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Although we may not typically consider a trailer released months before the film’s debut or a quote from an interview as a part of an actual movie, these do serve significantly to shape how we approach our viewing of the film for the first time as well as how we reflect upon it while viewing, after viewing, or upon revisiting it.
To many diehards of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch appears to be the definitive figure in this contemporary work. Playing Arthur Conan Doyle, Jeremy Brett complicates the detective in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes up to 1994. On the other hand, most viewers observe that Benedict has honored the great man who defined Holmes for the current generation.
Although Genette discusses the paratext in reference to literary works in particular, the concept can easily be applied to the filmic text. Cumber batch provides a writer’s eloquence in relaying Brett’s impression.
A literary paratext might include a book’s cover, title page, preface, or even reviews about a book, whether quoted upon its jacket or encountered by a potential reader in a magazine. In the analysis of this paper, a film paratext could be a movie trailer, DVD cover, title sequence, reviews from the press, or interviews with the writers, directors, and cast.
Brett Jeremy and the Holmes Audience
Sherlock’s creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, anticipated an international audience of newcomers as well as a homegrown Holmes fan base. This is amid Brett’s public battle with a bipolar disorder that almost ended his career in acting.
The first episode’s title is a variation of A Study in Scarlet, Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel that introduced Sherlock Holmes to readers; it is an appropriate choice for the episode that introduces 21st century Sherlock to television audiences in Britain. Brett’s death in 1995, after a heart failure, was a major blow to other members of the cast.
The murdered “pink” lady reflects not only a color and story connection with the original text but twists the tale into a modern commentary about eye-catching colors for women working in the media and the victim’s need to be perfectly groomed and color coordinated in order to be acceptable for her job and her lovers (Aumont 38).
Even her accessories, such as a mobile phone, are in, as Sherlock refers to them as being of an alarming shade of pink. In every version of this episode, whether broadcast in the U.K. or internationally, in edited or full format, the story begins not with Sherlock but with Jeremy Brett, who becomes the character with whom the audience is expected to identify and thus is an appropriate entry character to get viewers involved with the story.
Brett’s flashback to an Afghani war zone, also appropriate to the original Watson’s war record (another plus for traditional Holmes fans), makes him a sympathetic modern character who might be a returned veteran like someone viewers know in real life.
The news-style flashback modernizes Watson’s pre-Sherlock experiences, as does his visit with his therapist and comments about writing a blog.
His final line before the opening credits, “Nothing ever happens to me,” may be appropriate for the couch potatoes watching this episode; vicariously, their lives, too, are about to change as they enter the world of Sherlock’s adventures (Aumont 29). The opening theme immediately follows this line, overlaying the rush of London traffic and pulling Benedict Cumberbatch, and the viewers, into the story.
They, walking alongside Watson, become pulled into Sherlock’s world, learning a lot about the detective’s “science of deduction” as well as his personal history within the scope of the first episode. This Victorian setting in England brings forth Downey Robert Jr. as Holmes opens up to the 21st Century tales of sensibility (Aumont 34). Beyond the television series, new viewers can also “play Watson” by visiting Sherlock’s website, The Science of Deduction, which appears the same as on television.
Betrayal of Holmes
Appropriating Ritchie’s initial vision for the films, Downey has on multiple occasions promoted the adaptations as potentially homoerotic. During the first film’s production, his suggestion to the press that Holmes and Watson would wrestle and share a bed attracted critics’ and audiences’ attention.
On the other hand, Brett’s appearance in the 41 episodes of Holmes from 1984 to 1994 allows the audience to comment on his betrayal of Holmes. They observed that He would have continued with such line of action had he not died at the young age of 61 (Aumont 42).
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Although Ritchie has never declared Holmes as gay-rather, he has elaborated “while these guys are sort of in love with each other,” they are “a hetero-sexual couple that at moments could seem gay” (Aumont 46). Downey’s inferences have dominated, serving as the defining paratext for the films.
Genette’s theory of paratextuality posits seemingly external materials as an inextricable part of a text, with the prefixpara- at Once denoting that which is “separate from or going beyond” while also serving as “analogous or parallel to,” according to the OED (Aumont 48).
Aumont James. L’Analyse des films/Analysis of Film. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1988. Print.