Hi, and thank you so much!!
That’s a great question, and I get lots of Irene asks, so I’m just going to go for it here…
Irene Adler: The Woman, The Myth, The Meta
Let’s start with A Scandal in Bohemia. Often, when writers set out to create another Sherlock Holmes adaptation, they decide to use Irene Adler as his love interest, despite the fact that she only actually appears in one canonical story. Why? Because she’s beautiful and clever. So naturally canon-Sherlock was in love with her.
Of course, anyone who actually bothered reading the story knows that isn’t the case at all.
Canon Sherlock Holmes is intrigued by Irene. She’s highly intelligent and she outsmarts him. He keeps a photograph of her as a souvenir once they part ways as a reminder of the woman who beat him.
If I had to make a list of guesses to Canon Sherlock Holmes’s sexual orientation, “straight” wouldn’t even crack the top five. So it irks me to no end that people assume his interest in Irene must be sexual. God forbid he really is just impressed with her mind. Who cares how powerful her brains are?? Look at her boobs, for chrissake!
There was no romance between them in the canon story. Period.
I imagine Moffat and Gatiss were beside themselves with glee when they wrote this episode. They made it through the first season loading all three shows with crazy homoerotic subtext, setting up the beginning of their slow build to Johnlock, reading reviews and criticism that pointed out All The Gay while at the same time heralding it a fine bromance, with a minority of fans crying “queerbait.” Queerbaiting? the writers thought. No no no. Quite the opposite, dears. Just you wait.
Enter: The Woman.