First of all, it’s May 4th. Star Wars Day. May The Fourth Be With You.
Guys, do you watch Elementary? I know that some of the people who watch BBC’s Sherlock (of which there have been only six episodes because you can get away with that in the UK, apparently) are diehard loyalists. Personally, I’m kind of tired of looking at Bennysnoot Cummerbund* and I don’t even watch the show (his face is just unavoidable on Tumblr), so Sherlock will probably never catch my interest. That said, I am a huge supporter of liking both—do not think of different Sherlock shows as mutually exclusive.
Anyway, I love Elementary. Jonny Lee Miller plays Sherlock Holmes. The beautiful, talented, and flawless Lucy Liu plays Joan Watson. I absolutely love the show—most of the first season has aired. It’s not as good as NBC’s brand new show Hannibal, but then, Hannibal is the best live-action show on the air right now (and definitely my favorite new show of 2013).
Right, so. Elementary. It’s fun. Some people find Jonny Lee Miller very attractive—I don’t. I appreciate his character’s competence, though. I love genderbending of Dr. Watson’s character into a woman (a former surgeon). And, seriously, Lucy Liu is amazing and perfect and if you do not believe me then you have obviously not seen Kill Bill and/or anything else that features Lucy Liu.
The character of “Mrs. Hudson” is not as much of a staple of the Sherlock Holmes universe as the titular character or Professor Moriarty (whom we have yet to see directly), but she is a character in the original stories and in many subsequent adaptations. She is often Sherlock’s landlord and something of a fussbudget about tidiness.
Elementary only introduced their Mrs. Hudson recently. She is an associate (what Sherlock calls his friends) of Sherlock’s. She is a self-taught intellectual who finds herself acting as a “muse” (a mistress) to various men who may be married (in her first episode, she comes to Sherlock for a place to sleep during a break-up with her lover, who is clearly besotted with her and is promising to leave his wife but we all know that story, right?). She is a tall, beautiful woman. She likes things tidy—at one point, she cleans the front room of Sherlock’s brownstone (which Watson is always wanting for him to clean). Mrs. Hudson also rearranges Sherlocks books. He asks how she arranged them. Mrs. Hudson replies:
“By subject matter, then by author. You start with hard sciences on the north wall, then you move clockwise around the room in descending order of academic rigor. That way, Physics by Aristotle is as far away from You Can Learn Telepathy by Morton Zuckerman as possible.”
That was the line with which I really fell in love with her.
And oh, by the way, she’s transgender. Played by a transgender actress.
I think that sometimes people include members of various minorities for the wrong reasons, or in the wrong way. Not every gay character should be a fashion expert (like in real life—I might have perfect hair and always be clean and smell good, but I dress in a t-shirt and shorts as often as possible because I value my comfort). A lot of what happens nowadays with gay characters or certain religious minorities is a step in the right direction but still missing the we’re-all-people point (and kind of reminds me of blackspoitation).
Elementary does it correctly. No one fumbles, accidentally calling Mrs. Hudson a “he” or “it.” Her story is not about the fact that she’s transgender. Her boyfriend isn’t breaking up with her because she’s transgender. She is not being discriminated against or targeted and coming to Sherlock for help because she’s transgender. She’s just a woman in a rocky relationship and she needs a place to stay for a couple of nights. While she’s there, she does some tidying, and ends up being hired by Sherlock to come in periodically to clean.
I want to see more television like this. Transgender characters are not a punchline, and they’re also not all about being transgender. Being born with an anatomical sex that does not match your gender is not the be-all and end-all of a person, and that should be reflected in fictional characters.
Well done, Elementary. I love it. And I love Mrs. Hudson.
*Okay, so his name is Benedict Cumberbatch, but that is ridiculous and changing his name every time that you say or write it helps lift you back from the fatigue of constantly seeing his face on Tumblr (because the Sherlock fandom is one of the “big three” of Tumblr, along with Supernatural and Doctor Who. I only watch one of those but I see plenty of the other two anyway). Blanderwort Cumberland will also be the primary antagonist in the new Star Trek film, Into Darkness. So you can expect that I will see the film but also spend much of the time glowering for various reasons.