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Meta: Irene Adler is not a loser


aely

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Yup, wellingtongoose has been at it again. This is what is said about this latest meta:

 

This meta is dedicated to discussing the intrigues and deceptions that are only hinted at on screen and play out behind the scenes. I aim to show everyone why Irene is not a loser but an incredibly intelligent and ambitious woman.

 

Read it on LJ

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No, she isn't. She just chose to play hard ball with two men who couldn't careless, use them and lose them. Speaking of course of Jim Moriarty and Mycroft. Sherlock, of course is of a different stripe altogether. He is not a machine. And yes, she was using him to the hilt to destroy Mycroft and bankrupt England and Sherlock, has always been at heart, a true child of the English country side. So no way could he let her get away with it. But in the end, he is neither Moriarty nor his brother and he could save her, so he did.

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I will have to read this. (Have really appreciated wellingtongoose's metas regarding John's medical background and Lestrade's current status with Scotland Yard. And also appreciate your posting the links, aely!) Not sure precisely what she means by "not a loser," but coincidentally, I just posted this on another thread the other day:

 

... is that what really bothers me about this adaptation -- that Irene never truly beats Sherlock? In the original story, she does, which is apparently why he thinks so highly of her that he calls her "the woman." By contrast, when he uses that phrase at the end of the episode, he seems to crowing over beating her, and twice at that (once with the password, and again when he rescues her).

So, yes, I do think that Moffat's Irene is a "loser" in the sense that she loses to Sherlock. And that irks me.

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OK, I've read Part I, and wellingtongoose addresses my point by saying no, Irene didn't win (as the canon Irene did), but this Irene's a baddie (and baddies aren't supposed to win). Well, yeah, that's my other objection to Moffat's Irene. In fact, it gets to the heart of my other objection much more succinctly than I had ever done. Thank you.

 

But I'll read Part II before I rant elaborate any further.

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Oh, there isn't any Part II yet. Then before I forget my nicely-lined-up objections:

 

Well, even before that -- I'm going to refer to ACD's IA as "Miss Adler" and to Moffat's IA as "Irene." OK?

 

The only way I've been able to rationalize Irene's "misbehavior" is to think of it as the modern-day equivalent of Miss Adler's opera career and her affair. Wellingtongoose makes the same analogy, but then she says Irene can't be allowed to beat Sherlock, because she's a baddie with "blood on her hand." I consider that pretty conclusive proof that Irene's life is NOT actually analogous to Miss Adler's. Even by Victorian standards, Miss Adler was merely immoral.

 

I'm trying to think what sort of modern woman I would consider the equivalent of a Victorian opera singer and (alleged) gold-digger. I'm thinking -- someone who's always on the front cover of the tabloids. Someone with a long string of marriages and/or affairs. At worst, someone who may (or may not) have used her fame to swing some shady deals.

 

I could relish watching someone like that beat Sherlock at his own game!

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I know practically nothing about the Kardashians (except what I read on the tabloid covers out of morbid curiosity). They are the sort of people who are basically famous for being famous, right? Hmm, might do very nicely.

 

D'you think any of them might be clever enough to outwit Sherlock?

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Well, they do fit most if not all of your recommendations. They are on the front of tabloids, often. At least one has had a string of love affairs and or marriages. Shady deals? Well....that hasn't been reported on, as far as I know. Are any of them clever enough to outsmart Sherlock? Personally, I doubt if. But what do I know?

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  • 10 months later...

Just ran across an eminently readable and entertaining internet essay on the subject of Irene vs. Miss Adler (by way of Doctor Who), which winds up its first paragraph with this sentence:
 

While Conan Doyle's original is hardly an exemplar of gender evolution, you've got to worry when a woman comes off worse in 2012 than in 1891.

 
Do read the rest here !

 

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I was commenting on this on Tumblr the other day Re: elementary's Irene. All these 21st century versions seem so regressive in a way. As someone pointed out there, in the original story Irene was not the bad guy. She just wanted to get married. She was smart, steely, talented and practical. She outwitted him. He liked her for it. The modern versions (all three) have rewritten her into a person undone by love. The suggestion being that love is bad and will make you stupid. Especially if you're a woman. I loved Scandal in Belgravia and I loved the irene arc of Elementary, but damn, men writers of the 21st century, come on!  Stop being such scaredy-cats and embrace the wonders that are smart women. (Elementary also has a tendency to have every  smart woman in recent episodes be the bad guy, cause you know, can't be a smart woman without an evil agenda.)

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The suggestion being that love is bad and will make you stupid.

 

But that suggestion is not made by people we as an audience are asked to emulate! I really don't think it's the message of the show. The negative and fearful attitude both Sherlock and Irene display towards love just illustrates their vulnerable side. If they were emotionally mature as well as geniuses, they'd just be way too perfect and it would be hard to tell a compelling story about them.

 

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But that suggestion is not made by people we as an audience are asked to emulate! I really don't think it's the message of the show. The negative and fearful attitude both Sherlock and Irene display towards love just illustrates their vulnerable side.

 

That's an adult point of view, though.  I can certainly imagine younger people watching this episode and wanting to be just like Sherlock or Irene.  If they'd compartmentalize -- "I'd like to be smart like Sherlock" or "I'd like to be beautiful like Irene" -- that'd be one thing, but my impression is that younger people tend to idealize the character as a whole.

 

Added:  That should of course be "some younger people" (and some older people as well, I suppose), the ones who seem to be carbon-copying themselves after their favorite singer or whoever.  I should have gone to bed sooner, apparently.

 

I don't usually worry about that sort of thing.  But when I introduce friends to Sherlock, I do tend to worry just a bit about their reaction to "Scandal."  And I can't help wondering what someone would think if this was the first episode they'd ever seen -- would they write the entire show off as gratuitous? would they continue to watch hoping for more of the same (and then be disappointed)?

 

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That's an adult point of view, though.  I can certainly imagine younger people watching this episode and wanting to be just like Sherlock or Irene.  If they'd compartmentalize -- "I'd like to be smart like Sherlock" or "I'd like to be beautiful like Irene" -- that'd be one thing, but my impression is that younger people tend to idealize the character as a whole.

 

Oh, I remember hating it so much when grown-ups said "kids will see it this or that way / kids will idealize so and so / kids won't understand that". But it is an interesting question: How would I have reacted to that episode, at, say, the age I was first introduced to the books? Would I have idealized Irene as a whole? After all, she is highly intelligent, witty, daring, powerful... maybe I would have been on her side and quite furious that she wasn't allowed to carry the day? Although my reaction to the original Miss Adler was not overly enthusiastic. A love story for Mr Holmes? No way! I was relieved when Watson wrote "he did not feel anything akin to love for miss Adler". While in general, I gobbled up every romance in sight.

 

I don't remember wanting to be like any character in Doyle's books. I adored Sherlock Holmes, that's for sure. And I was very happy with his smoking non stop and taking cocaine and morphine and whatever else Dr Watson might class among his "indiscretions". But I can honestly say that I never dreamed of imitating him in that respect or began thinking of drug abuse as "cool". I think it was more a fascination with something forbidden today, coupled with a kind of relief that even the great Mr Holmes had human weaknesses.

 

Well, even if there were some very impressible and naive people watching "Sherlock", how could they get any dangerous and destructive ideas about love as long as one of the most legendary friendships in literature continues to be at the heart and center of the series?

 

Come to think of it, the whole state of things as shown in A Scandal in Belgravia reminds me of my early teens / late childhood: The best friend as the closest emotional tie, a family providing both a safe background and an overwhelming power to be fought tooth and nail with childish behavior and bouts of temper into the bargain, the opposite sex looming on the horizon dangerous and alluring, not to be trusted, impossible to figure out.

 

Is there anybody here who is still in their teens? Care to share your view?

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Of course I overgeneralized (and have added a disclaimer to my original post).  I was debating the point that Sherlock and Irene are "not ... people we as an audience are asked to emulate," rather than bemoaning the decadence of modern youth.

 

Sherlock is clearly presented as something of a hero -- a person to be admired in certain ways.  And Irene is clearly intended (judging by comments by Moftiss, et al.) as his female equivalent.

 

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Sherlock is clearly presented as something of a hero -- a person to be admired in certain ways.  And Irene is clearly intended (judging by comments by Moftiss, et al.) as his female equivalent.

 

Yes, he is, you are right. And the original Holmes even more so. And he was, in my opinion, heavily used by Dolye in later years to get across certain messages that seemed to come much more from the author than from the character.

 

So far, I see BBC's Sherlock as a reluctant, highly individual hero. Who would earnestly think he or she could ever be like him even if they tried?

 

Irene as his female equivalent? In many ways, I agree. But she's also his antagonist in A Scandal in Belgravia. Definitely not a hero, not "on the side of the angels". Which, in itself, is probably a cause for disapproval in many people's eyes, because the original woman was not malignant at all.

 

I always got the impression that the people most recommended as role models for the audience are Mrs Hudson, Lestrade and - most importantly and prominently - John. And if Mary turns out the way I expect, another women will join that team. But Sherlock? Sherlock seems to be there to shake our heads at while we admire him - or the other way around, sometimes. And he himself has made clear that he is "not one of them" and that he doesn't want to be made into a hero. So idolize him at your own risk, I'd say...

 

Goodness, I've gotten way off topic by now! Sorry, Carol, and sorry to have misunderstood your meaning before.

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Just ran across an eminently readable and entertaining internet essay on the subject of Irene vs. Miss Adler (by way of Doctor Who), which winds up its first paragraph with this sentence:

 

While Conan Doyle's original is hardly an exemplar of gender evolution, you've got to worry when a woman comes off worse in 2012 than in 1891.

 

Do read the rest here !

 

Well, I've read it now (duh), and as usual, can't keep my mouth shut (or my fingers from following it).

 

Why oh why do readers of Conan Doyle and viewers of Sherlock single out Irene Adler of all people as a representative of women in general, or, more correctly, a representative of the authors' attitude towards women? That's like declaring Sherlock Holmes a prototype of all men!

 

First of all, Doyle and the original Mr Holmes. There are a lot of women in the original stories and those that are admired by the narrator, Dr Watson, and Holmes alike, are great role models even by today's standards! Read The Speckled Band, The Sign of Four and The Copper Beaches and tell me again the author was misogynistic! Miss Morstan, Miss Hunter and Miss Stoper are very warm-hearted as well as intelligent and courageous. Two of them have jobs, all take their lives into their own hands. They are not praised "just for being as masculine as possible"! Also, Holmes's attitude towards women is not glorified. Watson calls it "preposterous" and yet, apart from some snide remarks that by his day's standards were very moderate, Holmes does not show any disrespect whatsoever for "the soft sex". He is not only chivalrous, but talks to female clients on equal terms, expecting them to be as rational as men. And he does acknowledge "female intuition" as a valuable tool.

 

Back to BBC's "Sherlock". Irene is one single, extraordinary individual, for pete's sake. She might call herself "the woman", but she's not "all women". Can we leave her gender aside for one moment and look at the rest of her? She's an antagonist who uses love and sexual attraction to exploit the hero, showing us that yes, he is capable of feeling both. It's not Sherlock initially who condemns sentiment in this episode. At the morgue, he is shown to wonder whether there is something wrong with him and Mycroft because they don't care the way "ordinary people" do. His bitter words about the chemistry of attraction are spoken after she has revealed that she used his heart to beat him, sacrificing even her own attachment to him in the process. She chose the rules of her "game" herself and if he makes her "loose" according to them, it's not exactly his fault...

 

Imagine their roles were reversed. Imagine that story with Sherlock as a woman and Irene as a man. I bet most people would cheer her on when it came to hammering those four letters into the phone!

 

As for the other women in "Sherlock", I have gone on about that more than necessary in another thread. Will shut up now and sorry for this long rant.

 

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I should never promise to shut up, it doesn't work... One more thing: It seems silly to me to interpret Irene's password as an involuntary urge of her overflowing infatuated heart. She sent Sherlock that phone herself. It is much more likely that it was a deliberate message, a test, like posing naked to see if he would notice her measurements and rewarding him with access to her safe if he did. It seems to me that she wanted to know if he would understand or at least acknowledge her feelings for him, after he had studiously ignored her attempts at flirtation. Unfortunately, when the penny finally dropped, it was too late.

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Irene ... Definitely not a hero, not "on the side of the angels". Which, in itself, is probably a cause for disapproval in many people's eyes, because the original woman was not malignant at all.

Nice choice of words, T.o.b.y -- and yes, that's one of my major complaints about this episode, they've made Irene into a baddie.  Yeah, I know, everyone else is doing it too.  But isn't Sherlock supposed to be the show that marches to its own drummer yet keeps the faith with Conan Doyle?  In this case, they seem to have done neither.

 

My other major complaint is that there are certain friends who I think would enjoy Sherlock, and I would enjoy introducing them to it -- if it weren't for the more gratuitous parts of this episode.  Frankly, it's a bit of an embarrassment!

 

... if Mary turns out the way I expect, another women will join that team.

 

Yes, I do hope they've made her a more integral part of the "team" than the original Mrs. Watson.  Not that I want her to be the Nancy Drew to Sherlock & John's Hardy Boys.  Just a good match for John, finally!

 

Sherlock seems to be there to shake our heads at while we admire him - or the other way around, sometimes. And he himself has made clear that he ... doesn't want to be made into a hero. So idolize him at your own risk, I'd say...

 

It's not so much that people idolize him -- they seem to consider themselves more or less his equal, and use that as an excuse to make "clever" remarks denigrating us ordinary mortals (whereas in my opinion they're no more clever than I am, just more annoying).

 

Sorry, Carol, and sorry to have misunderstood your meaning before.

You made the mistake of reading what I wrote, rather than what I meant!

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... a deliberate message, a test, like posing naked to see if he would notice her measurements and rewarding him with access to her safe if he did

 

That's another part of this episode that seems silly to me.  How in the world could Sherlock know her "official" measurements just by looking?  OK, maybe waist and hips.  But isn't the bust measurement supposed to be made over the bra that she wasn't wearing?  That makes it subject to all sorts of finagling.  Unless Sherlock's been a fitter in a ladies' tailoring shop, I doubt that he'd have clue number one.

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That's another part of this episode that seems silly to me.  How in the world could Sherlock know her "official" measurements just by looking?  OK, maybe waist and hips.  But isn't the bust measurement supposed to be made over the bra that she wasn't wearing?  That makes it subject to all sorts of finagling.  Unless Sherlock's been a fitter in a ladies' tailoring shop, I doubt that he'd have clue number one.

 

:D I doubt that level of realism is of any concern when writing "Sherlock"... The thing with her measurements is just supposed to tell us that yes, he does notice women's bodies and to tell Irene that yes, he's looked at her the way she was hoping he would. Her game seems to be "admire me, lust after me, understand me and then I'll give you what you want. Ignore me and I'll ruin you".

 

I like the idea. But I like this Irene in general. A lot. So my viewpoint is not neutral in any sense, and maybe not even reasonable.

 

I loved your complaints about people who think they can be rude and egoistic and use poor Sherlock to justify their behavior. That is like running around punching people and wrecking cars and saying "but Superman does it too!"

 

Why don't you tell your friends you like the show in general but not that particular episode? Just because you enjoy watching something, you don't have to agree with everything in it... What do you mean by "gratuitous parts", anyway?

 

 

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By "gratuitous parts" I meant the parts that some people might find offensive AND that don't seem (to me) necessary for an adaptation of "Scandal in Bohemia."  I find the whole dominatrix angle somewhat problematic -- it makes me hesitate to recommend the show to people who like to watch tv with their young kids ("Mommy, what's a dominatrix?").  And of course there's Irene's nude scene.  In this sense, this episode just doesn't seem to belong with the other five.

 

I do like a number of the individual scenes, but am lukewarm at best regarding the episode as a whole.

 

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Imagine their roles were reversed. Imagine that story with Sherlock as a woman and Irene as a man. I bet most people would cheer her on when it came to hammering those four letters into the phone!

 

 

 

 

But they aren't. And if you can name examples in anything currently on television or in films that show the roles reversed so that we can all cheer, please do. (I love the Hunger Games, but Katniss ends up without agency even when she wins, so no). I find it difficult when people use this sort of logic to make a point. To me, the fact that the roles are  not reversed, that we seldom see them reversed, and, in fact, see them reversed less and less since the good old days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is kind of the point! 

 

I could go on but I'm too tired and grumpy now.

 

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By "gratuitous parts" I meant the parts that some people might find offensive AND that don't seem (to me) necessary for an adaptation of "Scandal in Bohemia."  I find the whole dominatrix angle somewhat problematic -- it makes me hesitate to recommend the show to people who like to watch tv with their young kids ("Mommy, what's a dominatrix?").  And of course there's Irene's nude scene.  In this sense, this episode just doesn't seem to belong with the other five.

 

Oh! You mean there are scenes in that episode that aren't needed to tell the story and were only shown to give men a thrill? Well, let me say that not men only were gratified...

 

As for watching any Sherlock episode with young children, I certainly would not recommend that! And the dominatrix bit is my least worry there (as for simple nudity, I will never understand why people are bothered by that, but them I guess it's a cultural "Europe vs USA" thing). I think the show would be way too scary and dark and violent for small kids in general and I don't believe it was made with that audience in mind at all.

 

If you ever are asked "Mummy, what's a dominatrix", I'd reply with Mycroft "a lady who provides recreational scolding"...

 

I have to admit I like the dominatrix angle (in this fictional context!) and I like the nude scene (especially John's nonplussed face). Matter of taste, of course. I do agree with you that this Irene has little in common with the original Miss Adler apart from being witty and concerned about her "protection". And if you really liked the woman in "A Scandal in Bohemia", no wonder you feel irritated by this version of her. If they had gotten Holmes "wrong" in my eyes, I would be furious (well, I wouldn't watch the show at all, actually).

 

There's one thing to be said for this version. She did cause a stir among the audience, a small "scandal" in the world of TV and it's viewers. That's not easy to do these days!

 

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 ...if you can name examples in anything currently on television or in films that show the roles reversed so that we can all cheer, please do. (I love the Hunger Games, but Katniss ends up without agency even when she wins, so no). I find it difficult when people use this sort of logic to make a point. To me, the fact that the roles are  not reversed, that we seldom see them reversed, and, in fact, see them reversed less and less since the good old days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is kind of the point! 

 

I could go on but I'm too tired and grumpy now.

 

 

I really can't dispute your point here. It is depressing how few examples of powerful, female "winners" mainstream entertainment comes up with, now and in times gone by.

 

It's a question of genre, of course. There are quite a lot of films with great female characters (one of my favorite fictional feminists is Vianne in "Chocolat"), but they aren't launched at the "Buffy" audience, they're watched by people who don't need to be told about issues of gender equality any more. We're kind of talking to ourselves.

 

I detest it, though, when I get the impression that a female character was written expressly to prove a point and make the show politically correct. It's a reminder of how unequal we still are, if female characters have to uphold all our ideals and cannot be allowed the wide range of male ones. And if they are always seen in the light of their gender.

 

Hope you were revived after a good night's sleep! I did not mean to make you grumpy, I am sure. It's so nice to have this kind of discussion with people like you!

 

 

 

 

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After reading these the one very strong female lead that I can come up with Galadriel of Middle Earth. She persevered for thousand of years and was the last of her kind to be allowed to sail into the West.

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