Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Irene Adler: Empowered Woman or Perpetuating Sterotypes?

In the episode "A Scandal in Belgravia" of the amazing BBC show Sherlock, we meet the intriguing character of Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver. She is a dominatrix by trade who has compromising photos of a member of the royal family and may use them for blackmail. However, she is much more than that. She has an intellect to rival Holmes' and ends up getting the better of him in several situations. Although she later reveals herself to be a lesbian, she uses seduction as a tool to control even Sherlock and Watson. When the pair first encounter her, she appears completely naked, to thwart Holmes' usual modes of deduction from observation. Over the episode, through calls and texts, she slowly gets him to begin to fall for her, which she exploits to use his powers of reasoning to crack a government code, aiding a terrorist cell. Holmes is mortified that he has been tricked into aiding the enemies of Britain, and that Adler didn't really have feelings for him, but at the end of the episode it is revealed that he helps her cheat death again. Her attraction (or lack thereof) to Sherlock is also called into question.

Although she is a sort-of villain, one cannot help but admire her skill in manipulating interpersonal relationships to her advantage. She she repeatedly uses her sexuality as a weapon against men who continually fall for it and play into her hands. Should we view these actions as harmful to women, because Adler is going out of her way to be seen as a sexual object, instead of as a person who is smart and powerful regardless of her gender? On the other hand, she shows that a woman doesn't have to be seen as weaker just because she is sexualized. She also does force the men who fall for her ploy to re-examine their feelings and view of women. Even the fact that she is open about the fact that she is a dominatrix, which is a universally maligned practice, gives her power because it is something that everyone else has to get over, not something she could be embarrassingly accused of. Her profession aslo speaks about her as a character, as it is all about a power dynamic, giving her the authority in the bedroom, where men are generally considered to be the dominant force. Although not super or a hero, Irene Adler shows that, as a woman, sex appeal and power can be intertwined without one detracting from the other.

1 comment:

  1. This version of Irene Adler seems to be quite raunchy (being a dominatrix and naked and all). I guess this meshes with the modern sensibility of the series. After all, Sherlock himself is a sociopath, a far cry from the Bohemian Gentleman of the canon...

    Have to see how far the second season deviates from the canon..Cant help being a ardent Sherlockian for most of my life :)



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.