The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Upgrading a Classic: The Brilliance of BBC's "Sherlock"

So, I realize that my last post was of me reviewing something that I thought you, the lovely readers, should know about.  Now, I don't want to get into a pattern here and suddenly become the "pop culture" critic on this blog (though I regret nothing) but I really, really, REALLY want to try and influence you all into consuming another bit of exceptional entertainment that I have pretty much become obsessed with myself.  In the last few years, BBC has created and released a show that quickly became more popular that the creators had probably dared to hope it would.  Sherlock is a modern-day adaptation of the classic tales of Sherlock Holmes (CBS's Elementary has a similar concept, but this came first).  This show is BRILLIANT!  A few of you may have heard of it already, or seen the seasons for sale at any number of DVD retailers, but if you didn't give it much notice and haven't seen it yet, let me tell you why watching this program is a good life choice.  My goal is to spread the Sherlock infection one viewer at a time (and the power of the blog makes this process much easier).

It makes me want to go and solve crimes.
There have been many adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories over the years (I am also a huge fan of the movies staring Robert Downey Jr.) but this series is unique because it brings the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson into the here and now while staying true to the original characters and stories.  I had never read the stories before watching this show, but I was curious to see how faithful it was to the original tales.  Now, I've only recently started reading the books and short stories that immortalized the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but I am extremely impressed by how loyal Sherlock is to them so far.  Obviously, not everything is exactly the same as the books (Victorian norms and ideals don't translate well into the modern-world...we have penicillin and women can wear pants).  Things had to be shifted and changed in order for the stories to be believable, with a little bit of creative interpretation here and there.  However, it is amazing just how flawlessly this is done and how well it works.  The show is an exciting combination of thorough, well-formed plotlines, deeply developed characters, creative camera-work and effects, all sprinkled with well-placed humor and action, and of course a plethora of mind-boggling mysteries.

Just a little preview for your viewing pleasure.

Sherlock was created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, who are both apparently diehard fans of Doyle's stories, which accounts for the meticulous detail that is put into the show.  Gatiss also stars in the series as Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, whose influence within the British government is more widespread than he might let on.  So far, the show consists of two seasons, with three episodes each (though the creators would refer to them as films rather than episodes).  Each episode is about 90 minutes long...but don't worry, they don't drag on and they keep you on your toes.  The only downside to the series is that the seasons come out every couple of years...the third one isn't due out until potentially the end of this year in the U.K., and early next year in the U.S. (and with the crazy cliff-hanger at the end of season two, this waiting is kind of tortuous).  The reason for the delay in the third, however, is because the two main stars have been catapulted into the spotlight with the success of this show and have been busy working on other projects (excuses, excuses).        

                                                                                    Cumberbatch, Freeman...and a bullet-riddled smiley face
The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch (starring in the upcoming Star Trek: Into Darkness) as Sherlock Holmes, the only consulting detective in the world, and Martin Freeman (who most recently appeared as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit) as Dr. John Watson, Holmes' closest friend and assistant.  Not to sound overly dramatic about anything, but these actors are stunning in their roles.  Cumberbatch is perfect as Holmes, from his fast-talking deductions, to his egotistical high-handedness, to his oftentimes hilarious disregard for social etiquette.  He is a character you love to watch, but would probably never want to be around in real life (the urge to punch him in the face might prove to powerful).  Freeman also does a stellar job as Watson, who in this version is a military doctor, home from Afghanistan with post tramautic stress disorder.  Compared to Cumberbatch's Holmes, Freeman's Watson is more relatable to the average person and a little more grounded in the norms of society.  The actor's interact and bounce off of each other easily, working well together to flesh out and portray the deep and unique friendship that blooms between Holmes and Watson.  There's a running joke in the series that people suspect Holmes and Watson are a little more than friends (two men of a certain age living begin to wonder), but the two characters do form a very strong bond that most people would be envious of.
When I started reading the first novel, A Study in Scarlet, I was immediately struck by the many parallels between the story and the show.  In the first episode, A Study in Pink, Dr. John Watson has returned from Afghanistan with a bum leg and a whole lot of stress.  The book is similar, depicting Dr. Watson as returning from Afghanistan after being shot in the shoulder (in the show, Watson eventually makes the comment that he was shot in the shoulder as well).  In the show, Watson is advised by his therapist to take up blogging to relieve his anxiety, to which he replies "Nothing happens to me."  On the flip-side, the book is written as if it were Watson's journal, and he is the narrator of the stories.  Modern-day Watson runs into an old friend while walking in the park and in the course of their conversation, Watson explains that he can't afford to stay in London on a soldier's pension, and further remarks that no one would want to live with him anyway.  His friend chuckles and says that Watson is the second person to tell him that that day.  An almost identical scene takes place in A Study in Scarlet.  In both the book and the show, Watson's friend introduces him to Sherlock Holmes, who is found working in the lab of a hospital after just having beaten a corpse in an experiment on bruising (in the book he beats it with a stick and in the show with a riding crop).
From there, the show gets more creative with its connections, which I think shows the true brilliance behind it.  I'm not going to give anything away in this post that would take away from the awesomeness of the show...but I will say that peppered throughout the show are random little tidbits from the book that are incorporated in really amazing ways.  One little quirk of Holmes' that I especially enjoyed that they transferred from the original story is the fact that he doesn't know that the Earth revolves around the sun.  It's not that he never learned it, he just doesn't care and most likely purposefully forgot the information.  In Victorian England, it would be bad enough for a man of science to not know this theory, but in 21st Century England it's mindboggling.  What they do with that information, though, is great (again...not giving anything away).

So, basically, this show is fantastic and you should watch it.  Really, though, few things excite me as much as Sherlock has, and it's propelled me into a detective-hype.  I would be a detective if I could stand the sight of blood (which I can' I won't).  This show is everything a crime drama should be.  Just take my word for it...have I ever steered you wrong before?...and watch Sherlock.  Watch ONE episode at least, and if you don't like it, than forget I ever said anything.  But, I'm pretty sure for most of you, you will get just as addicted to it as I am.  Now off with you!!  To Netflix!! (or wherever you go to rent movies and shows)
See you soon!
Erin B.                 

Just because I like to end with a bit of hilarity. 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Letter to My Teenage Self

On a recent road trip across the Midwest, my girlfriend read to me from the book The Letter Q, edited by Sarah Moon. The book is a compilation of letters written by famous queer authors to their teenage selves. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you angry and happy and, if you're queer, it'll make you proud.

The book inspired me to write to my teenage self. Although most of these authors are middle aged now and have decades more time and distance from their teenage selves than I do, I decided to write a letter to my 12 year old self as well. I share it with you now, in hopes that you, too, will reflect on the lessons you've learned, the wisdom you've gained, and the experiences you've had - significant or seemingly insignificant - since your years as a teenager.

Dear Kelsey,
You are on the brink of your 13th birthday. This birthday will mark not only your first year as a teenager, but also your first kiss (or at least that's what you'll lead everyone to believe). You're changing, and you know it. I see you trying desperately to fit in with your peers, trying to be someone you're not. But Kelsey, you've always been different.

You don't care about what you wear or about what your hair looks like or about wearing makeup. News flash: your 23 year old self doesn't either. And that's ok. But while we're on the topic, don't wear lipstick to school on that random October day next year because it'll get on your teeth and no one will tell you all day.

I know your body is changing and you aren't sure what to do about it, but I beg you to try to love yourself the way you are. In a couple of years, you'll succumb to pressure and begin to slowly starve yourself. Kelsey, don't do it. I know it's hard to believe now, but you're a beautiful young woman and not eating enough will not solve any of your problems. You eventually learn that, although we still have the occasional battle today.

Another word of caution, my friend. I know, as you know now when you search down deep and listen to that voice inside of you, that your trend of dating guys for short stints has more to do with your insecurities and desire to be accepted than with the hope of any lasting romantic relationships.

When you come out (oh yeah, you're a lesbian...surprise!), you'll promise yourself that you'll never lie to yourself again. Years of repression of your true self will teach you that telling yourself the truth is always, without a doubt, universally better than lying to yourself. Even if it means you still lie to everyone around you (although mostly you'll choose to tell everyone else the truth too). This will change the way you live your life, and it will allow you to love yourself a little bit more.

I have good news from the future, my dear. After years of knowing your life is lacking something, you will go to college and learn how to talk to people about stuff that matters. You will begin to ask other people questions, you will discover a thirst for understanding others in a new way, an exciting way. You also begin to enjoy your family, looking forward to the time you get to spend with them.

As for the faith life that is only right now, right this moment, beginning to form, I will leave that as a question for your future. All I will tell you is that I needn't assist you in this journey, as you will only dive deeper and grow more intrigued with God and faith over time. It will be an adventure, one that I will promise you will be completely worth it, even as it will seem impossible, confusing, and frustrating for many years.

I have to warn you that your first heartbreak will be harder than you can imagine, but you will survive. You will find comfort in the arms of many friends, new and old, and they will hold you up and love you like crazy and you will never be able to repay them (and better yet, they won't expect you to). You will realize who you can count on in the midst of this incredibly painful time, and you will grow new appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Through all of your pain, in every season, hold on to the hope that good things really can grow from bad, that time and distance really do help heal you, and that you are loved, even when you don't feel that you deserve it. And don't worry, you will love again.

Sometimes you will get very stressed about life and the future, and my advice is to spend time with the people who make you laugh and let you talk about it when you want to.

With love from your future self,

 P.S. You do learn to stop feeling Catholic guilt, but you never learn to sing in the right key (although it won't stop you from singing).


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