Sherlock and John from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Kirk and Spock from Star Trek.
Dean and Castiel from Supernatural.
Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes from the Marvel comics and movies.
Crowley and Aziraphale from Neil Gaiman’s book and new Amazon Prime show Good Omens.
What ties these pairs of characters together? They’re all characters from popular media who have close relationships with each other and are often found or thought of together within their stories.
They’re also some of the most popular characters in slash fiction, a highly erotic branch of fanfiction that focuses specifically on homosexual relationships between male characters.
They’re not the only ones. Many pairs of characters, in all genres ranging from anime to Shakespeare, have been featured heavily in fans’ imaginations to have more than just a close relationship.
These fans scour the source material for clues or references that they can use to build an argument for their fantasy, and then tell everyone that it’s “obvious” that they are in love with each other.
This soon spreads to any two characters with any relationship, so much so that people will even pair characters who are antagonistic towards each other, like Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, claiming their enmity is secret love.
Social media sites like Tumblr and Pinterest are full of text posts and minifics about these characters, and the characters have become icons for the LGBTQ+ movement.
Even the actors and writers have been having trouble changing people’s minds. Most just good-naturedly agree with the romantic accusations towards their characters to make the fans happy, regardless of whether or not that was their actual intent. But some actors try and clarify, but then dig a deeper hole for themselves trying to explain what that relationship is outside the defining characteristics of sexual tension:
And now even big-name creators like J. K. Rowling has been trying to cater to fans’ demands by amending her own canon material to include what she thinks they want.
Now this article is not meant to stomp on anyone’s dreams or put down anyone’s viewpoints, but I am going to say it now: this needs to stop.
This trend needs to be put to an end, because it’s killing something that used to be one of the most common and precious things in the world: friendship.
No two characters in a story, regardless of gender or any other qualification, are able to have a good solid friendship anymore without people adding a sexual spin. Characters cannot admire each other, share intimate life events, or grieve each others’ deaths anymore without someone taking it as a sign that there is sexual tension somewhere.
People forget that romantic love isn’t the only kind of love in existence — that there are other kinds of bonds between people that would lead them to sacrifice themselves for each other.
And this really bugs me. Maybe because I grew up believing that friendship was common and love was special, or maybe because not too long ago, they were just that.
I think the main source of confusion is the oversexualization of society in general. The word “love” used to apply to many different kinds of relationships, from family to friends to lovers, and the word was understood in the context of that specific relationship.
In fact, ancient Greek had at least seven different words for different types of love, which have all been boiled down to one word in modern day English.
Now, the word love is taken to mean sexual, erotic love in almost every case— even to the point where friends, who used to be able to tell each other “I love you” and mean it completely platonically, cannot even hint at it anymore without the meaning being twisted into something that was not intended.
This is especially damaging to men — women who are friends can still sometimes get away with telling each other, “Love you, girl!”, but for a man to say that to any friend — male or female — would be taken the wrong way almost immediately.
But it also damages actual sexual/romantic relationships as well. It turns sexual attraction into something commonplace and over-hyped, which makes it lose the meaningful, desirable quality it used to have.
Most, if not all, of these characters, were written to be close friends. There is nothing canon in the source material to confirm anything more. Most of the “proof” people use comes from moments in the canon when a character speaks fondly of another or praises them in some way, or when any character sacrifices themself for another.
But (and most of this is specifically directed at the Sherlock fandom, which I am a part of and this side of the fandom drives me crazy) the way books were written a long time ago is very different from today because of the social constructs of their time.
Keep in mind that in these time periods, female characters were much harder to come by and there were very few important female characters, especially in books written by men. Heck, The Hobbit doesn’t have a single female character in the whole book besides Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.
John spending more time with Sherlock than his wife both makes sense for the writing style and the time period, both in and out of universe. It makes sense for male main characters to spend a lot of time together having adventures in those types of stories, without the need to add in a sexual element.
The problem is, once people have decided that there is one, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: they will find proof in everything even when there isn’t any, like this post:
They’re freaking taking a walk, people. Watson is literally saying, He
wasn’t doing so well emotionally because of his crazy habits, so I took
him under my wing and helped him do something normal for a change. But nooo, the word ‘intimate’ must mean there’s sex involved.
Fans turning normal relationships into sexual ones has become so popular that there are memes about it:
And the kicker? All the posts I’ve put in this article so far were from a simple search using the fandom or the character’s names. I didn’t have to type in a single ship name to find them because at least 7 in 10 posts, if not more, will display the same point — it’s that pervasive. And there are some people who have noticed the damage it’s causing, and have posted about this on Tumblr with the same points I’ve been making — these people are just fewer and further between.
Interestingly, the only friendship I’ve found so far that has actually managed to stay a friendship for the most part is Claudia Donovan and Steve Jinks in the show Warehouse 13. And that’s only possible because Steve is gay. Interestingly enough, fans tend to twist the sexuality of straight characters to fit their own interpretations, but almost never do it to canon LGBT+ ones.
Otherwise, like this Tumblr user says, watching the show, every cue that these sex-driven fans look for is present in their relationship, right down to Claudia’s grief when Steve is killed and her single-minded determination to bring him back from the dead. Sound familiar? These two characters are proof that a non-sexualized friendship can happen — it just needs to happen a lot more.
And before I get any nasty comments on this (please don’t post anything nasty, I’m really sensitive), look. I get that queerbaiting is a thing, and I understand why it happens. And I don’t actually know if the creators of some of these characters meant to depict them in a way that hints at romance or not. But I do think that there’s a point when it’s gone too far, and that time in my opinion is now.
It’s affecting more than just fandoms. It’s bleeding over into our everyday lives, pushing people away from each other because normal, friendly, human contact is becoming taboo. (I apologize for the language in this next post)
Let’s stop letting it happen.
I want to bring back friendships. Friendships so close that both parties care for each other as if they were family. Love doesn’t have to be sexual. Love, at its deepest, purest form, means putting someone else above yourself. Honestly, I wish everyone loved each other like that.
“My friend’s wiry arms were around me and he was leading me to the chair. “You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake say that you’re not hurt!” It
was worth a wound -it was worth many wounds- to know the depth of
loyalty and love which lay beyond that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes
were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one
and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great
brain.” ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
I don’t see sexual attraction in that. I just see two men whose friendship knows no bounds. I see the kind of friend I would love to have, and the kind of friend I strive to be.
As should all of us.
Thanks for reading! If you want to keep updated on my latest posts, subscribe to my email list! Also, this article is on Medium, which I have started writing for recently, so feel free to check that out, too!
This is a guest post from my amazing friend Emily B. over at TheAltogetherUnexpected. She’s a fantastic writer and just as much of a geek as I am, if not more. If you like her post, go ahead and check out her blog!
**Major Sherlock spoilers ahead! If you have not watched the entire series, then I am begging you to please not read this post**
There’s no such thing as bad. We have evolved to attach an emotional significance to what is nothing more than a survival strategy of the pack animal. We are confident to invest divinity in utility. Good isn’t really good, evil isn’t really wrong, bottoms aren’t really pretty. You are a prisoner of your own meat.
—Eurus Holmes, from Sherlock Se.4 Ep.3, “The Final Problem”
We all thought Sherlock had met his match when Moriarty came to play. Then we were all certain he’d met his match when Irene pulled at his heart strings. But never, in our wildest dreams, did we know what was coming when we met Eurus Holmes.
Eurus: the sister Sherlock never knew he had. Having wiped Eurus from his mind, Sherlock lived a life completely oblivious to the fact that he had a sibling locked up on an island called Sherrinford (cleverly named after the third Holmes brother from William S. Baring-Gould’s 1963 fictional biography). But Eurus, clever as she is, knows how to get in and out of Sherrinford without causing so much as a little fuss.
She can hide in plain sight, transform into anyone, make deductions with the sharpest accuracy, and manipulate anyone into doing anything she wants.
Many Sherlock fans accuse the show’s writers (Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat) of giving Eurus too great an intellectual capacity, but I beg to differ. While Eurus’s mind does seem capable of almost supernatural ability, all she’s had to live with for the past decade or so (the exact number of years Eurus spends in Sherrinford is never given) has been her mind. Born with an exquisite IQ, she had time to cultivate her mind into a super machine.
Eurus is an extraordinary character. She is a clever, calculating, and brilliant young woman. She surpasses Sherlock intellectually, and the reason being is her insensitivity.
Eurus does not feel. She does not care. She does not love. All she sees is reason, logic, and rationalism. While she never exhibits any kind of belief, Eurus is indeed a rationalist through and through. To make this philosophically interesting, rationalism, a philosophical stance, is (straight from Google): “a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response.” Eurus is definitely the perfect (and extreme) example of a rationalist.
Looking at Sherlock for a moment, he is a character who has been plausibly hyped up as being a hard, cold, senseless reasoning machine. All he cares about is solving crimes and doing what he loves.
We catch glimpses of his hidden emotions from time to time: when he begins to weep as he calls John before jumping from the St. Bart’s hospital rooftop, when he goes to hug a weeping John Watson as he cries over the loss of his wife, and especially when Irene Adler comes on the scene. #lordhavemercy xD
But, I digress.
Despite the rare moments we see his humanity pop out, Sherlock is a cold, socially awkward, calculating, and arrogant (yes, I said arrogant) sort of human. And, as sympathetic people, we can get on him for being so tough. Sherlockian insults are a very real thing.
“Dear God, what is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring!”
“Anderson, don’t talk out loud – you lower the IQ of the whole street.”
“Because you’re an idiot. No, no, no, don’t be like that. Practically everyone is.”
“I dislike being outnumbered. It makes for too much stupid in the room.”
However, that’s what made “The Final Problem” such a fantastic ending for season four.
Because before “The Final Problem,” we equated Sherlock’s personality with Eurus’s. As we continue through season four’s final episode, we see just how good and how human Sherlock really is.
Eurus, through a series of unfortunate events, puts Sherlock in a position where he must do
everything she says, because it is his only hope for not only his
survival, but the survival of John and Mycroft, who are with him.
She tests Sherlock ethically, psychologically, and morally.
Many viewers who don’t care to analyze media critically claim that Eurus was a horrible villain because she had no motive. However, Eurus does have a motive. Her motive for putting Sherlock through her tests is her desire for him. She simply wants the brother who was never there for her. She wants to play with him, and to be loved by him. And she knows that the only way to capture his attention is to pull on his sympathies: the sympathies and emotions he was always known for…what she thought him weak for.
Eurus kills people without a care, she laughs when they die, and she thoroughly enjoys tormenting her brother’s mind.
The test that really shows us just how much Sherlock actually feels and actually loves is when he is told, by Eurus, to shoot either John or Mycroft. Conflicted beyond belief, it is so plain to see how Sherlock agonizes over killing his brother or his best friend. In the end, he chooses neither and turns the gun on himself. He would rather die than kill two of the people he loves most.
And if he was as heartless as we had believed all along, he wouldn’t have cared. If he had been like Eurus, he wouldn’t have hesitated in killing John or Mycroft to “play the game” with Eurus.
But, like Irene (as I mentioned in my post “…Let Me be Vulnerable.“), Eurus acted invincible. She was calloused, hard, and icy, but when she had a chance to be in Sherlock’s life, she took it. Posing as a young girl on a plane about to crash, Eurus finally gained Sherlock’s attention and his genuine care: the sympathy she had always wanted from him.
Realizing that the girl in the plane was all a façade,
Sherlock took his sister in his arms and gave her what she had wanted
from him for her entire life: love.
“Open your eyes. I’m here. You’re not lost anymore.”
I’d never seen Sherlock get down on his knees and cradle someone in his arms like he did for Eurus. He was a solace for his sister, rocked her back and forth in his arms, and told her it would be all right.
And finally, here, at the end of season four, we see the full, 100% caring, emotional, and loving side of our hero, Sherlock Holmes. Here, as he gets down on his knees to hold, caress, and hush his drowning sister, we see the humanity we have longed to see throughout the entire show.
When Sherlock mourned internally for the “death” of Irene Adler, Mycroft told him, “All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage, Sherlock.”
And it’s true.
Caring isn’t an advantage, and it’s most certainly not a way to get ahead in life, but it is worth it. It can be argued that Mycroft’s statement is, truly, the pulse of the entire series. It’s seen everywhere. And it popped out fully at the end of season four.
And when Christ chose to love us, He did not do it for His own benefit. Indeed, caring did not give Christ an advantage. On the contrary, when He chose to love us, He died. He rose again victoriously, yes; but first, he died. His care for us was what killed Him.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
There are people in this world in the exact likeness of Eurus Holmes. Lost, lost in the sky. No one can hear them.
And then there’s us.
Will we choose to be the ones who can tell them just what Sherlock told his broken sister: “Open your eyes. I’m here. You’re not lost anymore.” Caring is a choice. Loving is a choice. Choosing to love and care is never an advantage. We will always be vulnerable in love, and we will always be endangered in care.
But to live our lives in that risk is what this life is all about.
what made me love the ending of Sherlock season four even more was the
violin duet played by Eurus and Sherlock “Who You Really Are.” Eurus
doesn’t speak, but she feels the love. Look at that smile already
beginning to take over her face:
What will we do in this life to bring Christ’s unfailing love, to bring His joy, and to bring a smile to someone else in this world? It is our calling from on high, our sacred duty, our “manifest destiny” if you will!
But really, what will we do?
I know you
two, and if I’m gone, I know what you two could become, because I know
who you really are: a junkie who gets high to solve crimes, and the
doctor who never came home from the war. Will you listen to me? Who you
really are, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the legend, the stories.
The adventures. There is a last refuge for the desperate, the unloved,
the persecuted. There is a final court of appeal for everyone. When life
gets too strange, too impossible, too frightening, there is always one
last hope. When all else fails, there are two men arguing in a scruffy
flat, like they’ve always been there and always will. The best and
wisest men I have ever known. My Baker Street boys: Sherlock Holmes and
—Mary Watson, from a posthumous recording to John and Sherlock
that’s truly what it’s all about: the stories. The adventures. The
refuge we give to the desperate, the unloved, and the persecuted.