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“Sherlock Holmes” Moriartyed, “Reason” mortified

February 20th 2012, by Celik Kayalar

Once Rupert Murdoch & Co. managed to dumb down the British Culture, it was not too difficult for a few good-old-boys to elevate themselves to the level of significant artists in Britain. Nowadays, Guy Ritchie, who’s more like a good-old bad-boy, seems to be enjoying his turn (return?) as a significant film-director, thanks to the popularity of his new franchise “Sherlock Holmes“. And, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is rumored to be turning in his grave, groaning “Elementary my dear Downey Jr., you’re no Holmes…” 

Sherlock HolmesWhat made Conan Doyle’s great detective one of the most beloved fictional-characters in the world was his ability to use reason, not karate-chops and fire-arms. After Scotland Yard detectives would give up on solving a particular crime, Holmes would be called in. He would show up on the crime scene, pipe-in-mouth, often with Dr. Watson by his side, quietly but keenly observing, sampling the evidence, asking a few questions, but always thinking and reasoning. Pretty much what a scientist does while trying to solve the mysteries of the universe.

Sometimes, Holmes would be presented with the case in his own living-room by a potential client. If he thought he could solve it, he would take the case, and then quickly jump into action. Not the kind of action Mr. Ritchie presents us in his last two “Sherlock Holmes” movies, but almost exclusively, the action of the mind and reason.

Holmes will take a break from his intense crime-solving mental-activity based on pure logical reasoning, and relax a bit by playing his violin. And, sometimes the answer will come to him during these breaks. Not surprisingly, scientist extraordinaire Albert Einstein pays homage to Holmes’ method of operation when he writes about his own in solving the mysteries of the physical universe (space-time & relativity, photo-electric effect, Brownian motion…).

In Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories, there isn’t much running around, pushing and shoving; wild chases; long, bloody fist- and sword-fights; or spectacular Hollywood-style explosions. There isn’t even a Professor Moriarty, the recently over-blown “archenemy” of Holmes, except in one story out of more than sixty Doyle wrote (and, Doyle introduces Moriarty in what he meant, at the time, to be the very last  story: “The Final Problem”. For Doyle, it was a device to bring about the demise of the detective, just so that he could gracefully end the long-running series).

Yet, as we all know, most movies made today (by Hollywood or otherwise) are obsessed with the concept of an “antagonist” (archenemy of the protagonist, if you will) and require one in real flesh & bone; the more powerful and evil, the better the antagonist. For Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, the “antagonist” was the mystery of the crime itself, whoever happened to have committed it. And, the challenge for Holmes (and, the joy, no doubt) was to solve it by using his reason and logic. Once he solved it, he also enjoyed explaining how he did it to the ever-puzzled Dr.Watson (and, to us, the equally-puzzled yet captivated-readers) starting with his by-now-classic line: “Elementary, my dear Watson…”

I don’t blame Guy Ritchie & Co. too much for giving in to the temptation of re-inventing “Moriarty” as a major character and what they think needs to be the obligatory antagonist in their recent films; they probably think he is an excellent device for their kind of story-telling. But, on top of re-inventing Moriarty as the great antagonist, if they were also going to brutally sacrifice Holmes’ reason in favor of a totally made-up, silly and violent physicality (unapologeticly acted out by the otherwise-highly-talented Robert Downey Jr.), then, why did they have to call the protagonist of their movie-franchise “Sherlock Holmes”? Why couldn’t they call it another name? For instance, how about “Schmuck Murdoch“? At least, it would’ve had a bit of a rhyme and reason. Fair and balanced?

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell

You may be wondering why I keep bringing up reason, again and again? That’s because I happen to be a big fan of “Enlightenment“, which is also referred to as the “Age of Reason”. Originating in Europe in the 17th century, it was the philosophy that championed the power of reason. It promoted science and the free exchange of ideas, all in the service of advancement of knowledge and directed towards reforming the society. It vehemently opposed dogma, superstition and intolerance, whether by the state or by the church.

Starting with the philosophers and scientists such as Descartes, Spinoza, Lock and Newton, and gaining momentum with Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Kant in Europe, and Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in America, all the way to the contemporary giants like Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky, to name just a few, Enlightenment has been the most reliable and valuable intellectual force behind what we know as the “Western Civilization“.

Noam Chromsky
Noam Chromsky

Not that it hasn’t been challenged and threatened repeatedly throughout, whether by the church and clergy; numerous religious fundamentalist movements; despotic kings & emperors; or by dogmatic and brutal regimes (such as those of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin), the list has been long. Even to this day, the assault continues, not only from the religious fundamentalists, overtly (think of their relentless promotion of “Intelligent Design” over Darwin’s “Natural Selection”), but, increasingly from our very hip pop-culture, which sadly includes the mainstream TV & Movie Industries on both sides of the Atlantic (covertly, and much of it out of simple greed for the almighty $$$ and out of sheer ignorance).

Speaking of religion, I’ve never heard of a scientist who claimed that her/his discoveries were based on “revealed” knowledge, regardless of whether she/he believed the existence of God or not. And, in my book every true scientist is a practitioner of “Enlightenment”, whether she/he is aware of it or not.

Here, may I write a quick note to a very nice, young man, and a recent role-model to many, Mr.Tim Tebow? Thank you.

Dear Tim- First, please consider the possibility that as hard as you’ve prayed before the AFC Championship game, somebody in the Patriots team might have prayed a little harder. So, please don’t be disheartened and lose faith. Second: an improvement in your signature praying-posture might be in order. Forgive me for reminding you that the proper Christian posture is to get down on both knees. Unless, of course, its the journey and not the final score that matters…as, I’d guess would be in your case (besides, being close to God has its own rewards, no doubt). Oh, one more thing: Just in case…You may want to check in with NY Knicks’ Jeremy Lin; he seems to be getting excellent results on the score-boards without any public display of his faith. Please keep up the good work, and stay strong and healthy. God bless!…

But, I digress…

Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was the embodiment of reason, and therefore, truly personified the spirit of “Enlightenment”. Guy Ritchie’s film-version of Holmes is just another silly action hero of the “Rambo, Batman, Spider Man, Iron Man” kind.

Speaking of silly, the lovable bad-boy Charlie Sheen and his fans may want to take note:

More than two-and-a-half men died defending the Western Civilization against genocidal-fascism on the Normandy shores alone (almost 5000 on D-Day). So, I ask: Will we now allow ourselves to lose it right here, on the “Jersey Shore”? Or, in the cleavages & cracks of Kardashians? Will we give it up for the allure of the sex-kitten Paris Bimbo or the manure of the Coulter-smitten Rambo Limbaugh? Worse yet, will we surrender it to our “born-again-Christian & born-against-intellect” Governors from Texas? (its been two-in-a-row lately; must be the oil in the water at the Governor’s Mansion. Roman Emperors had a similar problem with lead).

Choosing between reason and stupidity shouldn’t be this difficult. Sherlock Holmes I loved always knew the difference.

And, that’s a wrap! (or, should I have said rap?).

But wait! This is just in:

Hollywood & British tabloids are abuzz with these big-budget movies in the works:

Mahatma Gandhi drops the spinning-wheel and picks up the sword in:

Iron-Man Gandhi:The Taliban Terminator” (in 3-D)

And, the much anticipated:

Yahweh reveals relativity to Einstein” (in 4-D)

Mr.Guy Ritchie is reported to be the front-runner to direct both movies.

31 responses to ““Sherlock Holmes” Moriartyed, “Reason” mortified”

  • 1
    Janie says:

    Wow! This is a terrific article! Starts out with a recent movie and goes to so many places, wide and deep. I need to read it a few more times to really get it…and, then try to comment. For now, big congratulations!

  • 2
    Kristen says:

    Oh my god – hilarious. And I wish I had just a percentage of your smarts. Apparently I need to read more Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. ;)

  • 3
    alan reding says:

    I also grew up reading and enjoying some of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Guy Ritchie’s version of this great fictional character is really awful, but the movies have made a fortune, unfortunately. Thank you Dr.Kayalar for putting it all in a larger context: Enlightenment & Western Civilization, and dumbing down of our culture. Your article opened my eyes, made me think (not to mention laugh and giggle all the way through). I’m going to be passing it to all my friends cause they should all read it. Now I’m motivated to go back and read some of the giants of Enlightenment you mentioned; perhaps I should start with Russell and Chomsky? I’m also amazed how much info, analysis, insight and humor you’ve been able to incorporate into your unbelievably intelligent article. Wish I had you as a professor in college. Congratulations and thank you, again!
    PS: Have heard very nice things about but not seen your “Moonlight Sonata”. Where can I do so? Any new movies in the works? Hope so…

  • 4
    George R. says:

    Really love this blog. Goes beyond a regular critique of films (“Sherlock Holmes” franchise) and gives us a fantastic perspective of where we are now in our society and culture and how we got there. Agree with Janie, above, need to read it again and again to fully grasp all it’s meaning and implications. But, what I got out of it so far has been very rewarding. Will write again.

    Thanks also for including Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky’s photos, you must have an extra admiration for these two great minds. Inspired me to google them to find out about their special place in our culture and civilization.

    By the way, have you considered to write a book on this subject? If you do, I’ll line up to buy a dozen copies, one for myself and the rest for friends and relatives.

  • 5
    jessica spears says:

    Bravo! Can this be the manifesto for a new era of REASON? Its about time.

    Kayalar for President!

  • 6
    Kamil A. says:

    Down with stupidity! Up with reason!
    Down with Kardashians, Limbaugh, Perry! Up with Einstein, Russell, Chomsky!
    Western Civilization is too precious to lose in anybody’s “cleavages & cracks” (hilarious pun, by the way, Dr.Kayalar! Please keep them coming)
    Warm Regards
    Kamil J.

  • 7
    Beatrice Kayes says:

    Friends told me to check this blog out.

    It blew my mind!

    Never read an article before that combines serious ideas and humor so well, so effectively. Should be read by everybody concerned about the state of our culture and where we’re heading. Big kudos, Dr.Kayalar, for bringing all these issues to the forefront and discussing them so intelligently, boldly and humorously. Had to stop reading several times to think and reflect on what I’ve just read – and often to recover from laughing hysterically.

    So, what kind of a mind can come up with such an article? I wondered. Looked him up to find out, not surprisingly, that he is a Nobel Prize-caliber scientist, Fulbright Scholar & a PhD. in biochemistry, in addition to his impressive accomplishments in the arts, mainly in filmmaking, and now also being the founder and director of FABA (interestingly, his scientific accomplishments are not listed in his bio here on FABA’s website, that’s one of the reasons I decided to mention them). Now, I’m beginning to understand why this blog is so phenomenal! Can’t wait for his next one!

  • 8
    Cassandra Telmour says:

    Wow! indeed…
    Never read the original Sherlock Holmes books, but saw Guy Ritchie’s both films. Thought there was something very wrong and stupid about them, but couldn’t put my finger on it at the time. Now, I’m beginning to see it. Thank you Celik for opening my eyes.

    In agreement with the other commentators here, I’m now inspired to read about Enlightenment and the work of the thinkers you mention. Tired of being bombarded by stupid stuff, tired of listening to the bs of bunch of our dumb politicians- presidential candidates included. Very tired of hearing about Charlie Sheen’s escapades and seeing Kardashians’s cleavage and cracks on every pop magazine and tabloid!

    American youth deserve better from their grown ups and from their teachers. Thank you for being one for us and leading the charge!

  • 9
    Alex says:

    Thank you Celik! Super insightful, poignant, stimulating, educational and extremely funny!

    How did you bring all these ideas and observations about our society and culture together, past and present? Makes wonderful reading and provides endless food for thought. And, hopefully, for action, too.

    Goes to show what can happen when a brilliant scientist turns his attention to social, cultural and artistic matters. Is this what Bertrand Russell (a mathematician by training) did, earlier in the 20th century? I should go back and read his writings. Meanwhile, please continue to write on the subjects you wrote above. And, make movies, too. We desperately need to be cured of our stupidity as a nation.

  • 10
    jennifer m. says:

    Fantastic! What else can I say? Keep them coming- laughing and learning at the same time.

  • 11
    steven barnes says:

    This type of blog should be posted everywhere and be read by everyone. We need intelligent discussion on the problems we’re facing. Solutions will come from reason and scientific thinking, not from the asses of Kardashians and from our “born-against-intellect” politicians (“oil in the water at the Governor’s Mansion” – instant classic!).

    Bertrand Russell is unfortunately not with us anymore, but his writings are. Fortunately, Noam Chomsky still is – writing, lecturing, fighting the good fight….yet, how many average Americans have even heard of him?…and, who’s shame is that?

    Note on Celik Kayalar:
    Known him for years. Yes, Beatrice & Alex – I concur: Celik is a brilliant and very nice man (with a great sense of humor); an accomplished biochemist who’s Ph.D. work is credited for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, awarded in 1997 to his mentor Prof.Paul D. Boyer. His more recent accomplishments in the arts (writing-directing films and plays; acting; painting) readily qualifies him as a quintessential “Renaissance Man” living among us. Hope he continues to blog (and even write books, as George R. suggests here) – not only on film, but on all the other important subjects he touches upon, above. I’ll be eagerly waiting…

  • 12
    cathy b. says:

    Enlightened!!! Encore! Encore!

  • 13
    Michael says:

    Good to know that intelligence is well and alive. Great humor, too.
    Celik – Hope all the bozos you mention (Ritchie, Murdock, Perry, Kardashians, Hilton, etc) will read this and feel some shame, though I’m not holding my breath. Meanwhile, the rest of us should consider your article a much needed wake-up call. You and “Enlightenment” have a new fan.
    With gratitude.

  • 14
    Mark Galvin says:

    Celik – This is an extremely informative, interesting and humorous article, thank you for writing it.
    I’d seen your hilarious play “Couch” you wrote and directed in SF, a while back. I believe it also played to sold out audiences in LA, the same year. In the play, you were already dealing, subtly, with the theme of Western Civilization and it’s dumbing down by our celebrity worshipping pop culture, but I hadn’t gotten it’s message that clearly, at the time (though had loved and enjoyed the play tremendously. LOL!). After reading your article here, I get it now. Loud and clear.

    As Michael writes above, could “Couch” have been your first “wake-up call” to all of us? Will you be giving us more great plays and films on this particular theme you clearly are a master of? Sure hope so.
    Best regards
    PS: Love and admire your feature-film “Moonlight Sonata” for different reasons. Saw it at a festival. Will it get theatrical release soon so that more people can see it? Hope so.

  • 15
    susan h. says:

    Hope your brilliant article leads the way to a more intelligent and responsible artistic expression, in general, and filmmaking, in particular, in our society. Lets unite in our goal for bringing reason back to our lives, and eliminate stupidity (you so boldly identify in our culture). Your exceptional wit and humor help absorbing your otherwise very serious ideas, analysis and prognosis. Your mention of “Normandy shores” brought tears to my eyes. That of Tim Tebow, Kardashians and “born-againt-intellect” Texas governors floored me with laughter!

    It’s about time somebody with your knowledge of sciences and arts came forward and shook up our pathetic cultural system and it’s co-conspirators and enablers, including all the a-holes & bimbos you mention: Paris Hilton, Kardashian sisters, Charlie Sheen (mimbo?). May be things will start changing if we all united against them and started shaming them out of business.

    Jessica Spears, above, says: “Kayalar for President!”… You’ll have my vote in a heartbeat!

  • 16
    robert williams says:

    Great blog, great comments! Please keep them coming.

  • 17
    ken says:

    I’ve been on the film-set of “Moonlight Sonata” when Celik was directing it. His cast & crew loved him and seemed to be in awe of his abilities. Some called him “Maestro” on and off the set. No wonder the film went on to play at 13 festivals and won 4 prestigious awards, including 2 “Excellence in Filmmaking” awards, within about a year. His writing abilities were evident then with M.Sonata (and “Couch”, even before) but his blogs here take it to another level. Yes, cathy b., I join you in your wish: Encore! Encore!

  • 18
    Ayla says:

    I knew Noam Chomsky is one of your idols. So glad to see you’re bringing him to the attention of your readers here (by posting his photo, as well), especially to the attention of your young readers who probably, and sadly, have never heard of him before. I was one of them remember?.. till you gave me one of his books and said “Just read it!”. I don’t think I ever thanked you enough for that, so I’m doing it here. THANK YOU! And, thank you for this wonderful blog. Touched and very proud.

  • 19
    derin says:

    Hail to wit and sarcasm; commodities that are scarce nowadays, especially together.
    This article is an intellectual feast for a man who has been an admirer of Russell and a fan of Holmes.(Doyle’s, not Ritchie’s)

  • 20
    kelly says:

    Why do we know so little about the intellectual giants Celik talks about, especially Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky, in this country? Fells like a conspiracy to keep us ignorant and dumb – while bunch of shit-heads suck up all the oxygen and make headlines. I’m expected to know every f -*%!#@ thing about Kim Kardashian but nothing about Professor Noam Chomsky (who’s apparently still alive and well). Thank you Celik for your efforts and your brilliant mind & generous heart!

  • 21
    Keith S. says:

    Kelly, right on!
    Celik, great article! Looking forward to your next one…..Your next film, too! When do you think it will be?

  • 22
    P.M.L. says:

    Hello Maestro!
    I was one of those on and off the set of Moonlight Sonata who called you “Maestro”, like Ken is talking about here. I still do. You made a fantastic film and now you wrote a fantastic blog. Congratulations and much love!

  • 23
    Deanna says:

    Hooray Celik! You have so eloquently stated here so many of the thoughts that have been in my head about our current civilization! It seems over the last 15 years especially the imagination and creativity of our country as a whole has died a slow death; a death agonizingly felt by artists and free thinkers of all types. Cheap mass production of thoughts and products has turned this country into a wasteland of plastic junk and souls starving for substance. It is no wonder that brain eating zombies are currently so popular in pop culture. It is a reflection of what has become of the intelligent choice of the mass public, eaten by the media whose one mission is to turn us all into brain dead consumers. We are desperately in need of a revolutionary change in our thinking, a new Age of Reason; I just wonder how is this possible when people are no longer able to think for themselves because they have been taught to have their choices made for them, walking around like zombies with a remote in one hand and a credit card in the other? Thank You for writing this much needed idea, I hope it is shared with many people. Please consider having it printed somewhere on an editorial page in a news service where many people can read it …..

  • 24
    Jen says:


  • 25
    Mohammad says:

    “Arab Spring” is partially inspired by the ideas and freedoms of the West – thus, of ENLIGHTENMENT. Thank you Dr. Kayalar for reminding the Americans and Brits what a valuable gift they have had….and, that they might be facing the risk of losing it (on “Jersey Shore” and elsewhere… BRILLIANT!). Then, we will ALL lose, Arab, Jew and Gentile!

    While “Yahweh reveals relativity to Einstein” (BRILLIANT!), I pray Yahweh, Allah and God to continue giving us great minds like You, Sir.

  • 26
    Zeyneb says:

    great souls too. takes a great soul as well as a great mind to write this article. thank you Dr.Kayalar.

  • 27
    bruce w. says:

    The theme of this blog is fantastic. The way you presented your ideas – with so much wit and humor – is mind boggling. Makes them so much easier to agree with (but perhaps that’s not why you do it). Regardless, please keep doing it!

    Furthermore, I’d like to mention that I loved MOONLIGHT SONATA, it’s a masterpiece, a very major accomplishment in film making. No wonder my friends who worked with you on it’s production call you “Maestro” – so, I’d like to continue the tradition, if I may.

    Question: Would you consider making your next feature film on the subject you dealt with here in your blog? Maestro puts his master film making talents into promoting ENLIGHTENMENT and helping save the WESTERN CIVILIZATION. Challenging, but YOU THE MAN! to do it.

    Best Regards

  • 28
    liz n. says:

    “Choosing between reason and stupidity shouldn’t be this difficult”

    Thank you Celik for reminding us this simple fact we seem to have forgotten. I’m choosing REASON!
    PS: Just bought my first Chomsky book, very excited!

  • 29
    Brian says:

    Any chance you may bring back your very creative, wonderful & hilarious play “Couch” to a San Francisco theater? Timing would be perfect. In the meantime, keep blogging bro, you are a “maestro” at that too.

  • 30
    Brice says:

    Please continue to enlighten us. I’ve learned so much in this one article alone. Well done Celik

  • 31
    Don says:

    I predict these lines will be classic, soon. Celik, how do you do it? We want more!

    “Elementary my dear Downey Jr., you’re no Holmes…”

    “Schmuck Murdoch“? Fair and balanced?

    “Tim Tebow praying on both knees”

    “cleavages & cracks of Kardashians; allure of the sex-kitten Paris Bimbo; manure of the Coulter-smitten Rambo Limbaugh; “born-again-Christian & born-against-intellect” Governors from Texas (oil in the water at the Governor’s Mansion)”

    “Choosing between reason and stupidity shouldn’t be this difficult”

    “Iron-Man Gandhi:The Taliban Terminator” (in 3-D) “Yahweh reveals relativity to Einstein” (in 4-D)

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