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Chinese fans are head over heels in love with Sherlock

2014-02-26 09:35:04

(China Daily) By LUCY CHUNG


Benedict Cumberbatch has become a heartthrob to Chinese fans of the BBC TV series Sherlock.[CHINA DAILY]

Benedict Cumberbatch has become a "male god" to Chinese fans of the BBC television series Sherlock, and is nicknamed Curly Fu in China, a name that combines the actor's screen image and the pronunciation of Sherlock Holmes in Chinese. Cumberbatch's Holmes is not exactly a people person. His moods swing high and low. How does such a character become a heartthrob?

The actor commented on his character in a recent interview: "He's got a God complex. I think he thinks he's not human, so therefore anyone that is is just a letdown to him."

It could be the unreachable perfection that charms the ordinary. Sherlock writer Steven Moffat explains that Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories had a huge female following, and that's because "the Victorian ladies liked the way Sherlock looked", Moffat said.

"So I thought, use this massively exciting, rather handsome man who could see right through your heart and have no interest ... Of course, he's going to be a sex god! ... I think our female fan base all believe that they'll be the one to melt that glacier. They're all wrong—nothing will melt that glacier."

The series first aired in 2010, and when it became available on a Chinese video site in March 2011, it received more than 24 million views.

One month ago, series three was launched on Youku, a Chinese video-hosting website. It received almost 3 million hits overnight. Avid fans filled the Internet and there are forums dedicated to Curly Fu and Peanut's relationship—Peanut has similar pronunciation to Watson in Chinese, and it is a "cute" nickname given by his Chinese fans.

Female fans who enjoy looking for clues of a homosexual relationship have earned the nickname "rotten women".

The interdependence, the lingering looks and even the intense arguments between Holmes and Watson are simply maifu—"teasing the audience with its 'rotten' details", while "rotten" serves as a self-mocking reference to the fans' "hopeless rotten taste". The term originated in Japan where fujoshi refers to women who look for a gay subtext in TV shows or films.

Of course, it is not just women who like to fantasize about the unspoken affection between the sleuth and his sidekick.

Since 2010, Cumberbatch has inspired a new wave of fan fiction, danmei in Chinese, on the Internet, where Holmes and Watson are depicted as a couple, giving birth to literary creations such as this rhyme (translated from Chinese): "Sherlock tortures Watson a thousand times, and Watson loves him like his first love."

In a recent interview about series three, Mark Gatiss, the co-writer of Sherlock, says "crazy fan mail" from China tops the fan mail he receives every day. "Normally there's a discussion of what's happened, and questions about how we could leave John in such a state, and so on."

The enthusiasm of Sherlock fans in China has even spilled over to mainstream politics. When United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron visited Beijing in December, the top request sent to his Sina Weibo account was "to speed up the release of the new series of Sherlock".

China is not alone though. In 2010, tabloids in London speculated on the "bromance" in Sherlock. And the rumors start whenever a new season is launched.

According to Cumberbatch's logic, "the man is too busy to have sex".

And Moffat has denied the idea from the beginning: "There's no indication in the original stories that he was asexual or gay. He actually says he declines the attention of women because he doesn't want the distraction. What does that tell you about him? Straightforward deduction. He wouldn't be living with a man if he thought men were interesting."

However, Moffat admits that he always wanted to play on the confusion of Holmes and Watson's relationship. "The ambiguity is fine." How rotten!

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