Sherlock and All-Human AUs

Sep 07, 2010 23:06

It occurs to me that, in broader entertainment culture, the equivalent of the all-human AU not only gets written once in a while, but turns out to be pretty darn good. I would not have said that Sherlock Holmes was a character that needed a present-day AU, but I was wrong.

I leave it to real Holmes fans to explain exactly how the new depiction re-examines the character. However, I like the way Moffat draws on modern psychology to help motivate and explain Sherlock's actions (although a cursory search hasn't explained to me what, exactly, the difference is between a psychopath and a sociopath). I'm also very interested in these suggestions of possible character growth. I don't even care whether Sherlock becomes "a good man," as Lestrade says, or fulfills Bonnie's prediction and ends up murdering out of sheer boredom. I expect I'll be interested either way.

My point, though, is that the radical re-imagining is adding something to the character. Similarly, I expect one could make some interesting points out of the even more radical medical AU, House, M.D. although I'm so long disenchanted with that show that I have trouble thinking what they would be.

So why am I enjoying these quite different takes on Sherlock Holmes when I have basically no patience for BtVS characters in other times and scenarios? I have a couple of ideas.

1. The writing. The first Sherlock episode, "A Study in Pink," is excellently written on every level - character, plot, dialogue, even the music. I've no doubt there are some decently-written BtVS radical AUs out there, but I haven't read any.

2. The purpose. Presumably Moffat has particular directions he wants Sherlock to go, and I would not be utterly shocked if they included honest-to-goodness on-screen John/Sherlock, but I'm pretty sure shippiness is not his first concern. Whereas all the radical AUs I've ever seen in Buffydom are Spike/Buffy, usually in some particular scenario I find either distasteful or boring. The point seems to be to extract them from Sunnydale and use them elsewhere, rather than to use the elsewhere to comment on them.

3. My distance from the source material. I don't actually like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories much, and I haven't read any of them in years. I don't mind Moffat or David Shore playing with the concept because I didn't care much for it in the first place. OTOH, I am very specific in my love of Spike and Dawn and to a lesser extent Buffy, Giles, Anya, and the others. I am attached to specific events in their arcs. Generally (though not always), the fic that I've found most meaningfully explores the characters is the stuff that is most aware of canon, even when it deviates from it.

I'm trying to think of an example of an original work I liked that resulted in radical reinterpretations I also liked. At the moment, all I can think of is Shakespeare. I do like the Kevin Kline version of A Midsummer Night's Dream very much, but that's hardly a significant sample. This is where I hang my head and wish I were much better read.

Speaking of Sherlock, Abigail Nussbaum gets there first and says it better, as usual. I think I am slightly more optimistic than she is, although she raises some excellent concerns.

tv: sherlock, entry: long thoughts

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