Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Circumstantial Homosexuality
At the Sherlock Holmes press conference at Comic-Con, I was struck by a response to a question asked of Rachel McAdams -- who plays ersatz love interest Irene Adler -- regarding how she felt about the romantic thrust of Guy Ritchie's take on the detective classic focusing on the close relationship between Holmes and Dr. Watson. Before she could respond, Robert Downey Jr. leaped in, saying, "Well she doesn't give me any! It's called circumstantial homosexuality."
The term drew a round of laughs from the room -- all-too-knowing laughs, seeing as Comic-Con is itself something of a nerd Alcatraz, where newbie Green Lanterns are regularly seen following around a more seasoned Thor on the main exhibition hall floor, one thumb hooked into his hammer-toting belt loop.
Saying it's become something of a cliché for a buddy film to feature a requisite, homoerotic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid scene, Downey delved deeper into the ethos of enduring cinematic bromances:
"It's that they almost can't stand each other but they can't stand on their own two feet without each other," he explained. "That's why we really felt [Sir Arthur Conan] Doyle was giving us the first look at what was essentially a two-hander."
He described the day he convinced costar Jude Law to come on board: "Jude is walking down the hall and he's dressed in that kind of fabulous, super-expensive under-dressed way. And we just started talking like two serious actors about what would need to happen to make this work as a piece of straight drama. And I think we just became really close really quick because we just rolled up our sleeves and started working from the jump."
So there you had it: a mutual admirers mens' club, with two protagonists who live together, bicker and finish each other's sentences, but who would surely not actually tear each other's cloaks off for a round of athletic sex after a particularly invigorating night of hunting down the Nick the Tearer, the West End's notorious prostitute-flayer.
But then comes this, from today's Page Six:
GUY Ritchie's plan to put a gay spin on the relationship of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in his new movie about the detective and his sidekick could backfire.
"We're two men who happen to be roommates, wrestle a lot and share a bed. It's bad-ass," Downey told Britain's News of the World. Added much-in-the-news Law: "Guy wanted to make this about the relationship between Watson and Holmes. They're both mean and complicated."
Michael Medved, a former Post movie critic, says Downey and Law must be joking. "There's not a seething, bubbling hunger to see straight stars impersonating homosexuals," Medved told us. "I think they're just trying to generate controversy . . . They know that making Holmes and Watson homosexual will take away two-thirds of their box office. Who is going to want to see Downey Jr. and Law make out? I don't think it would be appealing to women. Straight men don't want to see it."
Ah, Michael Medved. You can always rely on the Ned Flanders of the film criticism world to contribute something worthwhile to the Are Holmes and Watson Doing It, And If So, Who's The Top?-conversation. And indeed, News of the World did report that -- back in February of this year, when they pushed the "Sherlock and Watson as weekend antiquing, crime-solving lovers" angle, in a story titled "Queerstalker." (Excerpt: "The fictional him-vestigator is seen SHARING A BED with his dear, dear, Dr Watson and also enjoying some man-to-man wrestling with his close chum." What, no A Study in Lavender jokes?)
So why is the Post drudging up a seven-month-old quote today? And just how serious are things between Holmes and Watson? And who is the top?
For answers, we turn to Doyle himself, from the sixth chapter of The Sign of the Four:
"'You will not apply my precept,' he said, shaking his head. 'How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?'"
Elementary. Watson's the top.