POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR SHERLOCK SERIES 2 & 3
[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou might have seen the slogans written on walls, or on posters. Or perhaps you saw a meme on Tumblr, or a hash tag on Twitter. However you got to hear about it, you’re almost certainly aware that there are plenty of avid fans who believe in Sherlock Holmes – and who are shouting it loudly in the form of a very contagious viral campaign.
What some members of the modern Sherlock fandom may not realize is that they’re standing on the shoulders of Sherlockians who were holding anguished public demonstrations over the death of the consulting detective over a century ago. All of the ‘Moriarty was real’, ‘I believe in Sherlock Holmes’, ‘I stand with John Watson’ graffiti, posters, t-shirts, wrist bands and gif sets that are currently floating around are continuations of the protests staged and the fanfiction written by turn of the century fans who just couldn’t handle the death of their hero.
And those sassy Victorians eventually got their way – within a decade of Holmes’ ‘death’, he had been resurrected and was back on the beat. The return of the supposedly dead Sherlock Holmes was now canon, having been written in to the gospel by the creator himself, Arthur Conan Doyle.
The modern Sherlock fandom is a beautiful thing, certainly. The infectious simplicity of the viral campaign is based upon the imagined reaction of someone living in the world of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes, a fictional fan who would be devastated at their hero’s downfall. Who would, in fact, refuse to believe that Holmes fabricated his cases, fabricated his nemesis Moriarty, merely in order to seem like a clever so and so. Fans such as this would indeed write on walls, leave crumpled posters in pubs, and wear shirts hash-tagged with catchy slogans. The creation of and participation in a fictional Sherlock Holmes fandom, by the show itself and by the real world Sherlock fandom, is rather ingenious (if you can get your head around it).
However, it was the Victorians that really got the ball rolling, not only for Sherlock but for fandoms everywhere, large and small, new and old. They were arguably the first proper fandom, or at least the first that took the form we would recognize today. They invented fandom, they invented fanfiction, and not only that, they managed to browbeat an author into making their fanfiction into true fiction, their headcanon into canon.
Even if they don’t realise it consciously, modern day Sherlockians know deep down that Sherlock Holmes is only alive because we, the public, wanted it that way. The Victorian fans refused to accept that Holmes was dead, and carried on refusing to accept it until he wasn’t dead anymore. Thanks to their audacity, fans today can throw themselves into fighting ‘John Watson’s War’ with an exceptional amount of gusto, because they know that the Victorians already won it for them one hundred years ago – and the cycle goes on.
Of course, there is one big difference between the old and new campaigns. The aim of the first was simply to resurrect Sherlock; the second is a little more complicated. This time around, we know that Sherlock is alive. What we may not know is whether or not he is indeed a very clever fraud. The fandom believes in him, not only because he is their hero, but also because they ‘know’ the accusations to be false. Even so, bringing him back from the dead seems relatively easy in comparison…