Honoring the Heroine: Molly Hooper

Well, I have discussed how the most important females in the Sherlock Holmes stories are usually portrayed in adaptations, I have discussed the treatment of females in general – but what about the last group of characters, those, who are added in adaptations?

This is the point at which I am running in a little bit of a problem. There are so many adaptations and once in a while, there are indeed pretty well-written female original characters in them. It is pretty much impossible to make a sweeping statement about all of them. Therefore I will focus on how “Sherlock” is doing this time around.

The answer: All in all not too badly. I have some grievances with Sarah Sawyer, but there is nothing outright offensive about her. Sally Donovan, though created as an antagonist, is actually a fairly rounded character in that I see where she is coming from when she complains about Sherlock not playing by the rules. Unlike Anderson, she is never portrayed as incompetent, but as Lestrade’s trustworthy right-hand. Sherlock’s mother turns out to be the actual source of Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s incredible intelligence, when the show could have easily attached this ability to the father. But what summons up the show’s approach to female characters the best, is the scene when Sherlock talks with the victims of the Mayfly man.

It might be strange to compliment a scene in which we see a bunch of woman who were duped by a man, but what I appreciate about it is the diversity presented. For example the experience with the Mayfly man reach from “just cuddling” to “kinky sex”, dependent on the personality of the woman in question. Body types and interests of them are totally different. In a media landscape in which the phrase “strong female character” is confused “she has to be a martial artist without any flaws whatsoever” it is really refreshing how different the woman in “Sherlock” are.


The best example for this is Molly, though it took some time for the writers to get there. In the first season, Molly is basically a punch-line. She exists to show what a careless and manipulative a-hole Sherlock can be. And it is easy to slip into the “well, she deserves it” mind-set, because she is so hung up on a guy who treats her like a doormat. This thought goes right out of the window when the second season rolls around, and Molly actually calls Sherlock out for treating her that badly. Suddenly there is a shift and the show seems to say: There is nothing wrong with being a nice person, and you should respect people who are this way. They are the ones who take over your shift during Christmas so that you can be with your family. They are the ones who will be there for you when everything falls apart. Don’t disrespect them. Be glad that they exist.

In the end that’s what it boils down to: Respect. In most shows or movies, there wouldn’t be any respect for a character like Molly. In “Sherlock” though, she is a key character. Without her, he wouldn’t have been able to fake his death. And when she doesn’t add to a case in real life, she is walking around in his mind palace.

That doesn’t mean that I agree with every decision the show made regarding her character. I expressed my feelings concerning women slapping men before, and this is a case in which it doesn’t work at all. It doesn’t really fit Molly to be that aggressive and it is pretty clear that the scene exists to give her a badass moment she doesn’t really need. I am also kind of sad that she isn’t able to move on from Sherlock. I was okay with it in the beginning, in fact, it made her character even better that despite her being so nice, she was not above showing off her new boyfriend and trying (without success) to make Sherlock jealous. She would be boring if she were perfect. But after all this years her feelings towards Sherlock come off more like an unhealthy obsession than a crush.

This is especially problematic because Molly is portrayed as very perceptive, she knows very well that Sherlock will never care for anyone as much as he cares for John. In fact, it is that knowledge which makes her so compelling. Her best scenes are easily in “The Reichenbach Fall” when she reveals that she knows that something is going on with Sherlock. The person who Sherlock overlooked is suddenly the person who has an incling what is going on in his mind. She is wrong, though, when she says she doesn’t count. She is the kind of person we take for granted but miss deeply as soon as they are gone.

At the end of the day, Molly works so well because she is us. Most woman aren’t hyper-competent martial artists. We are just normal people, who do our jobs, dress in whatever we consider comfortable and spend our days doing what has to be done. But we all like to think that we would step up in a time of need the way Molly does in “Sherlock”. She is not the heroine we wish to be, she is the heroine we could be.

Quote: “Well, we all do silly things.”

Well, this concludes my article series about Sherlock. I haven’t decided yet what I will do next. I have one or two ideas. But if you have suggestions, feel free to drop them. I promise I will consider them. Just remember that I don’t cover female children characters, they have to be at least 14 years old for consideration.

30 thoughts on “Honoring the Heroine: Molly Hooper

  1. Any characters from the Studio Ghibli films? They vary a lot, so there could be some choices.

    Also, ever considered adding Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog?” I know you don’t care much for the film, but I thought she was a good character. Outside of that, why not any child characters?

    • The characters from Studio Ghibli are all under the age cut. One day, when I run out of adult characters. Tiana, well, she is a case for Fairy Tale month is December. I will eventually discuss her, but I do only one Disney Princess every year. (And yes, for all my grievances with Princess and the Frog, Tiana actually is a pretty good character).
      I just feel that there is this odd thing that there are actually a number of good female child characters but once they reach a certain age, they just vanish from the media. That’s why I focus on adult characters for now.

    • Technically the character I would have to discuss is Riley, not Joy, and Riley is a child, but I might make an exception since her feelings are more adult…mmm….You know what, I might do an Inside-Out months.

  2. Just had a thought. What about any superheroines? Not just ones in films (i.e. Mrs. Incredible), just any media in general.

    • On my list for the begging of next year. I wanted AoS to finish it’s third season at the very least. (I can’t really comment on their comic book versions competently, so I’ll stick to movies and TV shows)

  3. Might I leave a suggestion? The heroines from A Song of Ice and Fire. (the book series in which Game of Thrones is based on – but I’m talking about the books here, not the TV show, since it screws some of the characters). They are worth talking about.

    • I don’t like a Son of Ice and Fire. I read the first books, but I stopped at one point because I felt so unclean doing so. Those books lure you into seeing the arranged marriage between a grown up man and a child is big romances, has a tendency to characterize woman (especially those John Snow encounters) over their sexuality alone, and is way too interested in describing rape for my taste. There will be a cold day in hell before I will honour anything related to this accursed book series which somehow lured the readers (and the audience) into believing that this is somehow feminist writing. This is a fantasy world, there is no reason to create it in a way that females are humiliated and cut down at every opportunity.

      • Well, I’m a male, so as much as I support the feminist movement, I can only opinate as an outsider. But I feel like there is a big difference between characterization and endorsement. Yes, Daenerys may grow to love the man who rapes her, but that doesn’t mean we are supposed to see it as healthy or as a great love story. And the author already spoke about how he uses rape in his stories to show that it is a part of war and medieval (and yes, even today’s) culture. I don’t think it feels nearly as gratuitous as the rape in the TV Show.

      • I never bothered much with the TV show because I had already stopped reading the books when I did, but the thing is: The way it is written, you totally buy into the big love story. It lures you in. I was fairly far into the series (I think the part where a bunch of noble woman got randomly raped was the breaking point for me) when I suddenly realized what I just read. And I am not the only one who bought into it, even before the TV show there were a lot of Daenerys/Drago shippers out there (I guess now there are even more?). So while it MIGHT have been the attention to show how unhealthy the relationship is, since we never got an outside perspective on Daenerys but only see her perspective, it basically plays down the rape of a freaking 12 year old – and yes, I am well aware that in the middle ages 12 year old noble woman were married off. I am ALSO well aware that it was nevertheless frowned upon to consummate the marriage at this age even back then (though more for biological reasons, a pregnancy can kill a 12 year old, while there were some pigs who didn’t wait, it wasn’t unusual that 12 year old got married off for a political alliance and then ended up as 14 year old virgin widow). George R. R. Martin likes to pick certain aspects of the medieval ages, but he also likes to ignore other ones. For example that rape of males was fairly common, too, no matter what the church thought about it. I am ready to believe that the TV show is even worse, but the books are bad enough. If you want to see how to actually make a point about rape WITHOUT approaching it in a way which serves more to titillate the reader or viewer, watch Jessica Jones.

        I am sure that there are other females out there who see it differently, because the books have some really good and impactful scenes. But the obsession with rape and sex ruins it for me.

      • 1. I would be lying if I said I didn’t buy it at first… but I have trouble analyzing when I’m really engrossed in something. And yeah, I’ll give it to you that a lot of people ship this couple, but there is always people out there to romanticize an abusive relationship.

        I feel Daenerys’s reactions were written in a believeable and organic manner. She has been abused and threatened by her brother her entire life, so when enters this man who rapes her but gives her a little bit of freedom and power, she develops feelings towards him. It’s not healthy, it’s dark, but Daenerys was basically a broken girl, so I don’t think it was that much of stretch.

        2. Rape of multiple noblewomen… are you referring to the riot of King’s Landig, which happens in the second book? If so, I think it makes sense in story… like I said, the author shows that rape is a form of violence that happens during war.

        3. Actually, it isn’t common to bed a twelve-year old in Westeros either (that is very important in the third book) – but Drogo is not from Westeros. He’s from Essos (the East). And the series do show sexual violence against men (there’s a mention of it in the first book, actually).

        3. (SPOILER ALERT, so skip this part if you want) In the third book, Sansa Stak is married to an older man (not going to tell who – I don’t want to give away that much), and I think this portrayal might be more to your liking. She isn’t raped (though he considers it),nor does she give in to this man: during her wedding ceremony, he tries to make her kneel (not to humilliate her – oh, I’m almost telling who he is), but she doesn’t. Plus, she also plans her escape.

        Did you have a favorite female character while reading the books? Btw, I always love to hear your opinion, no matter the subject. You are always so coherent and eloquent.

      • Yeah, instead her maid gets raped. That’s so much better.
        Honestly, it has been a long time since I read the books, so I really don’t know what happened at which point…I made it past the red wedding, but the following book didn’t really hold my interest enough, so I can’t really remember much. But my favourite character was actually Sansa. She is way better realized than the other characters imho. My heart broke for her when all her romantic ideas were destroyed once she was confronted with the harsh reality, and when she was forced to grew up and find her own way in all this. Deanery’s portrayal tended to annoy me at one point, though that is partly because it feels like they just fill time with her. Her story arc is way too disconnected from everything else, and a lot of her manoeuvrings were, well, not really that smart but the author just lets her get away with stuff I simply can’t buy. Arya had her moments, but she fell way too fast way too much into the action girl trope.
        Like I said, it has been years since I read the book, long before the TV show was even announced. But the last two of them were already a chore to read (in addition to the way my view on the first books shifted the more I grew up and realized what I actually read, I also don’t really appreciate the way the book goes on long-winder story arc which then end nowhere).

      • I’m confused: what maid are you talking about? I know it’s been a long time since your read the books, but is it Jeyne Poole? The girl who was her best friend?

        Sansa is my favorite too. I think it’s very easy for Disney fans to sympathize with her. After all, in another universe she could’ve been the heroine of a fairy tale.

        Here’s a good article (or so I think) about sexism in the TV series and adressing if the book series is sexist or not, if you’d like to read it: http://gotgifsandmusings.tumblr.com/post/117645193922/got-meta-depiction-vs-endorsement-and-sexism

        I hope you’re not annoyed by this little debate of ours. I don’t mean to intrude in your writing space or anything. Oh, and btw, did you see the teaser trailer for the live-action Beauty and the Beast?

      • Oh, not at all, I enjoy debates…

        Yeah, I saw it (like more or less everyone else). But it is hard to be optimistic about this one. Disney’s live action track record is terrible imho, I really don’t know how those movies make that much money.

      • You didn’t like Cinderella? I haven’t seen The Jungle Book yet, so I can’t comment on that one. Oh, and apparently a live-action version of The Little Mermaid is on the works.

      • There is a lot in the work.
        The Cinderella remake had their good points but what they did to Cinderella as a character is a crime. It is not as anger inducing as Maleficent, but it is nevertheless utterly pointless.

      • Oh, I really hope you tackle this story for December! I’m SO looking forward for a detailed article on the Disney character from you.

        Oh, and now you made me really, really curious about what you have to say about the ‘new’ Cinderella. I only saw the movie once, but I felt something was off with her… now I realize it was the voice. The voice is a deal breaker with me. I think her voice must be soft and warm, it lends maturity to the character. Oh, and the scene where she is daydreaming while she is locked in the attic is so weird… I’m surprised it got overlooked by feminist critics. But I think we’d agree that it is not as bad as the ‘sequealed’ version of Cinderella, no?

      • Yeah, but that is really an easy feat. I had Cinderella on my list for a while, but I have waited for a December with a lot of Saturdays because, well, there are a lot adaptations out there.

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