A Lesbian’s Guide to Shipping Johnlock in S3, or
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombshell
[This meta is long but it’s going to important places. Patience is advised.]
As a 43-year-old lesbian I’ve spent most of my life studiously reading between the lines. My erotic desires lounge in the liminal space between code and image. I am 4 years younger than Mark Gatiss who grew up in the north of England a whole ocean and half a continent away from me but we share some basic survival skills. We learned early on to read between the lines, alright, to read gaily during a very confusing era for young queers.
There’s a whole documentary called The Celluloid Closet about what it was like to be a gay cinema-goer in the 20th century looking at overt representations of your desire (almost universally pathologized) and looking into film narratives desperate to find some of the gay, any of the gay to identify with. God, the loneliness! Go watch the documentary. Do it.
A Bit of Gay Man Background
Younger Sherlockians won’t remember a time when homosexual desire was literally the love that dare not speak its name. For god’s sake when Gatiss and I were kids nobody ever confirmed publicly that Liberace was gay! There were jokes and winks of course.
But I’m serious. Liberace even won a lawsuit in the UK against William Connor, a Daily Mirror reporter who implied he was homosexual by calling him fruit-flavoured!
Connor wrote that Liberace was “…the summit of sex - the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.”
(Two important contextual facts: male homosexuality was then illegal; the word “gay” had not become an antonym for homosexual).
After a six-day hearing, during which Liberace denied being homosexual or ever having taken part in homosexual acts, the jury found for him. He was awarded a then-record £8,000 in damages (about £500,000 in today’s money). (x)
Not only were we desperate for representations of our desires and identities in popular media and discourse, but what we thought we could read definitively as gay/queer/homosexual was undermined quite often by the very people we were confidently reading— the people we were kind of sure we could look to for confirmation that we we not only not alone, but that queer people could be and were already loved by the masses. That’s how you make what you call a gay icon.
Here’s another example of confusing from our teenage era. We watched this handsome gay boy cinema heart throb, Rock Hudson,
be ravaged by AIDS. He wasted away shockingly before our very eyes and at first he denied he even had the disease and then a year later when he finally admitted he did have AIDS he claimed he got it from a blood transfusion. After his death scores of celebrities came forward to verify that the beloved Hudson was indeed gay.
Sherlock in Love, a Queer Love Triangle
It’s not possible, given the mainstream cultural expressions and repressions of homosexuality, to overestimate the impact that Billy Wilder’s overtly queer film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, had on the young Gatiss, gay Holmesian fanboy. (Moffat, too!) I’ll repeat Gatiss’ famous lines about the film because they’re MARVELOUS:
They gently take the mickey out of Sherlock Holmes in the way that you can only do with something that you really adore. It’s a fantastically melancholy film. The relationship between Sherlock and Watson is treated beautifully; Sherlock effectively falls in love with him in the film, but it’s so desperately unspoken. There’s an amazing scene where, to get out of a situation where a Russian ballerina wants Sherlock to father her child, he claims Watson and he are gay. Watson is outraged and, when he calms down, speaks of the women all over the world who could attest to his sexuality. He says to Sherlock, “You do too, don’t you?” Holmes is silent, and Watson says, “Am I being presumptuous? There have been women, haven’t there?” Holmes says, “The answer is yes – you are being presumptuous.” Sensational. -Mark Gatiss, “The Film that Changed My Life”
Mofftisson giveth and, we fear, taketh away. We’ve been blessed with so many canonical references to Johnlock that it makes me giddy, while at the same time we’re told again and again and again that John’s not gay. Nope. Not. We Johnlock shippers are sick at the idea that John’s attachment to Mary will erase, undermine, etc. all the homoeroticism we’ve been luxuriating in for two seasons.
If you haven’t seen TPLoSH, you need to know one very important fact. Three-continents Watson is so plainly straight. Sherlock Holmes, according to Gatiss’s own reading, falls desperately in love with a straight man.
With every frustrated plan Sherlock has for himself and John, every moment it should be the two of them against the rest of the world, every notice that John’s heart or attentions are divided, Mary will be the torch. Mary will be the torch that shines a light on Sherlock, the man who carries a torch for her husband. Sherlock thought his grand re-entrance into John’s life would be a source of awe and admiration for his former flatmate. That absence of awe only serves to highlight that it once existed, flowed freely. What Mary has of John will only serve to underscore what Sherlock no longer does. And by forcing us to read between the lines for our cannon/canon fodder, we will read queerly. For me, this is second nature. For Gatiss, second nature. Most of YOU will earn the frustrations, yes but ultimately the exquisite, exquisite joy of cherishing stolen moments of desire and longing. Trust me, it’s fucking hot.
Mary, who is going to be an AWESOME character, a sexy, strong woman we can love, Mary will be our proof.
I say it will be some work on your part but for god’s sake that still up there ^ Sherlock looking at John from his freaking bedroom. That’s hardly subtle, is it?!
Important Stuff to Look At
Sending a long meaningful message and getting a one word reply
Strength is being able to crush a tomato.
Dexterity is being able to dodge a tomato.
Constitution is being able to eat a bad tomato.
Intelligence is knowing a tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad.
Charisma is being able to sell a tomato based fruit salad.
- alaska where you at bitch
- a shit-ton of katherines
- paper-ass towns
- holy fucking shit another will grayson
- fuck you stars
All that is missing is a Z snap of fabulous ownage.
John Barrowman is having none of your bullshit today
Illustrator Eduardo Salles offers us beautiful slices of bitter cynicism through his minimalist posters…
Crap is a sign of life. New bad stories are a sign that this genre — fan fiction, the genre I adore the most - is alive and well. Bad stories mean new people are trying to write in it, and people are trying to do new things with it, and maybe new people are joining the audience, too. When only the best and most popular are writing in a genre, it’s on its deathbed. (See: Westerns and Louis L’Amour.) I want this genre to be here forever, because I want to read it forever. So I’m happy that teenagers are posting Mary Sue stories to the Archive of Our Own.
Does that mean you have to be happy? Nope. I can’t make you do anything. (I can think you’re wrong, but hey, being wrong on the internet is a time-honored tradition among our people.) But when you start making fun of a writer and bullying her in the comments of her story, simply because she’s writing something you think is bad and embarrassing, well, that’s when I say: shut the fuck up or get the fuck out. Because she’s not a problem. She’s just doing what we’re all doing — having fun, playing with words, throwing something out there on the internet to see if other people like it.
But you. You’re trying to stop someone from having fun. You’re trying to shame people into not writing anymore. And that, folks — that is the definition of shitty behavior. (Mary Sue fantasies, on the other hand, are just the definition of human behavior.) It’s bad for people, it’s bad for the future, and it’s bad for the genre. So you’re a problem.
This? Is really, really important (not re: me, as I am old, mean, and soulless, but re: writers who are not old, mean, and soulless), especially when you are talking about public commentary, and especially when you are talking about commentary that is unsolicited.
If you really want to improve the quality of Fic At Large, by all means, strike up relationships where you can have meaningful dialogues with other writers and provide trustworthy and meaningful commentary on their work, and (ideally! mutual beta love is the best love!) where they can do the same for you. In fact, if such a concept tickles your fancy, I know of a writing/making shit club that you might find interesting! But there is a world of difference between participating in a community in which people mutually solicit and provide suggestions for one another to help each other out, and leaving mean, snarky, abusive comments directly on someone else’s fic.
This is extra extra true if you could be construed as being in a position of power relative to them, which, if they are a new writer and you are not, you are.
I do not have enough words or reaction gifs to truly emphasize just how incredibly, incredibly important this is. The culture of mocking fanfiction on the internet (which almost always entails mocking girls when they write, and particularly young girls) is toxic and really sexist at its core, and, in a culture that mocks literally almost anything and everything young girls do, takes away one more space for young girls to do things. And those spaces are really, really important, because they’re places where young girls are creating and sharing things because they want to—they have a vested interest in this thing, and are taking a really big risk by trying something new (writing) and sharing it publicly (AO3, FF.net, wherever) for others to read (who are, more often than not, strangers, even in fandom communities). And mocking that process or leaving vitriolic, spiteful comments, mocks the girl who took that risk. And that’s teaching her to not take risks; to not share her work; to not, in fact, write or create ever again. And that’s the most detrimental thing you can do—to a girl, to a community, to a genre, and to art and creating in general.
also i’d like to note that there’s some painfully obvious self-insert, painfully badly written slash
some of it with an original male character, even
but it doesn’t get attacked like mary sue fic
which sends the message that girls and women can only find safety in identifying with male characters and living out their fantasies through male avatars
you’re not safe as a woman. what you want is wrong when channeled through a woman character. it’s only okay to want things if you imagine yourself male
trying to live out fantasies through a female avatar is evil and wrong and disgusting and deserved to be shamed into the ground
and that is sick and twisted shit
and ain’t nobody gonna convince me the overwhelming popularity of dudeslash isn’t pernicious while that double-standard exists
are there women and girls who would independently enjoy fantasizing through male characters in dudelsash if there weren’t that obvious, coercive fandom pressure?
but as long as the pressure is there, you cannot fucking tell me it’s not shaping how women and girls feel and where they direct their pleasure and you cannot pretend that the predominance of dudelsash is entirely innocent and simply a byproduct of female fans following their bliss
not when certain avenues of bliss are ruthlessly cut off by misogynistic hate
"Do the voice." - The League of Gentlemen performing “Mau Mau” 1999-2013