A Moffat Christmas Carol.
January 3, 2012
Okay. I’m sorry, the title is cheap; I chose it when I was going to write about gender politics in both of Stephen Moffat’s Christmas TV offerings. As it transpires, there is so very much to say about “A Scandal In Belgravia” that the straight-forward stereotyping of “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe” fell by the way somewhat. I must also say that I was glued to my seat for both programmes.
Lesbianism is the greatest current threat to the British state. I’ve long had my suspicions, and last night’s episode of Sherlock, written by Stephen Moffat and entitled “A Scandal in Belgravia”, has only confirmed what I knew by intuition all along. It’s logical, really; if intelligence is the most powerful thing one can possibly possess, then the perfect spy is the most dangerous individual who could possibly exist. We know what makes the perfect spy, and the formula has been first honed, and then inflated, to give us Bond: orphan, unattached, no close personal friendships to speak of. He is able to drop in and out of multiple realities without contradicting the social index that most of us create as we trample our messy way in the world, forging human relationships willy-nilly, carelessly anchoring ourselves to a single identity.
James Bond is also a man. Therefore, he is (in most incarnations, when not played by Daniel Craig) impervious to sentiment. His sexual exploits vouch for his physical humanity, but are completely uncoupled from his heart and spirit. The women he sleeps with are there to explicate his masculinity : countless expendable, easily-led Bond Girls are required to counterbalance his pardigmatic ‘manliness’. Bond could never have been female, because women are, y’know, nurturing. Women care.
And then there’s Irene Adler. Or at least, then there’s Stephen Moffat’s Irene Adler, a million miles from “The woman” in Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia. The woman who, remember, bested the great detective in the final telling, something that could of course never happen to a BBC TV hero. At least, not to a male one. The difference between these two women, however, would be a subject for another study.
Moffat’s Adler is a sex worker – a professional Dominatrix*. We are therefore to assume that she is manipulative, and not to be trusted. My viewing-partner had registered from Adler’s first scene that she wore red nail varnish – and so was probably evil – and red lipstick, the tell-tale sign of lesbianism in detective fiction.
For as long as we believe that Adler is homosexual – and she tells Watson outright that she is gay – we can believe that she might win her battle of wits and wiles with Baker Street’s golden boy. Because power is a man’s game; the only female in Mycroft Holmes’ entourage plays the same role for Adler that she does for Holmes, Snr.: that of secretary-cum-hostess, with no real proximity to power. All of the other players for the top stakes, for our against Our Man, are male: Mycroft, Holmes and Watson, “Jim” Moriarty. And they are impervious to any love beyond comradely philia; in this episode, we learn that even kindly John Watson is unable to keep one girlfriend’s identity distinct from the last.
The moment at which Irene Adler sends a text message to Moriarty after kissing Holmes’ cheek in slow motion is absolutely crucial. This is the moment at which she suckers him, and the cunning lesbian perfect her deception.. That fingers-crossed-behind-the-back shot is the moment at which we know for certain that she is dissembling; she hasn’t really fallen for Sherlock, so her integrity, and her gender identity, remain in tact.
Power is a man’s game, and a woman had better be gay if she wants to join in. There are two messages to be taken from this. Firstly, of course, lesbians are not quite proper women. They have less icky-sticky feelings, less conscience, and are, in general, Much More Like Men. The second is that proper, y’know, normal, heterosexual women can’t get involved in high-powered plots, because they’d only get seduced out of the way. They’d fall in love, develop loyalties outside of their brief, and give up the whole shebang. Only a lesbian could be dangerous enough, as an individual, to threaten the M.O.D., because only a lesbian could so absolutely constitute the unknown, and present an enemy with no discernible weakness.
So it’s jolly good luck that our boy Sherlock is able to “turn” her! If she had only really been a lesbian, and resisted his charms – as no heterosexual woman could do – then she could have crippled the state. With, apparently, her personal spending habits.
Everything turns out alright for Dear Old Blighty in Moffat’s Sherlock because lesbians aren’t really real. They’re just waiting for the right improbably good-looking sociopathic nerd and drug-addict to really get inside their heads, and straighten them out.
Why? Because lesbianism is the greatest current threat to the British state, of course, and we couldn’t have that validated by the BBC.
Happy New Year, y’all.
*She’s also already therefore a nice parallel with Bond when it comes to the disengaged sex angle, if you’re willing to accept that consensual professional sex and leading on scores of women are the same thing.