There is a common thought brought up nearly constantly in the discussions of “are John and Sherlock gay or just
Europeangood friends”, and it is this:
- I kiss (or cuddle or have sex with or openly display physical affection with) my best friend(s). Friends can be close like that and it doesn’t make me gay or in love with them. John and Sherlock don’t/aren’t/can’t be in love with each other for this reason. Friends can be physical and it doesn’t mean romance.
The thing is, John and Sherlock aren’t physically affectionate. They don’t kiss. They don’t cuddle. They don’t hug. They don’t hold hands. They don’t openly, confidently display or even talk about their affections for each other. They don’t.
Instead they stare at each other intensely. They look and then glance away when the other one sees them looking. They look at each other’s lips or neck. They get into each other’s personal space. They WANT to get into the other’s personal space, and it’s always so full of tension. There’s a frisson of excitement that everyone can feel and notice whether or not you care to pair them up. It’s what makes this show what it is. That pull, that dynamic, that thing between the two of them.
The point is that these are not two men who are comfortable with their feelings and don’t mind being physically affectionate because it doesn’t have romantic/sexual intent behind it. They don’t behave like two really good friends who can just up and cuddle and hug and kiss hello on the lips because, hey, they’re not into each other that way so there’s no confusion, right? They don’t act that way at all.
They refrain from showing their affection. They can’t even TALK about it unless it’s couched in life-or-death circumstances or they can hide behind something (see: Sherlock’s best man speech; the explosive train scene in TEH; the stag night; John asking Sherlock to be his best man).
What gets to me is that people are watching the show and thinking John and Sherlock have that kind of friendship wherein they would kiss and cuddle and hug and be physically demonstrative with their affections even though they don’t do those things.
So the fact that they aren’t physically affectionate with each other is a huge deal because that means they aren’t comfortable openly displaying that sort of stuff. Why?
No homo? No strong feelings for each other? Or because they feel so strongly towards each other, and they love each other so much, that they can’t face it and they can’t act on it for a variety of reasons.
That’s where the tension comes from. That’s where we are seeing the longing and the love.
Because it is love. Pure and simple.
And, honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re rooting for a romance or not. It doesn’t even matter because it’s there - that love between them - it’s there and it rings clear and true across the board.
That people are seeing these two and thinking they’d be the kind of friends who would be physically demonstrative in their relationship means something. It means those feelings are there and we are seeing them loud and clear.
This isn’t a friendship where they can openly touch. They can’t do that. If they breach that distance, if they go there, they won’t be “just friends” anymore.
It’s an interesting point.
What I always found interesting was that Sherlock doesn’t really have a problem with touching John. He does it at least once an episode: hand on an arm or shoulder, etc. Definitely nothing that implies more, even with the ship goggles on, but physical contact is fairly casual for him and furthermore, John doesn’t mind when Sherlock touches him.
John, however, almost never touches anybody unless there’s a compelling reason for it.
I don’t know what it means (other than that John is, in a polite way, terribly emotionally inaccessible, but we knew that already), but I do know it’s contributing somehow to the thrumming tension they always have between them.
I suppose the question is, do we feel that tension because we want them to touch, or because they want to touch? It’s one of the reasons I find their goodbye on the tarmac so important: because now we have a concrete example of what they look like then they know they can’t afford to breach that distance between them.
Dare to compare.