Holmes’ ideal woman – ordinary or extraordinary?

Recently I saw a poll on social media (Facebook probably, I really should make a note of these things) asking people who they liked the most, Molly or Irene from BBC Sherlock. Now, I’m not sure exactly what they meant – whether it was ‘if you were Sherlock, who would you go for?’ or, which is the best characterisation?

Either way, it got me thinking as to what sort of a woman would suit a man like Sherlock Holmes and why Molly Hooper has had such an impact on fans.

Conventional wisdom has traditionally dictated that a femme fatale such as Irene would be perfect for Holmes. Cunning, smart, resourceful and attractive – the character of Irene Adler has been matched with and against Holmes in countless pastiche.

Generally, it’s a pairing I don’t like and find a bit too obvious. But I did really enjoy the way she was interpreted and updated in BBC Sherlock, a bi-sexual dominatrix, feisty and flawed – played brilliantly by Lara Pulver. I also recommend the books by Amy Thomas – ‘The Detective and the Woman’, and ‘The Detective, The Woman and the Winking tree.’ Both these pastiches include a believable, intelligent portrayal of Irene which works very well, but I think this is a bit of an exception to the norm.

Common sense suggests that someone as extraordinary as Holmes needs an equally extraordinary woman to gain his attention. This is certainly the approach I took with my own novel. But what if the reverse is true?

Isn’t it more interesting to pair him up with someone completely normal – not a femme-fatale, kick-ass woman, but a nice, quiet sensible woman? After all, in terms of friendships, Holmes chose an ordinary person to be his only friend – not an eccentric or a great intellect, just a humble doctor. Might he not have done the same with a woman?

This is why the Molly Hooper character works so well in Sherlock, and why I prefer her to Irene. She’s not the obvious choice, and is therefore more interesting.

We can associate with her, understand how she’s feeling. We all know a Molly, perhaps we are one. She is like a female Watson, an everyman character whose humility diffuses Holmes/Sherlock’s displays of ego and brilliance. Molly is intelligent – I presume you don’t become a pathologist without engaging a few brain cells – but also human, sensitive and makes mistakes. We love her for that – and in an odd way, I think Sherlock does too. In creating Molly, Moffatt and Gatiss have looked beyond the obvious and given us a very unexpected, but brilliant, new friend for the character of Sherlock Holmes. Never underestimate the ordinary.

About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
This entry was posted in BBC Sherlock, Dr Watson, Sherlock Holmes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Holmes’ ideal woman – ordinary or extraordinary?

  1. Ship's Cook says:

    I’m not fond of Irene Adler myself, but I think that is more do do with Carole Nelson Douglas’ books. It’s something about how unbearably smug Irene and Penelope are at getting one over Holmes when the succesful conclusion to the whole story has less to do with actual deduction rather than just happy coincidence, although to be fair when she writes iof Holmes and Watson together the tone is fairly authentic.

    • leahguinn says:

      I agree with you on Douglas’ books. I started reading them out of order, and really liked Chapel Noir, so I tried a couple of the others…. Smug is the perfect word.

  2. ruthiputhi says:

    You are so right. Although I love Irene Adler,because she ist perfecty characterized by Lara Pulver and her well lets call it relationship with Sherlock is thrilling and interessting, Molly Hooper is the more human person and therefor a perfect antipol for Sherlock. But I don’t think Gatiss and Moffat will make him see that. I don’t think he will have any ‘normal’ relationship at all.

  3. leahguinn says:

    I definitely agree with you!!! Does Holmes, really, need someone who is high maintenance, who would constantly be getting into danger, or who would end up competing with him or arguing about whether or not she should go with him on a case? I don’t think so. It seems to me that someone like Holmes would need a person who can take care of the details of life–yes, even the boring ones like paying bills, doing laundry and keeping stuff in a vague semblance of order, look after him (because he doesn’t himself), and be, in general, supportive. She would have to be someone who could stand up for herself when necessary (because he would probably be a little oblivious to her needs–like many men), but she would also need to be someone who is drama-free, and content to play the secondary role. I know this is an often unpopular way to look at marriage/relationships today, but it’s actually a pattern that works effectively in couples in which one person has a very demanding job (physician, firefighter, cop, military) where people depend upon him or her for, many times, their lives, and the other, of necessity, takes care of the more mundane parts of life so that this person can provide the best public service s/he can. The supportive partner in these relationships generally understands (fairly quickly, if not initially) that s/he will not come first–instead, that position goes to nameless patients, crime victims, countries, etc. that s/he will never see. This is why Mary Morstan–who married a guy who’s a doctor, soldier AND a cop–should probably be canonized. And why I definitely agree with you that–in the 21st century–Molly definitely wins hands-down over Irene.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s