...thanks once again to my pokings around tumblr_refuge
on Livejournal and a question from shezan
I found myself reminded of the existence of TJLC with respect to BBC Sherlock
. "TJLC", for those previously unaware, stands for "The Johnlock Conspiracy" and is based on the premise that ultimately John and Sherlock will be shown in an overtly sexual/romantic relationship on the show and that Moffat and Gatiss and the whole show team (Arwel Wyn Jones is a key figure in the whole business) have been laying a bread-crumb trail showing their workings all along, for those who have eyes to see.
To which I can only say, Stig Has Been Dead For Ages, Honestly.
However, leaving aside the demerits of the vast bulk of so-called evidence for TJLC*, there is one point which strikes me forcibly about the key point that its proponents make, and that is this:
"If John and Sherlock were a man and a woman as opposed to two men, the way shots involving them are framed and lit would unequivocally be interpreted as indicating an overt romantic storyline between them."
Yup. Agreed 100%. No two ways about it.
However, that's not the knockdown, drag-out blow the conspiracy theorists think it is.
The trouble is, that practically every
scene between a man and a woman on screen, however
framed and lit, is interpreted as indicating an overt romantic storyline. That's because in general audiences are bad at parsing relationships between men and women on-screen otherwise than in romantic terms. Furthermore, if showrunners want
to do something different with male/female relationships on-screen, there's a great gaping hole in the cinematic vocabulary they can use to express it, and if they try to adapt the current vocabulary to address something different then it gets seen as doing Romance wrong, not doing Not-Romance and succeeding or failing on its own terms.
Take, by way of example, Molly Hooper. Molly Hooper is framed and defined by her unrequited crush on Sherlock, almost every time she's discussed. As a result, her story-line is seen as being a story of her failure, since she fails in her romantic objective and, as this is seen as the one true legitimate plot in which a woman can engage, she's seen as an overall failure. By contrast, John Watson's succession of increasingly inept relationship crash-and-burns are not seen as an indication that as a character he's to be written off; they're just side-lights on his wider characterisation**.
But looking at Molly Hooper, she's so much more than a woman who has an unrequited crush on a man and makes a bit of a twerp of herself by being obvious about it. That's just her romantic
plot. She is, in no particular order:
- a woman in a tough professional role who does it extremely well, despite the idiocy of everyone around her.
- the woman who gets over her crush and actually becomes a critical yet supportive friend of the crushee
- the woman who is the first person to extract an on-screen sincere apology out of Sherlock.
- the woman who both sees and observes ("I know what it means, when someone only looks sad when no-one is watching them.")
- the woman who assists Sherlock to fake his own death under the very noses of Moriarty and a minimum of three trained assassins.
- the woman who gives Sherlock a well-deserved slap for being a plonker and orders him to apologise for the trouble he's causing to others.
Oh, and did I mention, "the woman who dumped Moriarty and survived"?
But all of that is too much to incorporate within the narrow confines of what a woman is allowed to be in TV drama. In order to analyse Molly Hooper that way people would have to appreciate that a female character is allowed to be so much more than a love interest even when interacting with a man.
And, at bottom, that's what I dislike about TJLC. It's not that it wouldn't be nice to have a drama series with a central, acknowledged, same sex relationship that's not what the whole storyline is about
. But the drive towards the single story interpretation in male/male relationships, given that I want to be driving away from it in male/female relationships sets my teeth on edge. It's turning a "may" into a "must" when we've barely got used to a "may" and might want to look at ways in which one could do that "may" differently, without being tied down by baggage.
The whole of literature (particularly romantic literature in the old sense of romance) is chock-full of ambiguous relationships between men (take, just off the top of my head, the three musketeers plus D'Artagnan; Raffles and Bunny; Rassendyll, Sapt, von Tarlenheim and Rupert of Hentzau; Sir Percy and the whole rest of the League; Mike and Psimth; Richard Hannay and well, practically everyone he ever crosses swords with, actually --***). While I'm prepared to declare that some of them are doing their best to express as far as they can relationships which couldn't have been expressed overtly at the time they were written, they aren't all
doing that. It would be a terrible shame to lose the complex range of relationships we've got and cram male friendships and antagonisms into the limited range of "trophy, loser, motivation (dead)" which female characters get stuck with.
To quote another woman who fits uneasily into "proper" notions of what she's allowed to be on screen, "I am big. It's the pictures that got small."
And that, ultimately, is my problem with TJLC. It's an example of dreaming small.
*Though to any evidence which depends on "As a gay man, Mark Gatiss would never write..." I have two words to say, those two words being "Lucifer Box." Anyone who is capable of perpetrating Lucifer Box is capable of anything.
** Or, of course, evidence that Sherlock-and-John is end-game.
*** Why is it always Hannay who gets dragged into ambiguous sexual relationships with his antagonists? You'd think it would be much more up Sandy's alley, and yet the only time Sandy gets dragged into an ambiguous sexual relationship with an antagonist, she's Hilda von Einem.