I wasn’t going to write about this, but I had a commenter leave me this very long and winded comment about feminism, women, domestic violence, and the fact that men are also stereotyped against. I thought about it some more and the Sherlock stories definitely have a male stereotype that is sexist and repeated over and over and over again. The men of the Sherlock Holmes stories, besides Sherlock, are kind of stupid. There’s no getting around it. They’re idiots.
There are male stereotypes, even in our modern-day world, that depict men as idiots. We say that men are terrible with directions. We say that men can’t take care of the house or the baby. We say that men would screw up everything a woman did. We say that men are clueless when it comes to their interaction with the opposite sex. We put down men more than we think we put men down. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve read where the male character of a story is all like, “What’s this hot flat thing? It burned my shirt. What do you mean I put the baby’s diaper on backwards? Look, I’m not going to ask for directions. This isn’t the ghetto; it’s just a scenic detour. Those aren’t prostitutes either.”
Yeah, men can be stupid, but to be fair women can be stupid as well. Everybody is stupid at one point or another. We get into this argument as to whether men are really clueless when it comes to certain things or they know they’re expected to be clueless when it comes to certain things so they just don’t try. How much of your husband being inept at changing the baby’s diaper is really his lack of intelligence? Could it just be that he’s always heard men are bad at that sort of thing and acts on that societal expectation?
The Sherlock Holmes stories are just filled with idiotic men. I mean filled. Sherlock, seems to be the exception, but even he sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong. He doesn’t get that he shouldn’t be in some situations. He doesn’t take social clues. John Watson is a doctor, but sometimes I wonder how the man is alive. He always seems so surprised when Sherlock figures something out. Doctors are detectives. If you’re a doctor, you have to rely on your education and knowledge to figure out what is wrong with somebody. It’s not just luck. Doctors really are detectives. I often think that the show House is an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in a way, maybe I’ll explore that idea one day.
In many of the cases Sherlock comes across there is only a problem because some man was an idiot. There are several cases of men carrying around items they should not be carrying around and those items are lost or stolen and then all chaos ensues. The Adventure of the Second Stain, The Naval Treaty, and The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet. What is so hard to understand about leaving something in one place? If something is that important, you don’t carry it around with you from place to place. You lock it away in a vault somewhere, with a guard. Why did these men think this was a good idea? Oh, clearly, this object of great value to my client and/or country is so valuable that surely it would be safer with me than in a vault somewhere. That’s a man being stupid and also arrogant. He’s arrogant to such an extent that he’s become stupid.
We have these others stories of idiot criminals. Hide the pearl in a bust of Napoleon. Shove a jewel down a goose. How is that a good idea? A goose moves around. A goose could get run over. A statue made for sale, might get sold, and then you would have to go looking for it. These were both men by the way. Again, this sort of goes back to the idea that if something is important, put it in a safe place.
Even the mastermind male criminals who are quite smart seem kind of dumb. Moriarty gets close enough to a waterfall for Sherlock to push him over. Milverton apparently doesn’t go armed to his negotiations and also apparently doesn’t suspect a woman of trying to kill him.
We could go on. We could talk about the men who are stupid enough to think they won’t get caught. There’s the student who cheats on his test, for example.
Another one I really like are the men in the Sherlock stories that are so stupid they believe that someone will pay them to copy out of the encyclopedia. This happened, or rather very similar circumstances, happened in two Sherlock stories. In The Red-Headed League, a man believes other red-headed men are paying him lots of money every year to copy out of an encyclopedia. In The Stock Broker’s Clerk, another man believes that some guy is paying him lots of money to copy out addresses. In what world does a person get paid to copy out of the encyclopedia? The monks who copied the Bible didn’t even get paid to copy it. They did it for free because it was their duty. People don’t pay you, or anybody, to copy out of the encyclopedia, no matter how good the job offer sounds.
Moving on, it’s not only the bad guys who are idiots in the Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve already spoken of John and how I don’t think he’s exactly as smart as he should be, but let’s talk of other people. Let’s talk about Stanley Hopkins. Stanley is smart, but not smart enough. He misses things that Sherlock finds and Sherlock calls him an idiot. Well, he doesn’t come out and say that Stanley is an idiot, but it’s implied in his insults. Sherlock constantly looks down on Lestrade and he’s a smart guy too.
Basically, the idea is that every single man in the Sherlock stories, besides Sherlock, is an idiot. All these men more than prove this. They do quite a few stupid things.
Now, conversely, the women of the Sherlock stories are guilty of being too gullible, but none of them are straight-up depicted as unintelligent, not a one. All of the women of Sherlock Holmes are smart. They know what they’re doing. They may seem clueless as to what’s going on, but they really know what’s going on.
Why is this important? Well, it’s important because the women of the Sherlock Holmes stories, although guilty of being gullible, are never depicted as being stupid. The men of the Sherlock Holmes stories on the other hand, are kind of idiots. In fact, without the idea of male stupidity, the Sherlock Holmes stories would be rather sparse. Remember, the only villain who ever truly outsmarted Sherlock was Irene Adler.
There wouldn’t be a Sherlock Holmes consulting detective without the stupidity of men.
What does all of this mean? All of this means that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created an entire literary world based on the idea that men are dumb and they’re going to screw up and the world needs a man like Sherlock Holmes who happens to be smarter than all these other men to straighten out all this stupidity, but you know, the women, they’re smart and pretty.
So, do shut up Anderson, you’re lowering the IQ of the entire street.
Deduction: Men are kind of stupid, depiecting men as unintelligent, john watson, men are stupid, men screw up, sexism, sexism against men, sexism in sherlock holmes stories, sherlock, sherlock holmes, The Red-Headed League
Essays, Sherlock Holmes