Little wonder we stumble in life.

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Things I Learned About Toxic Discourse

When you go online to “join the conversation,” you might find yourself a little lost how to begin. Some conversations online are constructive, but some aren’t. There are plenty of conversations that involve a toxic rhetoric.

There are a range of such conversations out there, so it’s no surprise that there are also conversations on that very topic online. Here’s what I’ve learned from these conversations so far.


This conversation tells you the basics of how to converse and what healthy and non-healthy conversations alike look like. Not only that, but it gives you a history of why we converse the way we do.

But look. As relevant as all this is, and it is, it also centres on American-style discourse, because of course Americans are the majority on the internet and because they are very influential globally. It’s a mindset that I myself have never felt as strongly, so I’ve always assumed that other non-Americans also don’t have as extreme a mindset as those Americans who share the Bush mentality.

Given this, I think it’s worth looking at how American media specifically is run.


Well, I would say non-Americans are harder to control because our media is far less jingoistic than America’s is. We don’t have exactly the same poisonous media, but we are still somewhat focused inwards; a lot of our big news stories, even if they happen overseas, is always focused on our nation’s citizens.

But, America does seem to be a special case, since their media does seem to be narrower and more extreme. I believe that a lot of their toxic discourse comes from keeping themselves in their own bubble and shunning those that exist outside it. Americans specifically, after all, seem to be the loudest voices when it comes to arguing over specific topics.


I know it isn’t just Americans that are the problem. It’s just that Americans specifically are more in the public eye than other Westerners, making their brand of discourse the more visible one. Because it carries more influence, both online and globally, their discourse becomes the voice of other Westerners, since we share much of the same culture, and thus prejudices, as Americans.

Take, for example, this conversation regarding gender roles in Western culture, as opposed to outside cultures.


And then there are those who take it as their mission to spread such toxic discourse, and test out those that would oppose them in order to find their weaknesses.


There are specific techniques they use, too.


There’s also a thing called ‘gaslighting,’ which is referenced quite a lot. A simple example:


However, I do have an example that talks about it at a bit more length. By examining media, the following example talks about gaslighting, as well as other concepts such as the “female gaze”. The purpose of adding this example is to compare a toxic relationship to a healthy one.

The purpose of these examples is seeing how to deal with toxic discourse when it arises, not only online but in real life.


Conversely, this next example shows a toxic discourse between female fans of Sherlock and its show runners, as well as providing a counterpoint to the above example’s female gaze, namely the much more common male gaze. It also demonstrates the toxic relationship between women and men in real life.


Slight addendum to this, regarding male and female fans:


You don’t have to go online to see all these cases; this is simply the setting many of us use to share our stories or spread our ideas. These ideas may be toxic, or like in these examples, they could spread awareness of these terrible discourses and how to circumvent them. That was my intention here.

I’ll leave you with one last example, which shows how you could react to toxic discourse with grace.


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A Study in Subtext: BBC Sherlock’s Stag Night in The Sign of Three

Get ready, this post is fully loaded.

There is much subtext, particularly between John and Sherlock, that one could study in the whole of BBC Sherlock. Since entering the fandom of the show, I have been eager enough about it, but it isn’t until recently that I’ve truly sunk so deep into the mire of all its coded messages and the most subtle indications of character. One might argue I was making it all up, I’ve gotten so deep into the particulars. But such a person would not appreciate the genius of Sherlock Holmes, who understood overlooking even the smallest insignificant details can, all things told, be the most significant of all.

Like Sherlock Holmes, I want to take this as objectively as I can. However, I also understand that, just as disguise is a self-portrait, so I believe is everything else, including our inferences. Also, the subject matter to which I plan to pay attention is more of a literary, not a scientific nature, which is rather where we differ. But I like to think he would at least appreciate the close examination, even if he would dismiss the romantic.

I have gotten some of my ideas for this through TJLC Explained, which I have recently become obsessed enough with to inspire this. However, I have also recently been reading the original canon of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, which I may also draw on here. I largely plan to reveal character through lighting, colour, and body language in this post.

Most of my readings for colour came from TJLC Explained. However, I have my own interpretations of purple and yellow, and have further devised more readings from the original canon story, The Hound of the Baskervilles. In this, brown came to represent obscurity for me, which was something that ran through the story constantly. However, white became something more of a mystery to me, as it was repeated in different contexts, as so had different meanings. In the end, I united these different readings with one to unify them: exposure. The light in the darkness, the revelations of character that pale faces brought, and the white obscuring fog all seemed to communicate something either to do with obscurity or revelation. In this way, I’ve decided that white simply represents the risk of exposure one way or another, and as these are common issues in BBC Sherlock, I’ve decided to apply these ideas to the show.

I also have seen the above and plan to use it more broadly in analysing BBC Sherlock. For example,

Mycroft carries his umbrella, and John carried his cane (in Study In Pink) on their right; the psychosomatic limp indicating the truth of John’s condition as that of heartbreak, not PTSD. This similar behaviour indicates emotionally vulnerability, and both men need these items to support them.

For now let’s focus slowly on the events of the pair’s stag night in The Sign of Three, which is one of my favourite sequences from the series, and probably the most overt example so far for John and Sherlock’s relationship being more intimate than is explicitly shown.

It is interesting first to contemplate how this story is told by Sherlock in his best man’s speech at the wedding, considering its public forum. He did announce his intention to embarrass John through his “funny stories”, but how far would he be willing to go? I think a true revelation would result in far more than embarrassment on John’s part, especially at his own wedding, to hear his best man tell a room full of people that John flirted with and felt up Sherlock in Baker Street. And, after all, all this had a further purpose beyond embarrassing John, and that was to set up the tale of the Mayfly Man. So I think it’s more likely he told a condensed version of the story, only inasfar as it mattered to the story that it led to.

During his speech, I also want to talk briefly about the way colour is used.

First, look at John and Mary’s reactions to this quote. There is a juxtoposition here in what Sherlock says and the reality of this pair together. Sherlock is “uncomprehending” in the face of what he takes to be a happy couple but what is really a sad one. John is facing Sherlock, but not looking at him, indicating that what he’s sad about relates to Sherlock, and his downward glance seems to suggest he’s sadly resigned about the two of them. Mary, who seems to take up this shot more (so as to bring less attention to John’s reverie), seems in the middle of an unhappy realisation, and like John, seems to be facing Sherlock with her eyes downcast, still processing. Perhaps she is just now realising the depth of John and Sherlock’s relationship, and perhaps she is devastated at this new rival for John’s love.

Second, clothes: both Sherlock and John are wearing black over white, which in this case bears the symbolism of something obscure (black) covering their exposed selves (white). Under this meaning, we can also interpret Mary here as exposed, which is to say that she is his wife and they’re in a relationship, which is clear for all to see. Yet John and Sherlock, even here, are not so completely open about their relationship. Also note the colours on Sherlock’s flower, revealing exposure, intimacy and jealousy through white, purple and green; also, the yellow wall behind Sherlock as he speaks provides another reading, that of an emotional warmth behind his words. This emotional affect is offset by the controlled white, but the dominance of yellow in this close shot overpowers Sherlock’s intended control.

He didn’t intend the level of exposure and warmth upon the audience that affected, didn’t expect them to see so thoroughly through his barely-veiled words to the heart underneath, and for an instant he panics, relying on John to see him through it.

John reassures him, and after a pause, he allows himself to move onto his “funny stories”.

I have plenty enough to say about events before and after the private scene at Baker Street, however I found a tumblr post regarding that scene that I want to clear up first, so I shall start there.

So, as the night has progressed to this point, Sherlock gets drunk, and seems to let go. But his behaviour, as open as he seems to become, is later pulled back in the big scene alone with John in Baker Street. The intimacy is still there, but Sherlock seems more on his guard again, as he’s no longer using flamboyant gestures. Yet he seems relaxed at the beginning of the scene, consistent with the intimacy that has been revealed with the lowering of their inhibitions leading up to this scene.

In the scene alone together, and the later scene where the client takes them to the crime scene, we see both the colours of green and red. These colours in this former scene can also be associated with John’s chair, as well the shadowed red walls and the lamps that shine upon green parts of the room. John and Sherlock also appear to be lit up with green in this scene. We can also see equal amounts of green and red reflected in the ridges at the bottom of the mirror.

This post, I felt, was a rather subjective view on events that differs somewhat to my own reading. For me, there is both a desire to see these two together, but also an appreciation for what their desires signify. There are parts I agree with about the below interpretations, but on the whole I think the creator of the below gifs has more of an coloured view reflective of John, whereas my view is more reflective of Sherlock.

An example of what they got right about John:

Also notice that he punctuates ‘this’ by raising his eyebrows, indicating a tension (even as he behaves non-chalantly, resting his head on his fist as though about to sleep) that Sherlock might see through his game.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a separate example of the same action:

This example with Mrs. Hudson reveals an anxiety that even as he says it, he remains on the precipice of being discovered for what his true feelings are. Although “not gay” is a weak argument, it’s one of the only honest deflections he has.

However, below are corrections I would make.

The above is a rather gushy account of what Sherlock could be thinking in this moment, and is perhaps not entirely to the point. For example, the repetition of “put your hand on my leg again” (it will come up again) is clearly subjective as no evidence in this scene seems to indicate it.

Also note Sherlock appears first to look at John’s lips, revealing a desire he later avoids by shifting his gaze to John’s eyes.

So, rather than the above, I would interpret it as, “I really want to kiss you right now, but I can’t afford to let myself be honest with you, John. I need to stay in control and deflect the question.”

I see no reason, or in fact evidence, that Mary is on his mind at all. There is always the possibility, of course, but I’m not sure he would be this forward if she was on his mind. My interpretation, building upon his last dialogue, would simply be, “Please be attracted to me… Enough of the fancy talk, just tell me how you really feel. God, I want to kiss you right now.” This last part is revealed by his pressing his lips together, which draws down his face slightly so that his eyes, which are making an appeal to Sherlock, look slightly bigger and more appealing.

Sherlock squints his eyes to make out the words on John’s forehead, because he needs a distraction rather than to look at the appeal on John’s face. But he can’t make out the words, and in his frustration over being unable to divert his attention, backs out of a confession by still focusing on the note he can’t read.

My interpretation, “I am afraid to tell you the truth of how I really feel, but I can’t focus on anything else.”

John is frustrated from Sherlock’s avoidance of the question and lashes out. He feels hurt that Sherlock won’t say he’s attractive, and takes it out on him. This is evident from his irritated voice in the scene, and the sway that indicates he’s frustrated with getting Sherlock to be honest.

My interpretation, “You are bloody irritating, Sherlock. Why can’t you just be open with me?”

John falls back in his chair, one hand up in a gesture of “I’m done”, as Sherlock leans forward in a frustrated realisation that he’s upset John, who’s now frustratingly further away from him. It should also be noted here that he leaned further forward as this game progressed, as it required more concentration regarding how to interact with John, and also how to protect himself from his feelings being known.

My interpretation from John’s perspective, “You’re not getting it. You don’t understand what I’m asking you, do you, Sherlock? I can’t do this anymore.”

And from Sherlock’s, “What do you want from me, John? I can’t just tell you how I feel, so why are you doing this? You can’t just play this game with me, you’re getting married. You clearly don’t want me.”

It should be noted, too, the way they’re both sitting in this scene as a whole. John is sitting with legs often wide apart, creating the implication of an open invitation, especially a physical one. I also think John’s forward position for much of this scene is particularly indicative of a desire to be closer to Sherlock.

Sherlock on the other hand, who most often in other scenes has his legs crossed in an attempt to indicate his resistance to openness, has them open a lot in this scene. So he is also inviting John into his space, and in fact wants him there.

How do we know?

Because he doesn’t resist when John touches his knee, or when John’s other hand (a closed fist, which indicates a still repressed action in it) gets into his space just between his legs, and Sherlock makes little outward reaction indicating that he finds it an intrusion. In fact, he seems quite pleased, as his head bobs towards it in realisation of what is happening, and further replies, “Anytime,” after John says he doesn’t mind.

It should also be stated, though, that Sherlock closes his legs a number of times, too, showing a certain amount of reserve with John. Perhaps he is still unsure whether reaching out to John is wise, and perhaps he’s afraid that doing so isn’t safe for his heart.

This bottom gif I think is particularly telling. This is the very end of the scene alone together, when they’re interrupted by the client. Notice that Sherlock’s legs are crossed again as a way of hiding, and John has been caught halfway off his chair in an attempts to get closer to Sherlock, and can be seen adjusting himself just a little, self-conscious.

A few other notes in the form of John’s body language in this scene up to this point: First of all, in the top gif of the two above, you can just see in the corner John lifting his legs up so that his feet rest on the empty space of Sherlock’s chair. In context, this was further indicative of John’s desire to be more physically close to Sherlock, although when he crosses his legs in this position, it reveals he’s still too reserved to be completely open about his desires. John was also touching his face and neck a lot in this scene, such as when he had his fist against his lips and cheek, and when his thumb and forefinger pinched his neck. This reveals desires to kiss and touch being suppressed.

Oh, and by the way, this is Sherlock guessing who he is:

The first is an ego complex. The other is just love.

Before this big scene, we see in the lead-up that Sherlock starts off the night carefully planning their alcohol intake so that neither one overdoes it. This shows caution and a careful control of his behaviour. This very first part of the drunk sequence has neutral colours with no special indications regarding John and Sherlock, but this will change.

At the beginning, they seem reserved enough. We can see this in the masked expressions above, and by the colour coding of their clothes, which can show a subconscious representation of the characters’ mindsets.

John’s clothes include murky brown jacket and pants, indicating something hidden, and the jacket covers two layers of blue. This can either represent male attraction or, more likely, sadness. The latter is more likely because it’s a deeper psychological aspect than just wanting to send a subtle message of availability to Sherlock, especially as he’s still sober and more aware of the context of this night out. If so, then the message is more likely to be, “sadly, a friendly pub crawl is all this can be, because I’m getting married.” But the former will become relevant later, so I don’t want to rule it out now. John is also very buttoned up here, further revealing his inhibitions.

Sherlock’s outer layer is even darker than John’s, indicating that he has more to hide. In fact, it’s black, indicating a need to hide his heart which is only backed up by the layers he’s wrapped up in, so that his entire attire appears to shadow his entire body thereby hiding it, and his neck, a vulnerable spot on the body, is covered by his scarf the entire night out, further protecting himself from being exposed. The scarf, a trademark of his, is also blue, indicating a sadness that could imply that he is in the grip of that emotion often.

In the next stage of this sequence, we see John and Sherlock at this bar during Happy Hour. We can see that the mood has progressed by the blue light aura highlighting them. There is intimacy starting to form here, even with tension behind it.

Here’s where we can study the lighting, the colour and the direction where it hits in more detail. John’s right (his emotional side) is half shaded, Sherlock’s left (his pain side) is lit up yellow, and both men are bathed in an outline of blue. Blue also lights up on John’s left, and Sherlock’s right. This outline also takes up Sherlock’s right, and a column of shadow meets in the middle of his face.

The blue can on the surface level be assumed to be the show their same sex attraction to each other, however that alone doesn’t yet show intimacy.

On another level, the blue can be interpreted as sadness. When John stops Sherlock talking about scientific stuff, it may be seen as an indication that, together with this subtext of sadness, he feels isolated by Sherlock’s experiment, and wants to shut him up in an attempt to dull this feeling. Meanwhile Sherlock seeks to distract himself and not give in to the sadness of not being with John as intimately as he would like, and is silenced, and so further shut down by him. But then John touches Sherlock’s wrist, offering to leave; this first intimate contact bridges the two slightly closer together, and they are able to move onto the next stage of their night.

Further into this montage, John’s ulterior motives are revealed: he wants Sherlock to open up to him, or at least he wants the courage to talk to Sherlock about their relationship, and the only way he can think to do that is by getting drunk.

This gif represents the light and the darkness of John’s psychology. On the left side of his face, we see darkness represented by the mournful blue, and as this side represents pain, we can infer that John has a known but unspoken hurt. This is further evidenced by his drinking. In this sequence, this pain drives a fear which drives him to drink. This fear is probably related to facing his sexuality, as the colours of the club, representing the bisexual flag, backs up. It may also have to do with confronting his feelings for Sherlock.

On the other hand, the right side is lit up in yellow, indicating an emotional affection that is perhaps  driving these desires to be closer with Sherlock. His openness with emotion is something that John often expresses in the show, and is a major part of his character, so it isn’t a surprise to see it here too. But what this sequence really seems to show is his desire to get some emotion out of Sherlock too.

In the process, he also gets Sherlock drunk, revealing a whole new side to him.


The same colours that shaded John’s face in the previous sequence is also visible in the above sequence in this scene with Sherlock. The surrounding area seems to be lit up yellow, indicating a friendly atmosphere where it seems the alcohol has loosened Sherlock up enough to start a fight. But we can clearly see the left side of his face is coloured by a blue light. The majority of this sequence, and indeed Sherlock’s face, is yellow, so Sherlock appears open enough to lash out: the very fact of this fight may indicate that that blue light represents a deeper sadness, perhaps one of not being recognised, loved or appreciated. It could further be concluded that maybe these feelings are secretly directed at John, whose jacket in this scene appears to be lit up red, the colour of passion and desire.

In the end, this fight does succeed in getting John’s attention, over whom this dispute might be over, and he is seen being dragged out by John as Sherlock shows a grumpy expression and a flamboyant gesture, further revealing this inner conflict.

The clear point of this sequence is the phallic symbolism of the beakers, and specifically John’s realisation of that.

To study their faces in this sequence, we see the left side (pain) of both faces lit up, and as Sherlock moves his head, his shadows shift in the middle of his face between that left edge and his right (emotional) side, whereas the shadows on John’s right remains a mystery.

In the top gif, we see light hit the left side of Sherlock’s face, indicating psychological awareness of pain, a shadow in the middle, indicating an unacknowledged compartmentalisation, and yellow light on the right, indicating a measure of emotional warmth in this moment. However, the shadow and the yellow dance about on Sherlock’s right side, indicating an inner conflict against warmth and wilful ignorance.

Further, John’s beaker is tinged with blue on its edges. On the surface, the colours of the backdrop as well as his proximity to John seem to indicate a kind of intimacy between the two men. However, the use of light and colour many indicate an unspoken tension: the blue might have a dual meaning of mourning and male attraction, the purple a dual meaning of intimacy and mixed attraction (attraction both males and females) on John’s part, and this placement of blue under purple may indicate repressed feelings, especially Sherlock’s for John, and the blue in John’s beaker may also be a reflection of this emotion in John towards Sherlock.

Sherlock’s delicate straight-backed posture may indicate a somewhat successful suppression of emotion (with some gayness coming through in its delicacy) but the pain from lack of full intimacy with John is evident by the light on his left side. This may be the same reason John’s left is lit up as he watches the beaker, the blue reflection revealing underlying attraction in him. As the sequence progresses, he also notices the sexual tension inherent in them through the beaker and likely also through Sherlock’s effeminate gestures, especially the way he wipes his mouth, bringing the suggestion of the beaker as phallic symbol and that Sherlock is gay.

All this culminates in John’s realisation, blue representing attraction and sadness drifting to the top in the reflection of his beaker as he looks down at it, and shadow is cast half over his left side of his face, indicating a darkness replacing some of his joy at the realisation of this unfulfilled desire between them.

I mean, look at this. Sherlock’s lips are blatantly pouting into the glass, whereas John’s are a repressed purse away from the glass. Clearly, then, John is less indulging in public than Sherlock is. Further to that is the purple light of intimacy from the right (emotional) side, as well as the light shining on the left side (pain) and casting the right into shadow. So the emotions between them are intimate but unacknowledged.

The grip of each man to their beaker is also telling: Sherlock’s is delicate, and John’s is a hard grasp, revealing a difference of approach towards the phallic symbol of the beakers, and thus sexuality; John’s hard grasp may suggest he has a harder time coming to terms with it.

All this leading up to here.

This sequence is lit in bars of light and shadow, the light source coming from the right. So this reveals an emotional subtext in which something still lays in shadow. At this point in the night, they’re drowsy, vague, and not paying attention, so that emotional revelations slip through. When Sherlock first speaks, John opens his eyes for a moment to look at him, and show that he’s paying attention to him. However, in the next moment, Sherlock moves and casts a shadow over John, casting mystery into John’s emotions as Sherlock asks, “Do you have an international reputation?” This question also carries with it an association from an older piece of Sherlock Holmes canon, that of John’s ‘Three Continents’ Watson reputation in the film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (“I have girls on three continents,”) as well as in canon story, The Sign of Four (“In an experience of women that spanned many nations and three separate continents”). So this snippet of conversation, coupled with the green walls surrounding them, indicates jealousy that each man has something more important than the other. In this question, Sherlock seems to subtextually accuse John over whether he has anyone else. Sherlock’s right side is illuminated, revealing emotion behind the question, but his right eye his shaded, indicating the emotion doesn’t go too deep. In the same snapshot, John’s nose tip alone is illuminated, which may indicate some small amount of arousal; ‘nose’ is an old euphemism for a man’s private parts.

Light returns in the next snapshot to John’s left and Sherlock’s right, indicating heartbreak for the former and raw honesty for the latter (as emotions come from a more honest place than pain). However, despite the pain, John still admits that there isn’t anyone else when he says, “No, I don’t have an international reputation.” And then Sherlock admits that his reputation (the work) matters now so little to him that he can’t even remember it; John has become more important to him now. So both of these barriers to their intimacy, both Sherlock’s work and John’s relations with women, are revealed to be less important to them than each other. The camera tilts down, and we see them on an equal level to each other.

Proceeding this was their scene in Baker Street together. So let’s now move ahead.

In this gif, we can see both men are lit with yellow (warmth), with a slight shadow on their right side. They are further open with the exposure of their necks. So with the client, they are unusually warm (due to the lowered inhibitions that comes with drunkenness).

But at the client’s arrival, they sat down on the couch to listen to her, rather then in their usual seats, where they sat when she arrived. This may be because she disrupted them by intruding on their time alone together. Perhaps their fear of being caught out together and their raw emotional state under the influence led them to flee into some new position, but going by Sherlock’s arm around John, it seems more likely that they fled they in an attempts to be quietly closer. This may have followed on from the previous scene, as well as the disorientation caused by the client. And yet Sherlock’s above action shows they’re somewhat guarded in how they feel in front of her, as he seems to wake up at her words and pull away from John.

The client’s story seems to reflect John and Sherlock’s story too, and they are visibly affected by it. This is probably because her story reflects their own story:

I don’t … a lot … I mean, I don’t … date all that much … and … he seemed … nice, you know? We seemed to automatically connect. We had one night – dinner, such interesting conversation. It was … lovely. To be honest, I’d love to have gone further … but I thought, ‘No, this is special. Let’s take it slowly … exchange numbers. He said he’d get in touch and then … Maybe he wasn’t quite as keen as I was … but I – I just thought … at least he’d call to say that we were finished.


As she was telling this story, the two seemed to lazily listen to her conversation. Yet there were small reactions: John smiling as she said he seemed nice, and again at Sherlock when she mentioned “such interesting conversation”, as if reminded by her words of that first time they were together at Angelo’s. At the point of the conversation in the above gif, Sherlock also withdrew his arm, and by John’s most recent smile, we might conclude he draped his arm around John at that point. Then Sherlock leaned forward, pressing his mouth with his hands when she talked about taking it slowly, from which we might infer that he was thinking about John, about his grown up desire about John since that night. The leaning forward might either be interest in her story, or a need to further distance himself from John because of his need to be on guard.

John’s vague shrug at “maybe he wasn’t as keen as I was”, likely denotes sympathy, connected to the idea that he feels the same way towards Sherlock (“he doesn’t feel things that way,” he once said to Mycroft). But when she says, “I just thought … at least he’d call to say that we were finished,” we get the distinct impression of devastation from Sherlock, and it could be assumed here that his sympathies at this line refers to the fear running through this episode that John will leave him; as people keep telling him, it’s the end of an era, marriage changes people, and so on.

So then we get here. At the end of the story, the client draws their attention back to her, and Sherlock apologises in part for his open affection towards John, avoiding labelling John, more likely because he simply doesn’t know what their relationship really is than to hide, as this scene seems to show him in a confused state of mind. This may be evidenced by his facial expressions in this and the previous scene, when he studies John or when he tries to visibly pull away.

Note the self-awareness in Sherlock’s lighting: the warm yellow light fills both sides of his face here, showing that despite his confusion as stated above, he’s still aware of John, both in his affection and his heartbreak. John, however, is still shadowed on his right, showing his affection for Sherlock in this moment is more obscure.


In the scene where the client takes them to the crime scene, we again see these colours in much the same configurations as we saw in John and Sherlock’s scene together in Baker Street. The room the client takes them to also flashes purple, the colour of John and Sherlock’s intimacy. But the primary colours are green and red.

Red is associated with sex, and Sherlock’s sexualised movements around the room back up this reading. It may also stand for passion, considering the bond between John and Sherlock backed up by them finishing each others sentences as seen above, as well as John protecting and backing up Sherlock against a man trying to kick them out.

Green, which Sherlock is lit up with and which is seen in the background when the camera is on John, may stand for jealousy. What is there to be jealous of? Well, he’s again wrapped up in layers, so hiding his feelings for John, yet his drunken state is still exposing his feelings, and the feelings he’s displaying through his body language here is to do with sex. So he’s feeling horny for John, yet too guarded to act on it. The man intruding, trying to get the two to leave, also causes Sherlock and John to be defensive against him, and especially John to be defensive over Sherlock. The lighting on Sherlock may indicate that he’s feeling possessive/defensive against this guy, and the conversation about the investigation could just be a cover for him about these jealous feelings he has toward John who his intruders are keeping him from. The case is a distraction from this, one he fails to keep up because of his drunken state, and this inner feeling is literally vomited up. The meaning of this is further revealed by the next transition, from Sherlock dabbing his lips to a close up of John’s the next morning.


When they wake up, they’re in the drunk tank, and the bed is taken up by Sherlock, with John sleeping against the wall in a sore position. They are soon rescued by Lestrade, who acts annoyed towards them, but soon lets them out.

This hangover scene is coloured mostly in blue and white, revealed John and Sherlock’s exposure and sadness. This blue likely represents regret of the night before, but it may also represent a regression into the sadness of the start of the night before, once again separating them from each other. Sherlock distracts himself with the case they were presented with the previous night, now that he’s more capable of following it up.

John, who we can tell by his expression is already feeling trashed both from the hangover and the sore position he slept in, is left behind in Sherlock’s wake, the shot of him alone further indicating an isolation from Sherlock.



Mrs Hudson offers John a big breakfast when he gets back to Baker Street. Instead of eating it, he talks about Sherlock, and asks Mrs Hudson’s perspective in the form of asking about her husband. Mrs Hudson’s story here can be seen as a parallel for John’s relationships, as what Mrs Hudson describes is what’s later revealed to be a parallel to John and Mary’s relationship. It wasn’t love, Mrs Hudson tells him, “it was just a whirlwind thing for us.” John’s demeanour here with Mrs Hudson is relaxed, as again his top button is undone, and his clothes appear in the same state they had been in when John and Sherlock had been alone in 221b the previous night, yet John’s refusal to eat suggests a lack of intimacy.

He then ends the entire interaction when he hears Sherlock, and quiets Mrs Hudson so he can hear. Even this small trace of Sherlock is enough for John to completely disregard Mrs Hudson and go after Sherlock. What small amount of intimacy he may have for Mrs Hudson (notice the pale purple walls), Sherlock means so much more to him.

The great thing about studying subtext is that, in this context, rather than focusing on the characters’ attractiveness or your own view on same-sex attraction, it forces you to actually examine how they, not you, feel and react in certain situations, and how they feel about the relationships in their lives. It humanises them too, and gets at their hearts. And when you get that close to them, those surface issues you started with fall away and no longer matter, so long as these characters can overcome their issues and get what they need.

And that’s what I think this whole show is about, which is especially obvious when we look at the subtext, and what makes it so special. It also brings me more awareness to myself, to those around me, and to the presence of symbolism in the real world. It extends my horizons to understand more of what’s really there.