The Wily Oriental

I didn’t expect to like the latest series of Sherlock, especially since my love affair with Steven Moffat (the Grand Moff) had sort of fallen out post-s5 Doctor Who. When the series finally premiered on the BBC, a part of me resisted.

For about 10 minutes.

I blame the speed of my giving in to the fact that I now have Unifi (ahem, ahem, show off, I know) making downloading a breeze. But really, I have to watch it since I love murder mysteries. I mean look at the blog. I’m an aspiring murder mystery writer. And then, the last Sherlock Holmes movie was utterly brilliant.

Plus, it’s Sherlock Holmes brought to 2010? Fascinating.

My finger was heavy as clicked the download button. This was in protest of the Grand Moff’s treatment of the Doctor Who series post-RTD. Perhaps I stand in the minority here, but I am a big fan of the RTD era and I disliked what he did to the new series of Doctor Who.

I have to say that watching the first episode of Sherlock, I tried really hard to dislike it. But I ended up really liking it. I especially liked Martin Freeman as John Watson. I’ve always had a soft spot for Martin Freeman, and his portrayal as the tormented Watson post-war, his irritation combined with fondness for the man himself was everything I imagined. Benedict Cumberbatch was unnaturally skinny, but other than that, he endeared himself as the slightly cold, detached but the genius Sherlock Holmes was.

There were some little bits that I did not enjoy, like the graphics that popped up every so often. The mystery was easy to solve – but I suppose I’ve read and watched so many murder mysteries that it was easy to figure out.

But the second episode. *Spoilers Ahead*

I still love Sherlock Holmes but I found the second episode, frankly rather bizarre. They had this entire episode of a Chinese acrobat troop that had connections to Triads in China and as always, a helpless but very beautiful damsel in distress with in-depth knowledge of Chinese treasure. And of course, she was an orphan rescued by the triads.

I tweeted about this issue saying that Asians are all about doing mystical things, obsessing over lotuses, tai chi in between our laundry. Sometimes, I imagine that Westerners imagine Asians to wake up in the morning, we read our ancient scrolls whilst we sit on the floor doing our ancient tea-ceremony. And then a quick exercise of some fancy martial arts before I go off to work. Of course, my job will consist of something like calligraphy or some other Asian arts and then I’ll round my evening with a Malay dance that I’ve practiced since I was a wee child, making me nimble and apt to do acrobatics. That way, I can easily climb up the wall of my house when I’ve lost the keys.

It’s like it’s almost impossible to imagine that we do *gasp* boring things like go to the office, get stuck in traffic, pick up a Starbucks, go to dinner at a restaurant, whine and bitch about our bosses.

You know, it’s fine to write about the wily Orientals but if they’ve updated Sherlock Holmes to 2010, update the triads to 2010. The Blind Banker did not really romanticize it as much as made it ridiculous. As far as I know, they’re not into acrobatics. No, they beat people up, they are brutal, they chain people up. They’re not fun or sweet or certainly mystical. They are scary as hell.

And Asian women are  more than capable of taking care of themselves, thank you very much. We’re not all damsels in distress you know with long-flowy hair and doe-eyed looks.

Some of us have frizzy hair.

In conclusion: Let’s hope tonight’s final episode would be better.

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4 comments on “The Wily Oriental

  1. Hi Adlina!

    Roisin pointed me towards your blog. It’s very interesting to read your criticism of The Blind Banker. Like you, I’d been seduced by the first episode, and felt badly let down by the second. Even more than the antiquated presentation of the Triad, I was troubled by the way Chinatown was made alien and threatening. Why wouldn’t Sherlock have contacts in the Chinese community? Everything about that sequence made me queasy – I wrote about it myself last week here:

    http://squeezegutalley.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/sherlock-the-blind-banker-review/

    Glad to see that you enjoyed The Great Game more (I did too!), let’s hope lessons are learnt for series 2…

    • Adlina says:

      Glad to know I wasn’t the only one thinking that way. It’s interesting how we view what was more “offensive” or “strange”. I did not found Chinatown alien, I suppose Eizwan and I spent more time reminiscing about Chinatown from our student days and I was amused that they tried to make it “exotic”. My memories of Chinatown are mostly of hungry students looking for food, and pointing out who were Malaysians and who were not (there is a clear distinction) and so, it was more silly than it was offensive.

      My greatest disappointment comes from the way Asian characters are portrayed. The Beeb made no exception to the rule, Asians are usually mystical and wise, *wax on, wax off*, their women either femme fatales or damsels in distress (who always dies spectacularly) and we’re all adept at karate and kung fu.

      My favourite Asian character at the Beeb so far is Tosh (Torchwood) I think. She was just a British character who happens to be of Asian origin. And most Asians in Asia are like her, worried about everything else other than scrolls and kungfu.

  2. Yeah, I know what you mean. I had been through Chinatown a few days before watching the episode and my experience really couldn’t have been more different than Sherlock’s. No suspicious looking men peering at me through windows, no wrinkled old women trying to sell me obscure trinkets, etc. etc.

    I’m especially disappointed at the resort to cliche because I think the people behind the show are intelligent. That makes it even worse, doesn’t it? Thanks for commenting on my blog, as you said it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one to find this episode a silly one!

  3. […] me, many reviewers latched on to the outdated Orientalist aspects of the tale. Adlina bemoaned the stereotyping of Asian women, while Sherlocking noted that Chinatown was presented as alien and threatening. One of the […]

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