Saturday December 17th 2011
It would be incredibly tiresome to list all the things I didn’t like about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows — the chess metaphors, the sheer monotony of the action sequences, Robert Downey Jr.’s couldn’t-give-a-fuck performance, the list goes on — so in the interest of brevity, here’s just one:
This, in and of itself, is not funny.
We’re almost twelve years into the 21st Century now and the idea of two straight man inadvertently ending up in a scenario in which they appear to be homosexual can no longer be described as the height of comedic sophistication. And yet it remains a stock scene in mainstream Hollywood comedies. Check out this list of examples, courtesy of the ever-brilliant TV Tropes, if you’re in any doubt as to its prevalence.
Of course, there’s nothing innately offensive about the trope. Nowadays the heterosexual characters in question are rarely seen to have any qualms about being thought of as gay, and the script seems happy to entertain the notion as well — whilst, of course, repeatedly reminding us that they’re actually very, very straight. But strip away the irony and the supposedly permissive attitudes of such films and you’re left with a joke that’s not all that different from its 1980s equivalent. In Paul, best friends Graeme and Clive are repeatedly harassed by a gang of homophobic strangers who mistake them for a gay couple. The joke here (in short: LOL, GAYS) is one that’s been knocking around in Hollywood comedies for decades. But where it might once have been delivered by Eddie Murphy’s wise-cracking hero, it’s now given to an ignorant antagonist.
Incidentally, I’m not complaining about homoeroticism. Obviously all of the Sherlock Holmes books, films and TV adaptations are gay as a blade (whatever the executor of Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate might think) but there’s a big difference between exploring the homoeroticism of Doyle’s source material in a comedic manner and chucking in a scene where Holmes and Watson hee-lariously look a bit bent. *cue comedy trumpet*