Solving Sherlock: A Character Analysis

Thanks to Sherlock and other adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, many people imagine Sherlock Holmes as a brilliant detective but also a cocky jerk. In the books, the Original Holmes was more of a goofball who certainly didn’t seem egotistical. Why do so many adaptations increase his ego and decrease his EQ and social skills? I stumbled on the answer by trying to empathize with OG Holmes.

I relate to Sherlock Holmes a lot. I know I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and I’m pretty sure Holmes is also on the autism spectrum: specialized interests, logic over emotion, etc. Unfortunately, the diagnosis wasn’t around in the 19th century. Readers couldn’t use it to classify the character simply, Doyle couldn’t use it to better grasp what he was writing about, and Holmes couldn’t use it to understand himself.
When I first found out I had Asperger’s, I wasn’t sure what to think because I didn’t want to be different “in a bad way.” I soon realized that it’s actually very nice to know that I’m not crazy and I can explain and compensate for my eccentricities. OG Holmes didn’t have this benefit. When I put myself in his shoes, I can see why he would hesitate to call himself extraordinary, even when everyone around him told him he was. It’s kind of silly how many times he assures people that what he does is nothing special. In my “head canon,” I think he’s trying to assure himself that he isn’t a weirdo.
On the other hand, when Steven Moffat’s Sherlock adapted the scene where a guy says “I thought you did something clever, but when you explain it, it’s pretty simple,” Benedict Cumberbatch’s version gets really annoyed. That’s in character for that version, because modern Sherlock Holmes is proud of his own cleverness. But I think that’s a consequence of us applying a modern mindset to a classic character.
Even in the Robert Downey, Jr., version set in the late 1800s, Sherlock Holmes considers himself special because we the audience recognize that he’s special. In much the same way, Sherlock’s recreational drug use is more of a problem in adaptations. It makes for, I think, a better character, with understandable vices and personal flaws to overcome.
The moral of this story: you are extraordinary. Your eccentricities make you awesome. Own it.

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