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01 February 2013 @ 12:20 am
Elementary and the General Awesomeness  
Hobbit Friend and I are the only ones in our circle of friends who loyally watch Elementary. In watching tonight's episode, I got reminded of a rather intense discussion we got into about what makes the show so wonderful from a race-relations point of view. Particularly given that on paper this show looked like it was going to fail on all levels with regard to that.


I'm sure anyone who reads this LJ remembers the rampage that went on the Internet when it was announced that Lucy Liu would be playing Joan Watson. Especially after it was revealed that she would be playing a former doctor who was also not an ex-soldier and would be Holmes' sober companion. Basically his minder. That Liu was Asian also and assigned to such a role pissed off a very active corner of the Internet regarding the continued dismissal and subjugation of Asian-ness in Western media. As Hobbit Friend put it, "It felt like if Watson wasn't white and male, he couldn't also be a doctor and a former soldier."

But then the show started and all reasons to hate this show was completely blasted out of my mind. If anything, the show became something of a rebel by breaking stereotypes and writing outside the cliches.

I love Joan Watson on several levels as a character but also just as a concept of what I'm hoping will be a trend for TV writers. She reminds me a lot of Connie Murphy from The Dresden Files in that she manages to be a well-rounded character who happens to be female and not White, not a female, non-White person whose character is driven by stereotypes attached to her gender and race. She's never portrayed as a character so flawed that her only role is to be a punching bag for her male costars and to be sneered at by viewers nor is she the shining example of Mary Sue-ish perfection, the two extreme categories being rather popular ones many female characters fall into. In short, she's not a 2 dimensional, insultingly flat character. She's complicated. I don't always like what she does on screen, but I always like her and want to keep watching her to see how she may grow or fall.

There are fans of this show who hope for Joan and Sherlock to one day hook up. Producer Robert Doherty has stated, "I don't think we need it." I echo that sentiment and stress that not only do they not need it, I feel a romantic direction for these two would kill the show. In an age where bromance is almost an expected staple in every show, it's nice to see something different. Don't get me wrong, I love bromance. But a platonic relationship between and man and woman who are both straight is like a unicorn in TV. And Elementary does it so well that I loathe the thought of that dynamic ever turning into something so mundane as a romance.

On another level, given the history of sexualization and fetishism tagged onto Asian women in media, it really warms my heart that one half of this platonic relationship between a man and a woman is an Asian woman. A part of me feels like I'm the one living behind the times since the writers for Elementary have treated Joan's ethnicity as something that's just a detail rather than the basis of her entire character while I'm spotlighting it here. But I can't help but feel pleased that years after a film like Lost in Translation or a book like Memoirs of a Geisha, we have a female Asian character who not only isn't fetishized but in a strong, platonic relationship.

I love all the ways in which the show demonstrates the growing affection and respect Joan and Sherlock have for one another. Joan's demonstrations are more overt but even Sherlock despite the more casual barbs he throws at her on a daily basis has shown that he does care for her. The most concrete example I have is him helping her when Joan's ex, Liam ends up in jail on a hit and run. The last scene with them sitting in the rehab clinic and the conversation they have in that episodes is a nice parallel to the conversation Joan and Sherlock have at the police station in the later episode after Sherlock brings Moran in. They are both moments when one provides a silent, comforting presence to the other and it resonates all the more with me because these scenes are not precursors or indicators of burgeoning romance and all the cliched feelings attached to such things. It's about a connection that goes beyond that.

I will say that the one misstep this show has done so far is its usage of Irene Adler. I'm holding out some hope that perhaps something will come up in later episodes to rectify this. But in the case of Joan Watson, the writing has been fairly excellent.


I just pray that the writers stick with the relationship Joan and Sherlock currently have.
 
 
 
The Writer They Call Tay: Merlin: Thumbs up!awanderingbard on February 1st, 2013 05:10 pm (UTC)
I agree with everything you've said here. I also really like that their New York is one filled with a diverse cast of people. That even the guest stars and extras are multicultural, and not all Pretty White People. I also really like that Joan's heritage has never really been mentioned or dwelled on, other than a few quick photos to explain that her father is white, and that she didn't instantly become a translator for the Chinese characters on the show, or even really show any more affinity to them than anyone else. It really feels like a character written for anyone to play and that anyone just happened to be Chinese, rather than a role made for Diversity! and to fill a quota of non-white people.

formerly lifeinsomniac: JoanWatsonjoonscribble on February 3rd, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
I also really like that their New York is one filled with a diverse cast of people.

Yes! Especially since that IS New York. Three cheers for accuracy!

It really feels like a character written for anyone to play and that anyone just happened to be Chinese, rather than a role made for Diversity! and to fill a quota of non-white people.

Double yes! I love this.
aelfgyfu_mead: Joan Watsonaelfgyfu_mead on February 3rd, 2013 07:02 pm (UTC)
that she didn't instantly become a translator for the Chinese characters on the show, or even really show any more affinity to them than anyone else
Yes! And they could totally have gone that way in the episode with the gambling den, but they avoided it.
The other Weird Al: Master - Ainley - readingaeron_lanart on February 2nd, 2013 01:29 am (UTC)
I love Elementary and you clarify some of the reasons why.

I'm assuming by tonight's episode you mean the Red Team? Please tell me I wasn't the only one who cackled at a certain team members name...
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on February 3rd, 2013 12:57 am (UTC)
Please tell me I wasn't the only one who cackled at a certain team members name...

Hee hee hee!
aelfgyfu_meadaelfgyfu_mead on February 3rd, 2013 07:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, dear—I've missed something. What name?
The other Weird Alaeron_lanart on February 3rd, 2013 11:20 pm (UTC)
It might be spoilery to some.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Harold Dresden

Edited at 2013-02-03 11:24 pm (UTC)
aelfgyfu_meadaelfgyfu_mead on February 4th, 2013 12:10 am (UTC)
Ack! That's funny—I heard the last name, but I'm pretty sure I misheard the first name, because now I remember hearing that last name and thinking, "The first name should have been. . . ."

Thanks!
ralucamralucam on February 2nd, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
I love Elementary. The more I see of it, the more I like it. I agree with what you said and I hope they don't ruin it.
I hate it that they turned Irene in the romantic interest and damsel in distress, and I hate that practically every version of a Sherlock Holmes film does that, except for the Granada version.
But this Sherlock is also the most human version of him that I've seen and I love that.
And Joan is terrific, I think she's turning into my favourite Watson. I love that she's strong and smart and she helps Sherlock for real, and he obviously relies on her and appreciates her. And I agree with you, they really shouldn't turn their relation romantic. It's much better and more interesting like this.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on February 3rd, 2013 12:59 am (UTC)
And I agree with you, they really shouldn't turn their relation romantic. It's much better and more interesting like this.

I know. It's more or less unheard of that a show centers around a platonic relationship between a straight man and woman. It's much more interesting to me than your average romance.

I'm also super impressed that both actors have been able to generate that particular kind of platonic chemistry.
aelfgyfu_mead: Joan Watsonaelfgyfu_mead on February 3rd, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
Yes. I feel confident they'll be able to keep the relationship growing, but in a platonic way—I can't imagine it otherwise. I don't like this Holmes's sexual habits, but they've made them quite clear: he prefers sex without any complications like, you know, having an actual relationship.

I don't know why anyone would want them to be a couple—but then, I steer clear of the fanfic, because most of the small amount I have seen seems to be geared that way.