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Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month host Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians, and obsessives to try to figure out where it comes from, what it means, and why it matters.
Today: Who gets to decide if Sherlock Holmes is gay? For more than a century, fans of Sherlock Holmes have been analyzing, debating, and creating new texts using Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters. Decoder Ring explores the Johnlock conspiracy, a fan theory about the BBC TV show Sherlock, which posits the inevitability of a gay romance between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. With interviews from historians, journalists, and fans at the heart of this controversial idea, this episode explores the theory, how it played out in the real world, and whether this kind of fandom is a meaningful way of interacting with fiction.
Links and further reading on some of the things we discussed on the show:
- Arthur Conan Doyle’s filmed interview about Sherlock Holmes and Spiritualism
- Make Me Believe’s “Gay Subtext in Sherlock” video
- Ronald A. Knox’s cornerstone essay “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes”
- David Grann’s The Devil and Sherlock Holmes
- Anne Jamison’s Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World
- Russell Miller’s The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle
- Literary society the Baker Street Irregulars
- BBC’s official Sherlock site
Decoder Ring is produced and edited by Benjamin Frisch.