I think that you would be hard pressed to find any other character in literature that has had more of an impact upon contemporary media than Sherlock Holmes. I myself first came into extensive contact with the character in an animated show called “Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century”. A show complete with all of the most beloved of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and a cyborg John Watson.
It’d probably be more difficult to find a year where there wasn’t a tv show that has included the character of Sherlock than years when there was. It seems that at any one time there are multiple iterations of the character on the silver screen or otherwise in a prime time slot. Clearly, there is something about the character that fascinates an extraordinarily large portion of the population and has for centuries. Something puzzling about the character that draws you in oftentimes more than the mystery relevant to the text.
I think a large portion of this has to do with our fascination with things that we as people cannot understand. Sherlock being the almost perfect example of this as his mind baffles and amazes us as well as his actions and characterization in a way that, I’d argue, no other character is as good at. I maintain that a very large portion of this fascination and what makes Sherlock, Sherlock is that he exhibits many qualities that are extremely suggestive of ASD.
It would seem that in the creation of his titular character Sir Arthur Conan Doyle drew upon a number of real life influences as well as fictional ones. Given that the very nature of ASD seems to be genetic I think it a reasonable assumption that in his lifetime Doyle may have had contact with someone on the spectrum. Considering also the ways that Sherlock so fits the bill of a person with ASD (of which there are numerous enumerations on this blog already) it seems rather reasonable to conclude that one of these people from whom inspiration was drawn was also on the spectrum. And while obviously seems quite ridiculous to express authoritatively that Sherlock is on the spectrum it would also seem to be an act of sophistry to ignore the sundry diagnostic criteria that he meets. As summarizes quite potently:
“ultimately, no one representation can ever encapsulate the incredible diversity of the spectrum—and while Holmes is probably an autistic character by most definitions, he is not an autistic person.”
This seems to me an extremely persuasive argument for the retroactive classification of liturgical characters. This argument isn’t without its faults of course but given that ASD has only been defined in recency and that it was undoubtedly present in the past it appears to be a valid conclusion to an important question. Is it valid to retroactively label liturgical figures under contemporary labels? To which the answer I feel is a resounding yes. Provided that sufficient evidence is given it seems perfectly legitimate to define a character in contemporary terms. So long as those affixing the label to the character presents the caveat that contemporary terminology and diagnosis weren’t established at the time of the character’s creation.
Sonya Freeman Loftis: The Autistic Detective: Sherlock Holmes and his Legacy