Anyone who has been following me on Facebook recently has probably noticed that I’ve gotten a little obsessed with the BBC version of Sherlock. That all started when a good friend of mine insisted that I MUST watch the show. Well, she was right. It’s fantastic. It’s brilliantly written, superbly acted, and expertly filmed. But the best thing about the show is the complex and touching relationship between Holmes and Watson as played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
So of course I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I stumbled across a whole load of Holmes/Watson anime-style porn and a world of Holmes/Watson ‘shippers.
I don’t get it. I’ve seen ‘ships like this pop up over other odd combinations of characters in the past (Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy come to mind), and usually I can just shrug it off as not to my taste. But to those people who are all-fired determined to ‘ship Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s Holmes and Watson (or even Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law’s Holmes and Watson), I say wtf? Yes, they have an amazing relationship, yes, they depend on each other for emotional support beyond the usual, but can’t they just be friends?
This relentless push towards creating a sexual relationship out of friendship instead of just letting people be friends is, in my humble opinion, tasteless at best and damaging at worst. And I say this as someone who is considerably liberal on gender issues and marriage equality. If two guys (or two girls) are going to be in love, that’s fantastic. But sometimes friendship is more important than knocking boots. Much more important.
I wonder if the sexual revolution is devaluing friendship. Especially for men. It’s a lot easier for girls to be BFFs and always has been. Men, on the other hand, have far more treacherous waters to swim when it comes to the varying degrees of their relationships with others. My personal feeling is that it’s so much harder for society to accept two men as deeply-committed friends without any sort of sexual connotation put on them. It’s almost as hard for two guys to be friends these days as it is for a guy and a girl to be friends without any further implications. It’s like the curtain of BRO is an iron one. That’s just sad.
It wasn’t always like this. In fact, for a huge part of history it wasn’t. Deep male friendship was taken for granted as normal, healthy, and pivotal to emotional wellbeing in the Victorian age, for example—the era in which the original Sherlock Holmes stories were written. Back then, there was nothing remotely odd about two men renting rooms together to share expenses, or just for companionship (and crime-solving). I plan to write more about this for my Monday History post, but actually, in the Victorian era, male friendships were an integral part of society and celebrated as the glue that kept civilization together.
With no sexual implications at all.
I feel like that has changed in our 21st century world. In fact, I feel like the more we consider ourselves sexually liberated and the more permissive we get about relationships, the more we put pressure on people to take relationships to extremes that they were never meant to be taken to. Can’t we just be friends? Can’t closeness exist on a level that does not end up in bed?
It seems to me that the men I observe in my everyday world have a great deal of respect and care for each other, but they’re forced to put on a macho façade to keep others from getting the proverbial wrong idea. The parlance that I hear the guys in my office use with each other borders on absurd, as far as I’m concerned. They all call each other “buddy” and “champ” and “sport”. Um, these are things that you call a child or a dog, not a full-grown man? But that’s the point. Is the only way guys can keep anyone from getting the wrong idea to resort to prepubescent verbiage?
Wouldn’t it be nice if guys could interact with each other on a closer level—like they did in the 19th century—without fear of anyone drawing anime porn starring them? That’s why I think both the Sherlock tv show and movies are fantastic examples of male bonding. Star Trek too. (Let’s not forget my other longtime/renewed obsession) Kirk and Spock had a fantastic, mature working relationship, but they also depended on each other for emotional support. Were people drawing Kirk/Spock porn or writing erotic fanfic about them in the 60s? Not that I know of. They were just friends.
I hope that the current spate of ‘shipping doesn’t end up doing more harm than good to the concept of male friendship in the 21st century. I have to admit that in an interview I recently watched with Martin Freeman, when the chat show host showed him Sherlock/Watson porn with a smirk, even though he was a good sport about it, Mr. Freeman did not look amused. Why should he be? How is he going to explain those images to his young children when (and we all know it won’t be if) they come across them? How will he then go on to explain that it’s okay to just be friends?
I’m all for a loosening of the draconian morals that have kept people in an unhealthy psychological servitude for decades, but I think we’ve gone too far. I worry that we’re making every relationship a potentially sexual one. I mean, even the harmless term “bromance” has romantic implications. Friendships are perhaps the most important relationships we have. Let’s keep them platonic and encourage friendship for friendship’s sake to grow.