So I was watching Enola Holmes, and it got me thinking me about divine individuality…
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been listening to the biography of Fred Rogers, but I had the lyrics of a Mister Rogers Neighborhood song in my head while I watched this movie:
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now….
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.– “It’s You I Like” by Fred Rogers
Enola Holmes, charmingly portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown, is an entirely unique, quirky character set in a world where we mostly know everyone else. Many characters in this Sherlock-verse like Sherlock himself, Mycroft, and Lestrade are familiar and don’t stray far from their usual personalities. Other characters like the headmistress Miss Harrison or the villain Linthorn are familiar as caricatures that we’ve seen on the screen thousands of times. Against this backdrop, Enola and a few other characters stand out as utterly unique, and I declare with all the sincerity of Fred Rogers – I like them!
More importantly, though, it was a meaningful choice to have such an eccentric and idiosyncratic character at the center of this story that ultimately reveals itself to be about progress, political change, and feminism. A message that Enola carries throughout the film says, “Our futures are up to us,” but this catchy slogan does little for her and the deep hurt caused by her mother’s sudden abandonment. Enola’s mother abandons her for the sake of the cause, engaging in political mischief and disruption, perhaps even violence and destruction.
But Enola accomplishes a great deal for the cause of woman’s suffrage simply by being herself. “Our futures are up to us” becomes personalized and small, rather than collective. To be clear, I am not dismissing the need for community uprisings, collective movements, and disruptive political action. What I am saying is that, in the stories that we tell of how we change the world, we are ourselves more than the movements we join and the ideas we assent to – we have more to bring than our physical bodies and our numerical value.
Enola discovers and brings her whole, odd self to the bustling world of London, and to the role of the detective despite being in the shadow of her famous brother. In this way, the movie succeeds where so many movies fail in trying to promote gender equality in movie roles. So many franchises insert women or minority groups into roles as if using a copy/paste function, seeing their womanhood as the entirety of their character. Enola Holmes gives attention and nuance to its titular character, even within her womanhood, and synthesizes it with the plot and theme to create a cohesive whole. Equal representation for women in film isn’t just about screen time, but means having female characters with rich, distinctive motivations, inner lives, and journeys.
It serves as a reminder that our own uniqueness and individuality, and that of others, is not only acceptable but necessary. We can and should speak and move with collective voices, but also remember that God’s calling to each of us is as unique as we ourselves are. We change the world not just as a monolith, but by bringing our whole selves to the world and living individual, authentic lives based on the truths we hold most dear. In so doing we bear out the myriad ways that God is making all things new.