After seven years of tension and desperately unspoken feelings, the build-up of Sherlock and John’s relationship in BBC Sherlock culminated in John living alone with his daughter, wearing the wedding ring of his dead wife who shot his best friend (the same best friend John previously blamed and beat bloody), and occasionally dropping by Baker Street where Sherlock could co-babysit Rosie when they weren’t busy being nothing more than dusty legends on the back of someone’s bookshelf. Mary, a poorly-written villain in the end, got the honour of closing out the episode, spewing that who these two men really are is insignificant because it’s all about the stories and adventures. She even got to make claim to them both, calling them, “My Baker Street Boys” despite everything she’d done, which was enough to make bile rise in my throat even before the cheesy freeze-frame ending.
The romantic and sexual text and subtext was there for all to see, unless you were in the clutches of wilful ignorance or steeped in the homophobia and heteronormativity that’s surrounded these characters for almost 130 years. The creators may have claimed that it was not the story they were telling, that this was never a love story, but their own narrative completely contradicts them with characters constantly bringing up Sherlock and John’s relationship (many assuming it was already formed), the subject of Sherlock’s sexuality, or drilling it home that these two men will die/kill for and fall apart without the other. Gatiss claims this was simply flirting with homo-eroticism, but S1 through to TAB showcase the sheer magnitude of their devotion and dependency and it far exceeds just friendship with a hint of something possibly gay lingering at the edges. It was blaring from the word go, from the lip-licking candlelit dinner in Angelo’s to the edge of the Reichenbach Falls.
The fans that formed TJLC cleverly and coherently joined the dots for us over the past few years, making almost 50 lengthy videos of in-depth discussion and analysis to go alongside the hundreds of existing metas, some of them paragraphs long, some of them novel-length, but all of them pointing to the same conclusion: Sherlock and John’s love, and the happy fulfilment they should have been allowed after all this time denied.
I believed this series would end with the unspoken finally spoken, as did the fans below who I asked to put forward their thoughts on the queerbaiting we’ve all just experienced. Here is what they had to say:
(Warning for mentions of mental health and self-destructive behaviour.)
“To say [BBC Sherlock] changed my life is a drastic understatement. Just watching the adventures between Holmes and Watson, re-imagined in modern London, out of breath at the bottom of the stairs, laughing in Buckingham Palace, everything was fleshed out and so… whole-hearted. It felt like the writers were so in love with these characters, and the way they portrayed them was so real, so powerful, and I felt each moment of desperation, sadness, joy and success with them.
…and then season 4 came out.”
— Oliver (@kidrot)
“In this century people should be taught tolerance and comprehension. LGBT+ people deserve love, they deserve happy endings, they deserve romance that is normalised like straights are. They deserve to watch a show and know that they are part of the world.”
— Pavlína, Czech Republic
“I find it deeply saddening that they could ever string along a devoted audience for something they all knew was entirely false. LGBTQIA+ representation is a necessity. ‘Sherlock’ had the support of thousands of beautifully crafted analyses in both written and video format, indicating that a relationship between the two main protagonists is not only possible, but is needed to provide a fulfilling end to the show. Even the advertising for the series suggested that “Sherlock’s back and he’s in love”. But yet again positive representation is nowhere to be seen. (I say positive because I highly doubt the LGBTQIA+ community is in dire need of three queer coded villains).”
— Emily (@Emily_Johnsen83)
“I’m really angry and bone-crushingly sad that a show that has given me so much has shattered my heart and taken so much from so many people.
And one of the worst parts is that the majority of people don’t understand. They think it’s just because our ship didn’t sail like we thought it would. And that’s part of it, sure, but the greatest disappointment was the queerbaiting. And unless someone is queer, they’re not going to be able to fully comprehend the utter devastation we all collectively feel.
So in the end, my favourite show, something that has shaped and defined me into a better person, just told me that I don’t matter. And to kick me while I’m down, they also told me that I was crazy for believing in something like Johnlock.”
— Sara (whatwouldhuddersdo.tumblr.com)
“It was not only a crime for the dedicated fans, who wrote long metas over every single detail, who waited for years for new content, while also getting attacked by the media and the writers themselves for making Johnlock fan art and dare hoping. It was also a crime to the canon, Billy Wider, Oscar Wilde, Freddie Mercury and Queen who were all dragged into this too.
To sum it up, we were left dangling like the Garridebs brothers, humiliated for our hope.
I’m angry that every single straight person who laughed at me and belittled me for shipping Johnlock, who ridiculed my enthusiasm and my dedication. We only did what the writers told us: read the subtext. But now the straight viewers, the Warstans, Sherlollies and Adlockers (all very problematic ships) are seemingly in the right now.
I’m devastated, destroyed, heartbroken. I feel so stupid now. I only wanted representation, I wanted happiness, for me, the fandom and most of all the characters, who deserve to be free.”
— Svenja, Germany
“What personally bothers me the most about this screwed up situation is how thinking about them being in a romantic relationship is classified as “delusional” or “crazy” when all the subtext to support this theory is there, in these four seasons full of awful queerbaiting. We are everything but insane, we aren’t seeing things that aren’t there, not at all. We are seeing what Moffat and Gatiss put there in the first place. On purpose.
Representation is not a joke or a game. It shouldn’t be used as a strategy to gain more money. I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that in the future the true story may be told.
The story of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. A love story.”
— Milena (@waywarddaughtxr)
I think that’s a beautiful line to end this piece.
I’d like to once again thank everyone for getting involved. It’s truly moving and inspiring and uniting to read everyone’s words and have them articulate everything I’ve been feeling, and what I’m sure so many other people have been feeling too. I hope, as I said in the video, that this enlightens and positively affects people. I hope that knowing your feelings are being felt all across the world makes you feel less alone, and I also hope that whoever you are reading this, that you take care of yourself and consume much better and healthier media that represents you the way you deserve to be.
Feel free to share this and keep demanding better of content creators.
Who we really are matters, don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise.