So Lucy Liu will be playing Watson in a new Holmes show. I thought I had fairly balanced mixed feelings about this, but after thinking about it for several days it turns out I have mostly negative feelings with one smaller positive one tacked on.
Everyone’s making a big deal about how this is the first time Watson’s ever been written as female, and it seems like they all think this is terribly ~edgy~, but honestly I think this is actually worse than leaving them both male. Holmes’ trusty sidekick, who lacks his nigh-superhuman abilities and is really only there to provide the narration and play straight-man, and who has not infrequently been written as a bumbling idiot, can totally be female. But Holmes himself? Never. Sorry, ladies, Watson is the glass ceiling.
And I’m not saying that Watson isn’t or can’t be a badass; but he’s specifically written as a secondary and supporting role to Holmes, essentially a setting for Holmes’ attributes and, honestly, not terribly important for the sake of his own. He may not be a lesser person than Holmes, but in a literary sense he’s designed to be a lesser character. He’s literarily subservient. Which is totally fine… until you shove a member of a marginalized group into that role. How is it in any way edgy to say, “Oh, we’ve taken the character whose attributes and accomplishments are always totally overshadowed by a superior’s, who exists to provide a sort of domestic standard, social support, praise, and admiration for that same superior, and made it a woman?”
I guess I’ll have to wait and see how they’ve written this Watson and the interaction with Holmes, but I can’t foresee this turning out terribly well.
Also, if any type of romance — or even overt romantic tension — exists between Holmes and female Watson, I may go postal on someone. Oh, yeah, there’s easily-visible romantic subtext between these two male characters in canon (regardless of the lack of overt confirmation), but almost no version of the story will ever touch on that until it’s been properly heterosexualized. “OK, guys, Watson’s a girl now; we can finally have some romance here.”
On the other hand — and here’s my one positive thought — if there’s no romance or romantic tension between them, we’ll have a chance at that rarest of all television unicorns, the male-female friendship. This thought quickly turns negative, however, since such a friendship means a lot less if the man in the equation is portrayed as asexual, because then there’s the implication that he would still want to get in her pants (and therefore be incapable of a platonic relationship with her) if he weren’t broken.
And all issues of isms and phobias aside… another modernization of Sherlock Holmes? When Sherlock isn’t even finished yet? Apart from that seeming really silly, I’m getting a little sick of Sherlock Holmes. Couldn’t they have waited ten years? I guess one strikes while the iron is hot, but I don’t know that the iron of such an iconic character ever really cools.
I’m irritated about this. I’m afraid I haven’t been entirely articulate as to why, but there it is.