theverysarcasticscientist asked: why did you think Sherlock 3.3 was misogynistic? none of the leading ladies were portrayed as evil because of their femininity, and they all fulfilled my two primary requirements for well-designed leads--depth and agency. I think Mary was extremely complex and sympathetic. Janine was not portrayed in a misogynistic way; the issue was that Sherlock was being misogynist--and was justly portrayed as a douche for it (nowhere near as much as he should have been, but still). and Mary was AWESOME.
at what point did mary have all this agency?
- the part where her husband talked about her like she was a disappointing purchase, while she stood silently in the background
- the part where sherlock explained that her Surprise Dark Backstory actually proved that she was ~destined~ to be a ~perfect choice~ for john, because john likes Dangerous Things.
- the part where sherlock and john literally sit down and decide whether she’s worthy of being helped or not (because she can’t help herself by, say, killing magnussen)
- the part where john decided to “forget”/erase her entire history so they could be together, conveniently meaning that the writers would never have to extrapolate on the actual substance behind the revelation that she used to be an assassin.
- the part where sherlock tricked her into revealing her secrets to john
- the part where she shot sherlock in the chest for reasons that basically boiled down to “there needed to be more conflict in the episode”
- the part where (despite her suddenly-badass gun skills) she was drugged unconscious for the final scenes of the episode so the men could solve her problems for her?
YES, mary is a really likeable character and amanda abbington’s performance was awesome and fun to watch (especially in the first two episodes), but that doesn’t make any of those things any less true.
n.b. i feel like “not portrayed as evil because of their femininity” is kind of a low bar for “not a misogynistic portrayal of a female character,” but maybe my standards are too high.
amanda abbington did a great job of making us like mary, and mary really was a well-written character in the first two episodes. but in the third? nope. in the first two eps she was presented as a normal person who could cheerfully stand up to sherlock and john as an equal, but in ep 3, two things happened: she was revealed to be a Very Special Badass with a Secret Past, and (rather incongruously, considering that first part), she lost the ability to do anything for herself. for a detailed explanation of the many ways in which Mary’s agency was completely stripped from her over the course of this episode, i recommend this post.
also re: mary, the revelation that she’s a former CIA agent/assassin was really poorly handled, partly because it was discarded without being “used” in the story except in the context of her a) being magnussen’s victim, b) shooting sherlock, and c) betraying john — and none of those were about HER, they were about magnussen, sherlock, and john. her past is something that magnussen knows about and threatens her with, and john decides NOT to know about, meaning that we don’t get to know know either. she’s still a complete blank slate, but a useful blank slate when it comes to providing more manpain for john and more conflict for the story. also, the big revelation instantly made her fit into the stereotypical Steven Moffat Fantasy Woman mold of a ~badass confident lady~ who is disempowered by a main hero dude, thus implicitly proving his superiority because she loves him. i mean, she’s a former spy who can shoot a hole through a coin… but she allows sherlock to trick her into revealing all her secrets… and she shoots him in the chest for reasons that don’t really make sense… but she doesn’t kill magnussen… and then sherlock drugs her…??
Then there’s the fact that she literally attempted to assassinate Magnussen… and yet supposedly, the reason why Sherlock was able to kill Magnussen at the end was because he was “so arrogant that he couldn’t imagine anyone ever trying to kill him.” So the fact that she tried to kill him earlier in the episode was functionally meaningless??
Oh, and there’s that whole thing where Moffat & Gatiss effectively erased the central female character/storyline from the original canon story, because they thought it was inconceivable for a woman to kill Milverton/Magnussen. now, i have zero problem with them “changing” the original holmes stories, because obviously sherlock is totally different from ACD canon. but this change not only removed one of the very few canonical female characters who had the power to solve her own problems (and kill the bad guy when holmes & watson couldn’t defeat him!) but it removed her in a way that said, “we don’t think she ever could have existed in the first place.” what isn’t sexist about that?? plus, they could very easily have had mary kill magnussen in the end, what with her being an assassin and everything. but she was too busy being pregnant and unconscious.
and as for janine — huh?? i mean, while it is certainly plausible that some people in the world might respond in the way she did (ie, by “making the most of the situation” and selling the story of her personal life to the tabloids after her boyfriend screwed her over), it’s vanishingly unlikely. basically what you have to remember here is that janine isn’t a real person, she’s a fictional character. a character who was written by a real man with real biases, in order to create a series of funny scenes where sherlock pretends to have a girlfriend, and then reveals that their entire relationship was a lie. but then sherlock’s completely unethical and cruel behaviour is excused by the fact that she’s an opportunist (or “whore,” in Sherlock’s words), making it totally OK in retrospect that he behaved so badly in the first place. i mean, yes, i think sherlock is written as being somewhat misogynistic/thoughtless, but at no point does the text of the show really criticise him for that. and the fact that she went the route of contacting the tabloids etc in the first place implicitly puts her in the Bad Girl role.
her reaction was purposefully written to be as convenient as possible, because any other option would force us to confront the utter weirdness and cruelty of sherlock’s plan to seduce (and become engaged to!) some random woman, just to break into her office.
TL;DR version: Mary, Janine, and every other fictional character ever = not real people. They serve certain purposes within their intended storylines, and are influenced by the biases and emotions of the people who write them. In Sherlock 3x03, those biases were pretty obviously illustrated in the treatment of Janine and Mary (both by the male characters and by the story itself), and this looks even worse when you put it in context with Steven Moffat’s history with other female characters. But that’s a story for another day.