Let’s talk about Elementary. My same caveats about my own background and privileges I spelled out in my Let’s Talk About of Teen Wolf still apply. That said, the show’s brilliant.
There’s a dozen of things I could talk about why I like this show, but the biggest one I want to focus on is diversity and how it makes everything better.
I’m not going to lie. I watched BBC’s Sherlock first, and when Elementary was announced I thought, “This is just an American rip-off. It’s not going to be as good!” I was so, so, so wrong.
Lucy Liu is a fantastic Watson. Gender swapping Sherlock’s companion was a great move that enhances and improves the dynamic of the show. (I still want to see a fully gender swapped Sherlock adaptation someday though–a woman Sherlock Holmes and a woman Watson).
I also love that from my perspective there was almost no UST between Watson and Sherlock on the show. They’re friends, professionals, work partners, and the dynamic simply works.
Points to the show for having a woman of Asian descent co-star.
Now let’s talk about Detective Bell. In the BBC’s adaptation, the regular cops are treated like idiots that couldn’t solve a case of a missing sandwich without Sherlock’s help. Not so with Elementary, and especially not so with Bell.
Bell is played by Jon Michael Hill, a black man. In my eyes, the show avoids many stereotypes that could pop up in this situation. Over the course of the first season (which is all I’ve seen so far) we see him butt heads with Sherlock, develop a mutual respect, and we learn about Bell’s backstory in episode 16 of season one. He’s not just a minor character that shows up as “diversity window dressing” or something. Hill’s character brings his own detective skills to the table, and it’s a pleasure watching him interact with Sherlock and Watson.
There’s a reason Sherlock calls all the other detectives at the precinct “Not Bell.”
And finally the inspiration for this post: I’d like to talk about Miss Hudson.
Unlike other adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, Elementary‘s take on Miss Hudson is not an older woman. She’s not even Sherlock and Watson’s landlady.
In episode 19 of season one, she’s introduced as an expert in Ancient Greek and who makes a living functioning as a “muse for wealthy men.” (Not quite sure what that entails, but okay let’s just go with it for now).
Right after she’s introduced, Sherlock and Watson have a conversation where it’s brought up that Miss Hudson has an Adam’s Apple. It’s confirmed that she is a trans* woman and then the subject isn’t broached again. That fact isn’t played for laughs by the characters or by the audience. It’s not even treated as a huge deal. Everybody in the episode treats everybody like human beings.
I had to pause the episode after I saw that scene for the first time to point out what happened to my wife and friend because it floored me a little bit.
And then I found out that the actress who portrayed Miss Hudson, Candis Cayne, is transgender herself. More points to the show for using a trans* actress to portray a trans* character.
Is Elementary perfect for doing this? Of course not. In the big scheme of things, Miss Hudson is still a minor character in Elementary. She’s only been in one episode and even then she didn’t get a lot of screen time. I want more of her in the show. She deserves more.
And nothing against Jonny Lee Miller, but this is another adaptation where Sherlock Holmes is a white man (I’m not quite sure on this Sherlock’s sexual preferences). I refer again to my wish to see a fully gender swapped Sherlock Holmes adaptation.
That said, in my opinion, Elementary is streets ahead of other shows on American TV when it comes to positive portrayals of women, people of color, and trans* people. It helps illustrate that more diversity–especially where you treat people as people and not a series of stereotypes–enhances stories in so many, many ways. And I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that feels this way about Elementary.