So I recently discovered the BBC show Sherlock. It’s based, obviously, on Sherlock Holmes, but aside from the first Robert Downey Jr movie I know him only as name/character; I’ve never read the books or watched other adaptations. I’d heard of the show first, I think, through Cassandra Clare’s Tumblr blog where she occasionally reblogs Sherlock gifs, and was aware of her enthusiasm, but I’d never felt motivated enough to check it out. Then when I was last at my mom’s, she’d gotten the DVD of the first season from her sister and we watched the first episode.
Well, I was intrigued enough to search out the rest of the season and watch it, and then, when the final episode ended on a MONUMENTAL CLIFFHANGER, track down the second season. Each season is only three 90-minute episodes; I’ve watched four of the six so far, and I’m totally, utterly smitten with the show and, in particular, Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of Sherlock. (I also enjoyed this exchange between Clare and her husband; that was roughly the reaction I got from D about it, too.)
I’m not one to develop fangirl crushes very often. The last time I couldn’t stop thinking about something I’d seen was for the movie Avatar (Dec 2009), and the last character was Ezio Auditore of the video game Assassin’s Creed II (Nov 2009). I downloaded a promotional image of Ezio and set it as my desktop background. With Avatar, I found some YouTube clips and played them almost daily for a while. Interestingly, though, it’s always fictional characters; I’ve never done this for an actor.
It got me thinking about what it is about the characters I fangirl over, and this one in particular, that I find so attractive. I think part of it is physical, of course; Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock falls very squarely into my "type", from the moderately-long, dark hair to the tall, slim body and angular face. But there’re lots of actors/characters who’d fit that that don’t sweep me away. So the other part is clearly the personality and other character traits. And the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they’re very confident, self-assured people who largely don’t care too much about what others think of them. They also usually have a sharp wit and sarcastic sense of humour. And they’re all exceptionally good at what they do; in the case of BBC’s Sherlock, that’s his ability to deduce information, of course, but also he’s got an ease (and success) in a fight that suggests some skill. (The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure if I met Sherlock myself in person I wouldn’t actually like him all that much because he can be so clinical with his interactions that he seems cold; and I’d lack the time spent with him over four 90-minute shows to know his character better.)
Strangely, it’s not a character type I’ve encountered much in books. Typically when a novel character is self-assured with a sarcastic wit he tends to come across as a bit of an ass. The only one from a book that I can think of who I’ve felt did it perfectly is Lord Vetinari of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Also, I wonder if there’s a tiny bit of that personality that gets lost in the translation to text, the various mannerisms and facial expressions that can’t be adequately shown simply by saying "He grinned," or even "His mouth pulled up at the corner." Think Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. There’s no way a written version of him would be nearly so charismatic.
I would so much love to write a character like the BBC Sherlock, but not only do I think it would be difficult to create on the page, I think it would be even more of a challenge for me: witty has never been one of my strengths. When I write witty, I feel as often as not it comes across either flat or makes the character look like an ass, rather than clever. So I leave it to other people, and I’m quite happy to enjoy their creations.
And now I’m going to hit ‘post’ then go watch one of my favourite scenes for a fourteenth time…