Johnlock meta and authorial intent in Sherlock fandom: Affirmational or transformational?




Fan activism, Fan-producer relations, Interpretive communities, Queerbaiting, Queer readings, Reception, Shipping, Textual analysis, Tumblr, Twitter


I explore the educational and legitimizing functions of Johnlock meta—the interpretation of a romantic relationship between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson—in the BBC Sherlock (2010–) fandom. As a disputed queer reading of an open text, Johnlock meta has provided new, enriched, and repeated textual evidence for Sherlock and John's relationship, reinforcing it in the face of doubt caused by others' denials of Sherlock's queerness. Meta has thus served as a form of social activism by both attempting to establish the queer reading as the preferred (but secret) reading intended by the showrunners and by resisting the showrunners' extratextual heteronormative platonic stance on Sherlock and John's relationship. This contradiction of authorial intent/nonintent highlights the tension in the Johnlock (and academic) interpretative communities of where meaning lies between the author, the text, and the reader. Johnlock meta also challenges the binaries of the affirmational/transformational fan—those who are bounded by the text versus those who transform it. Queer interpretations of Sherlock have become particularly important in the wake of Sherlock series 4 (January 2017), as such interpretations have been used as evidence both for and against accusations that the show has queerbaited its audience.

Author Biography

Melissa A. Hofmann, Rider University

Associate Professor-Librarian Bibliographic Control Librarian Liaison to English Department and Gender & Sexuality Studies Program