Feature

Is Sherlock Holmes gay?

A sequel to the Christmas hit is in doubt after Robert Downey Jr. speculates about the iconic detective's sexuality.

A sequel to Christmas hit Sherlock Holmes may be blocked by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate after Robert Downey Jr., the star of the film, suggested the iconic detective might be gay (watch Downey Jr talk about Holmes' gay subtext on Letterman). Now, Andrea Plunket, who claims to own the U.S. rights to the detective stories, has said she would withdraw permission if this theme was fleshed out in a second film. "I am not hostile to homosexuals," she said, "but I am to anyone who is not true to the spirit of the books." Are we really likely to see a gay Sherlock Holmes?

There's nothing wrong with debate: We should ignore Plunket's "befuddled, hateful knee-jerk reaction" to this, says Ben Walters in Britain's Guardian. Downey's comment was a "laugh at the expense of prurient attitudes to gay sex," and not a "serious" suggestion. Even so, we shouldn't stifle debate. To do so would be against the investigative spirit of the books—"not just homophobic, but Holmesophobic.""A Case of Holmesophobia?"

But Holmes shouldn't be gay: There's nothing wrong with Downey's playing the "guessing game," says Elisabeth Rappe at Cinematical. Holmesian "scholars" have been doing it for "decades." But for Sherlock to out himself would not be "historically accurate" because his story is set in Victorian England, where "open orientation could have you locked up." In this respect Plunket has a point. "It's not being faithful to the character."
"Stay in the Closet, Sherlock Holmes!"

Holmes isn't gay—but he is sexualized: The first film doesn't really suggest Holmes is gay, says Violet Blue in the San Francisco Chronicle. Okay, so it's "festooned" with "subtle details" about the heroes' living arrangements, and there's a lot of "bare-chested, man-on-man, bare-knuckle fighting." But there's no actual "gay content"—and there isn't likely to be any in the sequel, either. "Can't two guys be sexualized and just get along?"  "Feature Fetishes: Sherlock Holmes vs Avatar"

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