Why This Writer Feels Guilty For Loving SHERLOCK

Let me say this off the bat– SHERLOCK is one of the best written TV series I have ever had the pleasure to watch.

I love all the twists and turns and surprises in each episode. I think the actors are great in their parts and I look forward to each new episode. I’ve already seen two of the three new episodes of season two, and it is even better than the first season. As a fan, I hope the series goes on for another 10 years.

OK, I got that off of my chest.

Now, let me say I feel slight tinges of guilt for loving and supporting the series, because it is not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s vision. Oh, they are his characters (the main ones, albeit with cell phones), but they are not his stories, his world, his words, his adventures, his time period. The creators are–to put it bluntly and completely on the table–taking what they want from his stories in piecemeal, and remaking it for their own profit.

Again, I love the series. I want it to go on, but it does set a precedent that makes me a little concerned. Because of this series’ success are we going to see “new versions” of classics all over the place? Is that a good thing? And more importantly, does it give the respect to the original artist that they deserve for their own creation?

Consider this, if SHERLOCK wasn’t such a well-made, well-written series would we be as happy around the enterprise?

If it was crap, I can guarantee you that the Sherlock Holmes fan sites around the world would have risen in protest around it. The fact it is good, helps. So do we say, it is OK to “reinvent” an artist’s creation as long as it is good?  And who defines good? I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t trust TV executives to make that call for me.

Sherlock Holmes is unique in the fact he is a character that we all feel we own.

It’s a rare breed when a character reaches that status, existing outside now the original words created by their author; the only other ones I can think of like that are Scrooge, Peter Pan, and Dorothy Gale. And since we all own them, we feel we can change them and look at their stories in ways different from what their creators originally intended. A Christmas Carol set in modern New York around the fashion industry, sure! A mini-series of The Wizard of Oz with the Tin Man being an action hero, why not! And with everyone’s favorite consulting detective, people have been having fun changing his stories and creating new ones in all of the different mediums for years.

The honest fact is we don’t all own these characters, and Sherlock does not belong to me or you. Sherlock Holmes was created by one person (I’ll get into a discussion about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in a bit), and these were his stories, his vision of his characters. Yet, Doyle is dead, has been for a while. Should we view his ownership of that world differently because he is in the cold hard Earth?

Consider for a moment this– Let’s say you decide to write your own Twilight book or Harry Potter book and have it be published for profit, how long do you think it would be before the lawyers knock on your door?

However, I must say that if Doyle WAS alive, I’m about 60 percent sure he would have signed off on them making the series. These books were never “high” literary art, they were pulp, meant to sell magazines. After Doyle killed off Sherlock he brought him back because of the audience and the money around the return, and when he didn’t need the money anymore he just stopped writing the adventures (There is no real big ending to Sherlock’s adventures). Doyle would also take every opportunity to make money off of the character and he was fine with others writing the character; for example, he signed off on a play written by an actor during his time. Also, Doyle never really took it that seriously, and even wrote his own parody on the creation. In other words, he was not a protective father, more like a salesman with a product. So, yes, I think if the money was right he probably would have been fine.

Yet, he was not able to make the call. All we have are the facts that someone has taken his creation, and changed it to their own devices, and that does bother me sometimes.

However, I would like to add that what Mr. Stephen Moffatt is doing with SHERLOCK is a hug to the artist as compared to what is done via Quirk Classics to literature. I still feel sick to my stomach when I think of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and other creations by their “authors.” They are literally taken an artist’s work and written words and adding things into them that the artist didn’t attend or probably would have wanted. It is like adding a Mickey Mouse into the background of the actual Mona Lisa, and I would love to see someone attempt to argue that differently. A classic book, its words, should be held in as great esteem as any great work of art; because it is art.

OK, deep breath… Gotta return to SHERLOCK discussion, let the zombies go.

I wish there was something that could be said or done to elevate some of the guilt I have for loving this TV series. I keep reminding myself that Doyle probably would have been fine, but all I have is a “probably” to hold onto. And, like I said earlier, this will at some point lead to someone attempting this with another classic story, I know it, and it will be painful; there will be repercussions to our enjoyment of SHERLOCK in time.

So right now, I live in the moment, I enjoy the series and try my best to avoid looking into it too much. It’s just hard not to.

If you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here. Thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Why This Writer Feels Guilty For Loving SHERLOCK

  1. I think this is a trend that’s only going to get worse. You mentioned “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and that’s not the only one. There’s “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” among a whole slew of other artistic mutations. This is not a good thing. Since the industry isn’t taking chances on new ideas or fresh looks, we’re going to be stuck with this rehashing indefinitely. I watched the first couple of episodes of “Sherlock” and had to quit. For me, it was in the same category as PP&Z. An artistic mutation. I think it’s irrelevant whether Doyle would’ve signed off on it or not. If he was alive today, Holmes would be a different character. Much of the magic of Sherlock Holmes comes from the setting and from the time and worldview in which it was written.

  2. It’s hard for me to compare movie versions or TV versions, per se with Quirk Classics, since Quirk Classics are so much more… aggressive (I feel that way since they are in the same medium, books. And our manipulating the author’s words). Sherlock has been changed for decades for TV and movies, consider the film versions starring Basil Rathbone, they were moved into contemporary war-torn England and Watson was comic relief. I, hate to admit this too much, love those films. But I do agree, when he stays in the world of his creation there is a certain “homeness” feeling to the character. It’s natural.

    You are right though, the trend will get worse. Publishers are less willing to take risks, the market is far too congested with new authors, and agents are looking for the quick sell as compared to the new artistic vision. This “re-do”ing of classics is definitely an outcome of the broken system. A gimmick that catches the idea and has a potential established audience, what publisher wouldn’t run with that?

  3. “Let’s say you decide to write your own Twilight book or Harry Potter book and have it be published for profit, how long do you think it would be before the lawyers knock on your door?”

    Never, as long as you change the names and choose the right fandom (obviously Stephanie Meyer doesn’t care, and but Diana Gabaldon would probably try and get you). Still though, I do really like reading fanfiction but when people publish it and it gets off the internet, it gets a little weird because I know the origins of the story.

    • Actually I disagree (but thanks for reading!). It’s more than the author who would sue. Publishers will be upset as well. I am sure there are a lot more cease and and decease letters out there then we know.

      It comes down to really a respect for an author and their creation for me. I could never consider doing it myself outside of a parody.

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