CliqueClack TV

Why all the hate on Lucy Liu as Watson? – Clacking in Color

CBS' 'Elementary,' a radical reboot of the Sherlock Holmes tale, hasn't even premiered yet ... but is getting a lot of buzz thanks to casting Lucy Liu as Watson. Some folks are mad. In this week's Clacking in Color, writer Jaylen Christie wonders ... what the heck is the big deal?

Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things — astronaut, doctor, garbage man, butt kicking superhero — but I eventually settled on writing. It’s what I’m good at. Plus, I don’t have to leave the house to do so. I don’t think I ever wanted to be a detective, but I sure did enjoy watching them on TV. Maybe that’s one of the reasons that I’m looking forward to the debut of CBS’ Elementary on September 27th. A radical revision of the classic Sherlock Holmes tale, it sets our crime solving hero in modern times complete with ultramodern gadgets, new villains and a new Watson — played by NAACP Image Award nominee Lucy Liu.

Now, you would think that folks would be excited by the idea of Liu as a crime-fighting assistant, but there have been some haters … and for the life of me, I simply cannot imagine why. Sure, we all know that the character John Watson had an XY chromosome originally but dammit, it’s 2012. People have sex changes, you know. As Joan Watson, I’m sure Liu will do just fine. Besides, I think the switch is clever.

Liu has proved time and time again that she can command a scene and kick some serious booty. Let’s look to the Charlie’s Angels movies for instance … actually, we’ll use the first one as a reference. The second one was about as bland as anything Tyler Perry produces. Liu was pretty damn convincing as one of Charlie’s karate knowing sleuths. The scene with her fighting Crispin Glover with a rusty chain is actually one of my all-time favorite fight sequences. Liu was quite believable. The same can be said about her amazing performance in Kill Bill: Vol 1. No disrespect to Uma Thurman, but Liu was bad … in a good way.

However, while knowing a thing or two about martial arts gives her an advantage, the fact that she can honestly act does help too. Liu isn’t a stranger to television and is known for her work in Ally McBeal, Dirty Sexy Money and TNT’s critically acclaimed Southland. She’s diverse and capable which makes her the perfect topic for this Clacking in Color column and the quintessential choice for a revamp of the Watson character.

So, what’s the problem exactly? Why are some people complaining about Liu as Watson? Is it that some individuals prefer that things be kept the same … or is it something else? Something a bit more harsh — the fact that Liu is a woman?

Yeah, I said it.

Let the record show that I have absolutely no problem with a chick taking charge in a TV show or in real life. For further proof, see my columns on Audra McDonald, Reshma Shetty, and Wendy Raquel Robinson. I’m all for Liu being Watson in Elementary. I think it’s justified. What I want is for the haters to at least give the woman a chance. Before we pass judgment, let’s just wait until September to see her for ourselves. If she sucks then she sucks, but if she’s awesome — which I’m sure she’ll be — then consider her the Watson of 2012. Heck, if Jude Law can play Sherlock’s assistant in the movies then why can’t Liu play the character on the TV show? She’s just as charismatic and twice as good looking.

I’m just sayin’.

Photo Credit: CNN

Categories: | Clacking in Color | Columns | General | News |

32 Responses to “Why all the hate on Lucy Liu as Watson? – Clacking in Color”

August 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM

. . . . .

I, and others, raised the same question concerning CliqueClack’s unofficial mascot Wonder Woman and her straplessness, Jaylen …

For the record, I’ve never been on board Liu’s train.

August 22, 2012 at 10:43 PM

Wonder Woman is awesome and always will be! LOL Why aren’t you a fan of Lucy Liu?

August 21, 2012 at 11:29 AM

It’s her work in “Ally McBeal” and “Charlie’s Angels” that makes her completely WRONG for the part, in my opinion. Watson isn’t supposed to outshine Holmes. Watson is not a take-charge person, he or she is a follower. Just look at Martin Freeman’s performance in “Sherlock”. I don’t want a butt-kicking Watson. Those recent movies are a travesty, and have absolutely nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes.
I’ve just never seen her play a subdued, secondary role in anything. Maybe she’s done decent work on “Southland”–I don’t know. I hope I’m wrong about her and about the new TV show. I was happy with “Sherlock”, and didn’t need any other “re-imaginings” of the Holmes story right now.

August 21, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Scott: That’s a common criticism whose merit completely escapes me. How will Elementary impact your ability to enjoy Sherlock in any way? i09 did a great piece recently on remakes/re-imaginings being the modern version of folk lore; I think this is a great case of that. Before Sherlock debuted, I’m sure the same could have been said about the RDJ movies not needing competition within the franchise.

I can assuage your concerns about Lui’s history of “kick-ass” characters; the Watson in the pilot was decidedly not a fighter. Not saying she’d be afraid of entering an appropriate fray; but it’s not who her character is (Not unlike Freeman’s Watson).

August 21, 2012 at 11:39 AM

I will actually give the new show a try–I like the actor who’s playing Holmes. My fears about Liu as Watson have nothing to do with her being a woman or being Asian. I’m willing to entertain some stretching of the Holmes story. I liked the angle that “House” put on it. I even liked “The Great Mouse Detective”. I’ll give this a try.

August 21, 2012 at 11:49 AM

I don’t disagree at all; Miller is the only reason I’m planning on watching, because I’ve tired of procedural crime dramas in general (All of which are plays on the classic Holmesian story).

August 21, 2012 at 11:29 AM

I don’t think it either a mystery nor a surprise that the criticism of the change is because Liu is a woman; but it’s because the character – a classic – is male.

At the end of the day though, I agree with you. I’ve seen the pilot, and think the change works.

But playing devil’s advocate, I think the root of some people’s problem is changing the role of a male character who is completely subservient to a male to a female who is completely subservient to a male. Not to say that Watson – John or Joan – isn’t a strong character in his/her own right, but he/she will always be Sherlock’s second.

August 22, 2012 at 10:46 PM

I see what you’re saying, Ivey. That makes sense. Still, I trust that Lucy will be awesome. Sometimes change is good. Besides, there have been TONS of Sherlock Holmes reboots and retellings. It’s nice to see something different.

August 21, 2012 at 1:29 PM

Don’t hate her as Watson, hate her as everything! She is one of the most boring, wooden, one-note actresses in Hollywood today. Dreadful. They could have given Miller so much more to work with. And Watson is NOT subservient. The bumbling screen portrayals of the past were not particularly fair to the character. Watson is in awe of someone he regards as both brilliant and significant. That’s why he acts as Holmes’ biographer and follows the man’s lead. He is also a former soldier–used to following orders. A woman would be great, but how about someone who can actually act??

August 22, 2012 at 10:47 PM

What makes Lucy so wooden? I’m just curious.

August 21, 2012 at 2:04 PM

I don’t have an opinion on Liu as Watson yet – have to wait and see a few episodes first – but perhaps there is a fear that this could turn into a will-they-won’t-they situation, where sexual tension begins to overshadow the mysteries and the exploration of Holmes’ character. I hope it doesn’t go there.

Regarding the question of whether people object to Liu’s casting because she is female/Asian, I think that is possible, perhaps on a subconscious level. Here’s why: Watson is supposed to be the Everyman, the audience’s stand-in, the normal person who is observing, marveling at, and chronicling the adventures of a very brilliant and eccentric individual. Watson is us. Now, what do you think of when you think of an Everyman? You think generic. You think average-looking, middle-aged white male (e.g., Martin Freeman, Robert Sean Leonard). You don’t normally think of a beautiful Asian woman as an Everyman. I think that’s why some people are objecting to Liu as Watson, perhaps without even realizing why it throws them off.

August 21, 2012 at 4:02 PM

I doubt that most television fans who are in an uproar care in the least about Watson as the Everyman.

I mean, I don’t; I’d never made that connection. Even after you pointed it out, I sat on it for a couple minutes to think about it (Because you’re a smart lady whose opinion I listen to), and but I still don’t see it.

Easy to admit I could be completely wrong about the whole subservient thing, though.

August 21, 2012 at 4:34 PM

I know, that’s why I said it was subconscious. People aren’t thinking about Watson as Everyman – it goes without saying that that’s who he is. It’s an elemental aspect of the character. There are many versions of Watson out there, but some feel more Watson-y than others because they are truer to the nature of the original character. I don’t think this means that Liu can’t play the part; she could certainly do it if she can come off as an average person. We are used to seeing her play extraordinary characters, but in this role she has to be ordinary.

August 21, 2012 at 5:38 PM

It’s strange to me that you say this. Lucy Liu comes off to me as a sort of girl-next-door, Everywoman type. Yes, she can play a villain or a hero, be vulnerable or tough, but that’s just the ability to act.

August 21, 2012 at 6:35 PM

It’s very subjective. Being Asian myself, I know that a lot of people still think of Asians as foreign curiosities. Maybe to you and me, Liu is a normal girl-next-door, but I think the majority of Americans see her as somewhat exotic compared to, say, an unknown white actress. She can overcome such impressions through her ability to act, as you mentioned. I hope she does well.

August 21, 2012 at 3:03 PM

My first thought, when I originally heard about ‘Elementary’, is that Lucy Liu should be playing a female version of Sherlock Holmes, with a male Watson. Months later, I feel the same way.

August 21, 2012 at 5:36 PM

The Guy Ritchie “Holmes” movies are a treat. I credit Guy for pulling together all the talent (actors, writers, sets, costumes…) to give us a new take on a character that first appeared in print in 1887. Through the years Holmes has been on stage and screen and played by a number of fine actors. Before RDJ, Jeremy Bret and Basil Rathbone were among my favorites. Honestly, I’d be hard pressed to recall the actors that played Watson aside from Jude Law and Nigel Bruce. To have Lucy Liu play the Watson on this new show is a risk since its always been played by men. Still, it stirs the viewers and leads to debates such as this. She’s a fine actor and eminently capable of fulfilling the role. Looking forward to “Elementary” as “Sherlock” with Cumberbatch and Freeman just didn’t interest me. Tried it. Didn’t like it.

August 21, 2012 at 6:52 PM

I have no problem with casting Lucy Liu. I actually think it was a mistake to cast a British man in an American version of Sherlock. If you’re going to do an American modern day telling of Sherlock while there’s still a British modern day telling of Sherlock over on the BBC (a very good telling of it, by the way)then REALLY have your version be dynamic by having an all American cast or at least all American characters. Having Sherlock stay British feels too safe and also leans towards “Genius Brit shows Americans how dumb they are.” That feels lazy to me.

But Lucy Liu? Actually sounds like a good fit for me.

August 21, 2012 at 6:55 PM

I’m really looking forward to this series because I love Liu, and I really don’t get all the uprising about a woman playing the part. Nobody complained about David Gabriel being the Watson to Brenda’s Sherlock, I don’t see why the roles can’t be reversed and have a woman as Watson.

I kind of agree with Happy Fan tho, Liu could’ve made an amazing Sherlock!

August 22, 2012 at 10:50 PM

Nice! Well said, Maria! She could have played Sherlock! Also, I never even thought about Detective Gabriel and Detective Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer! GREAT COMPARISON! I think this reboot can work. It’s fresh and different. I honestly cannot wait! :-)

August 27, 2012 at 9:23 PM

Brenda Leigh has always struck me as a bit of a female Holmes; you could say her whole team is a version of the Baker Street irregulars, but Gabriel was the one she was grooming. Good catch!

August 22, 2012 at 4:49 AM

The whole show just seems lazy to me. I caught a preview. Where BBC’s Sherlock has Gov coverups, interesting detective work, delicate wordplay and precise clues that show that Sherlock is the only man for the job. The American version had a CSI investigator staring agape at “a broken Glass” on the floor. They had Sherlock deduce that it was not one broken Glass, but 2. Then, oh boy did that investigator have egg on his face. It felt like every other CSI investigation show that’s out there. From that preview, it felt like it was doing nothing different than anything else and content with bringing more of the same.

August 22, 2012 at 7:00 AM

I was hesitant about Liu because all her past roes surrounded “dragon” women, and that wasn’t Watson. But, seeing the commercials, I’m no longer concerned.

August 22, 2012 at 6:44 PM

i will never, ever forgive lucy liu for those god- awful “charlie’s angel’s” movies. ever. that said, i loved her in “lucky number slevin” so i do think she can pull off watson, but there will always be a blight on her record because of those horrible, horrible movies.

August 27, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Every actor in the world must have an unforgivable blight on his or her record if this is the criterion you uses. If you can find an actor who hasn’t made a movie you thought was awful, it would be surprising. Actors go where the work is, and Liu getting a role that was previously only given to Caucasian women was a big step.

August 23, 2012 at 11:15 AM

As my daugther says “haters are your motivaters”. Before we start hating of Lucy Liu being Watson in Elementary let’s give her a chance. I think this role is going to be good for her career. She is going to give the role a different flavor and who doesn’t like a little spice in their life.

Great article again Jay. Keep up the great work and keep on clacking!!!

August 23, 2012 at 3:43 PM

I like Lucy Lui and she is a good actress. Before we start complaining give her a chance to prove herself. Nice article.

August 23, 2012 at 9:17 PM

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing Lucy Liu as Watson. This casting provides a fresh take on a canon that has been re-imagined countless times (at least five in the last decade by my count–all but one of which with white dudes cast for both roles). I also think switching Watson’s gender and race will allow opportunities to explore other interesting elements and dynamics of the already complex Holmes-Watson relationship. My only complaint is that they didn’t make Sherlock a woman as well. Go big or go home, you know?

Great article, Jay.

August 24, 2012 at 2:40 AM

I’m going to give elementary a chance, curious if they have a new take on Sherlock Holmes. I don’t mind the gender switch in Watson. Makes me very curious if this Sherlock is going to mix up and ruin all her relationships. Take of course is assuming she, like John Watson, will have many over the course of the series. I personally think it would be a shame if she didn’t.

August 25, 2012 at 11:15 AM

Given the fact that Lucy Liu is playing her, I’d be very surprised too! :-)

August 25, 2012 at 11:06 AM

What can I say, bro? I agree. Nothing wrong with change in a TV show. Perhaps people are taking things a bit too seriously. Sheesh. LOL. Give the pretty lady a chance before bashing her. She seemed cool as heck to me in the movies I have seen her in and she’s eye candy–Sorry, had to say that–plus, having a femal Watson could open the series up to new viewers. If I were in charge, I’d make Sherlock Holmes a female. Call her Sherri Holmes. LOL. Nice article, man.

August 27, 2012 at 9:31 PM

Please, when they do an official female Sherlock, I hope they call her Sherlock Holmes. Sidney, Tracy, Stacy, Ashley, Hillary–all originally boys’ names. And Archie Panjabi should play her.

Powered By OneLink