TW – Racism, Sexism. -Also, spoilers.
Steven Moffat’s casual misogyny is hardly a secret anymore for fans of Sherlock and Dr Who – but until now, it had the merit of being relatively subtle. Compensated by a deep female character dropped here and there, justified by some poorly made excuses… Enough for this sexism to be debated, at least. The way it exploded onto our screens during the Sherlock Christmas Special, however, left even the fiercest defenders of Moffat’s integrity at a loss for words.
Despite the known flaws of the show, my friends and I were quite excited about the episode, I’d even say optimistic. The preview had looked promising, and as the opening theme started playing, we doubted that anything could possibly lower our spirits.
Needless to say, we were wrong.
A few minutes in and already, some references to the misogyny of our sweet Victorian era started to appear – Mrs Hudson complaining about Watson never making her speak in his writings, Mary Watson eager to come with her husband in his adventures but silenced and basically told the victorian version of “Get back to the kitchen.”
But all in all, these allusions were not too terrible – in fact they came across as satyrical more than anything else, and we took them as criticism of the original work’s known sexism. When Lestrade answers Mary’s desire to join a political movement about women’s votes by asking “For or against?” he is the one made fun of, and Watson’s sexism is also used as comic relief at more than one occasion. A slightly irritating way of saying ‘hey, look at how sexist Sherlock characters were back then, our version is so much more open-minded!’ But it was manageable.
What made it a lot less manageable, however, was the ending. On top of being messy and poorly realized in itself, the blatant misogyny of the resolution scene was absolutely appalling.
If you haven’t seen the episode, you might ask – what is this purple version of the KKK, passively listening to Holmes’s inspiring speech? This, my friend, is Sherlock’s take on the Suffragettes movement.
Women choosing to murder their husbands and blaming it on the ghost of a crazy bride.
Women associated to a racist cult who battled against the progress of civil rights.
Women silent and dutifully listening as Sherlock explains their struggle to them (how kind, how brilliant) and to the audience.
It’s not even casual misogyny at this point, it’s a complete disrespect of one of the most important feminist battles in recent western history. It’s inaccurate. It’s hateful. It’s sexist. And no, Steven – making Mycroft say that “we have to let them win” does not make it ok. It’s not even the start of ok, it makes it even worse, in fact.
Was it necessary? No. Even my ten-year-old cousin could have thought of a better plot-twist. Was it linked to something in the original Sherlock novels? Neither. Conan Doyle’s writings may have held the sexism of his time, but never did he write something as outrageous as this.
I am sincerely baffled as to what Moffat was trying to achieve here. Was it a horrendous attempt to appear concerned about feminism, responding to the accusions of misogyny he had received, was he trying to be en vogue with the Suffragettes movie that came out recently? And if so – did no one, of all of his team of advisors, did really no one at all point out that this was quite possibly the worse idea of his career?
Whatever the purpose, the result is sickening. If the historical inaccuracies of the Suffragettes movie made you cringe, save yourself an evening of burning indignation and bitterness – do not watch the Sherlock Christmas Special.
This review was written by Julia Lascar, an iFemSoc member.