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Calling the edge-dwellers

This is the best scene ever written for television. Was anyone else as bowled over by it as I was?





SHERLOCK: I've given further consideration to your rebuke regarding my capacity for "niceness."

JOAN: I didn't mean it as a rebuke. I was trying to have a conversation.

SHERLOCK: Either way, you have a point. There is, unquestionably, a certain social utility to being polite, to maintaining an awareness of other people's sensitivities, to exhibiting all the traits that might commonly be grouped under the heading "Nice."

JOAN: I think you'll be surprised how easy it is to earn that designation.

SHERLOCK: No. I am not a nice man. It's important that you understand that. It's going to save you a great deal of time and effort. There is not a warmer, kinder me waiting to be coaxed out into the light. I am acerbic. I can be cruel. It's who I am, right to the bottom. I'm neither proud of this nor ashamed of it. It simply is. And in my work, my nature has been an advantage far more often than it has been a hindrance. I'm not going to change.

JOAN: You have. You're not the same person I met a year and half ago. You're--

SHERLOCK: --good to you? Yeah, for the most part. I consider you to be exceptional, so I make an exceptional effort to accommodate you. But you must accept that for as long as you choose to be in my life, there will occasionally be fallout from my behavior. That must be a part of our understanding.

JOAN: No one can accept something like that forever.

SHERLOCK: "To thine own self," Watson.

And scene.





There have been quite a few well-meaning Joan Watsons in my own life over the years who accepted me as I was while rooting for me to become nicer. Some of them had letters after their names and billed my insurance by the hour. And I was fully on board the "cure me of being me" train for years.

What else could I do? I'm not a brilliant detective or an attractive and financially independent white male--things that allow all versions of Sherlock Holmes to withstand the consequences of being fundamentally--what's the word? Attachment-disordered? Spock-like? A wee bit sociopathic? Introverted? Poorly-socially-networked? A natural loner? An edge-dweller?

It's a strange minority position to be in. The scene emphasizes the strong belief among more connected humans that we edge-dwellers could join the majority if we just tried a little harder.

So we try, most of us, most of the time. Often our livelihood depends on it. If I'd been born a couple of generations earlier, the need to conform to a "marriageable" standard of nice-girl behavior would have been nearly a matter of life and death.

None of this is to disregard the advantages I do have in life--I have them, I make use of them, and I'm grateful for them. (As it happens, I think my combination of coldness and competence has just plain scared employers into keeping me on and paying me a salary all these years. And now I get to retire.)

Nor am I advocating for antisocial behavior. I'm not completely separate from the continent, and yes, the bell tolls for me, too. I abide by common please-and-thank-you standards, and what I care about, I care about deeply. I experience enjoyment and pleasure in non-evil things like laughter and food. I'm capable of love, albeit to a limited extent: I let things and people go much more easily than others do. I've tried not to, but I just don't care as much as I "should."

Jason Tracey, who wrote this episode of Elementary, has perfectly captured the tension between the edge-dweller and the more connected among us, and that's no small thing. But the scene goes a bit further by explicitly stating the edge-dweller's acceptance of himself and the consequences of his nature. Sherlock knows--and does not regret--that his nature is what makes him good at the singular thing he's really good at.

That's what made it revolutionary for me.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
emeraldsedai
Nov. 24th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
Heh. Yeah, I've always sensed in you a kindred spirit. I think that a certain serious, analytical mind comes with the territory. I notice it in our fandom discussions. I don't know about you, but my emotional detachment doesn't signify that I take things lightly: I may take attachments lightly, but ideas? Never. Those are important! I think it's hard for other people to grasp just how avid I am about ideas.

Also, in the sense of humor sweepstakes, I generally lose. "Gallows humor" would be putting it politely. I've learned the hard way not to say what crosses my mind in awful situations. I will LOL at a good dose of irony, and Welcome To Night Vale has been known to make me guffaw in public (you know, in that earphone-wearing, look-like-a-crazy-person way), but most comedy leaves me either cold or embarrassed.

So, put 'er there, fellow edge-dweller. We can semaphore each other across the vast distances between our cliffside locations.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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