Sunday, January 03, 2010

No Gay Sherlock Holmes Movies, Writer's Estate Sez

The controller of the remaining U.S. copyrights for the Sherlock Holmes stories freaks out after Robert Downey Jr. hints at homoerotic subtext to the new movie adaptation:

"I hope this is just an example of Mr Downey's black sense of humour. It would be drastic, but I would withdraw permission for more films to be made if they feel that is a theme they wish to bring out in the future. I am not hostile to homosexuals, but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books."

Also, the thought of homosexuality makes her uncomfortable and offends her.

Holmes's cocaine habit still a-OK, though!


  1. I love the disclaimer: 'I am not hostile to homosexuals, but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books.'

    It's nice to be able to cover your back, eh?
    If you can't sees the homosexual undertones between Holmes and Watson, you're bloody well blind, anyway.

  2. To be fair, Holmes' cocaine habit was explicitly in Conan Doyle's stories, while the gay-ness was not so much.

    It wouldn't necessarily surprise me if Holmes and Watson were gay for each other, but re-interpreting literary characters as gay reeks of modern projection. I think Holmes himself was consistently portrayed as sexless, owing to his intellect being so far above everyone else's. However, if you want to get meta about it, the stories were narrated by Watson, so there could have been some "editing" going on behind-the-scenes.

    Also: there are remaining US copyrights on the Sherlocke Holmes stories? Still?

  3. I suppose she has a problem with Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes for actually saying out loud that he and Watson were lovers? Or Rohase Piercy's My Dearest Holmes, which is basically a full-length slash novel.

    All of this is moot, because Holmes the character is in the public domain-- only stories found in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes are still under copyright in the US. Also, Andrea Plunket is a goddamn fraud whose claim to the copyright has be thrown out of court over and over again. The estate of Dame Jean Conan Doyle is the sole copyright holder of those stories.

  4. I realize the drug use was explicit in some of the stories, but if you are worried about "branding issues," I'd be more concerned about stories where Holmes got high than a little bit of gay subtext.

    Also, a rights-holder to a certain property is entitled to their opinions & to do what they want to do to protect the integrity of the brand – but this woman's statement just does her more harm than good. "Downey better have been kidding about that gay thing!" Wow.

  5. Valerie:

    You are, of course, completely correct on that point. I was just saying I can see a legitimate reason someone interested in maintaining the purity of Conan Doyle's vision of the character could object to portraying Holmes as gay.

    Of course, anyone with that interest would have withdrawn support for the movie long before any bickering about gay subtext. It was from the beginning a modern reimagining.

    So, yeah, she just doesn't like gay people.

  6. I also enjoy her comment about RDJ's "black sense of humor", because what could be more macabre than homosexuals?

  7. Peter Serafinowicz probably got a strongly worded postcard or something, I assume...

  8. Wait, Holmes isn't in the Public Domain? I know England is different than America, but his first appearance is 1887! Is it a case of "certain elements of the story are still owned" or...what?

  9. Copyright is currently 70 years from the death of the author (regardless of when he wrote the original story) or 95 years from publication if it was a work for hire. (It may also be 95 years from publication if that is longer than 70 from author's death.)

    If what another poster said is true about this woman (or another person) only owning the copyright in a particular subset of stories), then the sequels could use other published stories or just create new storylines.

    Personally, I want to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2

  10. Mixed feelings. I don't like the idea that we parse every little detail of a person's statements. And actually, I feel that way because of people I've seen lambasted on the internet for wording something wrong, making a typo, or just not being quite as clear as they could've been. I'm a lot more apt to give someone the benefit of the doubt if I hear that someone, out of the blue, said something shocking. So, the quote didn't seem so bad.

    But the part about "Also, the thought of homosexuality makes her uncomfortable and offends her" is, obviously, extremely offensive.

    I am a fan of the original books and think that Holmes is not at all portrayed as sexless, but rather a bit of a ladies man, when it suits him. For the way he works, I'm actually reminded a lot of Jean Luc Picard, who can deal with a lot of attractive women in a completely professional way, but does, when challenged, occasionally fall in love. And when he does, watch out! I don't think there's a hint of homosexuality between Holmes and Watson in the original stories.

    Having said that, I think the cinematic Sherlock and Watson have nearly a century of gay subtext in film, with the Watson character becoming merely a foil for Holmes and Holmes becoming a bit of a priss. Hell, the Sherlock/Mycroft relationship can seem a little gay in some of the movies.