In Sherlock Holmes 2, Game of Shadows, there are several strong female roles that mingle in the mix of mystery. Some of them “got game” and added valid feminine intrigue to the story. However, some of them were found wanting. But one of them is the subtle, but true hero of this surprisingly satisfying sequel.
Irene Adler: Sorry to say it, but I give Rachel McAdams a thumbs down. Rachel is a lovely actress, but miscast in this role. No matter how much vampy dark make up and red lipstick you put on that baby face, her petite size and overall girlish demeanor made her very unbelievable as a seasoned criminal with affective street fighter skills against thugs twice her size. The role needed to be played by someone whose beauty is pure, but has an underlying deviousness too, like Jody Foster as Annabelle Bransford in the movie Maverick. Alder’s early exit from the story was no disappointment for me. Her character could have kicked in the first film and I wouldn’t have cared.
Simza: Now this exotic gypsy chick was a female force to be reckoned with. Tough, passionate and sultry, it was completely believable she lived by her wits on the European down low. I was pleased they didn’t compromise her character with a cheap romance with Sherlock, or anyone, for that matter. A female lead who serves as an asset to the plot with her clothes on is rare and refreshing in Hollywood. And speaking of clothes, dibs on her travel wear – the coats, scarves, boots, hats and belt. Someone copy and release a Simza line, please!
Madame Choo Choo: When Holmes bumps into Watson on the train and admits drag is not one of his better disguises, it is an understatement. While it was funny to see rugged Robert wrapped in bonnets and bows, poorly cross-dressing the detective who is supposed to be a master of disguise did feel like a cheap stunt, especially since he totally went with the wrong eyeshadow and lipstick shades for his complexion. Though Holmes makes a homely woman, he would probably become one if it meant his bosom buddy Watson would commit to their bromance instead of his lovely new bride.
Mrs. Mary Watson: “Now she’s low maintenance.” The classic line said by Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally in describing Ingrid Bergman fits perfectly for the real heroine of this Sherlock Holmes tale. First, her groom shows up to their wedding completely hungover looking like the bottom of a latrine. As reality shows prove, most women would burst into tears and have big drama over how he’s ruined everything, and she can’t believe he would show up hammered on the most important day of their life, and she’s tired of his immature antics with his needy friend, then call for some smelling salts because she feels a case of the vapors coming on. Instead, Mary Morstan simply takes her groom’s arm and accepts him for who he is, who and what comes with that, and walks down the aisle looking past his unshaven face into his eyes with unconditional love. Then, her honeymoon gets violently interrupted when she is thrown from the train by the best man into frigid water only to be fished out by the best man’s cohorts. Again, most women would go home, bawl, pout and start the annulment process. What does Mary do? Accept correspondence and clues from Holmes and work behind the scenes to help the very man who threw her off the train to solve the mystery. In both cases she would have every right to be furious. No one would blame her if she created big drama over it. Why doesn’t she? Because she knows Watson does love her. She knows he loves his friend too. She also knows that while he truly wants to settle down and live the quiet life, a part of him still hankers for adventure now a then, and she’s decided that instead of aggravating the problem, she’ll be part of the solution – a remarkable female feat in any century.
I love Mary Watson’s character. In the modern media world where women are portrayed as having to prove themselves equal to men with feral stunts, language and violence, Mary’s character provides an often diminished, but invaluable true feminine strength. She was not running through the woods dodging bullets with her husband, or sneaking around a diplomatic event searching for an assassin with him, yet she is still very much by his side. She stands by his side providing support and stability from home so that when his testeronic adventure is over he will want to come home to her.
She is the hero of the story because she epitomizes one of my favorite sayings, “Behind every great man is a woman who thinks he’s an idiot,” but loves him anyway.