Lecture: "Sherlock Holmes Loves John Watson: Tumblr, BBC Sherlock, and the Stories Queer Fans Tell"

September 27, 2016 - 5:00pm

Diana Anselmo-Sequeira, Kenneth P. Dietrich postdoctoral fellow in Film Studies 

When asked how the "hardcore fans" of BBC Sherlock "express their passion," co-creator Steven Moffat responded: "Gay porn, mainly. A lot of that."

Since its inception in 2010 that the critically acclaimed British series is known for attracting a global legion of female fans, most in their teens and twenties. Moffat’s reply simultaneously recognizes and disavows the passionate fan investment of that female demographic, reducing their “hardcore” viewer engagement to the fetichization of male/male sexuality. Yet a study of the Tumblr communities surrounding BBC Sherlock suggests that female fans—many selfdefined as non-heteronormative-compliant—appropriate the queer subtext etched in the mainstream show as a means to articulate complex processes of gender, sexual, and affective identification that find expression through digital collages, critical writings, and original fan art.

Focused on Tumblr-housed fanworks, this lecture proposes that, far from pornographic or selfindulgent, female audiences’ investment in the two male protagonists is deliberate, selfempowering, and healing. By mapping a slow-burn narrative of queer love between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Tumblr users strive to reclaim female-coded “lesser” emotions, such as vulnerability, heartbreak, and pining, while grappling with internalized shame and self doubt resulting from a deep-seated legacy of male-induced pathologization of female subjectivity.


Location and Address

Humanities Center, 602 Cathedral of Learning