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Pop Culture’s Sexy Double Standard: It’s Elementary

Sherlock bears a trench, but women still need to bare all.

by
Susan L.M. Goldberg

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February 1, 2014 - 4:00 pm
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sherlock

The BBC/PBS Masterpiece series Sherlock wraps up its third season this Sunday, much to the chagrin of a fan base that has come to embrace the belief, as “The Woman” Irene Adler explained in season 2, that “brainy is the new sexy.” The self-proclaimed sociopath Sherlock Holmes is a character that has turned the otherwise average looking actor Benedict Cumberbatch into an international sex symbol; even religious readers of Christianity Today dig Sherlock’s sex appeal:

The show highlights a male hero who breaks our hypermasculine stereotypes while demonstrating qualities we also find in a mature Christian life: Sensitivity to those around us, friendships that support growth, investment into community, and a discerning focus on truth. No wonder he gets our attention.

The “spiritual is sexy” conclusion isn’t lost on the show’s creator/writer, either:

“The most attractive person in the room is not always the best-looking; it’s the most interesting.” …The showrunner emphasizes that his Holmes isn’t a Vulcan with no emotions – he’s simply decided that things like sex and jokes would interfere with his deduction. “It’s the decision of a monk, not an affliction,” Moffat says. “It’s an achievable superpower.”

In fact, Sherlock’s female-skewed fan base flies in the face of pop culture’s obsession with the Greek-god-like male form:

“It wasn’t like, in all fairness, anyone was salivating over Benedict before he was Sherlock Holmes,” he told the University Observer when asked about the newfound popularity of the show among women. “It’s a meeting of part and actor I think that makes geeky sexy.”

The show’s writer went on to admit that this is probably the first time the Sherlock Holmes audience has been “female skewed” despite the fact that more traditionally attractive actors have taken on the role in the past.

Pop culture goes on to obsess over all things geeky, praising Big Bang Theory and Comic-Con to the skies, while establishing a new double standard when it comes to the intersection of gender and sex appeal. Sure, geeky guys can be cute, but it isn’t as if Amy Farrah Fowler look-alikes are trolling geekfests to be drooled over. Sherlock may be breaking new ground when it comes to depicting the sex appeal of an intelligent man, but women are still expected to house their brain in their booty.

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Top Rated Comments   
The thing that the article misses is that Benedict Cumberbatch in Sherlock is very conventionally sexy...he's the most powerful person in the room. In every scene, everyone accommodates him, defers to him, no matter how outrageous he behaves. It has nothing to do with his appearance, but the fact that he's the top alpha dog in the room combined with androgynous good looks.

Of course women love him.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
This isn't a double standard, it's two sub-populations with (slightly) different standards.

Men are attracted to what they see, women are attracted to what they hear. That's why women use makeup and men lie.

De Gustibus non est disputandum.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
obama called her twice.

maybe G_d misunderstood her prayer about the boobs thing?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (58)
All Comments   (58)
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What's so important here that it needs a column? Methinks the author doth protest too much...
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll note that it's women commentators and magazines aimed at women that are pushing the nearly nude women. I'm thinking it just an escalation of competition. Most of this is pushed by women and gay men.

For the most part, and with the exception for the benefit of the guy in the corner office, women dress to impress each other, not us dudes. We learned that women generally resent our attention unless we're really cute or really rich. We also learned that you resent us for looking at women in pictures, on tv and in movies, and you spend a great deal of time griping about what that tramp on that show is or isn't wearing. We learned that you give *us* crap when some tramp walks by us in public.

And then you'll all show up for a 's!ut walk'.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's some homework for those that want to actually learn a little something about how males and females interact.....

Go to the mall. Get a cup of coffee, maybe a Cinnabon. Grab a nice spot near the center of the mall. Now sit there and people watch for a few hours, maybe even the entire afternoon. Focus on the heterosexual couples. You'll notice a few things:

1. Most of them are fairly evenly matched in terms of physical attractiveness.

2. When they're not, by a margin of a good 10:1, the woman will be the more physically attractive one.

3. The more the discrepancy in physical attractiveness, often the more power the man will project. Sometimes this is monetary power, sometimes it's leadership power, sometimes it's violent power, and yes sometimes it's intellectual power. However, intellectual power generally requires at least some nominal pairing with one of the others. Girls rarely go for the guy with the stutter.

This is not the power of Pop culture, unless you're defining "pop culture" as everything since Paleolithic Man. It is how males and females interact with each other, and 50 years of egalitarianism is no match for 100,000 years of evolutionary biology.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Blogger makes startling claim that women are attracted to men. In a fit of hyperbolic bombast, the fantastic notion the reverse may be true is put on a plate for our perusal. Everyone knows it's how many triangular shapes your face and body mimic. For example, Tom Cruise is nothing more than a series of geometric shapes. He could be in a vegetative state and still get marriage proposals.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Correct me if I've misunderstood this: This Holmes is a "self-proclaimed sociopath [more accurately psychopath], yet he's "a male hero who breaks our hypermasculine stereotypes while demonstrating qualities we also find in a mature Christian life: Sensitivity to those around us, friendships that support growth, investment into community, and a discerning focus on truth."

This is a psychological impossibility. A psychopath is incapable of empathy, friendship, and has no use for the truth.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, but he isn't played that way. He wouldn't be sympathetic enough. He values his friends, he is actually more like someone with Aspergers, lousy interpersonal skills due to a lack of acuity with active emotions but insanely high observational and deductive skills. Psychopath makes him sound dangerous though so the writers use it.

The ultimate object of desire for the stereotyped female is the "bad boy" who skillfully breaks all the rules without being punished, but actually wants to bind himself to her in perpetual monogamy and dote on their children.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
... and then has a heart attack, leaving her widowed with a few million in the bank.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nobody ever played Sherlock better than Jeremy Brett. And no one ever will.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
No one was ever as committed as Jeremy Brett was. He is the consummate traditional Sherlock Holmes and the adaptations were excellent, note perfect screenwriting.

I am a huge Brett fan, the man continued to endanger his own life (he had congestive heart failure due I believe to childhood disease) just to finish out a few more stories. You can see the puffiness in his face from the retained water in some of the last ones. When someone is so devoted to their art the results are spectacular.

"Sherlock" is very different, but as a Brett fan I advise everyone to watch it. It is so different from the traditional Holmes in setting, that it can be easily appreciated as "it's own thing". I am such a Brett partisan I almost did not watch it, but it has been delightful, and the writers are very respectful of the work.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
it isn’t as if Amy Farrah Fowler look-alikes are trolling geekfests to be drooled over.

Wardrobe. Amy (or rather, Mayim Bialik) looked pretty good to this geek when she was wearing that Star Trek uniform.

And before you claim that it's still a double standard... try giving Sherlock up there a pot belly and receding hairline and dress him some old gray sweats or something, and see how the female fan base reacts. That trenchcoat and scarf he's got going on is still pretty fashionable.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Benedict is one of the sexiest men on the planet, that voice makes me M E L T. His intelligence shines through and he sounds like a man, not like some perpetual adolescent/Bieber wannabe. Charming, seductive. Interesting.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Cumberbatch plays the voice of Smaug the dragon in the Hobbit movie if you like his sexy voice like me.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah...right next to Watson..er...Bilbo...so much potential for blooper reels...fan fic etc...
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The progressive cultural emasculation of men continues
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not in Sherlock it doesn't. Very smart dangerous guy teamed up with real honest-to-god war hero guy with an illegal handgun he's not afraid to use, all teamed up with old timey puppet master British Intelligence...I'm honestly surprised it got made in today's Britain.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
They actually made a proper Dr. Watson for a change? Although if they had Adler unclothed they missed the point; she actually plays a minuscule part in the series. In fact, it would seem the double standard is right there in the series, then.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Sherlock may be breaking new ground when it comes to depicting the sex appeal of an intelligent man"

I ask you to direct your attention to the way in which Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock on Star Trek became a hugh sex symbol over what, 50 years ago...
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course, that was because he was unattainable.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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