The Adler Dilemma

Right then, I’m assuming that at least a handful of you saw the incredible debut to the second series of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories, aptly titled ‘Sherlock’ last week, or at the beginning of this week, or whenever you had the time to look them up.

Now, I’m a sucker for Moffat’s style I have to admit so I was already in a place to enjoy the story to a degree where I didn’t look cynically upon the way the story was told, however, firstly with the daily mail and secondly with the guardian I saw critiques of the show, deeming it inappropriate.

Now the daily mail, who already have one strike against them for being, of all things, the daily mail, criticised the episode for portraying Irene Adler naked before the watershed, ignoring of course the fact that you could see nothing even close to a breast, that they printed what was arguably the most risky image for their article and that on the website version of the article you can see all of the pictures of women in compromising positions they have been printing, any of which you can pick from and see that they are showing more than Adler did at any point in that scene.

What surprised me, and what I hadn’t actually given much thought towards considering my strong stance on how women are perceived by the media, society etc. was an article in the guardian drawing the sexism card.

Now, I’ve considered this, and when you consider the fact that you’re writing a character who is overtly sexual it becomes a muddy area for the kind of people who on daily mail articles call out Adler’s character as something akin to ‘what was this slut doing on TV before the watershed?’

And while I quite like the fact that they’re actually complaining about something that actually has some meaning and context rather than swearing before nine o clock, which I should probably come back to at some point because language is language and swearing has about as much harm as crying ‘oh fiddlesticks’, I’m rather taken aback by the strength of reaction to this episode.

Yes, there are problems with the way women are portrayed in the media but I considered Adler to be a strong female character, she bested Sherlock in many ways, managed to drug him, fool him for all but the last minute of the episode and actually distract him from his usual endless path of logic to pull the rug from under his feet.

She faked her own death and he believed it, the fooled the ultimate detective, that’s a strong character, the fact that she was overtly sexual was secondary to her intellect as a tool she employed on occasion to manipulate and gain information from people who were less smart than her.

That being said, it would have certainly been a safer way to play it without the sexualisation, but this episode was largely about tackling the myths surrounding the Sherlock character’s gay or asexual agenda, using power play to develop the side of Sherlock Holmes that is often hidden by his cold approach to conversation.

So yes, there were problems with the way Adler was portrayed but they were blown out of proportion by the media in a way that I think was a little undeserved considering the strength of the Adler character and the fact that she only used her sexuality as an intellectual tool, which can’t be said for so many other TV shows which throw it out there for the sake of ratings or to kill a character dead and devoid of all personality.

For example, the lesbian kiss in season 4 of heroes. Terrible idea and poorly executed, there was no emotion, no relevance to the plot and it was basically never referred to again.

Now I should probably stop now, but I think the point of this is that I don’t think the remade Adler hurts feminism in any significant way, although I could very well have missed something here.


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