Sherlocking My Way Out of Heteronormative Media

Jadyn Gelfand, Staff Writer

Watching television while queer is a lot like being Sherlock Holmes. I use a magnifying glass to deduce that maybe Velma’s lack of interest in men means possible interest in women. I put on the classic Sherlockian deerstalker as I elaborate on why Nymphadora Tonks going by the gender-neutral “Tonks” means that she isn’t cisgender. I take a drag on a gourd Calabash pipe as I conclude that the only logical reason for Dean Winchester to have a celebrity crush on a male actor is for him to be bisexual.

Yet, as much as I respect the great detective, I loathe being Sherlock Holmes. So I’m going to make solving the lack of queer representation my last case.

The first step in solving a case is to understand the history; the history being a prudish Moriarity known as the Hays Code. The Hays Code was a series of (optional) industry guidelines that mandated self-censorship in return for funding and distribution.

The Hays Code served as a morality code and prohibited anything “perverted,” which meant no queer characters amongst other restrictions. This meant that if a character was to be queer, this queerness had to be regulated to subtext and coding.

In many ways, this coding relied on stereotypes (effeminate men; butch women), but the unspoken message remained clear: this character is queer. Even though the Hays Code ended in 1968, it continues to influence an environment where queer characters can only be implied and not actualized.

The second step is to understand the motive. First, there is the process of burying queer characters in subtext as a way to avoid alienating the heterosexual audience, while still drawing in queer fans. Second, there is the issue of certain countries (i.e. China, Russia, etc.) having censorship laws concerning queerness.

This can most recently be seen when a lesbian kiss in Star Wars was censored in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Third, is the trend of kids’ TV shows not being allowed to have queer characters as it would be seen as “corrupting.” The indisputable motive of the lack of queer representation is homophobia.

The third step is to catch the culprit. Sadly, there is no singular culprit, no Moriarty or Irene Adler, only the depressing reality of society. The dearth of queer characters has been caused by a culture that views queerness as shameful and as unprofitable.

This villain cannot be killed or handcuffed, locked in jail, or fully defeated. Instead, it is on all of us to call out lack of representation when we see it, to uplift movies that do have queer characters, to demand more from Hollywood. No one wants to be Sherlock Holmes, which means that we need to be pioneers, not detectives.