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Rising to the Yoko Ono Challenge on Sherlock: Sheila Agnew

Writing.ie | Magazine | News for Writers | The Big Idea
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By Sheila Agnew

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An Ordinary Fan’s Perspective

At 8:17 p.m. on the 19th of January, 2014, I received a text from a friend, L. who lives uptown from me.

L:         “Meet at WR?”  (A local bar)

Me:      “Can’t. Sherlock is back on PBS at 9:58.”  (We’re a couple of weeks behind in the U.S.)

L:         “Come hang out and watch it at my place.”

Me:      “Can’t.”

L:         “Why not?”

Me:      “You might talk. Sorry!”

LONG GAP.

L:         “You need help.”

Not really, I thought. My friend doesn’t get it. She isn’t a Sherlock fan. I am. On a scale from Zero to Ten measuring obsessiveness in Sherlock fans, I’d clock in at around 4.97. That makes me an ordinary fan.

I love the show and I love my fellow fans, especially the ones who post clips and mash-ups on YouTube. Check out that philosophy grad in his Birmingham bedsit, elaborating on the Mind Palace memorization technique. Maybe some people found that a bit, I don’t know, sad. Not me. Liked it a lot. Very badass. Obsessions should be taken seriously. Otherwise they can be unhealthy.

sheila-agnewI like to read the official scripts from the BBC Drama Archives. When they’re not available, there are heaps of transcripts that the far more rabid fans post online. Often the transcriber has a loose handle on English. I find myself squinting:

“Sherlock:   Brilliant Anderson . . . brilliant impression of an Indian.”

Typically the fan apologizes for his lack of fluency. There’s a Thai fan that does that a lot. Not necessary at all. I can’t even imagine watching a Thai detective show set in downtown Bangkok. It is great of him post a transcript online for the benefit of lazier and less motivated fans like me.

But I don’t connect with all the fans. There’s a group that call themselves Cumberb*tches. I find that a bit bizarre and it’s not like I’m sitting on a high rung on the ladder of fan superiority. I took the quiz, “Which Sherlock character are you?” Turns out I’m Speedy. Clearly I lack the credentials to be a fan snob. I’m just trying to deduce the logic behind that particular fan-club.

Is it possible that those fans watch the show on mute?

Because anyone watching the show with the advantage of sound, must surely conclude that Sherlock would find the idea of those fans mystifying (at best), but, more likely, repellent.

Please don’t shoot me . . . frightening hate texts (I get charged for them). I believe in your right to grade yourselves as you see fit. Oh, I understand fancying Mr Cumberbatch. I’m human. But I’m devoid of any impulse to tag myself as his dog. I’ve got a springer spaniel named Ben. There’s just too much room for confusion there.

I do have a writer’s crush on the geniuses, Mr Moffat and Mr Gatiss. They show us the sky and inspire us to reach for it (although I’m not sure I have the legs for that). But I’m feeling a teeny bit disappointed with the third season.

I thought the problem was Mary.

No, no. Don’t get me wrong. I understand the need for a Mary. All shows must evolve if they are to remain fresh. (Okay, except Seinfeld where the lack of evolution was the point). The writers didn’t have a choice on timing. Remember the exit of the boring teacher. Sherlock had to be on hiatus long enough for John and Mary to have the chance to get beyond Go. Just like Stu Sutcliffe had to leave the band so that the Lennon-McCartney song-writing partnership could get off the ground.

Love books? Join the Bord Gais bookclub!

Once Sherlock returned, the writers’ greatest challenge was to avoid a Yoko Ono situation. Beatles fans blamed Yoko for breaking up the band. I can relate. There’s no way I wanted to see anyone locked in a threesome with John and Sherlock, unless, of course, that someone was me. That’s the sentiment, which makes me an ordinary fan. We all want to live on Baker Street. Even the mildest fan didn’t relish the arrival of a Mary to ruin the fun. The writers knew this better than anyone and they tackled the Yoko challenge head-on.

From the very outset, within minutes of getting our first glimpse of Mary, she is facilitating and promoting the relationship between John and Sherlock. And look at the many fine virtues the writers bestow on Mary. She is cheerful, practical and wholly lacking in pretentiousness. She’s not even Asian.

Damn them! They made it impossible for me, the ordinary fan, to hate her. She’s no Yoko. Oh forget about the fans at the top of the obsession scale, the Tens. That lot are low-functioning sociopaths. You’re never going to corral them into the fold. They wouldn’t accept Mary even if she turned out to be Sherlock’s biological mother. (Tens fans – think: 3 kings, poor accommodation, not quite, etc. Sigh. MARY!).

For ordinary fans, the writers brilliantly soothed our fears in mere minutes. John and Sherlock aren’t going to break up. They just won’t live together. Change happens. So what’s gone wrong?

It’s obvious. It’s all Yoko Ono’s fault. She’s still messing things up for the rest of us and she’s dead. Em, she isn’t. I just googled. Apologies. Anyway, she is still screwing things up, because in their eagerness to neutralize the spectre of Yoko, the writers overshot the mark.

Bored!

Mary is ordinary. Mary is us. Even her shade of hair colour reminds me of . . . OH. These writers are so damn good. What kind of sick twisted fan is going to feel threatened by Mother Goose? I could swear that Mycroft, with his bulging file of Mother issues, had a hand in the scripts. (Someone explain that to the idiots on Ten).

Yes, Anderson, I did see the bit where we found out that Mary is an assassin. That was my cue to head for the snacks. See, said the writers, Mary’s a lot more interesting than you lot thought.

Umm, is she? Character will always punch plot in the face! Nobody could pretend to be that ordinary. Nobody’s that clever. (Oh. Is Mary actually Sherlock in disguise? Hmm, no. The technology isn’t there yet). Mary can’t be rehabilitated just because she has an interesting job. Look around at all those successful people in those cool jobs, I bet they’re really boring. That’s the reason I work in the back office at Tesco’s.

It’s not easy being a Sherlock fan. So many demands are made of us, we should be on salary. I’m not buying Mary as a former CIA operative. My Granny is much more likely to be an assassin. Well, at least she was done once for shop-lifting. I doubt if Mary’s even had a parking ticket.

I’ve spent many long hours at work plotting Mary’s murder at the hands of an ordinary fan like me (we can totally get away with it. Even the Tens will blame the Tens). We’ll see John making a dive to try to save Mary but thankfully, I mean, tragically, just seconds too late. We’ll have a touching death scene. Mary will be consistent. In the throes of her death rattle, she will ask John and Sherlock to hold hands. She shall go on to the end not being Yoko. (Oh cut me some slack! Writers should never resist ripping on Churchill. It’s all we hold dear).

My boss is looking at me in a very suspicious way. I better do some work. I’ll just print off these pages first. Crap. This printer never works. There’s a great big annoying fly in the ink.

OH. Stupid. Stupid.

John loved Yoko. (I’ve no idea why).

We can’t get rid of Mary. We can’t do that to John. He deserves better than sick, twisted fans like us. Besides, it wouldn’t make any difference. We can get past the Mary as assassin thing. She’s not the fly in the ointment.

Yoko didn’t break up the Beatles. We did. I mean, people like us, the fans. We made them too BIG. It stopped being about the music. The boys weren’t having fun.

We’ve had a lot of fun this season and we saw lots of the inspired genius moments we’ve come to expect from the writers. But by the last episode, I felt like we’d pushed the writers into taking the show on a road-trip to Vegas.

Oh, the East Wind was blowing  alright; very overblown. It blew the script right of the track. Sherlock uses his brain to solve crimes. That’s the music. It’s the whole point. Any idiot can use a gun.

Sherlock didn’t count. And he’s SHERLOCK.

What did you say Anderson?  Elementary?  Brilliant point . . . if we were watching Indiana Jones.

I hear you Tens but that’s rubbish. Season 3 was not a dream that John had in the shower. Go away.

No wait. Leave behind the idea of a shower scene . . . just Sherlock . . . put it right there, yes there, there, yes, yes, yes. …………..Well, that was tedious. Where was I?

The show. Now I know we’re supposed to feel excited about Moriarty coming back. But, I genuinely wonder if the script got bungled up with the Dr. Who script, you know, the show where the doctor keeps coming back to life. Not that I’m casting blame here. I see those kinds of mix-ups happen at Tesco’s all the time.

What about the Mycroft tip-off that we can expect a third Holmes brother in some form next season? Who’s that going to be? Steve Coogan? Why not just go all the way and have an American? And who could forget the moment of sheer terror near the end of the episode when Sherlock warned us that more players are on the way. I nearly screamed. How much bigger is this cast going to get? Soon Sherlock’s not going to be the only one who can’t remember … em, the detective inspector’s name, the one we all adored.

But what do I know? I never counted. I’m Speedy remember; I’m basically nothing but a sign.

Still, I’m feeling a bit disappointed. I’m not ready for the game to be over. What am I supposed to do in work all day?  Let’s try a phone call to the geniuses. Come on guys:

eviebrooks_by_sheila_agnew140x210Rein it in.

Will you do this for us?

An Ordinary Fan x

(c) Sheila Agnew

Sheila Agnew is an Irish writer living in New York City. Evie Brooks is Marooned in Manhattan, her first novel for children (aged 10+), is being published by The O’Brien Press on March 3, 2014.  Sheila can be found (from March 3) at http://Sheila-Agnew.com or http://EvieBrooks.com or you can follow her on Twitter. @agnewsheila

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