Sherlock Holmes on Screen: the Aesthetics and Politics of Adapting the “Great Detective” in a Hyper-mediatised Age

Sameer Chopra

Assistant Professor, Gargi College, University of Delhi.  Email:

Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.18

Received May 25, 2017; Revised July 15, 2017; Accepted July 17, 2017; Published August 09, 2017.


This paper offers a sustained critical analysis of two contemporary adaptations of the immensely popular short-stories by Arthur Conan Doyle that established the fame of Sherlock Holmes, an iconic fictional figure of late nineteenth century British culture: the Granada Television Series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984-85) and the 2011 film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (dir. Guy Ritchie). In the main, I argue that while the former subscribes to a cult of fidelity and authenticity, representing the Holmes figure in an alluring yet thoroughly conventional, even stereotypical fashion, the latter not only seeks to fundamentally transform the way the master-detective is portrayed on screen (including a queering of his relationship with his loyal assistant, Dr. John Watson) but also open up the form and structure of the source-texts for textual and ideological reinterpretation. At the same time, the paper also proposes to examine, as indicated in the title, the aesthetics and politics of adaptation as they become manifest in these two texts: why exactly do some representations fetishize faithfulness to original texts as a discursive benchmark whereas others, intentionally or otherwise, are able to irrevocably alter and expand the creative, imaginative and political scope of translating prior materials to the visual media?

Keywords: Sherlock Holmes, adaptation, fidelity, popular culture, cinema and television studies, queer readings.

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