We live in a world where the idea of intelligence is highly subjective. Still, in the international entertainment industry, we do have an almost common fandom for certain TV shows which are considered as ‘intelligent’. One ‘intelligent-notable’ fact of these shows is that most of the protagonists are often male. They have driven a lot of people to consider themselves as ‘sapiosexuals‘, but with certain conditions that often disappoint asexual, aromantic and the LGBTQ Spectrum. If you haven’t watched these shows, you will be thoroughly judged by this fandom, in the same way as the fans of Potterverse shame others as ‘muggles‘.
The Big Bang Disappointment
Being a physics student, it was hard not to have come across the show The Big Bang Theory. My earlier ignorant self did enjoy it; I liked the out-of-the-box character of Sheldon. I found him relevant in some aspects, his way of looking at the world seems unique. The Big Bang Theory rose to popularity because of two kinds of audience, one-the fresh science enthusiasts who liked it because it has physicists and has a few catchy physics jokes thrown here and there, and two, sitcom lovers and the so called ‘sapiosexuals‘. But we can’t forget that it has been repeatedly homophobic, racist and sexist, and it is highly disappointing for the asexual and/or aromantic spectrum.
It’s unjust to a character like Sheldon to have friends who continuously mock his seemingly asexual nature and coax him into dating. Also, linking the ‘weird’/’nerd’/’anything that the society considers as abnormal’ traits to asexuality and then trying to appropriate him into the ‘normal’ social construct by giving him a romantic life etc., is another level of discrimination.
The desperation of the creators of the show to propagate the idea that you can’t have a ‘happily ever after’ without having heterosexual romance in life is very evident if you watch the show from a neutral gaze. It’s unjust to a character like Sheldon to have friends who continuously mock his seemingly asexual nature and coax him into dating. Also, linking the ‘weird’/’nerd’/’anything that the society considers as abnormal’ traits to asexuality and then trying to appropriate him into the ‘normal’ social construct by giving him a romantic life etc., is another level of discrimination. Another character that seems to be struggling to get a partner is of Raj. Though the show is full of so called ‘nerds’ and ‘weirdos’, since he’s an Indian, the writers of this American show would obviously portray him to have a weirder and more cringe-worthy struggle for romance.
Sherlock: High Functioning Disaster
Then comes the BBC series Sherlock, which is obviously based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. The original version of Sherlock Holmes’s character is shown to have (by choice or by nature) an absence of romantic entanglement, and is efficient in not letting emotions take over his brain; though he is definitely good at caring for people and he does value his friendship with Dr. Watson and other few characters. But never, in any of his stories, has Sir Arthur Conan Doyle appropriated or tried to fit Holmes in social stereotypes.
On the contrary, the series version of Sherlock is shown to be a very cold towards people and careless in everyday life in the beginning of the series. John Watson literally does all the people management and chores like “conventional wives” usually do for their husbands, therefore there is a huge fan-base that likes to insinuate a relationship between Sherlock and John, where even the characters in the series are shown to do the same; and I find that very problematic. We also get very angry at his treatment of Molly Hooper who’s indirectly shown to be in love with him.
If Sherlock is in the grey area of aromantic and asexual spectrum, his brother Mycroft seems to be completely asexual and aromantic. Linking asexual and aromantic nature of both of them to asocial and arrogant behavior, makes aromantics and asexuals look cold-hearted machines. Mycroft constantly berates Sherlock for letting his ‘oh so non-emotional persona’ shatter and he considers other people’s choices beneath him.
John Watson literally does all the people management and chores like “conventional wives” usually do for their husbands, therefore there is a huge fan-base that likes to insinuate a relationship between Sherlock and John, where even the characters in the series are shown to do the same; and I find that very problematic.
While in real life, no introverts, non-binary or ace/aro humans would berate anyone for their life choices and would expect the same from everyone! And when the reason behind Mycroft’s berating gets cleared in season 4, it becomes a huge disappointment. Their sister Eurus, who is a super-genius, is shown to be a big villainy psychopath too. They show how in childhood, Sherlock becomes ‘unemotional’ because of Eurus (so shifting the blame on a woman, but we’re used to it, aren’t we?) And guess what, she is mentioned to be pansexual, and is shown to have seduced John to get to Sherlock. This is what convenient demonization of non-binary and supposedly ‘abnormal’ humans looks like.
Hannibal and Psychological Manipulation In The Name of Romance
Hannibal series, on the other hand, is openly inclusive of homosexual characters and relationships. There are huge liberties taken by the creators of the show and it has a very thin connection with the novel series by Thomas Harris.
The antagonist (Hannibal Lecter) and the protagonist (Will Graham), whom Hannibal eventually manipulates into something similar to himself, are the ones playing the homosexual tension in the series. ‘Tension’, because Hannibal literally manipulates Will and every other person in the series just to make Will turn towards him. None of them are asexual or aromantic, but the idea of love or entanglement shown in the series is sick. It’s about how a serial killer and a cannibal becomes obsessed with a person and manipulates him into taking note of him, loving him and eventually forcing him to die with him (how romantic!)
There’s no point in discussing consent here, the whole series is about psychological manipulation. Will’s journey is highly torturous and might prove to be a trigger for those who’ve survived emotional torture by their partners. More sickening is the high aesthetics of the series, where even cannibalism, murders and emotional manipulation are extremely romanticized. Also, why and how did the show’s writers decide to portray a strong link between all these things and homosexual relationships?
Though I don’t understand the general functioning of a romantic relationship, I’d never wish such a toxic and/or unyielding relationships and constant appropriation and/or demonization on any of the humans on this planet. But we know it happens everyday.
In this Aromantic Spectrum Awareness Week, I hope we work towards proper representation and inclusivity in entertainment shows to propagate the idea of respecting everyone’s identity without downplaying or appropriating them.