Sherlock Holmes is arguably one of the most influential characters ever made. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock made his first appearance in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet, since then he has garnered massive popularity and a cult following. This inspired various TV series and movies, most recently the BBC series Sherlock starring the immensely talented Benedict Cumberbatch. Sherlock Holmes is a very interesting character with various traits that make him worthy of a case study. I shall be examining the modern BBC series version of the character to see what Sherlock Holmes can teach us. First, let's do a psychological profile on the character:
- Schizoid Personality Disorder: Lack of emotion and empathy towards other people, no interest in forming relationships except for work purposes, is greatly detached from society.
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder: A sense of superiority, high level of self-importance, classifying himself has a superior being and deserving of prestige treatment.
- Asperger Syndrome: Excellent pattern recognition, focusing on very few interests, awkwardness in public and difficulty making eye contact
- Genius-Level Intellect: An outstanding capacity for deduction, great understanding of human nature and behavior, very creative imagination, ability to make connections with seemingly unrelated data.
- Sociopathic Personality Disorder: Poor judgement and failure to learn from experience, lack of remorse or shame, psycho-neurotic manifestations, manipulative, untruthful, insincere and unreliable.
Now, we all have a clear understanding of what a genius he is, and how much his mind is distorted, but audiences had never seen these two qualities work together so perfectly in one character. It was only with characters like Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) from Silence Of The Lambs and John Doe (Kevin Spacey) from Se7en that we saw people who truly were intelligent masterminds with mental instability. Sherlock is different because, unlike the others, Sherlock is an antihero, not a villain. His methods and opinions are questionable, but the fact is that he gets the job done.
Sherlock: "Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist, and if they did I wouldn't be one of them."
Still, he doesn't feel the need to express his emotions or even form friendships. Why? First and foremost, he feels that with his high intellect, he doesn't need to waste time with what he calls "mere irrational creatures" such as ourselves. He also is deeply traumatized by the fact that he is extremely intelligent and if society has taught us something, it is that intelligence usually leads to loneliness. The feeling that no one can understand you forces you to see horrible things about society and people. The only way Sherlock knows how to deal with this enormous pain is to isolate himself, and that of course leads to conflict with others.
Sherlock: "If I burden myself with a little helpmate during my adventures, it is not out of sentiment or caprice, it is that he has many fine qualities of his own that he has overlooked in his obsession with me. Indeed any reputation I have for mental acuity and sharpness comes in truth from the extraordinary contrast John so selflessly provides."
Sherlock then finds his escape by taking various drugs. Sherlock finds pleasure in taking these substances because he is bored and can't find a case, but also because he can't find approval from others. So, how can Sherlock solve his drug addiction? Well first, he needs more cases and more things to do so that he doesn't get bored because his mind his constantly functioning and he can't stop. He always needs to have something to do. And second, Sherlock needs friends, he needs to be accepted, to be loved and respected. And if people form friendships with him he will eventually quit. For example, Sherlock didn't have a good relationship with anyone until he found Watson. Watson opened him up, introduced him to new things and actually made him show more of his feelings.
Sherlock: "I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful, and uncomprehending in the face of the happy. So if I didn’t understand I was being asked to be best man, it is because I never expected to be anybody’s best friend. and certainly not the best friend of the bravest and kindest and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. John, I am a ridiculous man. Redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship."
The thing that makes me think the most is, why are there so many people in love with this character? Is it because he is super intelligent? Or because he is cool and mysterious? No. It's because he's the great parody of superheroes and troubled characters. All superheroes are basically great people that just do good things, and love everyone. And all troubled characters are dependent to everything and everyone, and in the end they are also good people, they just had some problems. Sherlock does not care about the public or people. He does horrible things and sometimes he enjoys doing these things, since it fulfills his ego. Sherlock is basically the British version of Saitama (Makoto Furukawa/Max Mittleman) from One Punch Man.
Sherlock is the great character he is because he does not care about anyone or anything but his work. He might be a high functioning sociopath, or even the greatest, most intelligent human in history, that doesn't matter to him anymore. He spent so much time searching for clues and meaning in so many things that now, he is finally done with all of us. That is what Sherlock teaches us, to ignore everything and be not what you need to be, but what you want to be.
Thank you for reading.