Like much of the Internet, I love Sherlock (BBC). I love the characters, I love the actors, and I love the delicious subtext. Johnlock is my headcanon, and I indulge when I can in trawling YouTube for the best fanvids (to the extent that YouTube now helpfully suggests new vids for me, no matter what I might actually be searching for at the time), I gaze lovingly at the myriad Sherlock-themed animated gifs that cycle through my Tumblr feed, I read fanfic while eating, walking, waiting to pick my kid up at preschool…. The men are attractive, the stories (all that wonderful repressed emotion!) compelling; this is no ironic or otherwise detached appreciation, but a love that is immersed in affect.
And it’s because of that, and because my love of the show seems echoed in the outpourings of others, that I’m fascinated with the ways in which Hollywood is attempting to capitalize on its popularity and, in particular, that of its stars. As Josh Horowitz put it, the Internet loves Benedict Cumberbatch, and this love has translated to his casting in not one, but two blockbuster features. What interests me about this isn’t the fact of his casting; he is, as my husband so delicately put it, the “flavor of the month.” That said, I think the ways he’s been cast foreground an emerging shift in how Hollywood is thinking about audiences. His role in Star Trek Into Darkness seems little more than a reflection of the kind of blunt, demographic-driven market analysis that has governed film casting for decades; something along the lines of, “people are talking about Benedict Cumberbatch, ergo he is popular and we must cast him in our film.” And, as I’m both a fan of his and a long-time Star Trek fan, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with this mystery role of his.
But the one I really want to see is his turn as Smaug in the second Hobbit feature, and that despite the fact that I’ve not yet seen the first film, I’m not particularly invested in Middle Earth, and Benedict Cumberbatch will be entirely masked in CGI throughout. I want to see it because it brings him and Martin Freeman together in another universe, and I want that. In the same way that there was always a small part of me that enjoyed seeing Leonard Nimoy guest star on T.J. Hooker, as wretched a show as that was, I love the idea of having the two of them onscreen together in whatever shape it may take. I’m invested in that dynamic between them – that liminal place in which character and actor become indistinguishable – and the idea of seeing it, in whatever shape it takes on the big screen, thrills me. As a scholar, too, it excites me that someone – be it Peter Jackson or Fran Walsh or their team of casting directors – understands that this is something we fans care about. It may be little more than fannish wishful thinking, but this seems to me to be the difference between the two productions: the former knows what we like, but only the latter seems to know why.
And while I’m waiting for Smauglock to finally come face-to-face with Johnbo, I’ll continue to sob over all the post-Reichenbach Fall fanvids and count the minutes until Sherlock and John are once again reunited in the upcoming season of Sherlock. Hopefully sooner rather than later.