The Johnlock Conspiracy
The Johnlock Conspiracy is a fan theory which asserts that the writers of Sherlock (BBC) intend to make John/Sherlock the canon endgame pairing. This theory is often presented as a rebuttal to the allegations of queerbaiting commonly lodged against the show by other fans and in the mainstream media. While the term TJLC was coined in early January 2014, fan interpretations of the queer subtext between the characters of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in the BBC show (and more broadly between Holmes and Watson across various adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes canon) certainly predate TJLC.[note 1]
Primarily based on Tumblr, TJLC and its proponents have been at the heart of much controversy and wank over the years. TJLCers are frequently accused of harassment (including bullying, anon hate, and doxxing), and in turn, many TJLCers have also alleged experiencing harassment from those outside of the subfandom.
After the fourth series ended in 2017,[note 2] some TJLCers argued that there was a fourth as-yet unaired episode of the fourth series that would vindicate their theory, and many are still waiting for it to be released.
TJLC, or “The Johnlock Conspiracy,” is a concept that sprouting [sic] into existence in fandom a few short hours after the airing of The Sign of Three. It refers to the idea that Moffat, Gatiss, Thompson, Sue Vertue, and Ben Stephenson - the whole squad - have intended for John/Sherlock to be canon from the beginning, and lie about it in the press to keep tv’s greatest plot twist a secret until the big reveal! Due to this, the entire show actually makes more sense when watched from the perspective that Johnlock is going to become canon, and its inevitability is blatant :-}- from the "About" page of the TJLC Tumblr
The term "The Johnlock Conspiracy" and its acronym date to early January 2014, around the airing of the second episode of the third series of Sherlock. The first post in the TJLC tag on Tumblr dates to January 7 and the term appears to have taken off around January 9-10.
Johnlock 101 – An Introduction to The Johnlock Conspiracy - an extended introductory from a TJLCer's perspective, written by JayEz in 2014 - offers the following account of TJLC's origins:
After a two year hiatus, January 2014 finally saw the return of BBC’s Sherlock. Fans were rewarded with a Sherlock/Molly kiss and a Sherlock/Moriarty almost-kiss, and despite some critique that the BBC was mocking its fans, fandom mostly was in high spirits when it was time for episode two, TSoT. It was this episode that gave TJLC ammunition and within hours after its premiere, Tumblr users joolabee and graceebooks conceived the acronym #tjlc, which then spread in the following days . On January 7th, loudest-subtext-in-television posted “Trust in Gatiss: Operation Johnlock is Go” , which put into words what many Johnlock shippers were feeling – that the romance between Sherlock and John is real.
Why Call It A Conspiracy?
As one TJLCer explains, it is called a conspiracy "because it is not yet canon and pretty much everyone on the show vehemently denies that Watson/Holmes are or will be involved in a way that is anything more than platonic."
I never used to think it was important, and on the textual analysis level where I like to reside, it isn’t: canon Johnlock isn’t a secret, it’s just a (mostly) subtle part of the text. We’re talking about the textual romance, not who really killed JFK. The whole term was a joke to start with. And at this point, it’s true that TJLC has connotations more about who your friends (and enemies) are, what jokes you do or don’t get, what Tumblr blogs you follow/follow you back and how much you’re fond of the term ‘curly dad’ (by which measure I’m definitely a TJLCer). But the truth is, there’s some relevance to the Conspiracy part of the program. Most notably, the relevance has to do with one’s relationship to TPTB.
The C reminds us that they’re lying liars who lie, always trolling us in order to avoid spoilers that have to do with the fact that canon Johnlock is a plot development as much as an always-present aspect of the characterization. We have to remember that, just in case we’re tempted to believe them without first checking whether anything Mofftiss say makes sense or is consistent with their previous beliefs and feelings. Of course, we ideally shouldn’t need the term 'conspiracy’ to remind us that people can’t be trusted if it means spoiling their own show, but sometimes (often) that reminder really is useful. I think that reminder is clearly necessary for many people, who may forget the way the game works even with that constant clue, which is (after all) in the name.
BBC Sherlock, TJLC, and Queerbaiting
As a theory, TJLC hinges on the notion that the sly jokes and allusions often identified as queerbaiting by some viewers of BBC Sherlock are, in fact, breadcrumbs for the attentive viewer and true believer. The very elements of the show that have incited criticism from fans and mainstream media alike serve as proof positive for TJLCers: the show isn't queerbaiting you, you're just not getting it.
Some non-TJLCers have been frustrated, even offended, by this - and some former TJLCers have felt ultimately betrayed by their initial faith in the ultimate, eventual queerness of the show.
In Johnlock meta and authorial intent in Sherlock fandom: Affirmational or transformational?, Melissa A. Hofmann sums up these varied stances on the queerbaiting question, within TJLC as well as Sherlock fandom more broadly:
Fans' appeals to the evidence of the text and its paratexts in favor of Johnlock, in contrast to the writer-producers' denials, has led them to create copious amounts of multimedia textual analysis and for some to use these analyses to support their claim that the show has queerbaited its audience; that is, teased its viewers with a same-sex relationship it never intended to actualize (Anselmo 2018, Brennan 2016; Collier 2015; Fathallah 2015; Mueller 2015; Ng 2017; Nordin 2015). Charges of queerbaiting serve both to grant interpretive authority to fans and to hold the authors accountable for an explanation of intent. Not all Johnlockers agree with the accusation of queerbaiting, however. Some appreciate the continued ambiguity and queerness of the show, which may or may not have ended with series 4, which aired in January 2017, but whose final montage effectively functions as a narrative coda for the series. These fans believe such accusations are premature, since there is talk of a fifth series, and/or believe that the show is queer in that it challenges traditional expectations of romance, relationships, identity politics—and even narrative—serving as a metacommentary on Sherlock Holmes adaptations. A subset of fans continue to believe that the creators still intend for canon Johnlock to occur, that series 4 is fake or deliberately bad and thus should not be read on a surface level, and that new content is forthcoming. Others disagree with the direct "fan-tagonistic" approach (Johnson 2007), accusing any of the show's vocal critics of "fan entitlement," "hate," or harassment of the creators whose creative autonomy should be respected, and of sowing discord within the fandom itself (Romano 2016). So, depending on the fan and the meta, the author is either dead, vilified, or deified—or sometimes, paradoxically, a combination of these.
Relationship to Glee Fandom
In the wake of the 2015 221B Con, anons at fail_fandomanon discussed the origin of TJLC and its impact on fandom. One anon suggested that TJLC was a rehash of graceebooks' theory in Glee fandom about Kurt/Sam. Another described the joy that early TJLC discussions gave them, contrasting it with later wank, though another argued that TJLC was polarizing from the beginning; the same disagreement over when TJLC hit wank occurs here.
@ new TJLCers or TJLC-curious viewers after The Six Thatchers: a guide to our wild acronyms, etc.
TJLC = The Johnlock Conspiracy: an ongoing series of fan meta based on the belief that Johnlock will be canon and was always intended by the writers to be so.
M-Theory = a widely read series of meta by @loudest-subtext-in-tv that supports a canon reading of Johnlock
TJLCE = a Youtube series that explains a lot of this meta hosted by Rebs @quietlyprim
Mofftiss = Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, head writers of the show and major fanboys of ACD
ACD = Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the original Sherlock Holmes canon of stories
TPLOSH = The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, a Sherlock Holmes movie by Billy Wilder in which Holmes is implied to be gay. It’s Moffat’s and Gatiss’s favorite movie.
ASIP, TBB, TGG = A Study in Pink, The Blind Banker, The Great Game
ASIB, THOB, TRF = A Scandal in Belgravia, The Hounds of Baskerville, The Reichenbach Fall
TEH, TSOT, HLV = The Empty Hearse, The Sign of Three, His Last Vow
T6T/TST, TLD, TFP = The Six Thatchers, The Lying Detective, The Final Problem
“Casuals” = a catch-all term we typically use to refer to fans who don’t engage with Sherlock as regularly as TJLC fans, or don’t view the subtext between John and Sherlock as we do“Antis” = fans of Sherlock who are aware of TJLC but actively root against Johnlock as a canon ship
If I taught a class on TJLC
Required summer reading: Every ACD story that had been adapted by BBC, M-Theory
Required summer viewing: TPLOSH, The Princess Bride
Weekly assignment: Watch one episode of TJLCE and summarize in a paper-followed by class discussion
In-class viewing: Each episode of the show with lots of pausing and discussing
In-class debate topics: The Kiss in Ep 1,2, or 3? Is the baby real or fake? EMP? What is Mycroft’s fate? Mary’s fate? Season 5 predictions? Other ships and why they don’t work? And for fun: role playing anti vs TJLCer debates
Guest speakers: Rebekah @quietlyprim, LSIT @loudest-subtext-in-tv, Moftiss if I can get them to come, ArwelExtra credit: 10 points for each anti you convince with your newly acquired knowledge, 10 points for fan fiction and fan art (may increase depending on quality)
At its core, TJLC is based on the premise that the creators of Sherlock have always intended for show to conclude with John and Sherlock in a romantic relationship - and in fact, that there is an elaborate plan to make this happen. TJLCers read the show through this lens, finding evidence to support their theory in everything from the set design to the cinematography to the soundtrack. Many TJLCers present their insights into and interpretations of the show in meta, although there's also a fair amount of shitposting and crack.
Due to the tumultuous nature of the community, TJLCers often struggle to point toward a single entry-point into the theory, which can be disheartening for newcomers (and may contribute to the perception of TJLC as an insular group). TJLC introductory posts pop up with some frequency, although most seem to predate series four.
On January 19, 2017, joolabee (one of the co-creators of the term TJLC) replied to an anon asking for "the basic theories behind the conspiracy" with a bullet-point list outlining various aspects of the theory, many of which are elaborated upon in various TJLC meta:
johnlock is surface level. go back and rewatch the series with this perspective:
- sherlock is gay, confirms that he’s gay in angelo’s when he denies interest in women but not men, and suggests he and john go on a date in the blind banker. soon you will take off your heteronormative glasses and see the sparkletwink within
- ignore john’s protestations of “i’m not gay,” which happen infrequently (and never to sherlock), and are often only denials of their being in a relationship (”of course we’ll be needing two”)
- every time a phone is onscreen, consider it a metaphor for either john or sherlock’s heart
- every time water is on screen, consider it a metaphor for emotions
- tea is gay
- food is sex
- death is sex/emotions/love
- get freudian with it (the fucking harpoon in hounds?)
- cigarettes are sexual desire
- john is jealous all the time
- mycroft, or the “ice man” represents sherlock’s suppression of his emotions in favor of “the work” – keep in mind memorable moffat quote “he wants to rise above everyone like a snowcapped mountain but actually he’s a volcano”
- pay attention to characters who represent sherlock and john–tall brunette lesbians in sherlock’s coat, for example; the gay inkeepers in hounds of the baskervilles, for another
- remember that moffat openly talks about how they lie and lie and lie and lie all the time for the sake of surprise. what else would be the resolution of their near decade long plan which no one else has done before? that they wanted to do right, before someone else did?
- all the episodes are only about the cases on the surface and overall are actually focused on the emotional development of sherlock and john’s relationship
- in tso3, sherlock is heartbroken (why mary shoots him in the heart in HLV), and “the elephant in the room” is john and sherlock’s love for each other
- the johnlock conspiracy has 3 cameos so far: the conspirators in the abominable bride, the acronym in the six thatchers, and “is cup of tea code?” our coming was foretold in “the geek interpreter”
- mary, in all likelihood, is moriarty, but that’s another story
Examples of Introductory Posts
The aim of this essay is to show that TJLC has a point to people who haven’t spent endless hours reading up on it, who are skeptical, or who are just interested in the topic. It isn't a polemic document and I'm not trying to force my view on any reader. I'm just pointing out what members of TJLC find obvious. I don't want to offend anyone with this, just add something to the existing treasure chest of Sherlock meta.
TJLC [The JohnLock Conspiracy] is the idea of Johnlock having been planned by the writers to play out during the course of the series all the way from the start.
A lot of people after series 3 were starting to think there were a lot of these so called ‘coincidences’ happening in the show - mostly regarding John and Sherlocks relationship. Now, to a lot of other people these were just that - coincidences - but some of us were starting to wonder if there were actually something more to it, and started forming a theory.
It becomes vanishingly difficult to build upon a theory like TJLC in any constructive way when the establishing works are no longer available for new initiates to read. Below is a small and by no means comprehensive collection of stable links to archived metas and summaries of the basic tenets of TJLC for folks who are approaching TJLC for the first time.
TJLCers are prolific meta writers, and so this section does not even attempt to present a comprehensive list of influential TJLC meta - instead, it is a partial list of illustrative writing from over the years.
TJLC meta is both analytical - mining the source text for evidence that supports the ultimate claim that Johnlock is endgame - and predictive - positing hypotheses regarding future plots developments and character arcs. Some meta writers will also write posts outlining whether or not their predictions came to be.
In Johnlock meta and authorial intent in Sherlock fandom: Affirmational or transformational?, Melissa A. Hofmann proposes an expansive articulation of meta in Sherlock fandom:
I propose that Johnlock meta functions in four non–mutually exclusive ways: revelation, elucidation, validation, and speculation. Revelatory meta exposes some hidden meaning or theme; elucidative meta clarifies or expands upon an already existing interpretation; validating meta reinforces another's reading with additional evidence or legitimizes the lens; and speculative meta makes narrative predictions. Meta takes as evidence various textual elements, such as characterization, cinematography, dialogue, mise-en-scène, music, narrative arcs, plot developments, acting choices, intertextuality, and script directives. As I will discuss further below, Johnlock meta also attempts to preserve the coherence of the fictional universe by attempting to reconcile the source text and its paratexts by either killing off or deifying the author, thereby providing fans with ontological and epistemological security in their reading of the show (figure 1). I consider meta broadly, including under the definition not only more traditional long-form text and/or multimedia analyses (text plus images/video/audio) but also shorter meme-like posts, from witty paraphrased snippets of dialogue that translate the connotations of the scene into denotation to photo sets and GIF sets (grouped still or animated screenshots, often with brief captions, with quotes from the text and its intertexts or paratexts). While these latter types of posts are usually not tagged as "meta" by their creators, they function as such, providing revelation, elucidation, and validation, even when fully multimediated with no explanatory text. Photo and GIF sets are visual shorthand, conveying richly layered meaning at a glance, immediately revealing dominant themes and parallel scenes, at least for those familiar enough with the canon and its referents to recognize and place them. For the initiated, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. (While fan videos can be similar to photo and GIF sets in this respect, the added level of creativity of many fan vids makes a discussion of them outside the scope of this current essay, as do certain photo and GIF sets).
Many of the most popular TJLC metas were written by loudest-subtext-in-television, who was active in the fandom from 2014 until she deleted her blog in early 2016, returning in December 2016 as loudest-subtext-in-tv. While some TJLC metas are formally similar to academic writing (i.e., extended essays with citations and references) - TJLC meta may also take the form of short text posts, curated gif sets, or asynchronous conversations carried out between fellow fans over a chain of reblogs. In fact, many of the central assumptions or tenets of TJLC are collaboratively developed, and evolve over time with input from various authors. For example, the origins of the "drink code" - frequently shorthanded as "tea is gay," and oft-cited as a foundational TJLC analysis - can be traced to a brief post by skulls-and-tea, originally published on July 19, 2015. In this post, skulls-and-tea shared an excerpt of Paul Chrystal's book Tea: A Very British Beverage, in which Chrystal discussed interpretations of tea drinking as a metaphor for homosexuality in Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. The post, which has over 4,000 notes as of July 24, 2018, does not mention TJLC or BBC Sherlock directly - but was clearly interpreted as a part of an ongoing, multilayered and multilateral conversation about the television show. From this brief, humorous post sprang more detailed meta on the subject. The "phone-as-heart" metaphor is another example of this phenomenon, illustrated in gif sets, conversations on Tumblr, in video meta, and written meta.
Even in the case of theories put forward more comprehensively by a single author, TJLC meta tends to accrete many layers of meaning as it evolves through reblogs on Tumblr.
Posted by loudest-subtext-in-television to Tumblr in 2014, "M-theory" presented a unified theory of TJLC, connecting disparate predictions and ideas about the future of the television show.
For laughs, here’s the original definition of M-theory (Wikipedia): “In theoretical physics, M-theory is an extension of string theory in which 11 dimensions of spacetime are identified as 7 higher-dimensions plus the 4 common dimensions (11D st = 7 hd + 4D). Proponents believe that the 11-dimensional theory unites all five 10 dimensional string theories (10D st = 6 hd + 4D) and supersedes them.” You guys are going to see why I borrowed this term to name this theory, which coincidentally has a lot to do with the letter M: it’s incredibly complicated, and it unites and supersedes a lot of existing theories about where Sherlock is headed. I’ll lay out the basic tenants first, then take you through it.
This meta, also written by loudest-subtext-in-television, drew on data from the BBC's 2009 Report on the Portayal of LGB People to make the case that not only is John/Sherlock endgame, but it is part of a concerted effort at the BBC to improve queer representation. By August 8, 2014, the meta had 2,795 notes; it was deleted when loudest-subtext-in-television deleted her Tumblr in early 2016.
In January 2009, the BBC saw the pilot of Sherlock.
As many with eyes and ears have pointed out, that pilot is pretty gay. And upon seeing this pilot, the BBC liked it so much they decided they wanted a 90 minute format instead of a 60 minute format. They allocated a TON more money toward it, and Moffat and Gatiss went off to rework everything. So far, this is all common knowledge.
What isn’t common knowledge is that in April 2009, as Sherlock was being reworked, the BBC commissioned a working group to research LGB portrayals, which focused on the following topics: how LGB portrayals are the BBC’s responsibility given its Royal Charter; how people feel about LGB portrayals; how to present those portrayals to BBC audiences; how to do LGB portrayals right; how far the BBC wants to take LGB portrayals; and how the BBC can do more to encourage its showrunners to include both incidental and landmark LGB portrayals. Their report is what skulls-and-tea found. It’s hundreds of pages, and all very telling.If I could summarize the research in one sentence, it would be this: “We’re doing pretty gay, but we could do gayer.” In fact, it seems the BBC aims to be the gayest. But we’ll get there.
Written by joolabee - one of the co-creators of TJLC, along with graceebooks - this 2015 meta was adapted from an academic paper written by the author for an undergraduate course "about television as a medium and the concept of narrative complexity."
The following is a collection of my interpretation of some of TJLC’s most damning evidence viewed through the larger lens of tv history and seriality (or, how narrative arcs are created across seasons). There are only a few truly new ideas in here, especially more towards the beginning, and I’ve tried to cut out the more theoretical bits that would be impossible to understand without context. This is p much just for people who said they were interested in seeing it, and I thought I’d say it was “tjlc for the uninitiated” because I wrote it intending for it to be read by people who haven’t got a clue about anything we’ve been talking about for the past 18 months.
Audience Interaction and Extranarrative Denial
Sherlock fans have a famously large fanbase that has rooted for the John and Sherlock relationship since day one. Much like Kirk/Spock fans to a certain extent predicted early serializing by creating extended emotional arcs between the characters in fanfiction and fanzines, the Sherlock fanbase saw the potential for a romantic arc between John and Sherlock in the early seasons and, in essence, predicted it. Though there is a great deal of extranarrative denial from the showrunners about any attraction existing between Sherlock and John, Steven Moffat is a notorious liar, openly admitting that he purposefully misleads and falsifies things he says about his shows in interviews.At this juncture, I put my faith in the narrative. The final scene of His Last Vow contains what I feel is unequivocally an aborted love declaration: despite having said that they love one another, despite telling John he is “the best and bravest man he’s ever known,” Sherlock says that “There’s something… I’ve wanted to say, that I’ve meant to say, always, but never have.” I cannot imagine an alternative confession, and feel that Sherlock, in its final moments before yet another long hiatus, comes so close to being overt here that an eventual, positive resolution of the “will they/won’t they” will come to pass. Such a development for a crime drama containing two very high-profile stars would be revolutionary. However, production for the fourth series doesn’t start until next year—so it might be a long time coming.
The Extended Mind Palace Theory was originally developed through a discussion between Tumblr users gosherlocked, monikakrasnorada, and the-7-percent-solution. gosherlocked, monikakrasnorada, and the-7-percent-solution continued to discuss this theory in reblogs through January 19, 2016.
Other TJLCers expanded on the theory, offering additional evidence in support of it and raising new questions to consider over the course of 2016, and as the fourth series aired.
Published in two parts, this meta by garkgatiss uses film and literary analysis to interpret the show, particularly in light of the fourth season. As of July 10, 2018, this meta - originally posted to Medium - had over 700 claps.
The Series Four finale of BBC Sherlock was… different. Unprecedented, in a lot of ways. Those of us who subscribe to TJLC went into the fourth series with a concrete theory of what was to come, based on predictions from the original Sherlock Holmes stories combined with an exhaustive analysis of the subtext and symbolism of the preceding three series. Your phone is your heart, tea is gay, alcohol is ‘liquid courage’, and Molly Hooper is a mirror for John Watson.
We read the show, we spoke their language, we did our research. We knew they were writing a romance between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.We knew.
Written by sherlock-overflow-error in response to Decoder Ring: The Johnlock Conspiracy, this meta outlines a rebuttal against various common criticisms of TJLC as a theory and community. Additionally, the author presents a taxonomy of TJLC meta.
TJLC is not the same as Johnlock.
Johnlock refers just to shipping John/Sherlock—thinking they’d make a cute romantic couple, without necessarily having any expectation of that happening on the show.
More fundamentally: Johnlock is about creating transformative, creative content. It’s about making something new. In essence, it’s fiction.
TJLC is about analyzing evidence that’s already there. It’s nonfiction.Ms. Paskin frequently blurs the lines between the two and mourns TJLC for not having the same level of creativity. She explains, for example, that fandom reads into tiny elements of a show to create a transformative space. But TJLC is not transformative. That’s Johnlock.
TJLC Explained was a series of video metas posted to Youtube by Rebekah (also known as pearlrebs or quietlyprim on Tumblr), beginning in early 2016 and continuing into early 2017. These videos were often cited as introductory or summary explainers for those who were unfamiliar with TJLC. As of February 3, 2017, the channel has over 18,000 subscribers. Rebekah deactivated on Tumblr in the aftermath of series 4, and at some point, the videos were inaccessible on the TJLC Explained channel. By September 2018, the videos were again accessible on the channel.
Fan-Run Archival Initiatives
The Sherlock Meta Library was launched as a fan-run initiative to archive Sherlock meta - including TJLC meta, although not exclusively. On May 30, 2016, SML announced that they had spoken to loudest-subtext-in-television and obtained her permission to archive all available works. The SML team reached out to the Organization for Transformative Works, with the hopes of becoming an umbrella project of the OTW; on June 3, 2016, SML posted an update on the status of this unsuccessful pitch. The last post on the SML Tumblr is from January 1, 2017; this post promised updates in the coming weeks, after the airing of series 4.
Post-series 4, there have been efforts to collect and preserve TJLC meta, including sarahthecoat's Sherlock: The New Semester project, which seeks to archive meta written since January 2017. Tumblr user sherlock-overflow-error curates The TJLC Month in Review, a monthly roundup of TJLC meta and writing.
The Johnlock Refutation (or Resistance) was started by tumblr user ben-c and is the opposite of TJLC. It’s a group of people who write meta on how Johnlock is an abusive ship and why it’ll never be canon. It has been heavily criticized by non-TJLRers as needlessly spreading hate in the fandom and causing drama.
Tumblr user ben-c (now at viciere on Tumblr) coined the term TJLR (which they define as "The Johnlock Refutation") and posted a roundup of their meta on the subject. Notable posts include "A Comprehensive List of Reasons Pretending Johnlock is Canon is Disrespectful and Harmful" and "Examples of Abuse in John + Sherlocks Friendship."
Perceived Cultural Significance
Many TJLCers feel that canon Johnlock will represent a significant cultural achievement for queer representation on television. Critics of TJLC have pointed out that Johnlock would not be the first canon gay relationship on television, and that there have been many landmark achievements for queer representation on television before and during Sherlock's airing.
I spent almost an entire day reading loudest-subtext-in-television once and they really do believe it's going to be a monumental event that will be studied in history classes and also bring an end to gay subtext in fiction. It read so much like the craziest conspiracy theories that I couldn't stop. It reminded me of that one ancient website from the 90s all about how we're going to be taken over by the alien reptilian scourge and the text becomes increasingly frantic and incomprehensible as it goes on.
TJLC and Tinhatting
TJLC may be understood as a bit like tinhatting, albeit for a FPF pairing. The conspiratorial tenor of TJLC meta and discourse, as well as the preoccupation with industry machinations and TPTB certainly echo common elements of tinhatting.[note 3] Other fans critical of TJLC sometimes refer to TJLCers as tinhatters.
However, term "tinhatting" has a distinct connotation within TJLC. In the aftermath of series 4, many once-TJLCers had begun to feel that the theory had been finally refuted by the show. In general, TJLC tinhatting refers to theorizing around and after series 4 by those who continued to believe that Johnlock was endgame, and worked to incorporate and reinterpret the events of series four into their overarching theories about the show. Many TJLCers who continued to believe referred to their post-series four meta and posts as tinhatting - another tongue-in-cheek in-joke.
This repurposing of a commonly known fannish term prompted some confusion, even amongst other TJLCers. In January 2017, loudest-subtext-in-television - who has frequently used the "tinhatting" on her Tumblr post-series 4 - answered an ask about TJLC tinhatting:
turntechgoddamnitt: what is tinhatting in the tjlc context?? I'm very confused
loudest-subtext-in-television: The belief that The Final Problem was an intentionally bad nightmare episode and that a secret fourth episode will air probably this Sunday the 22nd. (Some people are holding out hope for the 28th/29th as that’s the anniversary of when John and Sherlock first met.)
For some TJLCers - even those who engaged in post-series four TJLC theories - there was a certain amount of self-awareness or even exhaustion about TJLC tinhatting:
anonymous: It's okay if you can't answer, but I keep seeing the phrase 'tinhatting' and I'm a little weary about looking it up. I'm guessing it isn't referring to the tin foil hats people made to stop aliens or something??? But I wanted to know if you could explain what it means?
talesofsymphoniac: Tinhatting rn is basically a subsection of the TJLC community that still believes there’s a possibility that all or part of S4 was The Way It Was on purpose and that there’s still some overarching plan there. It’s sort of a complicated issue because emotions are running high between the TJLCers who don’t believe anymore, the ones that are too emotionally exhausted to believe, and the ones who wholeheartedly believe.The actual name “tinhatting” is just because TJLC was already a conspiracy theory, so the name needed to be a sort of next-level thing. How do you get more conspiracy theory than a conspiracy theory, you know?
Now, I am not going to encourage anybody to hop on board this whacked out ride. There is a lot of information going around, and the way a lot of the evidence is viewed is based on whether or not you believe there is a fourth episode. It is a lot to take in. If all of it is too much then you are under no obligation to force yourself to believe in this. There is still scores of meta on The Final Problem that all still hold true regardless of whether or not a fourth episode comes down in a halo of golden light. (The link refers to a Final Problem Survival Pack compiled by @sherlock-overflow-error three days ago.) @ivyblossom has been providing canon alternate analysis of tfp since it aired. There are also plenty of fabulous fix it fics for all of your needs, as well as this brilliant piece by @the-7-percent-solution and promises of potentially more to come.
Tinhatting is not a prerequisite for being able to participate in the current fandom climate – all you’ve got to do is find your niche and go for it. Objectively, this is all a bit nuts. Most everyone is aware of just how a bit nuts it all is.
Leaks and "Fake" Screenings
In advance of the official release of The Final Problem - the third episode in the fourth series of the show - the episode was leaked online. Some TJLCers speculated that the leaked episode - which did not make Johnlock canon, as had been hypothesized by many TJLCers - was a fake episode, filmed and leaked in a concerted effort to throw off viewers. The same episode was also leaked by another source in Turkey.
Similar hypotheses had been ventured after the episode was screened at the British Film Institute. Suzanne Frenk discusses these theories in her thesis, "Telling The True Story: Queerbaiting, representation, and fan resistance in the BBC Sherlock fandom":
Earlier that week, on Thursday, there has been a pre-screening of The Final Problem, and in combination with the leaked episode and its contents, as well as other ‘clues’, TJLC’ers construct a new theory.
As this post shows, the idea is that the the pre-screenings – and therefore the leaked episode – have false endings, and that the TV broadcasting on Sunday (on BBC One/PBS) is the episode with the real ending (figure 16). This would also explain why The Final Problem was screened days in advance to the TV release, while the previous episode’s press screening was scheduled merely two hours prior to its broadcasting on television, in order to avoid spoilers (appendix 22).
When The Final Problem eventually airs on television, and it turns out to be exactly the same episode as the leaked version that many TJLC’ers have already seen, including itsending, reactions vary wildly. A part of the community still holds onto their faith in Johnlock and the creators, by supporting a theory that is partly similar to that of the three different endings: the idea that there is a secret fourth episode.
This "secret fourth episode" is commonly referred to as The Lost Special. The Final Problem is often referred to by TJLCers as "The Fake Problem," or "The Fakest Problem." Criticisms of the episode's narrative coherency were often presented as proof that something greater was afoot - in short, that the episode was so bad that it had to be fake.
Relationships to The Powers That Be
TJLCers' relationships to The Powers That Be - commonly referred to as "Moftiss," a portmanteau of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat - often vacillate from criticism to kinship. At times, TPTB are described as co-conspirators, with devoted TJLCers the "one true fans" who alone have caught on to the creators' ultimate plan. But these relationships can also turn antagonistic, with some TJLCers feeling betrayed by Moftiss as events unfold.
In a meta entitled "Mofftiss as Lazarus: TJLC and the Resurrection of The Author," Tumblr user mid0nz frames this relationship in the context of Roland Barthes' essay "The Death of the Author," writing:
Fandom loves The Author, loves to hate The Author. The Sherlock fandom desires Moftiss, needs Moftiss. While most of us academic types cockily think we’ve long ago hammered the last nail in The Author’s coffin, many members of the Sherlock fandom gleefully point us to the Empty Hearse. The Johnlock Conspiracy (#tjlc) is the ultimate Lazarus narrative; tjlc is the resurrection of the Author-God.
Like all power complexes tjlc is immensely kinetic; it hums with implications. Ultimately, I find it to function in a politically retrogressive way, reifying a kind of fundamentalism of reading, reifying the authority of The Author-God, the fictional construct that is Moftiss. I think this conspiratorial construct of Mofftiss has too much in common functionally with Big Brother: an all-knowing, all-seeing manipulator of civil “liberty.” (Nineteen Eighty-Four is, ultimately, a romance novel. Think John as Julia. But I digress.) Mofitss has the power to choose who John loves, the “responsibility” that it be, in the end, Sherlock— just as Moftiss (Author-God), the conspiracy goes, always already intended from the start. Johnlock, then, is desire withheld, desire held hostage. That gets coded as homophobia when, in fact, it’s not.
I’m sounding awfully serious here, with my emphasis on patriarchy and power. There’s so much an element of play in tjlc discourse, isn’t there? Erm… it’s complicated. I, personally, believe whole heartedly, that The Author is rightly ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I dance on His grave.No matter. As an exercise, let’s keep on. Let’s resuscitate the authorial Lazarus, bring Him back from the dead. Be careful, though. In Johnlock endgame, there be zombies.
Suzanne Frenk further discusses the relationship between TJLCers and the show's creators in "Telling The True Story: Queerbaiting, representation, and fan resistance in the BBC Sherlock fandom," a 2017 bachelor thesis submitted to the School of Humanities at Tilburg University. Frenk writes:
One important aspect within the TJLC community is the relationship between the fans and the creators. When looking at some of the Tumblr posts in this group that were posted before season four, it becomes clear that at this point, the strong belief in Johnlock stems not only from the extensive analyses that have been made of the perceived subtext in the show, but also from a strong belief in the creators of the show.
This trust in the creators and actors of Sherlock not only leads to a strong belief in Johnlock, but also makes several TJLC’ers identify with the creators. Especially Mark Gatiss,being an openly gay man, is often looked up to, and sometimes even referenced as ‘gay dad’.
When Moffat and Gatiss publicly refuted the notion that Johnlock would be endgame, many ardent TJLCers responded that this was yet another instance of dissembling on the part of the creators, in service of protecting the ultimate plot twist of the show.
Relationship to the BBC Sherlock Fandom
The relationship between TJLC and the rest of the Sherlock fandom has often been complicated - and at times, certainly acrimonious. The distinction between TJLCers and Johnlockers is often collapsed in the media. In practice, many Johnlock shippers (and BBC Sherlock fans more broadly) draw a bright line between themselves and TJLCers. In turn, TJLCers often refer to other Sherlock fans who don't share their beliefs about the show's ultimate arc as "casuals."
Some Johnlock shippers and Sherlock fans - particularly in the early days of TJLC - expressed interest in TJLC meta. Some of this can be chalked up to morbid curiosity or wank rubbernecking:
I've never seen BBC Sherlock, but I sometimes find myself reading tjlc meta anyway. Some of it reads so much like conspiracy theory that I forget it's for a TV show and not some top-secret government operation.
Other non-TJLC fans expressed mixed, even wistful, feelings about TJLC:
I avoid TJLC stuff like the plague, though, for two main reasons: I don't want to give myself a chance to go down that rabbit hole (for my own mental health as well as for accidentally becoming an asshole to others) and I don't want to be associated with the nasty, rabid subsection of evangelical shippers. And there's a part of me that, no matter how much rationalization I do (it's king troll Moffat, they've both been said to be straight a thousand times, etc), can't help but occasionally feel pangs of "maybe, just maybe this will break the mould." Even though I know the chances of it happening are 1/10000000000000. Hope and desperation are dangerous drugs, man.
And some fans expressed frustration or regret about their past involvement (however tangential) with TJLC:
I watched Sherlock, liked it, wept and fretted over the S2/S3 hiatus, but never got involved with the Tumblr side of fandom. I'm maybe two degrees removed from TJLC--heard of it, saw some reblogs on my dash, even liked a few of them--but I thought it was a self-mocking joke, like an ironic hipster Domlijah thing. I had no idea until this latest Sherlock wank erupted just how serious they were, and more importantly, how combative and downright nasty. Serious is fine, I'm pretty serious about a lot of dumb shit. Toxic is not fine.
TJLC and Humor
Inside jokes and memes abound in TJLC, and over the years, many TJLCers have asserted that much of the wank surrounding TJLC is due to non-TJLCers misinterpreting ironic or intentionally absurdist posts as serious discourse.[note 5] The TJLC lexicon - in which non-TJLC viewers of the show are "casuals" and crack meta may be indistinguishable from serious fan analysis - is distinctly humorous, and at times difficult to parse. As a result, many non-TLJCers have pointed out that it's almost impossible to know what can (or should) be taken seriously about TJLC:
A little OT, but I keep coming across posts about ~The Johnlock Conspiracy~ and they baffle me to no end, especially joolabee's (which tend to be very confusingly written). Do they actually believe their analysis, or are they just ironically self-deprecating? The world may never know.
From the early days, onlookers attributed a certain degree of irony to TJLC - although no one was ever entirely clear just how serious to take it:
I get the impression a lot of TJLC-ers are enjoying a big silly game of 'let's pretend', but there are definitely some who are terrifyingly serious.
it's so hard to tell, because admitting it's a game would ruin the game!I suspect you're right though :(
Even the very name for the theory is (or initially was), by some accounts, a joke.
See, this is why I never understood the “TJLC people are driving everyone else out of fandom,” because I’d read something like this from LSIT and think “ha ha, she’s humorously exaggerating.” But what do I know; I just unfollowed the people–from both sides, definitely–who were nasty. Which is cheating, or something.
LSIT responded in a reblog to her current account (loudest-subtext-in-tv), offering an account of TJLC/anti-TJLC discourse and the role of humor:
Sooo much drama went like this:
People who hated the idea of TJLC didn’t keep up with us closely enough to understand a meme or our sense of humor, so they would take some exaggeration literally, or they’d see a post that’s worded insultingly because it’s teasing *directed at a specific friend group* (you know how friends tease each other for having bad opinions?) — or directed at a specific crazy guy who harassed us a lot; more on him later — but they’d take it personally. Then instead of just accepting there are internet subcultures they don’t understand and maybe people are talking to/about people who aren’t them, they would get mad about it and write some big insulting rant.
(What always struck me as strange was this assumption that there shouldn’t possibly be pockets of fandom they couldn’t become part of. They always had all these demands for how we ought to phrase our opinions and what we couldn’t joke about, or this weird demand that no one should analyze where the show might be going because they were personally only into fanon, so they often came across as insanely entitled and controlling on top of insulting. It’s like they wanted the fandom to be this monolithic community like fandom was on LJ or something, and imagined they could exert some clout, but Tumblr isn’t a forum set-up. It’s personal blogs who organize into their own social networks. There aren’t forum rules, there aren’t moderators enforcing things, you don’t move in the same circles as people you don’t vibe with. We weren’t interested in any sort of forced integration with the antis because they hated our opinions, but they kept popping in like I FUCKING HATE YOU IDIOTS, WHY DON’T YOU DO EVERYTHING I SAY SO I CAN ENGAGE WITH YOU? We are all writing blogs and if you don’t want to read someone’s blog you simply don’t follow them, or you block/blacklist them. You don’t tell people how to write TV show opinions like you’re their mom! And after it’s clear you don’t agree, you don’t keep barging back in weekly/monthly/annually to complain about how this group of people *who has nothing to do with you* aren’t meeting your demands. I think this monolith mindset is part of the reason they liked to generalize about TJLCers, whereas most of us were like yeah there’s shitty people on the internet no matter where anyone goes and we’re actually all different people, why don’t you take it up with the people who wronged you instead of claiming tens of thousands of people are monsters because a handful of them sent you rude messages?)
That someone would be so insulting and self-absorbed and controlling would inevitably strike everyone as hilarious, and the anti would never accept they didn’t understand the context because they were too irked by TJLC as a concept to take any of us in good faith, so in response even more people would make posts emphatically expressing the thing the anti had taken too seriously. The anti would then get mad people were doing it as a joke to piss them off, still refusing to accept it had *always been* a joke, and now believing more than ever it had truly been some vicious thing meant to insult people like them personally and we were just… making up the context as an excuse or something.
Meanwhile, some people would send the anti unpleasant messages because that’ll happen when you write a post insulting and attempting to control a bunch of strangers and refuse to take any responses in good faith. After all, the anti had felt like they’d been genuinely personally insulted by whatever post they didn’t understand, so they’d come out swinging hard from the beginning and yet expect people to respond agreeably.
(Most instances of antis getting hate were instigated by them being SUPER insulting publicly about TJLC and then being shocked that anyone would insult them back. The antis who would engage civilly in good faith were WAY rarer and mostly had trouble understanding that it wears on people when you continually butt in on their posts for literal months saying the same contrary things which amount to a difference in opinion, and actually no one is obligated to spend their free time arguing with people who don’t like their opinions on a television show. Unsurprisingly, plenty of people who were merely Johnlockers got no hate because they didn’t feel compelled to insult TJLCers and got along with TJLCers fine. Some of my friends weren’t even TJLCers for the first years of our relationship. No one cared if people didn’t believe in TJLC, they just didn’t care to be worn down by condescension, insults, and unceasing entitlement to our attention for literal years.)
Then, because there were ~30,000 of us, there would inevitably be some idiots who would happen across the drama and *also* not understand someone had been making a joke post for their friends. They would think the original post was sincere and they agreed with it, and they would hate the anti for saying rude things about TJLC, so they would express sincere and hostile agreement about the thing to the anti, so that the anti just felt their original rant was always correct.
Well, I’m assuming the antis didn’t send themselves anon hate. But with ~30,000 people, and knowing the rude messages *I* would get from some TJLCers, I don’t have any reason to doubt that some of those ~30,000 TJLCers were truly terrible. Even if 100 people sent shitty messages that would be less than a fraction of a percent of TJLCers. The sad truth of humanity is that’s enough to upset a single person. But as I’ve had to tell myself over the years when I’ve hated fandom, that is actually a REALLY GREAT ratio as far as groups of human beings go.
And in reality, floods of hate are typically a few people sending many messages, not many people each sending a single message. Trust me, I got enough hate over the years to recognize that. The kinds of people who get worked up enough to send messages like that are usually too crazed to only send one.
But antis always seemed to assume their anon hate was mostly from different people, which is almost certainly not the case. One guy who was really unstable and mostly believed in TJLC hated a bunch of us and would send tons of anon hate in multiple messages, and he undoubtedly sent a lot of the hate antis got. He would also send hate from different URLs, not on anon, because he wanted to create the appearance of a mob. How do we know? He would seethe about antis on his blogs. Whenever he sent *us* anons, he would seethe about *us* on his blogs. He didn’t realize how easy it was for the people he harassed to find his new URLs, he was oblivious to how easy it was to tell messages were from him after you’ve seen it a few times and compared notes with others, etc.
One time when this guy was active I remember an anti complaining that they’d been getting stuff in their inbox “all day” after writing an insulting post, which was exactly what this guy would do to me and other TJLCers too. He’d send a message literally every several minutes for a long time. He wasn’t even *ours,* he e-stalked and harassed and sent threats to over a dozen of us for at least a year, but *we’d* get blamed for anything he did or said during the part of his cycling where he would get militant about TJLC.
Then the anti would go back to their friends, who also hated TJLC and had also been insulted for insulting TJLC and so would believe anything bad about TJLC, and they’d all grouse about this crazy awful thing that they didn’t understand *wasn’t a thing* until they’d stirred it up with a hostile post. Or they’d seen that crazy guy trying to make something a thing, and we understood to ignore him, but they didn’t know anything about him and would take him seriously because they were ready to take any criticism of TJLC or TJLCers seriously. Because Tumblr *isn’t* a forum, we could never silence him or do anything about him.
And because every topic like this would become an absurdist meme, we would keep making jokes about it forever after. But whenever the antis would see those jokes later they would *still* think we were serious, and so it goes.So you’d get wars that were never real, like toplock/bottomlock, all from misinterpreted in-jokes, or people giving their friends shit while insecure people watched on, or even people just seeing a piece of a conversation and not having any knowledge of how/why the conversation started or who started it, and then reading a lot into it because they hated us. One ignorant person makes an insulting fuss, and suddenly what had been some teasing among friends or a lone hostile guy hallucinating becomes self-fulfilling.
Relationship to Doctor Who
TJLCers have identified perceived parallels between Sherlock and Doctor Who, which shared Steve Moffat as a showrunner for many years. These parallels were presented as further evidence of Johnlock's endgame status. In particular, such meta focuses on the characters of Jenny and Madame Vastra, who are canonically involved in a romantic relationship in Doctor Who, and are also specifically referenced as the "inspiration" for Arthur Conan Doyle's stories in the Doctor Who universe.
TJLC and Fail-fandomanon
- Re: Wankety Wank on Fail-fandom
- Graceebooks, posted at the FFA Wiki
- loudest-subtext-in-television, posted at the FFA Wiki
Allegations of Harassment
Allegations of harassment have long circled TJLC, with TJLCers alleging harassment from other Sherlock fans, and Sherlock fans accusing TJLCers of the same. loudest-subtext-in-television left Tumblr after experiencing harassment on the platform.
In their article The JohnLock Conspiracy, fandom eschatology, and longing to belong, Bo Allesøe Christensen and Thessa Jensen write," TJLC has for years been blamed for many transgressions within Sherlock fandom, including doxxing, harassing, and bullying other fans on- and off-line."
2015 221B Con
Prominent TJLCers present at the 2015 221B Con were accused of harassment by other attendees related to a panel discussion at the con, resulting in a storm of wank and discourse that was extensively discussed on fail-fandomanon.
- Sherlock 221b Con Wank, Archived version
- Sherlock 221b Con Wank 2: The Chafening, Archived version
- Another Sherlock Con Wank Thread
- Sherlockcon Wankapalooza Continued
- Sherlock Wankapalooza never ends
- Sherlock 221b Con Wankageddon
- Sherlock Neverending Waaaankfeeeest (aah-aah-aah)
- Sherlock Wank: lowering the IQ of the whole Internet
- Sherlock wank continued (and chafed)
- Sherlock Shitstorm 2k15
- (frozen) Sherlock Grace Wank
- sherlock fandom wank (ongoing)
- Sherlock con wank
Series 4 Aftermath
The meteor doesn't arrive. Your congregation panics. The most crucial step at this point is to direct blame at an object other than yourself. The second is to promise delayed gratification. Tell them that the meteor will come. Pick a date in the not too distant future: close enough that they won't have much time to reconsider, far enough that they will have time to process and reignite their passion.
The meteor will not arrive on the assigned date. This is optimal. Your congregation will now have the option to accept that they have been duped twice and that all the measures they have taken to prepare for the ascendance were for naught. They will remember the hopeless shame and despair they confronted the first time the meteor did not arrive. They will remember the joy that believing your assurances and prolonging their hope, no matter how illogical, brought them.Rather than accepting that they were wrong, they will believe whatever you tell them next.- an anonymous comment on Fail-fandomanon, posted on January 22, 2017.
By the time the final episode aired, it became obvious the theory would not play out how TJLC fans expected it to. Reactions varied:
They sort of split into factions. I don't know the exact proportions but here were all the reactions I saw while gleefully browsing tinhatter blogs post-S4:
1.) A 180 turn against Mofftiss. They attacked the writers, cast and crew on social media, accusing them of having participated in queerbaiting and thus ~triggering all the young queer teens who looked up to them. They tried to get #norbury to trend (some even wanted to get George fucking Takei to join their campaign) on Twitter. Some actively switched to spelling and pronouncing Gatiss as "Gahtiss" because he "didn't deserve" to be considered "gay". One sent a public letter to Switchboard, an LGBT foundation for which Gatiss is a spokesperson, instructing them to drop him due to his crime of queerbaiting.
2.) Denial. Mofftiss indeed had planned to make Johnlock canon from the start, but monstrous homophobe BBC forced them to scrap this plan. Because Papa Steven and Mark are looking out for their precious baby gays, they intentionally wrote S4 to be complete shit as a final big fuck you to BBC. This group, personally, annoys me most, because it allows them to continue proclaiming that all the meta they'd written pre-S4 was correct, just not followed through on.
3.) SUPER denial. Many insisted that the The Final Problem was fake, and that the real final episode, in which John and Sherlock would make sweet, proper top-bottom assigned love, would be revealed in time. The theories differed on how this Lost Episode would be obtained. Some said it was just a matter of waiting. Some claimed that there was an ARG everyone had to play (this led to a group of fans harassing some innocent Twitter Johnlock roleplayers who they thought were actual accounts set up by the BBC). Some, I'm not kidding, suggested venturing in the fucking deepweb where Mofftiss had cleverly hidden the episode. I don't know how much of this faction survives today, but boy did they make the first half of my 2017 magical.
Many TJLCers who had been convinced that Johnlock would be made canon by the series finale left the TJLC subfandom (or the Sherlock fandom entirely) after the finale of series 4.
Y’all, I was a TJLCer because it was the simplest and most logical explanation for the content and direction of the show, the contradictory information given by the actors and the writers. TJLC was a logical reading of the show at that point. It isn’t any longer. I’m not saying people can’t tinhat, but at this point tinhatting is no longer a logical prediction and more based on the faith some of you have in the authors. Which is fine and all, but not the same by any means.
In addition to canon "proof", the theory eventually morphed into a perceived alternate reality game ("Sherlock ARG") where anything outside the text could be a potential clue to canon Johnlock. The clues could supposedly be found in Twitter posts from the staff, release dates, references to other canons, interviews, etc.
Predictably, things got out of hand:
Basically, if you go through their blog, you'll see they're telling their followers to harass the creators on twitter as part of the TJLC game. They're literally saying that this harassment is what will be needed to complete the ARG that the BBC wants to play with them. The reward for completing this ARG will be the airing of the canon Johnlock episode.
The Lost Special and Apple Tree Yard
When the last episode of Sherlock failed to make Johnlock canon, TJLC fans reacted with wank, accusations of queerbaiting, and claims of being traumatized. Some were convinced of the existence of a secret fourth episode i.e. "The Lost Special" that would give them canon Johnlock.
Apple Tree Yard is a TV mini series that started airing in the Sherlock timeslot (9pm, BBC 1, Sunday nights) after Sherlock wrapped up. Before its premier, TLJC fans were convinced Apple Tree Yard wasn't actually a real show but a cover for the secret 4th episode of Sherlock. When it turned out Apple Tree Yard was indeed a real show with no ties to Sherlock, some TJLC fans reacted with bitter wank while others started looking for clues in Apple Tree Yard that could reinforce the Conspiracy.
- See more: Sherlock Is Garbage, And Here's Why's relevant section.
Operation Norbury was a social media campaign launched after the final episode "to protest queerbaiting and the way the BBC, Moffat & Gatiss treated part of the audience". The hashtags were eventually co-opted by the ARG "players", creating dissent within the TJLC fandom.
In the aftermath of series 4, some TJLC fans moved into the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fandom, specifically taking up the Mac/Dennis ship; similarly, some prominent TJLCers got into Yuri!!! On Ice, while others remained monofannishly loyal to the TJLC cause.
The MacDennis Conspiracy
TJLCers joining the Always Sunny fandom didn't leave behind their roots: in fact, they brought the conspiracy along with them.
macdennis has the classic sherlock/watson dynamic (dennis being sherlock and mac being watson) so i get a real thrill out of the part where dennis goes, “why would you want to look like sherlock holmes? who are you trying to attract?” as mac turns his head and stares directly at dennis… dramatic irony
look i don’t even really go here but do you ever think about how the woman who wrote the valentine’s day episode where dennis says “of course i have feelings, i have big feelings, and it hurts” and then mac gives him a rocket-propelled grenade launcher as a valentine’s day gift because he knows dennis and he knows that dennis will love it and dennis is so moved by the gesture he almost cries… like do you ever think about the fact that the woman who wrote that script is a public and avowed johnlocker
One Always Sunny fan (and Mac/Dennis shipper) describes the influx of TJLCers in response to an ask on Tumblr:
Anonymous: The "johnlock shippers[note 6] started watching iasip after johnlock didn't become canon" thing isn't even a theory, it's a totally a fact lol. That's literally exactly what happened, I'm a johnlock shipper and my dash is like half iasip now bc of macdennis, and I totally understand older iasip fans being wary of us joining the fandom since we've never been the most polite or quiet group.
macdennisofficial: Like I really hope my (and others’) worries are unfounded and we’re just being overly cautious, but (as you acknowledged) tjlc fandom really shouldn’t ignore that history when some people within the fandom are concerned or use it as though they are somehow the Wizened Slash Shippers Who Know Better about a show which, tbqh, is entirely different than Sherlock. From my (and many people’s) perspective, tjlc fans are new to the iasip fandom and acting as if they Get It more based on their ~experience with Sherlock. Again, not all Sherlock, johnlock, and/or tjlc fans are doing this, but it’s enough where there is a marked difference between pre-Hero or Hate Crime and afterwards.
I’ve said it before and will say it again, I want my worries to be proved wrong and to be over-cautious in this particular aspect, and nipping this in the bud might be annoying to some people, but look at the history of misogynistic attacks towards the female cast of Sherlock in response to johnlock not happening, the vitriol towards the rest of the cast, and homophobic tweets and insults directed towards Gatiss (despite using the guise of him being homophobic for not doing johnlock) and understand why some people are concerned.I’m happy for the influx of fans but ya know, seeing as I’ve seen some of these people participate in “harassment” (I’m not going to name any names) before, I’m just being a little paranoid.
Some Always Sunny fans were frustrated by the TJLCers' theorizing about the potential canonization of MacDennis, and the ways in which the influx of TJLCers seemed to change the IASIP fandom:
lowkey this is prob controversial so just my onion but ppl r honestly doing the exact same thing w iasip & macdennis as they did with sherlock n it’s so dumb? like as soon as the finale finished i was already seeing dream theories n people insisting brian jr doesn’t exist ahdkdjdkd like……..lie down
The twelfth season of Always Sunny - which aired over the course of the first three months of 2017, contemporaneous with the premiere and aftermath of series 4 of Sherlock - brought several significant changes. Mac, whose sexuality had long been a subject of humor and speculation, came out as gay in the middle of the season, and in the season finale, Dennis revealed his "double life" and subsequently left the bar.
No offence but even if Glenn[note 8] comes back I hope the asshole johnlockers (notice I specifically said the asshole ones) stay gone.
This show is nothing like Sherlock and Christ, I love macdennis, but this is ridiculous. It’s not the goddamn same as mofftiss, it’s not the goddamn same as johnlock, and honestly, this is exactly what people like me who kept being wary of johnlockers were discussing and wanted to avoid. Macdennis is not the only thing about the show and not the reason why most of us are upset; in fact, many of us expected him to leave but with the assumption he would return. Many of us (even macdennis shippers) didn’t expect them to ride off into the sunset, assuming it would be nothing more than chardee.
It’s not about macdennis, it’s about a major character /and fucking writer/ of the show possibly leaving forever? And if he doesn’t come back I have a hard time understanding how the characters and show could be as funny as they were? That, to me and others who have been watching the show for years, is more important and what’s upsetting us, and for many of us any member of the show leaving in this fashion would affect us similarly.
If Glenn decides to stay gone that is his choice and his every right, but from the shows perspective I want him back. I’m not /legitimately angry/ at Glenn for focusing on what he wants in life and neither should anyone? But that doesn’t mean I can’t also be upset at a show I like possibly losing its capacity to interest me without a full Gang. (Notice I said full Gang - not just Dennis.)But guys, Mac is still gay (because it seems that the assholes among you seem to care about one thing) and it dismiss that because Dennis leaving is kinda gross. Does someone’s sexuality stop mattering to you if they aren’t in the relationship you want? He’s definitely gonna get with some guys next season regardless of whether Glenn comes back.
- Main Article: The Dynamic
A group of fans with roots in the TJLC community developed "The Dynamic," a set of archetypes, the Sweaterboy and the Absolute Nightmare, through which different ships are viewed. It is purported to be a sort of ideal of peak compatibility in a ship. The theory originated with idea that the dynamic of Holmes and Watson's relationship remains consistent throughout adaptations and reimagining of the original Sherlock Holmes, and that stories often replicate this ship dynamic. Thealogie has said The Dynamic "occurs in a number of usually textually unfulfilled ships throughout literary history." graceebooks originated the term "Absolute Nightmare." The term "Sweaterboy" comes from Sherlock BBC John Watson's penchant for wearing sweaters.
The Dynamic has been the subject of criticism for its connection to TJLC. Critics allege that the creators of The Dynamic are simply changing the definition whenever it suits them so that ships they like are The Dynamic and can be argued as superior, and any ships they don't like are locked out of the club. The explanation that being The Dynamic is both a subtextual indication of non-canon romance and makes a ship essentially canon has been connected to the concept's roots in the TLJC community and tinhatting.
Fan Criticism of TJLC
Many Sherlock fans are critical of TJLC as a theory and as a presence in the fandom community. Criticism of TJLC comes from Johnlock shippers, as well as fans of other ships (such as Irene Adler/Sherlock Holmes and Molly Hooper/Sherlock Holmes).
Criticism of the TJLC Theory
The most hardcore TJLC fans came up with a lot of meta that less invested fans found hair-raising which often involved set details, various "codes" and symbolism, and the Mind Palace Theory.
Some fans have published criticisms or refutations of TJLC (in general, and as responses to specific meta).
See also: TJLR.
Criticism of the TJLC Community
TJLCers are often blamed for driving other Sherlock fans out of the fandom. One Sherlock BNF posted a widely shared essay about their experience in the fandom prior to deleting their blog and leaving Tumblr:
So ICYMI most of the TJLC memes people love today were born out of defensiveness over perceived slights, spite and hate. Scores of middle and big-name-fans/creators who were skeptical, or even just indifferent were run out of the Sherlock fandom by a small group of unstable fanatical “believers.” TJLC steamrolled over the rest of the fandom. As time passed people forgot (or never knew) the history of this drama and how sick it was and think it’s fun to play along with it. If I hadn’t have been the target of the bile I wouldn’t think much of it either.
In the reblogs of mid0nz's post, many former and current Sherlock fans added their own accounts of life in the fandom post-series 3. Ship wars were cited as one cause for fannish distress, but most people seemed to attribute the toxicity of the fandom to conflict with TJLCers.
TJLC advocates drew the ire of other fans not just because they turned the fandom wanky and supposedly scared away a lot of less intense fans but also because of their treatment of the cast and creative team:
Trying to get like 25 different LGBT media sources up in arms about [Johnlock not being made canon]. Calling a gay showrunner an "honorary straight" and trying to get him fired from a LGBT charity. The Alternate Reality Game. The hours and hours and hours of video babbling. For some of them, a sideline in Freebatch tinhatting and conspiracy theories about how BC's wife is into drugs and blackmail and human trafficking. Some people STILL convinced it's totally gonna happen guys! Some people still convinced the entire last series was some character's hallucination, right up there with the St Elsewhere snowglobe! APPLE TREE YARD.
(TJLC really is a very different animal from people who just happily putter along writing Johnlock fic and drawing Johnlock art and try to avoid stepping in the guano, who are probably the great majority - just like not all Harry/Hermione shippers were/are Harmonians.)
Many of the TJLC BNFs were considered to be "older" (i.e., in their late twenties and thirties), in comparison with younger TJLCers in their teens and early twenties. Prominent TJLCers on Tumblr were often criticized for exerting undue influence on their younger followers, particularly in the aftermath of series 4. Many TJLCers were deeply disappointed by series 4, and turned to social media to express their emotional distress. Some fans (many of whom were generally critical of TJLC) felt that the "adults" in the subfandom needed to take responsibility for their role in this:
OK, one other thing because this is deadly serious.
We’re seeing various posts about young people calling suicide lines etc because tjlc didn’t happen.
If you are an adult and you encouraged teenagers to invest in this *barefaced drivel* you need to look at yourself a little. It only takes a basic understanding of the world to realise that powerful mainstream male British media creators were never going to shape their commercial project around the dreams of young, queer, mostly-American fans. However fair or unfair it is, it’s starkly obvious. And then they told us outright, time and again.Don’t wank, don’t scream, just think harder next time, because yes, it is serious.
As a practice of fan analysis, TJLC is primarily oriented toward meta. However, many TJLCers also produce and consume creative fanworks that explore similar themes or theories as those found in TJLC meta. As of August 26, 2018, there are 209 fanworks in the "TJLC | The Johnlock Conspiracy" tag on AO3; some tagged works are meta, or may blur the line between meta and fanfiction.
TJLC-inspired fanfiction is often framed as fix-it fic (particularly post series four) or may explore narrative elements or gaps in the show that have also preoccupied TJLC meta writers. There are some fic that present a "case" or argument for TJLC in fic-form, as well as some that write versions of The Lost Special, in something akin to a mini virtual season.
The evidence is all there: we know it's bound to happen. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are going end up together, aren't they? Obviously! We can show all the evidence in meta posts on tumblr (and oh we do, we do!), but we could also sit them both down and tell them it's going to happen. And how it might happen. Doesn't hurt to nudge them along, does it?
It’s been thirteen months since Mary shot Sherlock and John finds he’s still pissed off about it. Sherlock had thought everything was settled: John and Mary, domestic bliss. But when John turns up at Baker Street with suitcases, the world’s only consulting detective might not be prepared for the consequences. A new case. Some old scores to settle. Certain danger. Concertos, waltzes, and whisky.
There were twenty minutes between the hug, and the boys going for cake. What happened after our screens faded to black?
This is a fix-it fic for season 4 / The Final Problem. I got so tired of waiting for a Lost Special that I wrote one myself.
So yeah, since we didn’t get the extra episode of BBC Sherlock (named after Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost Special” or otherwise) that many fans had been hoping for, and that would repair all the plot holes and answer all the unanswered questions of series 3 and 4, I decided to go ahead and write one myself. :) I was inspired by all the amazing meta analyses that the fandom instantly produced after the airing of each of the S4 episodes, and which predicted certain narratives that made infinitely more sense than the ones we subsequently were presented with on the show. So I started writing a story that incorporates various fan theories (mostly revolving around the ‘unreliable narrator’ theory), and connected them in a way that fills most of the plot holes, while hopefully being an enjoyable read as well.
TJLC in the Media
- The Johnlock Conspiracy — Romance and Holmesian Deduction in the Sherlock Fandom by V Lyn. (Originally published in 2014, but updated in 2018.)
The mischief and trickery of the show runners is by now well established, so the question becomes: if we can't trust what they tell us, what exactly do we have to go on? Johnlock shippers have taken a tip from their favorite detective and turned to their own powers of observation.
- Social justice, shipping, and ideology: when fandom becomes a crusade, things get ugly by Aja Romano
It's possible that shipping as ideology has arisen in part because of these imbalanced power dynamics with creators. After all, if you’re worried the creators won't listen to you, or won’t consider what you have to say as equivalent to their own opinion, what better way to justify what you have to say than to package it not as once-shameful fan desire, but as ideology? It’s easy to stand back from fandom and point to shipping behavior as a hallmark of fan entitlement. But it would be far more accurate to say that shipper ideology is ultimately about fans trying to find a way to gain equity with creators, to work with them in a tacit collaboration.
Moffat concluded, “And I also think in my case, I was talking about representation, as was Bryan, in quite a serious way. What they did was scale back that conversation and make it about something extremely silly. And that’s not helping anyone. I cared a lot about what I said on that panel. I meant it. And I don’t like it being reinterpreted as something else. [We’re] not telling anyone what to think. Mark isn’t saying other people can’t write that version of John and Sherlock getting together. We’re not. We’re not engaging in a clever conspiracy to write something under the radar, we’re just writing the show we’re writing.”
- Decoder Ring: The Johnlock Conspiracy
- Martin Freeman interview: Being in Sherlock isn't always fun by Craig McLean.
“There was a chunk of people who just knew it was going to end with us getting together. Me and Ben, we have literally never, never played a moment like lovers. We ain’t f***ing lovers."
Academic Perspectives on TJLC
- Johnlock meta and authorial intent in Sherlock fandom: Affirmational or transformational? by Melissa A. Hofmann. (in "The Future of Fandom," special 10th anniversary issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 28. 2018.)
- The JohnLock Conspiracy, fandom eschatology, and longing to belong by Bo Allesøe Christensen and Thessa Jensen. (in "Tumblr and Fandom," edited by Lori Morimoto and Louisa Ellen Stein, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 27. 2018.)
- Telling The True Story: Queerbaiting, representation, and fan resistance in the BBC Sherlock fandom by Suzanne Frenk. (Bachelor Thesis, Tilburg University School of Humanities. http://arno.uvt.nl/show.cgi?fid=145028. 2017.)
- Fandom in times of superdiversity: the case of Sherlock by Suzanne Frenk. Diggit Magazine (https://www.diggitmagazine.com/papers/fandom-times-superdiversity-case-sherlock/. May 24, 2017.)
- Stories of Significance: The Process and Practices of Sense-Making in the Sherlock Fan Community by Kee Lundqvist. (http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:821716/FULLTEXT01.pdf/. 2015.)
- Johnlock 101 – An Introduction to The Johnlock Conspiracy (#tjlc); WebCite on wordpress (August 17, 2014)
- TJLC for the Uninitiated, Archived version by joolabee on tumblr (May 31, 2015)
- Kindness and reasonableness and the Sherlock fandom; WebCite, by Destination: Toast! (March 22, 2016)
- In which I finally talk about the TJLC panel at Sherlock Seattle by emmagrant01 (April 16, 2015)
- The Johnlock Conspiracy, Archived version at the Fail_Fandomanon wiki[note 9]
- TJLC Explained, a series of videos by Rebekah a.k.a. softsons (February 2016 - ongoing)
- Sherlock Is Garbage, And Here's Why, a long video analysis about the flaws of the series by hbomberguy. External link goes straight to 'A Brief Interlude: The Secret Good Fourth Episode of Season 4' which is at the beginning of 'Part Ten: Literally everything about Season 4' and covers the Johnlock Conspiracy. (May 2017)
- A TJLC post about Johnlock being a late in life coming out narrative
August 2016 discussions
- August 7: Social justice, shipping, and ideology: when fandom becomes a crusade, things get ugly article by Aja at Vox.com, mentioning a late July Comic Con appearance where Sherlock showrunners denied TJLC.
- August 7: tumblr post by mild-lunacy linking to Aja's article
- August 8: TJLC is more than a readerly approach to a text. tumblr post by mid0nz
- circa August 9: Same word, different meanings, tumblr thread started by besina
- August 10-12: TJLC vs JLEG: Rumble in the Tumble! thread at Fail_Fandomanon
- August 13-14: tumblr thread on TJLC'ers bad behavior
- August 14: another reblog of mid0nz by postcardsfromtheoryland
- For example, see nekosmuse's meta Decoding the Subtext, "a series of essays which examine each of the Sherlock Holmes stories for homoerotic subtext." The complete series, which was written in 2006-2007, can be read on nekomuse's website.
- There are conflicting reports regarding the possibility of future series of the television show. In particular, many TJLCers take particular exception to the characterization of the show as "over" or "ended." The show creators have indicated that while there are no plans at this time to produce more episodes, there's a possibility of future series.
- In this comment on FFA, one nonnie draws a connection: "Hardcore tinhats always have believe in a sort of secret code that is being sent out to the true fans, and the true fans are the ones who interpret it correctly, unlike the sheeple who just eat up the surface reading they're spoonfed. Coded messages in the colors of clothing (or in set design/lighting, in the case of fiction-based tinhatting like TJLC) or "body language" or things like that. As the tinhat cult encourages itself to go further and further down the rabbit hole, the more elaborate and intricate - and the more of a giant fucking reach - these codes and ciphers become." (Posted on February 2, 2016. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Shitposts or crack posts in the Sherlock fandom often, for a time, originated with TJLC bloggers and spread throughout the fandom (or even Tumblr at large) with little context. Sometimes, this caused wank; other times, just memes.
- This is often used by TLJCers as a defense against any criticism of TJLC - anything that a non-TJLCer takes issue with is a joke, or wasn't meant for public interpretation, or was simply misunderstood by a "casual." (This needs citation/references, and then could be moved up into the main article.)
- Many IASIP fans posts' about the influx of TJLCers in early 2017 describe them as "Johnlockers" or "Johnlock shippers." It's certainly possible that non-TJLC Johnlock shippers came into the fandom at the same time, but many of the behaviors IASIP fans cite are more reflective of TJLCers than not.
- "rcg" (or "RCG") refers to RCG Productions. It's an acronym for the first names of Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Glenn Howerton, who created, write, star in, and produce the show.
- Glenn Howerton portrays Dennis Reynolds on IASIP. As the season 12 finale aired, it was uncertain when (or even if) Howerton would return as Dennis. As of June 2018, Howerton is expected to have some on-screen involvement in the thirteenth season.
- The Johnlock Conspiracy, Archived version at the old Fail_Fandomanon wiki, dreamwidth backup. Note that the old FFA wiki was taken down during the course of the August 2016 Sherlock wank after it was reported for TOS violations by (allegedly) TJLC wankers, some of whom are allegedly lawyers.
- Sherlock’s obsession with queerbaiting is more frustrating than ever by Monique Jones. Just Add Color. Published on January 1, 2017. Accessed on July 8, 2018.
- Tumblr post by inevitably-johnlocked. Published on March 11, 2016. Accessed on July 8, 2018.
- "About," TJLC Tumblr. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- "The Sign of Three" was originally aired on January 5, 2014.
- Johnlock 101 – An Introduction to The Johnlock Conspiracy (#tjlc), originally posted at Multifandom-Madnesss on August 17, 2014. Archived at AO3 on August 17, 2014. On July 27, 2016, the author commented on the original version and recommended that people link to the AO3 version going forward. All external links in the quoted passage are original to the text.
- 1 February 2014 Tumblr post by ascandalinthepolicebox. [archived]
- Tumblr post by mild-lunacy. Published on August 2, 2016. Accessed on August 26, 2018. Archived on October 27, 2016.
- Hofmann, Melissa A. 2018. "Johnlock Meta and Authorial Intent in Sherlock Fandom: Affirmational or Transformational?" In "The Future of Fandom," special 10th anniversary issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 28. . Accessed on September 24, 2018.
- 221B Con Wank (old wiki, dead link). Sherlock 221b Con Wank, Archived version (new wiki, accessed 29 October 2018)
- Anonymous Re: Sherlockcon Wankapalooza Continued on FFA, 2015-04-20.
- The original poster has since deleted. Post accessed via a reblog, posted on January 3, 2017. Accessed on August 18, 2018.
- Tumblr post by one-thousand-splendid-stars. Posted on December 26, 2016. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- What is TJLC? by sherlockfandomguide. Posted on August 10, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Tumblr post by joolabee. Posted on January 19. 2017. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Johnlock 101 – An Introduction to The Johnlock Conspiracy (#tjlc), originally posted at Multifandom-Madnesss on August 17, 2014. Archived at AO3 on August 17, 2014. On July 27, 2016, the author commented on the original version and recommended that people link to the AO3 version going forward.
- a short introduction by tjlc-for-beginnners. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- tjlc 101 by gark-gatiss. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Hofmann, Melissa A. 2018. "Johnlock Meta and Authorial Intent in Sherlock Fandom: Affirmational or Transformational?" In "The Future of Fandom," special 10th anniversary issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 28. . Accessed on September 24, 2018.
- LSiT Meta Masterlist by loudest-subtext-in-television. Archived on October 20, 2015. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Tumblr post by loudest-subtext-in-tv. Posted on December 12, 2016. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Tumblr post by skills-and-tea. Posted on July 19, 2015. Archived on July 22, 2015. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- All Drink Mentions and Their (assumed) Meanings by teaandforeshadowing. Originally posted on July 21, 2015. Accessed on July 24, 2018. Archived on December 9, 2017.
- Drink code: Please hold your liquor. by thepineapplering. Posted on July 26, 2015. Accessed on July 24, 2018. Archived on October 24, 2017.
- Tumblr post by darlingbenny. Posted on April 28, 2015. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- Tumblr post by cupidford. Posted on May 1, 2015. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- Tumblr post by i-read-your-writing-upside-down. Posted on December 3, 2014. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- TJLC Explained: [Episode 4] The Phone/Heart Metaphor by Rebekah (pearlrebs). Posted on February 21, 2016. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- Tumblr post by miadifferent. Posted on May 1, 2015. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- "M-theory: Mycroft, Moriarty, and Magnussen’s shared motifs, James Bond’s “M,” Mary and Janine, and the big gay long game" by loudest-subtext-in-television. Posted on September 3, 2014. Archived on February 15, 2015. Accessed on July 27, 2018.
- Tumblr post by loudest-subtext-in-television. Original post deleted by the author. Archived on August 8, 2014. Originally posted on June 9, 2014.
- Tumblr post by nondeducible. Posted on April 3, 2016. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- TJLC for the Uninitiated by joolabee. Posted on May 31, 2015. Accessed on August 26, 2018. Archived on December 20, 2016.
- TJLC for the Uninitiated by joolabee. Posted on May 31, 2015. Accessed on August 26, 2018. Archived on December 20, 2016.
- TJLC for the Uninitiated by joolabee. Posted on May 31, 2015. Accessed on August 26, 2018. Archived on December 20, 2016.
- Tumblr post by gosherlocked. Posted on January 19, 2016. Accessed on July 27, 2018.
- Tumblr post by gosherlocked. Posted on January 19, 2016. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- loudest-subtext-in-tv weighed in on EMP theory on January 13, 2017, and continued to write about EMP theory in light of the fourth series.
- Part One by Amy (garkgatiss). Posted June 15, 2017. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- In Defense of TJLC by sherlock-overflow-error. Published on June 14, 2018. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Rebekah TJLC Explained. Archived on February 3, 2017. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- Tumblr post by sherlock-overflow-error. Posted on September 25, 2018. Accessed on February 10, 2019.
- In Defense of TJLC by Jackie Forbes. Posted on July 30, 2014. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- All Evidence that S4 is Mind Palace || SUPERCUT by Addewyn Wisdomancer. Posted on July 12, 2017. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- Sherlock Meta Library "About" page. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Tumblr post by sherlockmetalibrary. Posted on May 30, 2016. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Tumblr post by sherlockmetalibary. Posted on June 3, 2016. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Tumblr post by sherlockmetalibrary. Posted on January 1, 2017. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- Tumblr post by sherlock-overflow-error. Posted on February 28, 2018. Accessed on July 10, 2018.
- TJLC vs. JLEG: The Return of the Wankers, posted at ffawiki-backup 2016-08-18.
- Tumblr post by sherlockfandomguide. Posted on November 10, 2014. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by ben-c. Now unavailable, but archived on May 9, 2015. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by ben-c. Now unavailable, but archived on December 31, 2014. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by ben-c. Now unavailable, but archived on March 10, 2015. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- FFA comment, 2015-04-20.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on May 17, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Tumblr post by loudest-subtext-in-tv. Published on January 19, 2017.
- Tumblr post by talesofsymphoniac. Posted on February 2, 2017. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- Tumblr post by pink-oranges. Posted on January 23, 2017. Accessed on August 26, 2018. Archived on August 26, 2018.
- The Final Problem (Sherlock) on Wikipedia. Last edited on February 4, 2019. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Livejournal comment by kimberly01. Posted on January 16, 2017. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by teeandforeshadowing. Posted on January 15, 2017. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- "Telling The True Story: Queerbaiting, representation, and fan resistance in the BBC Sherlock fandom" by Suzanne Frenk. 2017. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- "the fakest problem" tag on loudest-subtext-in-television's Tumblr. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- fail-fandomanon thread. Posted on January 14, 2017. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by the-7-percent-solution. Posted on January 16, 2017. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by mid0nz. Available as a reblog from Anne Jamison. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- "Telling The True Story: Queerbaiting, representation, and fan resistance in the BBC Sherlock fandom" by Suzanne Frenk. 2017. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Social justice, shipping, and ideology: when fandom becomes a crusade, things get ugly by Aja Romano for Vox. Published on August 7, 2016. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- "5 Elementary Conspiracies for 'Sherlock' Fans" by Andrea Romano. Published on March 25, 2014. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- Anonymous comments on FFA. Posted on January 6, 2016. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on August 9, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on June 24, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Presumably the 2015 221B Con wank.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on May 9, 2015. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on June 4, 2015. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on August 16, 2015. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on January 10, 2016. Accesed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on May 17, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posed on May 17, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on August 27, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- "Anon you replied to."
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on August 27, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on August 27, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- See In Defense of the C (in TJLC).
- Tumblr post by amethystineprose. Posted on June 8, 2018. Accessed on July 13, 2018.
- Tumblr post by loudest-subtext-in-tv. Posted on June 9, 2018. Accessed on July 13, 2018.
- Tumblr post by tjlcisthenewsexy. Posted on December 29, 2016. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr user jenna221b posted weekly recaps of such parallels; this is one example from May 2017.
- Reddit thread. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by loudest-subtext-in-television. Accessible via a reblog from sherlockcharacteranalysis, posted on February 14, 2016. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Christensen, Bo Allesøe, and Thessa Jensen. 2018. "The JohnLock Conspiracy, Fandom Eschatology, and Longing to Belong." In "Tumblr and Fandom," edited by Lori Morimoto and Louisa Ellen Stein, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 27. https://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2018.1222. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Anonymous comment on FFA. Posted on January 22, 2017. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Anonymous comment on FFA, 2018-05-31.
- Tumblr post by talesofsymphoniac. Posted on February 14, 2017. Accessed on July 24, 2018.
- FFA comment referencing toxicsemicolon, 2017-01-29.
- Ragnalock, posted on the FFA wiki.
- Some examples, various posts by graceebooks collected on FFA.
- Sherlock fans livid after Apple Tree Yard turned out NOT to be a new Sherlock episode on metro.co.uk
- Fans couldn’t handle the fact that Apple Tree Yard wasn’t a secret fourth episode of Sherlock on radiotimes.com
- Apple Tree Yard viewers outraged that BBC drama wasn't a 'secret fourth Sherlock episode' on standard.co.uk
- Tumblr post by lostspecial. Posted on January 16, 2017. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by youngqueenwerewolf, 2017-02-28.
- Discussion on FFA, 2017-03-09.
- Anonymous Re: Yuri!!! On Ice - Gay or Trash on FFA, 2017-01-15.
- Tumblr post by benepla. Posted on February 9, 2017. Archived on September 22, 2017. Accessed on July 18, 2018.
- Tumblr post by beachdeath. Posted on April 9, 2017. Accessed on July 18, 2018.
- Tumblr post by beachdeath. Posted on March 26, 2017. Accesed on July 18, 2018.
- Tumblr post by macdennisofficial. Posted on March 6, 2017. Accessed on July 18, 2018.
- Tumblr post by mangocrime. Posted on March 11, 2017. Accessed on July 18, 2018.
- Tumblr post by redderz. Posted on March 3, 2017. Accessed on July 18, 2018.
- Tumblr post by macdennisofficial. Posted on March 9, 2017. Accessed on July 18, 2018/
- June 4, 2019 by Thealogie
- April 19th, 2019 by graceebooks
- Anti TJLC tag on Tumblr. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- Tumblr post by i-am-benedict-cumberbatched. Posted on February 20, 2017. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- "i am reading the most bizarre pseudo-intellectual essay" post by wufflesvetinari on Tumblr
- The Mind Palace Theories of TAB by inevitably-johnlocked
- Tumblr post by theleftpill. Posted on December 29, 2014. Accessed on February 4, 2019.
- Tumblr post by marsdaydream. Posted on August 8, 2016. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- Tumblr post by mid0nz. Published August 2016. Archived August 10, 2016. Accessed July 11, 2018.
- Tumblr post by carolyn-claire. Posted on January 4, 2017. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- History, top/Bottom wank and accusations of pedophilia in the TJLC fandom as explained by FFA, 2018-02-28.
- Tumblr post by thecutteralicia. Posted on January 22, 2017. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- TJLC tag on AO3. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Whatever Remains, However Improbable by ivyblossom and loudest-subtext-in-television. Published on April 26, 2014. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- The Adventure of the Silver Scars by tangledblue. First published on November 2, 2015. Completed on February 26, 2016. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Twenty Minutes by Laiquilasse. Published on January 9, 2017. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- Softer, Sherlock (aka: The Lost Special) by fellshish. Published on May 4, 2017. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- The Lost Special: Family Matters (As Do Relationships) by ShirleyCarlton. First published on June 10, 2017. Last updated on June 30, 2018. Accessed on August 26, 2018.
- "Social justice, shipping, and ideology: when fandom becomes a crusade, things get ugly" by Aja Romano. Published on August 7, 2016. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- SDCC 2016: Sherlock & A Case of Sexual Identity by Valerie Parker. Published on July 27, 2016. Accessed on July 11, 2018.
- 797 notes as of 29 September 2016. archived
- original post deleted; 311 notes as of 29 September 2016.
- 725 notes as of 29 September 2016. archived