I don’t particularly consider myself in a lot of fandoms. I ship CasKett; Patrick Jane is a badass; and Sherlock Holmes is the greatest detective that ever lived. Fair.
But it opens up a can of worms for viewers, because we as viewers take the art as our own. And that is not to say taking it as yours is a bad thing. I am saying, though, that when you insist that your answer is the only right one that we have problems. And interestingly enough, the fandom that most exemplifies this problem I have with people making definite replies about where a character goes is in fact the BBC Sherlock fandom. Not all of them - maybe the smallest minority of them - but they’re the ones that more often than not express incredible rage at things.
Take that adaptation’s Irene Adler. She’s not from Jersey, she loses to the first four letters of Holmes’ name, she almost dies, and she’s set to return. Is there a puritan out there who considers all of this blasphemy? Yes. Is it me? No. I don’t even totally agree that everything I just said there is true - only that it can be perceived to be. Moriarty is perhaps just as challenging, and is fortunate enough to be seen more standalone than other characters in the series, who are often judged by the Doyle original by members of the fandom. (Again, take note, I am not addressing the whole fandom, just those that apply.)
Also for your consideration, the CBS adaptation Elementary - the Sherlock fandom was up in arms both ways, one because how dare Sherlock be played by an American!, another because how dare they cast both a woman and a minority as Watson!, another because that’s racist/sexist/otherwise very offensive! All of which are based on fair acknowledgments of facts, but then right after enter the exaggerated realm of being our business, in very offensive ways.
All of this eventually, after weeks distancing myself from bringing it up, led to a discussion with Aniki about the really trying idea of why fandoms make declarative statements about what characters are built to do. His argument was about why we call Sherlock Holmes asexual. And I understood it in theory - why do fandoms interpret canon and insist their interpretations are canon? But in practice he also fell prey to it:
he was aware that he can’t ever claim to know what the intricate workings of each characterization is. He doesn’t definitely know why Sherlock smirks or leaps into the air - he can only infer. He wasn’t aware, however, that his argument insisted that his inference was closer to the truth, or at the very least, any other inference was not just as far as his own, but further. Maybe Sherlock Holmes doesn’t have to be heterosexual - but he sure as hell ain’t asexual. The fact that he loves the work that he does more than social interaction be damned!
And to be fair, that’s fine. Interpreting canon in a particular way is at times the only way we interact with a piece of art, or can. We can’t very well call Gatiss on the cell and ask what the twinkle in Holmes’ eye means. And if we could, it would most definitely take away from us a bit of the experience of figuring characters out on our own, which is part of the television’s allure.
But then that means we have to understand and respect how to play with adaptation. If Michael Bay makes a Ninja Turtles film that forgets both the teenage and mutant statuses, that doesn’t make something that’s bad. If Sherlock Holmes is asexual, homosexual, heterosexual, a chain-smoker, it doesn’t matter. Once it’s good. But what would be most important is that it follows logically - I’d be fine if Sherlock and Irene had sex tomorrow, but it would have to follow in the story.
Or, for the Castle fans to follow - if CasKett just suddenly happened, no mention of their current romantic interests, no mention of the gunshot, no mention of when Beckett dropped the bomb, just BAM, peeling off clothes and breaking bed headboards…
would you be fulfilled?
This isn’t saying CasKett can’t happen - it’s saying it can’t just happen.
The story, the characterization, its ability to follow logically and stand on its own is what’s important. Whether it matches its spiritual predecessor, if it has one, is but an added bonus. Wanting something to happen in a story is fine. Insisting it’s the only thing that can happen is dangerous. And that is not to say there aren’t singular things that happen in stories - but they happen because that’s the way that the story is built. Characters change, evolve, act, have agency. But they don’t just do things - characterization is not a vacuum. Sherlock could be a character with romantic or sexual desire. But if he is not, making him one to plead one case - or arguing that he is one just because who made you god and said he can’t be? - makes the credibility of a tightly constructed story fall apart. The Writer is God of The Earth That Is His Story - we can argue that we don’t believe The Writer exists, we can argue that There Is No Such Thing As The Deterministic Story, but at the end of the day, There Is A Writer. (That is so going in a story. DIBS.) And the only argument we have for whether something is fair in a story is if the story says it happened or can happen.
So fans, please don’t get mad when an adaptation does something you don’t like. It will be fine, I promise. The only thing that will decide if it’s bad is if it’s written badly. A Chinese-American Watson will not break Doyle’s gravestone. It may be better than you imagined - with all due respect, I dare say it may even possibly be better than Sherlock.
Nothing’s wrong with being attached to how you interpret art. What’s wrong is discarding the value of the story being crafted, and ignoring that you may have an interpretation of it, but not it. And your interpretation is what gives the fandom all its pretty colours - its homoerotic porn fanfics and its masterful illustrations and its gifs of Moriarty telling Sherlock that dying is what people DO! and all such lovely stuffs. No one is telling you stop imagining your OTP or stop making the case that it is possible. We are asking that if someone disagrees - especially if that someone is the script - please don’t get mad. They made it for you. Appreciate that it will be a wonderful gift even if it’s not what you wanted.
Because Sherlock is fucking awesome.