The London season 3 premiere event of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, was emceed by feminist writer Caitlin Moran. And for God only knows what reason, during this event she thought it would be hilarious to have Benedict and Martin read aloud from a “slash” (homoerotic) Sherlock fanfic. From all reports, the actors weren’t terribly pleased, and neither was the author of the fanfic, tumblr blogger mildredandbobbin:
To Caitlin? Thank you for spoiling something I found joy in. Thank you for humiliating me, taking my writing out of context without permission, belittling it and using it to embarrass actors who I deeply admire. Thank you for tainting the one thing sometimes that gets me through the day when I have two screaming kids, someone’s drawn on the walls in their own poo, and I have to drive through peak hour traffic yet again because my husband’s forgotten his glasses for work. Thanks for that support, Caitlin.
The first several pages of the author’s tumblr blog are full of outpourings of support from fellow fans. Reportedly multiple people saw Caitlin Moran “getting yelled at” after the event, and she’s probably not going to be invited to any more such events.
Moran had previously written things like:
Any action a woman engages in from a spirit of joy, and within a similarly safe and joyous environment, falls within the city-walls of feminism. A girl has a right to dance how she wants, when her favourite record comes on.
But apparently that only applies if “dancing how she wants” doesn’t involve writing porn. Writes tumblr blogger leah617:
I mean that’s the reason that journalists keep doing this, right? Because fans are weird and live in basements and have no lives and should be locked away from the rest of society? They’re doing this to protect the rest of the human race, right? Earn themselves a pulitzer without having to go to a war torn country?
Journalists who tear down fandoms are doing the lord’s work, I swear.
This is not exactly the first time the Sherlock actors have been confronted with racy fanfic or fan art. Cumberbatch has said he found it rather flattering. In March, Graham Norton tried to embarrass Freeman with slash fan art on his talk show. And just a couple of weeks ago, Freeman stated in an interview:
I’ve always seen it as a point of principle not to be offended if people imply you’re gay – so no, I’ve never given a [damn]. If I was [offended], I’d kind of think, well what does that make me? I wouldn’t want a 15-year-old kid thinking I’m ashamed of it. I’m not. If anything, it’s kind of funny to see pictures of me and Ben doing whatever we’re doing to each other – even if they’re far from the truth. The only time I’m sort of bothered is when people get proprietary about it or think there should be a certain kind of reaction, like it needs to be in the National Gallery.
Even Hobbit co-star Ian McKellan was emailing it to him, Freeman noted. The only people he had a problem with were the slash fans who tweeted death threats to the actress for Watson’s season 3 love interest:
It’s ridiculous. To me, they’re not fans of the show – they’re fans of a show going on their heads. Obviously I love Amanda [Abbington] and I want everyone to react positively to her; she plays a fantastic character and brings a hell of a lot to the third series. If people want to imagine John and Sherlock [having sex] they’re more than welcome to, but it will have no bearing on what we do in the show.
So, both Cumberbatch and Freeman seem to be more or less cool with the whole slash fan art thing. Yet various personalities seem to think it’s funny to confront them with this stuff over and over, as if this time they’ll manage to get a rise out of them. I wonder if Shatner and Nimoy would have gotten this kind of treatment if the Internet had been around in the sixties?
People have all sorts of reactions to a work, and those reactions can include wondering about situations that the original creators never conceived of. In the spirit of writing the thing you’d like to read, some fans write those stories down and share them with like-minded fans. That’s what the fanfic community is all about.
Heck, you could consider Sherlock itself to be an alternate-universe present-day-setting fanfic of the Conan Doyle stories. No matter what copyright and trademark laws say, fanfic is a legitimate part of the human condition for fans who get into their shows and have the ability and desire to write about what they feel. But of course it’s going to look ridiculous to people who don’t have the same feelings. When fanfic of any kind gets held up to public ridicule, we all lose. I think it’s worth noting again that both Cumberbatch and Freeman are far too classy to belittle the people who love their work enough to write or enjoy fanfic—unlike such personalities as Graham Norton or Caitlin Moran. Good for them!
Let this be a lesson to you: if you write fanfic (or, for that matter, original Internet fiction) that could be remotely embarrassing if someone read it at a public event, be sure you use a pseudonym. Anything you put out there on the Internet could eventually be used to embarrass you—or the actors whose characters you write it about.