Monday, October 25, 2010

Moffat's Sherlock: Psychopath or Sociopath?

Loved the new Sherlock. I couldn't watch with the attention I would've liked as I was trying to do some housework while it played, but one thing nagged at me, a line Sherlock utters to Anderson, the forensics guy, while Lestrade and Scotland Yard toss 221B. Sherlock quips, "I'm a high-functioning sociopath, not a psychopath. Do your homework." (I'm quoting from memory, those may not be the exact words.)

What's the difference?  Depends who you ask. Google "sociopath vs psychopath" and see if you can find two answers that don't contradict one another. It wasn't very clear to me; if I'd been scoring the Sherlock character using the traits associated with each, I think it would have been a mix of both.

Holmes and Watson via BBC
So, I'm curious what Sherlock ( and Moffat) have in mind as the definition of "high-functioning sociopath" (sounds a bit like they're associating the condition with autism, there's a whole 'nother spectrum of mental states it's not easy to get your arms around) because I'd like to understand whether Sherlock has an accurate self-diagnosis (in the context of the show's definition, as well as in the context of a real world definition) and whether the accuracy, or lack thereof, might be an indication of whether he's being deceptive or not.

If you are any kind of Holmes fan, I think you'll like it a quite a bit. The performances are strong and (I've studiously avoided spoilers) this first installment has set up an enjoyable new Holmesian universe.

Update: FriendFeed search is working again (yay!) so I can finally find and embed here the post where Soup added some insight:

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