Lestrade’s right hand while her male counterpart Anderson is consistently portrayed as stupid.
    Soo Lin might die (for plot convenience), but if you look at her, there is a lot to her character. Not only does she defy the “Asian Sex worker” stereotype for having been a smuggler in the past and not a prostitute, she also was strong enough to leave this life behind. Her weaker brother on the other hand became a full-fledged criminal and fanatic.
    Look at all the victims of the cabbie, and how much respect Sherlock has for the cleverness of the last FEMALE victim to plant her phone on her would be murderer and then leaving a clue for the police.
    And when you look at the second season, it gets even better. Mrs. Hudson (who is already hinted to be more than he seems to be in season one when her husband is mentioned) fools two CIA agents. Molly gets a heartfelt apology from Sherlock and later on the acknowledgement that she always counted. When Henry Knight attacks his therapist, she calls John for help, but not for her, but because she has the presence of mind that someone has to stop Henry, someone who wouldn’t just kill him.
    All in all, I think Sherlock does okay with its female characters.

    • Mislav says:

      No, it doesn’t do well with the female characters. Like the article stated, every female character is either a villain, dupe, victim or a damsel. In both season one and two. One apology doesn’t make up for it. And yes many male characters are rude but show also explores their better sides (like with Sherlock) while they don’t do that with female characters. John’s psychiatrist barely ever appears on the show, especially in season two, and she is portrayed as a bad psychiatrist-for example, she was portrayed to be wrong regarding the cause of John’s nightmares and depression. Clever woman from Study in pink was dead when Sherlock “complimented” her. Female characters barely get any focus, unless they are used for comic effect, or are important case wise-but only as a villain, victaim dupe or a damsel. That’s sexism.

  19. Mislav says:

    I agree. The show has many qualities but also many flaws. Their portrayal of woman and non-white people being the worst one.
    Did you ever watch Elementary? It is American modern day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and is much better with portraying female characters. It takes place in New York, although Sherlock is originally British. Watson is actually WOC, and mrs Hudson is transgendered woman who is also an expert in Ancient Greek whom Sherlock admires because of her abilities and who assisted Sherlock on several cases in London. He didn’t employ her simply because he needed someone to clean his apartment but because he liked how she managed to tidy it up without creating him a feeling that somebody messed with his work and managed to organize anything in a way he liked, and both he and Joan seem to enjoy her company. Joan Watson later becomes a detective on her own (although she continues working with Sherlock) and she and Sherlock turn out to have many similar talents and interests. Although their friendship is tense at first Joan always calls him out when he doesn’t behave himself right and they grow into wonderful friends as Elementary progresses. One of the detectives that Sherlock Holmes works with is African American man, and so is his sponsor, and although Sherlock is sceptical about being able to form a meaningful partnership with an “ordinary” people, he manages to do that and learns to respect them and appreciate then. And their music choices are beautiful (just watch the end of the episode 1×2 While You Were Sleeping). Sherlock Holmes is the main character but show focuses on the other characters a lot too. I highly recommend it.

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