Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Scandal In Belgravia

I was really debating with myself whether I'd watch the Sherlock season 2 premiere when it aired on PBS this weekend. I want to support PBS, and I've been rather offended that people have been blaming PBS for the cuts in the show and accusing Rebecca Eaton of unprofessionalism when fucking Steve Moffat is an internet troll abusing his fans constantly. Plus he and his wife Sue Vertue have been goading Sherlock fans into going to every article about Elementary, to bash it and accuse it of copyright infringement. You ruin your own goddamn show, and you can't let me enjoy the idea that somebody else will do it different? Talk about unprofessional.

But I wondered if I should just let go of my grudge too. Just delete this episode from my DVR unwatched and say, "It's just a TV show. There's way more horrifying stuff in the real world to feel outrage over. Let it go."

In the end, I watched it just so nobody can accuse me of judging the episode without ever having seen it. I'm told there were still cuts in the episode, but I'm not willing to buy the DVDs to see them. But at least now I can discuss the raging misogyny in it without spoiling anybody.

My hate for this episode began at the pool scene where we had the repeat of Jim Moriarty and his stupid, affected voice. His childish behavior and his stupid ringtone. I can't believe that the ringtone got Moffat applause at the press event. This is not a clever solution; it's a stupid copout, suggesting there was never any danger in the first place. Why have a cliffhanger moment at all in Great Game? Why not have Jim go away and never come back with his "I'm so changeable" line? There would still be dread about when Moriarty would next return and threaten them, and there'd be no bait-and-switch about the scene. It's utterly laughable that this idiot terrorist is supposed to be frightening just because he casually talks of skinning people and making them into shoes. I hate Jim Moriarty, and I hate that he's apparently the model for Irene Adler.

For she too is a calculating criminal who blithely destroys her own clients, and is obsessed about playing mindgames with her shiny Sherlock toy. She's said to be extremely clever and to have destroyed people before with scandal. Then why does she still have any dominatrix clients? If she's known to threaten and expose people, then why doesn't her business collapse from everyone running away once they know they can't trust her? We get no explanation for that, just like we get no explanation for how Jim Moriarty can carry on even as he exposes his crimes in the Great Game to Sherlock. Even if the criminals blamed Sherlock for this exposure instead of Jim, wouldn't they at least think "Hey, Jim's not so smart after all. His plans aren't infallible, if they're coming apart like this. Maybe I should hire somebody else." It's this insane suspension of disbelief that reveals the weaknesses in his stories. Moffat doesn't care if the plot makes sense, just that it gives good visuals and banter.

Worse than changing Irene from an opera singer to a dominatrix is the fact that Moffat has changed her character to mirror this psychotic and delusional Jim Moriarty. She's not the same woman from the story.

This interview with Moffat sums up the problem quite succinctly.
When you’re looking at what causes a scandal in Bohemia as opposed to Belgravia, you have to up the ante a bit, and Irene Adler doesn’t really qualify as a bad girl anymore. She’s an opera singer who married a man and moved house, as far as I can see. As far deadly femme fatales go, she was a little bit on the limited side.
That's because she's not a femme fatale, you idiot! She's not supposed to be "a bad girl". She's not the villain in the story. The King is. Did you not fucking read the story? Did you not notice the disdain with which Holmes refused to shake the King's hand? She was not a professional blackmailer like Milverton, happy to destroy random strangers to make herself rich. All we know is that she made a threat to one particular man, who himself suggests that it's for personal jealousy, not for greed.

Compare her to Effie Munro in the "Yellow Face", who wasn't a villain at all, even though at first Holmes's theory is that Effie abandoned her first husband and was paying him off while hiding her bigamy from her second husband. Holmes turns out to be completely wrong about Effie's character and her secret, and he has the good humor to laugh it off and accept that he is in fact arrogant and fallible sometimes. That's the lesson Holmes learns from Irene Adler too, only with the added caution that he shouldn't underestimate a woman's intelligence either. Irene Adler is not an evil character; she's a lesson in not being arrogant and jumping to conclusions.

The Irene character in Belgravia is nothing short of Isadora Klein, from the Three Gables. In fact, if Moffat had made that one simple name change, I wouldn't have ever raged at him for misogyny, because I'd know he got the character from the canon itself. This character called Irene is not ACD's character in the slightest, and to add to that, there's gratuitous nudity for titillation and jokes. The show claims that Irene is being clever by shocking Sherlock with her nakedness, and we have puerile question marks proclaiming that he can't deduce from her nakedness. He can't deduce from her hairstyle, makeup, nail polish, shoes, hair removal method, etc.? This man who recognized the expensive brand of cream used by the secretary in Blind Banker? It's so stupid and degrading. Then there's the other nudity in the morgue where it's implied that Sherlock identifies the body because it looks like Irene's. And yet we soon learn that it's not Irene's body, so what was the point of having him erroneously recognize it? Then Irene told John that the body was identified by false DNA records, not by Holmes. DNA is not the same as nudity; does Moffat think fans are fucking stupid? Oh, and I'm supposed to not care who the innocent body was in the first place, either. Way to use women as props.
I remember when I was reading that story as a kid, Sherlock goes on and on about The Woman, the only one who ever beat him, and you’re thinking, he’s had better villains than this. And then you click: he fancies her, doesn’t he? That’s what it’s about.

No he doesn't fancy her, you fucking idiot. Watson says so in the first paragraph of the story. Gatiss and you were discussing this very thing in the Study in Pink DVD commentary, that Sherlock only likes her mind and is uninterested in sex. That's the line you were following before you abandoned canon altogether for your femme fatale fantasy. Even if Holmes had loved Irene Adler in the story, Irene Adler would have been a good, admirable person who didn't make her living off people's misery. But in Moffat's hands, Irene Adler is selfish, manipulative, treasonous, and evil. She doesn't even care about bankrupting her own nation (because she's not American in this story; she's British), and says she's been looking to score this big for years. Never mind that terrorists win, people get tortured by the CIA, or innocent people die, just for her own protection. The plan isn't even her own, because Jim Moriarty gave it to her. So she's not really clever at all. Just a low-level psychopath.

If she's evil, then why the hell should Sherlock love her? Moffat has described the character as a psychopath, but he and Gatiss once argued that the difference between Sherlock and Jim Moriarty is that Sherlock is really a good guy deep down after all. So why should I root for my hero, a good guy at heart, to be in love with an amoral creep like this traitor? Moffat purposely made her so evil that her scheme had to fail, and she could not win like she did in the story. So why should I be glad that Sherlock rescues her at the end? Plus there's the whole implausibility about Mycroft saying "we really checked hard this time" to confirm that the body was Irene's, and yet once again, the body is not Irene's. What the hell? So now Sherlock is condoning murdering another innocent woman to die in Irene's place. I'm supposed to cheer for this why? I could only love this episode if Irene Adler's name was changed, it wasn't all an elaborate scheme of Moriarty's, and if Irene had rescued herself, or had help from Kate instead. But clearly Moffat was not capable of doing this episode right because he never understood the original story.


Rebecca said...

Don't forget that he also completely insulted her intelligence by making her nothing more than a servant in Moriarty's Evil Network. She couldn't even think on her own.

I didn't watch the US premiere of "Belgravia" because the original UK release made me sick enough. I was disappointed with the choice to do this story from the beginning because you know they HAD to stuff sex and sexuality into it, but it was far, far more degrading than I'd feared. I almost didn't watch the rest of the series as a result.

buddy2blogger said...

Superb post about the BBC versions of Moriarty and Adler.

I have voiced similar thoughts in my review .