My family has been looking at me strangely since the special; I was much angrier, and much more disappointed, at the special than they were – in fact, they liked it quite a bit. But my reasons go deeper than just the feminism. The feminism is actually representative of the larger problem: Their utter and complete disrespect, even disdain, for Conan Doyle’s conception of the characters.
I liked “Jessica Jones”, and “Jessica Jones” was admittedly feminist propaganda (like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). So why was I not (as) bothered by that show?
Well, there were a couple of reasons. First, “Jessica Jones” did not go out of the way to mangle classic characters in order to make its points. Second, “Jessica Jones” just made the feminism a part of its world. It was there, but at the same time they were telling their own story, the solution of which did not involve secret female assassin leagues to educate the menfolk in feminism but instead the death of one insane, extraordinarily dangerous, sociopathic serial killer and rapist.
“Sherlock” has a different responsibility. It is an update of the classic Conan Doyle stories, and an update of the characters of Holmes and Watson. The changes made were logical changes necessary for the update to make sense, and to fit the aspects of the characters of Holmes and Watson the creators decided to emphasize – for example, given Moffat and Gatiss’s emphasis on Holmes’ arrogant side, it made perfect sense to update Holmes as an atheist (sorry, atheists, but his dick-headedness fits many atheists I know perfectly – and I mean that fondly).
“The Reichenbach Fall” is, still, the best episode of any television show I have ever seen. Everything about it worked perfectly – and one of the reasons it worked is that it honored Conan Doyle’s original story while improving on its weaker points and staying respectful of creation. The result was an experience that improved upon the original story in virtually every aspect. Moriarty shooting himself in the head remains to this day one of the most shocking, game-changing moment I’ve ever seen in a show or movie.
“The Abominable Bride”, in contrast, spat on Conan Doyle’s grave and ground its heel in the great man’s face. For Moffat to make his insane, over the top point, it was necessary for him to butcher all of the main characters. That it was all Just A Dream or acid trip or something doesn’t change that. All it means is that Moffat knew he couldn’t get away with this shit if everybody acted the way they were supposed to.
To make his point, Sherlock and Mycroft HAD to be anachronisms, John HAD to be a dick, Mary HAD to be both bitchy and perfect at everything, smarter than Sherlock and possessor of a vagina (Which also makes her naturally superior, at least in Sherlock’s head, because she is the “good guy” in the “invisible war” with men who aren’t fighting them and generally living their lives like normal people).
In case you didn’t already get this, Mary is also smarter than Mycroft in the “real” world, able to hack into MI5’s website with almost no effort, and she makes it a point to show the world that she is the leader of the family, not John, forcing John to verbally acknowledge her leadership and smirking condescendingly when John complies, because apparently John is a pussy.
That this may be Sherlock’s drugged out hallucination is not relevant. The point is that this is the story Moffat told, and thought was a good story. He thought Conan Doyle was wrong, and Sherlock would be a better character if, instead of being distrustful of women, if gentle and kind to them, he was a proto-feminist in the 19th century. He thought it would be better, instead of making Watson a gentleman and a bit of a ladies man, to make Watson a dick, so as to make the league of feminist assassins seem more justified.
This was bad, inexcusably bad, and “Sherlock was on drugs” is not enough for me, at least, to forgive the insult Moffat threw in Conan Doyle’s face. What a terrible special.