Sherlock Holmes Fandom: Why We Love Him is Elementary

Sherlock Holmes Fandom: Why We Love Him is Elementary

The earliest known use of the term “fandom” was in 1893, when fans of the beloved novel series “Sherlock Holmes”, set up public demonstrations after the title character was “killed off” in the last of the author – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s series. It is with the death of this fictional – albeit cultural – icon, that a term, which is used more than ever now, was born. So what was all the hubbub about back in the late 19th century that would make people publicly mourn the demise of someone who wasn’t even real? What was so special about Sherlock Holmes that would upset the masses this much? Perhaps it’s the same je ne sais quoi of this character and his backstory, that has us just as hooked two centuries after he made his first entrance into the western world. Perhaps it’s the mystery, intrigue, humorous banter between he and his sidekick Watson that keep us coming back and craving more and more. Or, perhaps, just like with James Bond, or superhero movies like Batman, even if the character isn’t played by the same actor each time, or even if the stories seldom have to do with the last in the series – we’re always eager to get our fill.    

Sherlock Holmes is considered to be one of the greatest works of late 19th century literature, and even still today is portrayed in more modern-day television and film adaptations. From the most ridiculous of Sherlock Holmes stories, one in which he is being chased by dinosaurs and other monster-like creatures in the direct to DVD film Sherlock Holmes(2010) one of the most successful and popular television series on currently, Sherlock (2010) – the concept behind Sherlock Holmes was one of brilliant mastery and, well, deduction on the part of Sir Arthur Doyle. 

In 1887, Sherlock Holmes made his introduction into the world by making his first appearance in the novel A Study in Scarlet which was featured in the November issue of the English paperback magazine Beeton’s Christmas Annual. From there, Doyle proceeded to pen an additional 4 novels and 56 short stories with Holmes as his protagonist. Later, Holmes’ character was featured in other authors’ works, including German writer Theo Van Blakensee. With the advent of modern technologies, Holmes was brought into our imagination first with the written word, but then later and slowly through silent films, talkies, and eventually technicolor pictures. It’s truly amazing to watch the progression of film and television throughout the ages, and at the same time, how Holmes’ character remained unchanged.

It’s no surprise that it has remained a hit to this day, what with Hollywood never giving up on the storyline, characters or premise of the theme. Very rarely in fact do any of the screen adaptations depict anything other than life in the late 1800s, which was the original setting for the famous Holms’ persona in the Doyle novels. That being said, one of the more popular, well-known and current fandoms of our times is the BBC One original television series Sherlock which has been running since 2010 . Ask anyone who is a fan of the show if they are addicted, and they will inevitably say ‘yes’. Ask them any question about the series, and they will more than likely know the answer like the back of their hand. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the incomparable Sherlock Holmes, deducing, evaluating and solving mysteries galore, with his trusty companion Dr. John Watson by his side, played by Martin Freeman. What sets this series apart from the vast majority of screen adaptions of the novels, is that it takes place in modern-day London, rather than Victorian England. 

This is not the only television series that places Holmes in our modern-day world either. In fact, in the CBS television series Elementary they have not only set the year to present-day, but have also taken Holmes out of England and put him in NYC. Not only that, Watson is a girl, played by Lucy Liu. A completely different twist on the original concept of Doyle’s, it still works and brings audiences in.

Though these are more recent examples of how the fandom of Sherlock is still going strong even to this day, it didn’t happen overnight, or begin last year. Rather, it was a gradual process that has taken years to arrive at the point of how we now view Holmes and Watson. The first known adaptation of the novel, was a silent film in 1900 entitled, Sherlock Holmes Baffled It was then in 1916 that a play was released, Sherlock Holmes, and then a silent film later that year under the same title both starring William Gillette as Holmes.

In 1922 John Barrymore (yep, Drew’s grandfather) played Holmes in another film adaptation entitled, Sherlock Holmes. Another silent film, it wasn’t until 1929 when Stoll Pictures came out with a “sound-on-disc” to accompany the film, The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Mutual Radio Network produced a broadcast entitled The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which aired from 1939 to 1946 In 1954, the American television series Sherlock Holmes was a program you might find people watching on any given week, in 1959 the film The Hound of Baskervilles came out, in 1962 another film for the ages was released entitled, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, and in 1970 the well-known director Billy Wilder took on the project, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

By the time disco was in full swing, Holmes was still solving mysteries, proof of which was in the 1976 film Sherlock Holmes in New York That same year, the 1974 novel The Seven Per Cent Solution by American author Nicholas Meyer, was adapted into a film starring some big names of the time. The book was a pastiche of the Doyle novels, tackling a bit of a darker issue than most of the original Holmes storylines. By the end of the 1970s, the film Murder by Decree was in theaters, and the Soviet television series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson had begun to air, proving that this fandom had world wide appeal. 

In 1984, the British television series Sherlock Holmes began its successful ten year run, and in 1987 The Return of Sherlock Holmes made its way into cinemas. For children, an animated feature was released in 1986 entitled, The Great Mouse Detective, which depicted the well-known characters Holmes and Watson as mice. In 1989, BBC 4 began its nine year broadcast of Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps the most bombastic film of the late 1980s was Without a Clue(1988) starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsly as Holmes and Watson respectively. While the film may not have soared to great heights at the box office or among the hearts of critics, audiences still enjoy the comedy to this day and it is a favorite among the Sherlock fanbase – which is what really counts, right? 

At the beginning of the 1990s there were a couple of Sherlock movies that were released, starting with 1992’s Incident at Victoria Falls, which saw Christopher Lee’s reprisal of the Holmes character. His original performance as Sherlock was in 1962’s Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace. Thirty years later, he had come back to portray the loveable detective, to the pleasure of audiences  everywhere. In 1993 the disaster movie 1994 Baker Street: The Return of Sherlock Holmes was transmitted directly through television screens and into people’s living rooms much to their dismay.

Then in 2009, a box-office hit came out starring none other than fabulously talented Robert Downey Jr. and sexy Jude Law as Holmes and Watson. Grossing $523,000,000 worldwide, it was entitled, originally enough, Sherlock Holmes. Both actors reprised their roles in the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in 2011.

Which catches us up to right now. Aside from the widely popular Sherlock and Elementary series which both BBC and CBS have come out with respectively, most recently Sir Ian McKellen has starred in the 2015 film, Mr. Holmes – which I really want to see after watching the preview for it!

It is clear that through the ages, Sherlock Holmes has proven to be one of the most influential and constant characters in modern times and past. He is one of the greatest fictional anomalies of all time – meaning that while times have changed, as well as people, culture and tastes – we still love Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Doyle probably had no idea the timeless, world-wide cultural impact he was going to have by creating his heroic character. While it’s too late to shake his hand or buy him a cigar, we here at think that Doyle’s fans are thanking him in the best way possible, by allowing Holmes to carry on through the centuries. 

Are you a fan of Sherlock Holmes? If so, join the other sherlockians on, express your fandom and compete to become the biggest fan.  You never know, you might just end up at 221B! Check out one of our favorite Sherlock Fanpages.

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