Sherlock – The Female Perspective

I have been wondering what I would write about since most shows are either on hiatus or are done for the season.  Since this is a site was created by women  I thought maybe I should take the time to look at the women in the geek culture.  I thought I would start with Sherlock since the season/series is done for now.  Also because Sherlock is an interesting one, the original stories are set in Victorian England.  During that time, women did not have the rights or advantages that women today have.

“One of the interesting things about Sherlock, as a show, is that we want to stick very close to the style and approach of the original stories, but the one big problem is that there are no women, and what women do turn up are not that great. They’re a bit boring. Not all of them, but most of them are not very interesting. He didn’t seem that comfortable with women, but the two boys are fantastic. I sometimes forget that Mrs. Hudson doesn’t really speak in the original, and we’ve given her a big part.” – Moffat

This had to be a challenge for the writers and creators of Sherlock because they have to find a way to modernize these women while still keeping them true to the original story.  In a lot of ways, the writers and creators have managed to do this.  Unfortunately, because of this people sometimes claim that show is sexist.  I don’t see that at all, I actually think they did a good job trying to modernize the characters.  Lets take a look at the ladies of Sherlock.

(These will contain spoilers)


Molly Hooper

Molly Hooper

Molly was solely created for the show, that is not unheard of lots of shows will sometimes create new characters.  Molly works in the morgue of the hospital so that already suggests that she is educated.  While she does not have a doctorate, she knows a great deal about science and the human body.  She does help Sherlock fake his own death.  Molly is smart; there is no denying that. While Molly comes off socially awkward – this is really not all that shocking since she works in a morgue, she also comes off quite, mousey and not having a lot of self-confidence.  I know there are many women who have an issue with the huge crush that Molly has on Sherlock.

Molly loves her Sherlock

Molly loves her Sherlock

In some ways they feel like this is all there is to Molly, that she is defined by her feelings for Sherlock.  I did not see it like that; I saw it in a Hunger Games kind of way, where the crush made him look desirable.  Sherlock was more appealing because someone else thought he was, it is human nature we always like someone more when someone else finds them attractive.  The writers could have kept Molly defined by her crush on Sherlock by having her wait for him while he was away, but they didn’t.  Molly moved on and found someone else granted he was a Sherlock look-alike but hey that happens some people have a type.  In the very last episode they had Molly get angry and slap him multiples time because she was mad at him for doing drugs again.

Molly might have started off as mousey woman who had a huge crush on Sherlock but in the end she becomes a strong woman who sees him for what he really is.

Mrs. Hudson.

Mrs. Hudson

Mrs. Hudson

As Moffat mentioned earlier Mrs. Hudson doesn’t speak in the original stories.  Mrs. Hudson was their landlady; she collected the rent, cooks and cleans for Sherlock and John.  In the stories, John has often said Mrs. Hudson is fond of Sherlock and that is why she put up with all his antics.  Mrs. Hudson on the show does put up with Sherlock’s antics but they have her do it because she is grateful for Sherlock’s help when it came to her late husband.  A Victorian landlady might cook and clean for her tenants but not a modern-day one.  This has become a running joke on the show, because Sherlock and John are always asking Mrs. Hudson to do things for them and she constantly tells them it is not her job, but then she does it.  I feel that the reason Mrs. Hudson does cooking and cleaning for Sherlock and John because she loves them and feels maternal towards them.

Mrs. Hudson loves both  Sherlock and Watson

Mrs. Hudson loves both Sherlock and Watson

They have no one else to take care of them and Mrs. Hudson wants to take care of them, they both adore her.  That was very evident in the Scandal in Belgravia when Sherlock repeatedly drops a guy out the window because he hurt Mrs. Hudson.  I don’t know about the rest of you but if a guy is going to repeatedly drop someone out a window for hurting me the least I could do is cook him some food.

Mary Morstan Watson

Mary Morston Watson

Mary Morstan Watson

Mary in the stories is a governess, which is a common job for women of that day.  Her mother died in childbirth and her is a Senior Captain of an Indian regiment.  In the Sherlock Holmes stories, Mary really has no other job besides being John’s wife.  While Mary is probably one of the more developed characters from the stories, she is still under developed.  I do appreciate that Moffat made her a nurse at John’s practice.  While it was a slight shock that Mary had been an assassin, it was needed.

Assassin Mary shoots Sherlock

Assassin Mary shoots Sherlock

If they had just left her as a nurse then she would have just been John’s wife.  By making her an assassin, they gave her a background that puts her on the same level John and Sherlock.  John is an intelligent doctor who helps solves crimes on the side; he needs a strong intelligent woman.  That was definitely a challenge for the writers and creators, but they did a great job with it.  More importantly, they managed to do it while keeping the love and bond between them intact.

John and Mary on their wedding day

John and Mary on their wedding day

I do appreciate John’s reaction when he finds out what Mary had been, that was a very real reaction.  Even in a day an age when women are strong and independent, men still want to be the protectors.  With Mary being an assassin, it means she doesn’t need John to protect her, because she can do it herself.  Besides the fact that John was lied to in a way, he was also emasculated, that hurt his pride and ego.  The writers did an amazing job of showing how modern of a man John is, because he could have left her and found someone else but he didn’t.  If Moffat and the writers were sexist that is what they would have done, but instead they made John forgive her and continue to love her.

Irene Adler

Irene Adler

Irene Adler

Now onto my favorite character, Irene Adler, in the original story she is an opera singer who once had a liaison with the King of Bohemia.  Sherlock is brought in to retrieve a photo that Irene has of her and the King.  While Sherlock does obtain the photo, Irene manages to outwit him and get the photo back.  Irene leaves behind a photo of herself and a note; Sherlock asks to keep the photo of Irene as payment for the case.  In Sherlock, Irene is not an opera singer, yes a case could be made that they were being sexiest by making her a dominatrix.  I don’t see that as being sexiest, even though they highly sexualized Irene, it fits.   The opera is not the huge draw or form of entertainment that it was in the Victorian era.  Moffat had to create an occupation for Irene that would put her in the position to have incriminating photos and a sexual background.  They also needed to create something that would shock Sherlock and would make her intelligent, for that reason I am all right with her being a dominatrix.  While it is sexiest to make her a dominatrix, it was also very empowering to make her one.  She is a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and her own sexuality, something most women in today’s age are not.

I also appreciate that they gave her an emotional side by making Irene fall for Sherlock.  While I am sure some people did not like this about her because it might weaken her, I actually love it.  If they did not do that, then they would have just made Irene out to be a manipulative woman who does not care about anyone but herself.  To make her actually care/love Sherlock gives her emotions, it makes her human.  I personally would have hated her if she did not have that caring side.

Irene does truly care about Sherlock

Irene does truly care for Sherlock

To keep with the original character Moffat made her smart and she does manage to outwit Sherlock.  While in the original stories it is stated that Sherlock is only interested in her resourcefulness and intelligence I do appreciate while they made that the initial interest, that they let Sherlock grow to care about her.  Just like in the original story, Sherlock keeps a memento from the case with Irene – in this case it was her phone.

I understand that some people might have their issues with how Moffat has written these characters.  Molly was originally defined by her crush on Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson does too much for the boys and lets them boss her around, Mary is a liar, and Irene is dominatrix.  At the time Molly grew out of her crush, Mrs. Hudson is actually rather maternal, Mary needs to be strong in order to be the perfect wife for John, and Irene is strong, confident, and smart.

Molly giving Sherlock the are you serious look

Molly giving Sherlock the are you serious look

“All the women he meets decode him so fast. Mrs. Hudson just thinks he’s a spoiled brat, who she quite likes. Irene [Adler] gets it totally. She can close him down with a smile, and she gets that. Molly, initially, was awestruck, but so quickly got what he is. So, bringing the female perspective onto Sherlock is brilliant, I think. It works so well. And Mary is such a good example of it.” – Moffat

Moffat puts is very well, all the women in his life are able to decode him, because they are all smart.  I don’t think that Moffat did a horrible job of writing these women, he just had the difficult task of making strong confident women from characters that were not written that way initially.  While at the same time trying to keep with the original integrity of the story and try to keep them close to how they were originally written.  I don’t think that Moffat or the other writers of Sherlock did a bad job, they might have been able to do better but they could have done a whole lot worse.

If you want to read the interview that the Moffat quotes came from you check it out here:

Read more at ONTD:


Posted on February 24, 2014, in BBC, Female Perspective, Sherlock, TV Shows and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. On the women of sherlock, I was wondering about Janine. Although she was only in two episodes, I think her connection to Sherlock was more than what Sherlock explained. I think part of me wants Sherlock to actually feel, although he does do that with Irene (and I love her), but maybe Sherlock began to be attached to her because of him missing Irene. You should check out my blog! I also fangirl over Sherlock! Its called through the fandom.

    • christenagarcia

      I will admit I avoided Janine mainly because she was a blimp character. She did have a slightly similar look to Irene so people have speculated that he got with her because he missed Irene. If he does have any feeling then yes, he got with Janine because he missed Irene. Who could blame him for missing Irene she is rather awesome. I started following your blog, thank you for taking the time to check out ours.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: