Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Last week I reviewed the latest episode of the second series of Sherlock. This week, rather than speak about the second episode (or, let's face it, TV movie), I thought I'd talk a bit about the man himself. Specifically, whether or not he is, in fact, on the autism spectrum.
Now, the topic has been debated quite a bit through the years. Even though Sherlock is the most frequently portrayed character in all of fiction, most of his incarnations demonstrate qualities that can be linked to Asperger's. (as an aside, why did this man think it was a good idea to link his name to a condition? Did he not realize how silly his name sounded in English?! It's not nearly as bad as Richard Woodcock and Bonner Johnson lending their last names to a cognitive test. Am I really NOT supposed to laugh when discussing the Penis-Penis test?!)
In the most recent episode, in fact, John Watson, a doctor, mind you, refers to Sherlock as having Asperger's syndrome. It's an off-the-cuff reference, and it is played for laughs, but really, when one sits down to analyze Sherlock, his traits line up pretty closely with the condition. He is obsessively knowledgeable about certain very specific sets of facts, he is musically gifted, highly intelligent, and has trouble making social connections with others, aside from Watson. Despite his perfect cheekbones, he is thought of as a "virgin" by his enemies (at least in the modern BBC version of the character).
Now, some would say that Arthur Conan Doyle based Holmes off of himself, so was the author the one with Asperger's? And, more importantly, is it appropriate to retroactively psychoanalyze someone for a condition that was not named until decades later? Can we even analyze him, considering he was a fictional character? Well, isn't that what they trained us to do in lit. class?
In the end, I suppose it doesn't really matter. It's chic these days to go back and label, say, Lincoln as bipolar, or Holmes as autistic. It doesn't change our perception of them, but perhaps it can change our perspective on others. I had a lot of autistic students when I was a middle school teacher, and they had it tough. Students, teachers and even their parents had a tough time relating to them on a daily basis. They were seen as... different (though, in Middle School, aren't we all?) But everyone loves Holmes. He is smart and effective, heroic and, dare I say, sexy? I could think of much worse poster children for autism (my ex-wife, the pediatrician, always thought I was on the spectrum, and, I can't say for sure if I am, but I'd be thrilled to be in the company of Sherlock. After all, chicks dig him). But Watson makes a joke about it and, if we are going to see Holmes in this light, it's probably time to look at these conditions objectively, to learn what people with Asperger's are all about, to separate fact from fiction. To observe and deduce, as Sherlock would say.
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