Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sherlock Holmes as Iron Man?

I'll admit it--my Special Lady and I walked out of Iron Man. I love superhero movies, and I have a special place in my heart for Robert Downey, Jr., as I do for pretty much all celebrities who struggle with addiction (even Lindsay and Britney get a level of immunity), but I just couldn't take Iron Man. We went to see it at a big theater, and the crowd was so jingoistic and creepy, I had this moment when I found myself suddenly unable to approach the film as a Big Dumb Action Movie--and if I had to sit there while people cheered as another Afghan village exploded, I would start to cry. And don't even get me started on Gwyneth frakkin' Paltrow.

So I met this news that Guy Ritchie is making an "updated" Sherlock Holmes movie with trepadation, to say the least. Like Iron Man, most Guy Ritchie movies seem to try for irony around their masculine posturing, but ultimately find themselves way too invested in that posture for the irony to really take. The fast editing and ass-kicking are over the top, but the characters never reach the self-aware (or even accidental) self-parody of a Nathan Fillion or Shatner or Mark Wahlberg.

The figure of Sherlock Holmes offers a chance to present a different vision of masculinity--he's always struck me as sad and vulnerable, with his obsessions (the OCD stuff, obviously, but also his obsession with Watson) blocking him from the world of male privilege where he would otherwise be able to succeed. This strikes me as a particularly feminine conundrum--where your skills prevent you from getting what you want, rather than bringing you toward it. I think of it as the Lisa Simpson Syndrome: intelligence and skills mark you as weirdo instead of a Success.

And part of this feeling must come with the historic physical characterization of Holmes, which it's impossible not to think of (the coat, the hat, the big pipe, etc). He just doesn't look like an action hero, which is why I think he works as a hero for braniacs, misfits, and nebbishes. Guy Ritchie just seems like another guy who'd beat you up for your lunch money--or at least idolize the guy who could.

So here's hoping this turns into gay camp, à la my favorite gay male love story ever. I doubt it, but anything's possible.

1 comment:

Benjedict said...

I don't know Shelock Holmes, except vaguely through that British TV series from the late 80s/early 90s, and of course his modern avatar, Vincent D'Onofrio's Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. But the feminine-y stuff you mentioned is interesting, as is the appeal of a character who is alienated by his gifts. That said I cannot care about Guy Ritchie's movies. He may have it in him to make an unintentional camp classic (indeed it's possible he already has: both Revolver and Swept Away are meant to be monoliths of crap (coproliths?), but I haven't seen either), but he isn't going to make anything clever. The masculine postures in his films make me queasy partly because on some level I get the sense that he really, really thinks that this is what it means to be a real man. That being a working class sociopath is where authenticity lies. It's a nasty atavistic myth about class in Britain. Oh how angry it makes me. Anyway, yeah, sorry, what was I writing about? Oh yeah, Sherlock Holmes is gonna suck, and no matter how much I love RDJr and his wounded put-on masculinity, it's not going to save it. Also, for the record, no Afghan villages were exploded during the course of Iron Man, though pedantry aside, I take your point about the jingo--it's bothersome when brown people must die for conflicted white people to attain self-actualization. Or whatever.