Article Lead Image


‘Sherlock’ showrunners debunk gay rumors in new interview

The 'Sherlock' showrunners have debunked their fandom's most popular conspiracy theory. But did it work?


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Jul 28, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 9:28 am CDT

Sherlock is one of a few fandoms where fanfic and shipping gave birth to outright conspiracy theories, with fans mining cast interviews and BBC internal memos for evidence that John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are secretly in love. In a new interview, the show’s creators came out to thoroughly bunk this idea.

Speaking to the blog With An Accent, showrunners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss tackled the long-running rumor that John and Sherlock will soon be a couple on the show. They sound pretty tired of the speculation, following a Comic-Con panel where Moffat spoke in general terms about writing gay characters on mainstream TV—which some fans then misinterpreted as a veiled hint about Sherlock.

“It is infuriating frankly, to be talking about a serious subject and to have Twitter run around and say, ‘Oh that means Sherlock is gay,'” said Moffat. “Very explicitly it does not. We are taking a serious subject and trivializing it beyond endurance.”

“[Sherlock] explicitly says he is not interested,” Gatiss said, referring to Sherlock’s implied asexuality in the show. “Doesn’t mean he couldn’t be. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. I’m a gay man. This is not an issue. But we’ve explicitly said this is not going to happen—there is no game plan—no matter how much we lie about other things, that this show is going to culminate in Martin [Freeman] and Benedict [Cumberbatch] going off into the sunset together.”

These quotes are a clear-cut denial, but some fans didn’t just disagree with the interview—they doubted that it was even real. In the end, Mark Gatiss had to confirm on Twitter that no, the interview wasn’t an elaborate fake.

Holmes/Watson fanfic has been an important part of Sherlock Holmes fandom since long before Sherlock‘s debut in 2010. In fact, it’s kind of the quintessential slash pairing. But after Sherlock, something different began to emerge. Convinced that John and Sherlock will soon get together in the show, a vocal minority of fans became devoted to the Johnlock Conspiracy, or TJLC. This theory is predicated on the belief that Johnlock is the “endgame” of Sherlock, and clues have been planted in each season, pointing towards the ultimate goal of a John/Sherlock romance. Incorporating everything from acting cues to cinematography, TJLC has volumes of potential evidence to support their cause. 

Much like the passionate cadre of Larry Stylinson believers within One Direction fandom, there’s a split between fans who only enjoy Johnlock in terms of fanfic and speculation, and those who truly believe in TJLC. And no matter how many times Sherlock‘s cast and crew deny the theory, it doesn’t make any difference.

Looking back over the past six years of Sherlock, you can see how Moffat and Gatiss may have unintentionally brought this situation on themselves.

  • From the very first episode, Sherlock included jokes and references to the idea of John and Sherlock as a couple. Depending on who you ask, this is either a harmless joke, a frustrating and potentially homophobic example of queerbaiting, or proof that the Johnlock Conspiracy is real.
  • Sherlock‘s promotional strategy has always encouraged fans to analyze the show for clues between seasons, offering a “never say never” attitude to unexpected plot twists. Season 3 opened with a montage of fake-outs including a Sherlock/Moriarty kiss. Season 4 may or may not bring Moriarty back from the dead. And for no apparent reason, the last Christmas special was set during the Victorian era.
  • As Gatiss admitted in the With An Accent interview, he and Moffat have often lied about upcoming episodes. It’s a key aspect of how they avoid spoiling plot twists during interviews: Just lie.

The end result is a show that arguably includes gay subtext, with an audience that loves to devise complex fan theories, and showrunners whose interview quotes can’t be trusted. So, while a canonical Johnlock romance does seem vanishingly unlikely, you can understand why some fans refuse to believe Gatiss and Moffat’s vociferous denials. We doubt this impasse will ever end, especially since the cast and crew have threatened to keep filming new seasons until they’re old and grey.

Unless they’re lying, of course. 

Share this article
*First Published: Jul 28, 2016, 2:36 am CDT