I've always been confused about which 'generation' I belong to. I think, technically, that I'm a Baby Boomer, as I've often seen that term defined as the cohort born between 1946-1964. (I'm a 1963 baby) But at the same time, I feel that I have little to nothing in common with the generation that first discovered rock-n-roll, experienced the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and is now trying to recreate retirement and aging the way they've recreated everything else in their existence. I was more Bee Gees than the Beatles, more Miami Vice than Mod Squad. But at the same time, I don't really relate to Generation X or the Millenials; I still have to read all the instructions to program my technology and I have yet to learn to appreciate the wonders of texting.
So I find myself wondering where I fall within the Sherlockian generations. Jeremy Brett was a revelation to me all those years ago. He was exactly the way I imagined Holmes to be: brilliant, prickly, often unpleasant, always sharp and utterly unlike any other kind of hero. Unfortunately, when I've shown my college classes the Brett series, I've often met with yawns and 'huh, whatever' from the young folks. They just don't share my love of Brett---but in fairness, I've never had a great fondness for Rathbone or any of the earlier film Sherlocks.
And now we have a Sherlockian renaissance, with the movies and SHERLOCK drawing in an entire new generation of fans. When I first saw SHERLOCK, I had a geek-out, screaming, OMG moment that would rival anything a teenage could experience. And despite every 'no, no, no' moment I had during the movies, I did find them entertaining. So does that make me of the 'new' generation, despite my graying hairs and wrinkles?
I think the answer is both no and yes. 'No' in the sense of I didn't come to the canon via other media---I read "Speckled Band" long before I saw any plays, movies, or TV shows. My very first introduction was in a seventh-grade reading book, when I was about eleven years old. (1974 or so) I was in love with a mental image of Holmes long before I ever saw him on the silver screen, the small screen, or the computer screen. But the answer is 'yes' in that I savor all these interpretations---even the ones I don't agree with!---because they give me diverse ways to think about the idea that is Sherlock Holmes. For me he's more than a great character---he's a representation of the power of the mind, a reassurance that the greatest thing a human being possesses is his/her brain! Looks, strength, wealth---none of that matters to a person who values the intellect and trains to use it. We don't make the world a better place by being good-looking or having a six-pack of abdominal muscles. We make the world better by using our brains.
I say all this as a way to try and reinforce a great paper that I heard at Scintillation of Scions V. It was given by Kristina Manente of the Baker Street Babes. Here's an excerpt:
We love Sherlock Holmes. We are the same. The Sherlock generation just has more toys to play with. And yes, it is intimidating, and yes it’s all changing quite quickly. But it’s a good change. So this is an open invitation for every person who may ever hear or read this. Interact with the young fans. Invite them to your meetings. Talk Sherlock Holmes with them. Don’t underestimate them. Just because we blog doesn’t mean we’re not genuine and earnest, or intelligent. The hesitation goes both ways though. You young’uns, newbies, and those who only came in with BBC Sherlock, don’t be afraid. Read the canon. Explore the world. Be willing to be taught. I have never met a more gracious group of people in my life. Try it. You won’t regret it.
Kristina Manente is making a very good point that I hope everyone on each side of the generational divide will hear. New Sherlockians have a lot to learn from the 'established' Sherlockians. And vice
versa: we 'traditionalists' shouldn't be condescending to the newbies. Being afraid of or impolite to each other isn't productive. I honestly don't think it matters how one meets Holmes---because ultimately, that introduction is going to lead to the canon, and the canon is going to survive long after all media interpretations or pastiches have become mere footnotes. I'm always telling my history students that you can kill a person, but you can't kill an idea. Holmes, ultimately, is an idea. That's what we're all celebrating, no matter whether we're reading alone, debating with our scion, or 'squeeing' over animated gifs on Tumblr.
I love the older generation, with its deep canonical scholarship and fascination with history. And I love the newer generation, with its wittiness and fascination with cheekbones. I don't want to be forced to choose a generation. I just want to be a Sherlockian.
For the rest of Ms. Manente's excellent paper, click here: