Steven Moffat Is a Sexist Jerk
Or something like that. I was going to go for a subtler title, but that really about sums it up. At least based on a few articles making the rounds. There’s this one and this one, for example. So I can’t claim credit for the idea.
It doesn’t take much of a stretch to project Moffat as antifeminist or sexist or however you like to phrase it. Apparently his idea of a “strong” woman character is someone bossy and irritating (Amy Pond). And YES, I love Doctor Who, and I watch it and enjoy it, even like Amy at times. But Moffat does better writing men than women, no question.
So then we look at his take on Irene Adler in last week’s Sherlock. [Spoilers, Sweeties!] Up to a point she was brilliant. If Moffat had stopped at the moment on the airplane in which she’d pushed Sherlock aside, she’d have been just about perfect, all the sex stuff notwithstanding. But it was all ruined by sentiment—which, not coincidentally, was also her downfall in the plot. Irene had to go and fall in love with Sherlock. And in the last minutes of the episode had to be saved by him besides.
In the original story, Doyle’s “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Irene Adler is described as having steel at her core and the resolute mind of a man. She’s also a bit loose in her morals (for the era), having had a liaison with the King of Bohemia. Although, her being an opera singer, this isn’t entirely outside the realm of the expected.
Doyle’s Adler is a woman transformed by love; her plan to blackmail the King of Bohemia is scrapped when she meets and marries another man. But she’s no fool, nor does her love blunt her brain; although she falls for Holmes’ trick in revealing the location of her incriminating photograph, she realizes it almost immediately and is clever enough to don a disguise of her own and follow Holmes to be sure he is who she thinks. She then swaps the photo for one of her alone, packs her new husband, and disappears.
It is Holmes, then, who suffers from a sentimental streak in the original tale; besides calling her “the daintiest thing under a bonnet,” he chooses Adler’s photograph in lieu of payment for his services and takes to referring to her only as “The Woman.” It’s no affair of the heart, mind—Watson is clear about that—Holmes simply admires the one person, female no less, to outwit him.
The comparison between Doyle’s and Moffat’s versions of Irene Adler is the stuff of media studies papers. It’s almost a shame I’m not still in school to take advantage of it. Moffat’s reduction of Adler’s traits and abilities are glaring; while he makes her smart, she still admits to having needed Moriarty to give her some direction. And her love for Sherlock becomes the key to her undoing. Literally. A marked contrast from Doyle’s take on love being a form of salvation.
Okay, so maybe Steven Moffat is a cynic AND a sexist jerk.