Friday, July 27, 2012

Yes, I'm Watching the Detectives

How soon they forget...
The American education system has a lot to answer for.  We have corrupt superintendents who, not satisfied with having their car, gas, home, and cell phone paid by the school district (i.e. taxpayers), they decide to funnel a little business to their mistress (and reap the rewards).  To top that off, said ex-superintendent (who got paid more than the teachers in the district and certainly much more more than I both now and when I endured substitute teaching), padded his extensive salary with bonuses earned by falsifying student records that showed kids were advancing in their education when in reality they were being moved up just to get them out of the way.

As a result of his greed (along with un-indicted co-conspirators), we have a large group of kids who, through no fault of their own, are being sent out into the world without the basic skills to advance their place in life.  They've been virtually condemned to a life of failure due to other people's inability to really 'think of the children'.  Hopefully, they can rise above the soft bigotry of lowered expectations, but we may never know just how much potential was lost.

Now, if that really weren't enough, my big beef with American education sans corruption is exactly in how we fail to teach actual thinking.  This rote memorization has been on the whole disastrous for Americans, which goes to explain why so many Americans are shockingly ignorant in so many fields.  Put aside for the moment that many Americans think we fought with Germany in World War II or aren't aware of where Vietnam is (or a pet peeve of mine, know how to pronounce 'Iraq', almost always pronouncing it as I-Rack rather than E-rock or E-rack---perhaps they are thinking of iPods), Americans can't seem to be able to appreciate the reasons why something is good or bad, let alone cause and effect.

As a result, people are genuinely puzzled as to why exactly Citizen Kane is so important or good (or why anyone would want to watch any black-and-white film) or what exactly led us into the Vietnam conflict (it can't technically be called a war since Congress never declared war on Vietnam). 

Americans also appear genuinely frightened of things like literature or the arts.  While people devour the Fifty Shades Trilogy, they will flee from my beloved Hamlet.  Nothing against Pitbull (I love his stuff, even if he is on the whole a lousy rapper), but Calle Ocho (I Know You Want Me) won't endure the way Hey Jude will, let alone something like On BroadwayThe Theme from 'Shaft'Heartbreak Hotel, Night Time Is The Right Time, Summertime, Puttin' On the RitzStrange Fruit or Simple Gifts among others.

Here is where I blame the education system.  People are taught to treat Shakespeare or Dickens or Debussy (all of whom I love) as these sacred things to be handled with kid gloves, something to suffer through instead of things to be enjoyed.  The newest thing, the most recent version of something, is considered better by many people merely because it is newer.        

Now, what exactly does that diatribe have to do with Sherlock Holmes?  It's very simple: Benedict Cumberbatch, star of Sherlock, the 'update' of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, was voted by my readers (or ten of you) as the best Sherlock Holmes.  I did take it for granted that Jeremy Brett, who starred in the Granada Television adaptations of the Conan Doyle stories, would run away with it.  He ended up, to my shock and I daresay horror, barely tying with Basil Rathbone, the film version of Holmes.     

Here's my problem: I'm rather spoiled.  Once I got a gander at Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, I find that all actors who play the iconic detective thereafter will pale next to him.  I grew up watching Brett, and I figure this colored my view of who was the best Sherlock, in the same way people now connect Cumberbatch with Holmes to where anyone that came before or comes later will not compare.

However, Brett played the Holmes from the original stories, while Cumberbatch plays a version of Holmes that isn't the Victorian/Edwardian detective, but one from the Second Elizabethan Age.  I always feel that Cumberbatch plays a character named Sherlock Holmes, but he doesn't play Sherlock Holmes himself.    

Here is where I get my dilemma, and where I must work to reconcile my ideas to reality.  When I finally watch Sherlock Series/Seasons One & Two I must remove the idea that I'm watching THE Conan Doyle stories.  Rather, I'm watching a variation on the Conan Doyle stories.  The first one in Series/Season One, A Study In Pink, is BASED ON on A Study In Scarlet (though why the title was changed is a puzzle to me).  I won't actually be watching A Study In Scarlet

Instead, what I expect to see is a story that takes the characters from A Study In Scarlet, the general plot of A Study In Scarlet, but which spins its own ideas from those of its writers and producers (in this case, writer/producer Steven Moffat, who also writes and produces the science-fiction show River Song, formerly known as Doctor Who).  It is not an adaptation of the story (I doubt Mormons will figure in A Study In Pink), but a re-imagining created for those who probably never read the actual Conan Doyle stories (or really care to).

In short, it might be good, and I might like it, but always, ALWAYS, in the back of my mind, my suspicions and fears about tinkering with the source material alarms me. 

That is why I enter Sherlock with the greatest fear and trepidation.  I almost feel bullied into watching it.  I certainly feel great pressure to acknowledge Sherlock as the definitive adaptation of the Conan Doyle stories, and suspect many will see me as a blasphemer or an idiot if I refuse to say that Cumberbatch is the Citizen Kane of Sherlock Holmes actors, that Benny and ONLY Benny existed, exists, and/or will exist to interpret the character and that no version prior or future will ever equal Cumberbatch's 'genius'.   

I still feel I am not ready to watch any of Sherlock, but think delaying it will only be putting off the inevitable.  As with anything, I go into it with as open a mind as I can give it.  I may genuinely be surprised and find that I love Sherlock and Cumberbatch's interpretation of the character (I may even forget that Moffat has all but destroyed Doctor Who to where the title character is a supporting player to the revolting River Song, which Series/Season Six all but revolved around). 

I am a Holmesian.  I love Sherlock Holmes.  I spent many happy hours at 221 B Baker Street when I went to London two years ago.  To ignore Sherlock is madness.  I must push on.

With that, with some worry, I for better or worse am now going to watch Sherlock Series/Season One, beginning with A Study In Pink.   I hope that by the end of it, I won't have to spell "rache" on someone's wall...Stevie...  

Really? They think I'm better than Brett?!?

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