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.


  • np says:

    Of course Watson's the top.

  • Jamie says:

    "Who is going to want to see Downey Jr. and Law make out?" What kind of a question is that? Me! I would!

  • Lowbrow says:

    “Queerstalker.” -Now there's a story I can really sink my teeth into.

  • Michael Medved's homo-anxiety is a joke. Holmes and Watson are poofs. End off. What's with this fear of seeing two guys together? I mean, this attitude in a country that has the biggest porn-industry, somehow baffles me. And, for two women it is ok to, at any a given time, do some pretend-lesbianism for the guys... (Duh... lesbians would NEVER be interested in guys... Ever thought about THAT!?) So, it's a bit hypocritical to selectively allow, encourage or demand a ban on same-sex exposure in the media.
    Anyway... had a close look at Michael Medved lately? Doesn't he look like just a tad an unsuccessful clapped-out leather-queen, what with his walrus-moustache and all that?
    Give it up, babe... even Freddy Mercury doesn't sport that naff dated look anymore. Well... there still is fellow sister Tom Selleck. Now what does THAT say about your relevance?
    Anyway... do you rmaths... women make up over 50% percent of the total global polulation... add to that the 5% male population which is gay, you come up with a potential viewers (3 Billion, 150 Million)... which is nothing to be sniffed at, me thinketh, and, it far outweighs the amount of straight men who do NOT have an interest at all... Ooops... that is, minus yet all the bisexual men;-) and all the cool, well-adjusted straight men who do not have any problems at all with something as trivial as two men showing any affection. And that leaves you "threatened" straigh guys, a rather 'small" potential audience.

  • Keiko says:

    Seeing two guys make out is the only reason I'd see that movie. Otherwise I'm waiting for the SBC/Will Ferrell version. (That's still being made, right?)

  • sweetbiscuit says:

    “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...."
    Yeah, yeah, straight drama, sure, then he took off his shirt real slow-like, right? Then what happened? Hang on, let me put my drink down....

  • Malone says:

    Michael Medved is not thinking outside the box at all. Women would love to see a gay relationship between these two characters and, if not gay, then a very close living together, finishing each others' sentences relationship. I've been a Holmes and Watson fan for many years and I've always felt the homo-erotic subtext, even as a young teenager. It's there. It should be portrayed as such in the movie.

  • bren says:

    ditto!! I first read the Holmes stories in grade school, and was completely convinced Holmes and Watson were actually married, and Watson's wives were him cheating on Holmes. Forty years later, it still reads that way, and I'm perfectly fine with it. As for going to the movie to see Downey and Law make out... I'd be first in line. It would be nice to see a love story with guys where they both survive at the end.

  • Mo says:

    What is it with Hollywood? Why does every movie have to have some reference to homosexuality?

  • Katie says:

    What does he mean, no women would go see it??? I can name fifteen off the top of my head, and I know we'd all go see it together. Watson would make a good top. Good job, Watson. ;P

  • AK says:

    What is it with Hollywood? Why does every movie have to have some reference to heterosexuality?

  • truebluesky says:

    i have to say that if they was some holmes watson action going on in this movie i would of seen it three times instead of my once.

  • MakeMineADouble says:

    I just saw this movie this evening, and I had to get home to see if other viewers were picking up the homoerotic subtext. I knew I wasn't imagining it.
    'Who is going to want to see Downey Jr. and Law make out? I don’t think it would be appealing to women.' I actually laughed when I read that. I guarantee you that Michael Medved would fall off his perch if he realised how many women really like the idea of watching two good-looking men in a physical/sexual relationship (it's erotic; much like a man finds a female/female relationship erotic)...and I very much would like to be there when he does. Slash fanfiction is either too far under his ultra-conservative nose to register, or he has no idea what a high percentage of women write slash (me being one of them).
    Mr Medved wascorrect on one point: Straight men don't want to see it. At least the straight men who feel threatened or emasculated when watching a male/male relationship (and, let's face it, that's the majority. Gay and bisexual males: you're the exceptions, darlings). I'm looking forward to a sequel.

  • Zoe says:

    Just want to say I'm loving all the slash writers/readers/lovers who are coming out of the woodwork after reading this quote. Personally I literally laughed when I read it- RDJ and Jude Law making out?! Yeh, really unappealling...;-P someone should send this guy a link to one of the THOUSANDS of slashy lj comms 😛
    In fact the only bad thing about this subtext, is that I have found yet ANOTHER fandom, which I so don't have the time for right now ¬_¬ damn you Guy Ritchie! ^_^

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