George R.R. Martin can’t tweet because he’s killed off all 140 characters
By now, most of the Elementary fandom has probably already seen or been spoiled for the season finale double-whammy that was “The Woman/Heroine”. But just in case someone hasn’t, abandon ship now if you want to remain unspoiled, because this bit of rambling meta is going to lay out just how cleverly Elementary updated and made the one woman who bested Sherlock Holmes their own.
Short version: Warning, here there be spoilers.
So, just a quick refresher: In the original ACD canon, Irene Adler appears in one story, A “Scandal in Bohemia,” and is mentioned in others, as the woman who bested Sherlock Holmes and ran off to her own life and is never seen again. From Dr. Watson’s perspective, Holmes did not love Irene Adler, but that he did feel an immense respect for her.
In many of the adaptations since the original story was published, the role of Irene Adler as The Woman has been expanded, usually to that of criminal, and usually as a love interest for Holmes.
And for a while, it appeared Elementary not only went down the same path, but that she was also dead (which again, a nice nod to the original canon and ACD’s complete inability to remain internally consistent but that’s another point altogether), leading to cries of her being “fridged for Sherlock’s manpain”.
But lo and behold, not only do we find out in the season finale that Irene Adler is still alive, but that she isn’t in fact Irene Adler at all, but Moriarty herself. And this is a twist that, as far as I know, has not been played with in modern Holmes adaptations (though if it has happened in pastiches, someone please tell me).
And why not? It’s brilliant.
On Irene Adler as the Holmsian Love Interest… again.
One of the most problematic and most prevalent themes of the Adler-as-Love-Interest tropes is how despite she being the woman who beat him, that Holmes eventually returns to save her. The idea that Holmes has feelings for Adler because she’s beaten him is, I think, an acceptable read of canon. It’s clear that he has some strong regard for her, and whether it’s taking into account Watson as unreliable narrator or adaptation degeneration, the idea that Holmes felt something for Irene Norton nee Adler does not seem too much of a stretch.
(Why it always has to be love, well that’s another discussion entirely on the changing views of rationalism and love, one I’m nowhere near qualified to really expound on)
But the fact is that the return is always to the trope that Irene Adler, having beaten Sherlock Holmes, requires saving by him. And Elementary sidesteps this beautifully by having Irene Adler succeed in fooling Sherlock Holmes, and going on her merry way.
And this is the part where the idea gets a little complicated. Because by the end of the episode we realize Irene is and always has been Moriarty. So does Adler really beat Holmes? Or is it Moriarty who does. What does that mean for the Adler/Holmes narrative in the scope of A Scandal in Bohemia?
Trying to answer that question is where things get very interesting for me, and really brings to light for me how extremely clever the Elementary writers were. I think it’s very useful to distinguish between Moriarty and Irene Adler despite them being the same person, because the show itself takes such pains to set them apart. And for a good reason.
Things to note about Elementary’s Irene Adler: Much the same as “A Scandal In Bohemia“‘s Adler, she is content to have one encounter with Holmes and be gone on her merry way. Moriarty’s motivations for experimenting with Holmes, for observing him, are related to this fact, but the key is that the core of Irene Adler, the one who encounters Holmes, impresses him with her intellect (and in this case, intellect AND appreciation for art preservation), and then walks away from him with exactly what she wants, remains the same.
It gets a little more complicated, when we remember that Adler is, in fact, a construct of Moriarty’s. And how much could Moriarty be willing to walk away if the entire point of the exercise is to observe Holmes in his natural habitat?
But that too, is made clear in Moriarty’s reveal. Moriarty-as-Adler is still perfectly willing, perfectly capable of walking away from Holmes. Moriarty-as-Adler still wins by successfully fooling Holmes by faking her death.
It is Holmes who falls, who is deeply affected and deeply moved by his meeting with Adler. In the story, that deeply moved leads him to stop underestimating women, to give her the title of The Woman, the one that eclipses and predominates the entirety of her sex; in Elementary, Holmes ends up with a heroin addiction. But in both he is still deeply moved by having met her.
And Moriarty-as-Adler doesn’t need rescuing by Holmes. She isn’t saved, she doesn’t need to be. She walks away from Holmes with her agency and the very core of her being firmly intact.
Which is far truer to the text than would initially meets the eye with the red herrings of Dead Girlfriend and Bohemian Painter and The One that Got Away that had been thrown our way.
Some people might consider it a bit of erasure, for Irene Adler as a character to be revealed as Moriarty in disguise, I actually really like the twist, for a simple reason:
Irene Adler was The Woman to Sherlock Holmes, the one woman who eclipsed and predominated the whole of her sex, the only one to gain the honourific of The Woman from Sherlock Holmes.
And Irene Adler doesn’t exist. Irene Adler as The Woman is a construct, a fantasy, and Elementary very simply puts that out there. That the person Holmes considered The Woman, the single one, the woman who is representative of women. That person doesn’t exist. No perfect woman exists. Not for Sherlock Holmes, not for any one.
When stripped of artifice and the Sherlockian trappings of intelligence and meetings of the mind, the courtship of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, and the revelation of Moriarty-as-Adler, speaks to something incredibly basic:
Boy meets girl. Boy loves girl. Girl turns out to be not as perfect as boy thinks. Boy is distraught. Boy (with help of Friend) Gets Over It.
It’s simple and it’s powerful and it is poignant. And it flies in the face of every single romantic comedy in the media. By breaking Irene Adler down into a fabrication, Elementary shows us how hollow the idea of The Woman, The Man, The Perfect Ideal of Your Choice, is.
And, you know what, that’s awesome.
On Irene Adler Being Beaten By Sherlock Holmes… Again
Some people have said that by making Moriarty Irene, that it again takes away Irene’s agency that she is not the woman who beat Sherlock Holmes, but the woman beaten by Sherlock Holmes. And once again, this is the part where putting a distinction between Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes is helpful. Irene Adler is a construct of Moriarty’s, and it was Moriarty who was defeated.
But not by Sherlock.
Moriarty was beaten by Joan Watson.
Let’s repeat that. Sherlock’s overdose was a ruse. Sherlock being in the hospital was bait for Moriarty, and it was Joan Watson who beat Moriarty, who diagnosed Moriarty and beat her.
Joan was right. Moriarty remains (as both herself and in the Irene Adler guise) the woman who beat Sherlock Holmes. And who in turn was beaten by another woman, by Joan Watson.
How is that not absolutely beautiful and a clever way of keeping the core of what made Irene Adler so deserving of respect for Holmes while still remaining true to the Moriarty narrative of Moriarty being beaten. And in this case, even as Moriarty loses (in this case to Joan), Holmes loses too. Instead of losing his life (as the original intent of ACD’s Final Problem), Holmes loses a bit of his own history, a part of himself that was both painful and formative and something that was good that he obviously treasured.
But having addressed “The Final Problem,” let’s circle back to “A Scandal in Bohemia.” Holmes loses to Adler in “Scandal” because he underestimates her because she’s a woman, because he found himself believing the cultural myth of that period, that woman are inherently inferior to men, that they can’t be as clever. And he loses, to his detriment.
On Elementary, it’s not Holmes’ misogyny and buying into the cultural myth that is his downfall. This time it’s Moriarty’s. Moriarty buys into our cultural myth. Moriarty is a woman, Moriarty is the one who should know better than Holmes that women are a force to be reckoned with. And yet Moriarty buys into internalized misogyny and underestimates Joan Watson.
Think about it for a minute. Internalized misogyny is not being perpetuated by the hero who is then rewarded. Internalized misogyny is being practiced and perpetuated by the antagonist and her downfall is directly related to her internalized misogyny. Her dismissal of other women, as seeing them as competition, mascot, as lesser directly relates to her losing.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
In the current media landscape, we are still regularly reinforced by the idea that women should be seen as competition, where we all buy into (to varying degrees) a social expectation that women are lesser desirable, are expected to be less interesting, less well written then men. We all buy into that to varying degrees. But suddenly we have Elementary, we have a show that not only updated a classic canon to the modern age by the inclusion of peoples of colour, but one that proceeds to update the myths and shatter the idea of people as paragons of their gender, that manages to make internalized misogyny a trait that doesn’t just exist but is actively negative.
How cool is that?
Now, if only we can stop with the Microsoft product placements.
…[some] may not remember what made Iran-Contra such an extraordinary scandal. The Reagan administration “raised money privately” by selling weapons to a sworn enemy of the United States. Why? Because it wanted to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua. And when I say “illegal war,” I mean that quite literally—Congress told the Reagan administration, in no uncertain terms, that Reagan could not send money to the Contras. Period. The Reagan administration, unrestrained by laws and the Constitution, did so anyway, and much of the president’s national security team ended up under indictment.
Reagan knew everything. However, I bet this Time magazine piece doesn’t get into the juiciest part of Iran-Contra, which is that in the 1980s the CIA put into operation a crack cocaine pipeline to import narcotics from Central and South America and distribute it in US inner cities. This is not a “conspiracy theory”, this is a documented conspiracy, most rigorously researched and reported by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Gary Webb, whose series in the San Jose Mercury News and subsequent book “Dark Alliance” literally got him killed. To me, that’s the story of Iran-Contra: not that Reagan sold weapons to Iran, but that the US government imported and sold crack to Black America, as part of an arms and drugs trade which funded war in the Third World and which devastated lives and filled prisons in the USA.
the disparity of internet attention between shitty comments made by a&f’s ceo and the garment factory disaster in bangladesh. human deaths in the context of extreme exploitation - less shocking, less rousing.
thank you thank you thank you for saying this. i’ve been feeling like an angry curmudgeon about this over the past week, yelling at my computer screen. here’s an angry (franglais) comment i left on a friend’s post about the “shocking” statement made by the company’s ceo, which is being covered around the world:
FYI Je m’excuse mais je trouve ça surprenant que les gens ne savent pas déjà a quelle point cette companie n’aime rien qui n’est pas blanc, skinny, hétéro, préférablement “Homme.” En plus, they have sold awfully sexist racist t-shirts (whose slurs I won’t repeat) for decades, and issued unapologetic press releases in response to organizations that call them out for it. (2005) They have produced and sold shirts for girls (not women, girls) with slogans like “Who needs brains when you have these?” referring to breasts they do not yet even have. They have had numerous successful lawsuits (2003) proving everything from the fact that they only hired men for managing positions, and discriminated against African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and women at nearly every level of their hiring practices. And what a surprise, they discriminate against people with disabilities as well (2009). Those are just SOME of the reasons why I don’t understand how people still shop there. (Oh yeah, and they even sued Beyoncé if that’s not enough)
other facts that have boggled my mind:
- the statement by a&f’s ceo that has gotten people so up in arms in early may, 2013? was made in 2006.
- people are talking about this ad nauseum in canada/quebec. there are no abercrombie & fitch stores IN THIS ENTIRE PROVINCE.
- the internet’s response? let’s put the clothes on the least cool people we can think of… homeless people! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU.
i seriously wonder, are we at a point where we really believe “plus-size” clothing is/should be accessible to everyone, by every brand, that a statement like his - which if you actually read it, is more about “cool” kids/class privilege than it is necessarily about shaming fat people - is beyond shocking and merits this much outcry? where was your outcry when the company was using racist hiring practices? selling racist and sexist products? why do you give a shit what some old rich white guy says about your body? and from where i stand, why the fuck do you care about a company that doesn’t even sell shit where you live?
why does it get so much traction when just last month, 1,127 workers die (and countless others seriously injured) in a garment factory collapse? when nearly every major brand, sold in every part of the world, uses garment labour from that part of the world?
it simply reminds me of flavia dozan’s words:
“Here’s the problem I have with this neoliberal feminism: they have traded an in depth geopolitical and social analysis involving gender and the position of women in the West in relation to women everywhere else for the promotion of consumer empowerment dressed up as “choice” and career advancement. “Here, improve your chances at success by wearing the garments of your choice!” or “Here, see the latest fashion trends and pretty outfits! Wear this to succeed in your office job”, promoting this aspirational, mind numbingly decontextualized consumerism. The role models of this neoliberalism parading their manuals to better lean in and “having it all” chants as the only kind of gender analysis we are afforded. As women, we should aspire to rule the corporations that caused this death toll; as consumers, we should aspire to close the wage gap that prevents us from buying more “stuff”, with nary a word about how that “stuff” is produced, by whom and under which conditions. And when faced with over a thousand deaths, this neoliberal feminism will induce us to some form of rightful indignation (OMG all these people died! OMG this is terrible! ad infinitum) while obscuring the root causes of this death toll.”
is it easier for people to vilify a brand that doesn’t even market their clothing to you than it is to step back and see the impact of a globalized market? to look at the textile factories that closed down in the 80s and 90s as brands decided paying their workers the least amount of money possible for their work led to the creation of this system? that your demand for the most amount of clothing for the least amount of money may have led to this system?
get your fucking priorities straight.
y’all ever see this? the CEO of nestle says that water should not be considered a human right and that it should be privatized.
Effects Of Thinking White People Are “All Like That”:
- Literally nothing other than white people having their feelings hurt on the internet
- I’m not joking there is no real world consequence of this
Effects Of Thinking People of Color Are “All Like That”:
- Saudi student is literally surrounded by FBI for cooking rice under terrorist suspicions
- White people literally can not associate positive words with Black faces because of racism
- More white people use drugs but Black people are sent to jail for drugs at 10 times the rate that white people are
- Black people who “sound Black” earn less money than those who don’t because of associations with stereotypes. Black people who “sound Black” are less likely to get called back for jobs
- Black children grow up literally associating being Black with being bad and ugly
- White people when tested shot more unarmed Black subjects than armed and unarmed white subjects
- Hate crimes increase after Boston tragedy
- Moroccan High School Student is linked to Boston tragedy for being Brown
- Bangladeshi man is beaten by people out of racism
- NYPD Commissioner wants Black and Latino men to fear him after the police targeted literally 90 percent Black and Latino men in New York and humiliating them by frisking them in public under the assumption that they had weapons. Studies found that white men were the ones who overwhelmingly had weapons while Black and Latino men didn’t
- White people blaming and convicting Black men for crimes they never committed and everyone believing them because of racism
- Stop and Frisk, ruled unconstitutional was practiced by New York police disproportionately and unfairly affecting 90% Black and Latino men because of racism
- Universities throwing racist ‘Fiesta Party’ homogenizing culture with extreme racism
- Here are some of the numbers on hate crimes against People of Color and btw, Neo Naziism is increasing!
- Every 28 Hours an African American is Extrajudicially Murdered in the U.S.
- Black people 3 times more likely to be arrested for Marijuana
- Black people receive much harsher sentencing than white people for the same crimes do I need to go on?
But yeah, white people’s feelings :*(
I actually changed my mind, I’m adding more
- Deaf Black man is stabbed out of racism when his sign language is mistaken for a GANG SIGN
- Anti-Islam posters run free on the train to reinforce racism anti-Islamic sentiments and Islamaphobia
- Oops! Chicago police raids the wrong house, holds an 11 month old at gunpoint to raise their hand, kills their dog all because of racism and assuming it was a crackhouse! Oopsies
- Let’s take it overseas! Black people in England and Wales are 7 times more likely to be stopped by police than white people. Asian people are twice as likely
- People assuming Native american baby names are actually Native and have any meaning to any ethnic group when they don’t
- Here’s a whole collection of people saying racist stereotyping homogenizing disgusting stuff about Natives
- People protesting (Idle No More) defending Native people’s humanity are attacked with violence
- White kids think it’s totally okay and normal to photograph themselves lynching a Black baby doll like an effigy
- Member of the most glorified band in the world Paul McCartney made a racist white supremacist song called ‘No Pakistanis’ and everyone still glorifies him as a good person
- Racism in actual political campaign in Massachusetts against a Native runner portraying her name and image in a racist stereotypical inappropriate manner
- Indian Sikh school students protest for students who are banned from wearing their turbans in public schools in France
- Here’s a graph of the statistic that approx every 28 hours an African American is extrajudicially executed in the US
- NYPD profiling and targeting LGBT*Q People of Color
- Black students (especially boys and children with disabilities) face more and harsher punishments in public schools and are being pushed out of schools into the criminal justice system.
- Black male incarceration has jumped 500% from 1986 to 2004
- Albany police: SWAT literally uses a poor Black neighborhood to train in because they say it’s ‘realistic’
- The audio recording from a young man of color of a NYPD stop and frisking him based solely how he looks calling him a “FUCKING MUTT”
- Incarceration rates by ethnicity
- All of this fucking cultural appropriation
Angelina Jolie announces a double mastectomy to save her life, people get fucking pissed and act like she’s lost everything that’s made her worthwhile in the first place, AND YOU WONDER WHY I FUCKING HATE THE “SAVE THE BOOBIES” TROPE.
BECAUSE NO ONE ACTUALLY GIVES A FUCK ABOUT THE WOMAN’S LIFE. WOMEN JUST HAPPEN TO BE ATTACHED TO A PAIR OF BREASTS. WOMEN AREN’T WORTH SAVING—BUT YOU BET YOUR ASS THE PUBLIC WILL BE IN A RIOT IF A GOOD PAIR OF TITS IS IN DANGER.
I’m not angry or upset about anything in particular at the moment, but I thought I’d take a little time to write something out that had been bugging me about allies. It’s certainly not all-encompassing or totally comprehensive, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about in terms of being a good ally and a good neighbor, especially here on Tumblr.
Before you step in to help us out, I’d just like to clarify a couple things.
You and I, we may have taken the same seminars and maybe even read the same Audre Lorde excerpts or Ronald Takaki books, but know this: we learned very different things in very different ways
For students of color, for gay students, for trans* students, for the children of immigrants and refugees, these classes aren’t always about learning new concepts when it pertains to us. It’s more about learning the names of things we already knew fairly intimately. Do you understand that? You learned it another way. You went in, you got this set of key words and a list of definitions. Your learning was, in all likelihood, “Here is this word. This is what this word means.”
For you, it was “Xenophobia: a strong fear or dislike of people from other countries.”
For us, it was “Xenophobia: the time that boy in my kindergarten class spat on me because I couldn’t speak English yet. Or when I saw that clerk yell at my mom in the grocery store because her English wasn’t clear enough. Or when USCIS had us confirm our American citizenship with the same set of papers seven times over the course of sixteen years because they wanted to confirm that we were, in fact, actual American citizens.”
For you, it was, “Racism: unfair treatment of people who belong to another race; violent behavior towards them.”
For us, it was, “Racism: that one time I saw that manager tell that sales girl to follow my dad around at Kohl’s. Or that one time my neighbor’s kid got shot by the police and they tried to cover it up by convincing everyone he was in a gang because he was Hmong, but we knew he wasn’t. Or that one time my dad told me I shouldn’t rollerblade to the library because I’m not white and it’s not safe for me.”
For you, it was, “Homophobia: a strong dislike or fear of homosexual people.”
For us, it was, “Homophobia: that time in the sixth grade when Ryan shoved me against a glass door and banged my face in it while yelling, ‘faggot!’ at me until the teacher stopped him. Or when my Catholic high school’s president told me that, though he loved me as a child of God, he still believed I was sinful when I suggested that we start a GSA.”
For you, it was: “Classism: prejudice or discrimination based on social class.”
For us, it was: “Classism: that one time when my best friend came over to hang out in high school and her parents didn’t want her to come over again because they didn’t like our neighborhood. Or that one time when my friends had no idea what food stamps looked like and I was too embarrassed to explain what they were.”
So while you were learning that these academically-framed phenomena were real problems, we were just getting little figurative nametags for awful things that we already knew. Your weekly vocabulary list was, to us, just a hollow shadow of our lived experiences.
So my point is this:
If you didn’t live an experience, then step aside. Because we knew this stuff before our professors told us what to call it. We learned it from the bottom up, you learned it from the top down, and that’s not even a metaphor.
When you step out of class, you get to be like, “Oh, awesome. I am learning how to be a good ally and a better human being. This will help me.” For us, it’s more like, “Ah, so that’s what they’re calling it nowadays. When exactly did they say change was going to come for us?”
So in practice, here’s what all this theory looks like: you don’t always have to speak. I mean, certainly, you should totally call someone out on their oppressive bullshit. But if you identify as male, you don’t get to tell people what is best for women as though you have that authority. If you’re white, you shouldn’t be trying to “uplift” people of color by the grace of your intellect or your words. Nobody’s looking to be ‘rescued’ or ‘pulled up from out of their unfortunate circumstances’ as you may be tempted to believe.
All anybody’s looking for in an ally is someone who knows that “empowerment” means taking a step aside in a place where you know you have privilege. And if it is, for example, a PoC-to-PoC conversation, a woman-to-woman conversation, a queer-to-queer conversation, etc. about this stuff, and that isn’t who you are, you don’t need to be chiming in.
Just take our word for it, let us talk, and let us vent. We’d like you to give us room, and if you have to be helpful, then help make room for us by giving up some of your proverbial social girth.
Because the bottom line is that our academia has made a commodity of our lived experiences as teaching moments for you. And if you think your academic knowledge is more valid than our lived experiences, then you’re definitely not part of the solution.
the thing with reddit is
yeah you can avoid the disgusting and awful subreddits if you want to and yeah there are some subreddits that are really cool
but any website that doesn’t have some kind of strict rule against, uh, i dunno, child pornography/sharing of rape stories/laughing about abusing people/gore is kind of a fucking gross website
it’s not just an issue of some jerks on a silly website, it’s an issue of literal predators and rapists and criminals using certain subreddits to vent their sick thoughts and this is not only allowed but celebrated in those communities
and that’s not okay
and the site administrators have actively worked to shelter and protect the abusers and child pornographers
The first immigrants to Europe arrived thousands of years ago from central Asia. Most pre-contact Europeans lived together in small villages. Because the continent was very crowded, their lives were ruled by strict hierarchies within the family and outside it to control resources. Europe was highly multi-ethnic, and most tribes were ruled by hereditary leaders who commanded the majority “commoners.” These groups were engaged in near constant warfare.
Pre-contact Europeans wore clothing made of natural materials such as animal skin and plant and animal-based textiles. Women wore long dresses and covered their hair, and men wore tunics and leggings. Both men and women liked to wear jewelry made from precious stones and metals as a sign of status. Before contact, Europeans had very poor diets. Most people were farmers and grew wheat and vegetables and raised cows and sheep to eat. They rarely washed themselves, and had many diseases because they often let their animals live with them. Religion infused every part of Europeans’ lives.
Europeans believed in one supreme deity, a father figure, who they believed was made of three parts, and they particularly worshiped the deity’s son. They claimed that their god had given humans domination over the earth. They built elaborate temples to him and performed ceremonies in which they ate crackers and drank wine and believed it was the body and blood of their god, who would provide them with entrance into a wondrous afterlife called heaven when they died. Many wars were fought over disagreements about the details of this religion, each group believing their interpretation was the right one that should be spread across the land.
Now imagine that is part of a textbook that has entire chapters on the Mississippian polities of the 1200s and a detailed account of the diplomatic situation of the southeastern provinces in the 1400s and 1500s, an enormous section that goes through the history of the rise of the Triple Alliance in Mexico and goes through the rule of each tlatoani and their policies, the heritage of Teotihuacan and its legacy in later Mesoamerican politics, elaborate descriptions of the trade routes that connected and drove various nations in North America. Long explanations of the rise of various religious movements such as the calumet ceremony and Midewiwin, and how they affected political agendas and artistic trends. Pages and pages and pages going through the past thousand years of American history century by century.
And these three paragraphs are the only mention of European history before the year 1500.