Feb 6 2014 11:49am

Long Flowing Hair, Big Hands, Leather Pants: The Science of Sleepy Hollow

Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane in Sleepy HollowIf you ever watched the television show Numbers, then you’re familiar with the notion that everything has a mathematical explanation or formula. If you read romance, then you know that relationships between characters can be boiled down to chemistr ... r science. Television shows, literature, bad pick up lines, interstate traffic flow, taxes: they’re all based on formulas.

My husband can calculate complex algorithms in his head, but he can’t grasp the simple chemistry between two characters that make romance stories so compelling to me. On the contrary, I’d rather pull out my eyeteeth than spend the afternoon decrypting a Caesar cypher, which holds him enthrall like a new Linda Howard book does for me. But guess what: at the end of the day, we both benefit from science…in the chemistry that holds us together like Forrest and Ginnay…like peas and carrots.

Over the holidays, my husband noticed a formula with the show Sleepy Hollow, drawing a correlation to the old Beauty and the Beast series that starred Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman—a sappier, more hairy version of Ron Perlman that we both prefer in the Sons of Anarchy. But that’s for another conversation. The mister speculated that the same type of viewer who watched Beauty and the Beast most likely LOVES Sleepy Hollow. The dark sets, brooding heroes, strong damsels in distress—it's like catnip for the romance group, the steampunk group the X-Files group, and the like. Who knew … Sleepy Hollow seems to bridge together a wide swath of viewers.

Initially we started watching Sleepy Hollow because it’s filmed just down the road from us, in the lovely town of Wilmington, NC. Then reality set in, and we found the storylines to be just too silly to maintain.

Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman in Beauty and the BeastIn trying to figure out if we were going to keep watching it, we decided to make a list of pros and cons over dinner. It’s not much more scientific than picking petals off a daisy, but it was a fun experiment to do. When we mentioned it to my mother, she mentioned something about Fabio, and I knew we had the parameters set.

Let me precede this by saying I’m a writer, not an adder, so while my math might not be up to par, my powers of observation are usually right on target.

Let’s take the Transitivity axiom of Euclid’s Elements: If x = y and y = z, then x = z. Another way to think about it is the first of his Common Notions: things which equal the same thing also equal one another. I’m going to call this formula the Romance Transitivity Axiom:

If Beauty and the Beast = Fabio, and Fabio = Sleepy Hollow,
then Beauty and the Beast = Sleepy Hollow.

Let’s break it down to the men of X, Y and Z. This is romance, after all …

Beauty and the Beast

Official description: The adventures and romance of a sensitive and cultured lion-man and a crusading assistant district attorney in Manhattan, New York City.

Pros: long flowing hair; long flappy jacket; scruffy face; big hands; leather pants; otherworldly; outdoorsy.

Cons: Cro-Magnon forehead; lion fangs; lion claws; lion DNA; drama queen.

Sleepy Hollow

Official description: Ichabod Crane is resurrected and pulled two and a half centuries through time to unravel a mystery that dates all the way back to the founding fathers.

Pros: long flowing hair; long flappy jacket; scruffy face; big hands; leather pants; otherworldly; outdoorsy; British accent; civilized.

Cons: dead witch wife; pursued by one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; skinny legs.

Rogue by FabioFabio

Official description: Roguish ladies’ man Ryder Remington unexpectedly loses his heart to a beautiful heiress, who is posing as barmaid in order to find her aunt, who has mysteriously vanished. (BTW: I chose the most Fabio-esque cover possible, which turns out to be a book Fabio actually wrote.)

Pros: long flowing hair; big hands; long sword; leather pants; big belt buckle; outdoorsy; pirate getup; lives in paradise; sense of humor.

Cons: goose-magnet face; hairless chest; ridiculous open shirt.


If you put these guys in a Venn diagram, they would overlap on pros with long flowing hair, big hands, leather pants, and outdoorsy. The cons for each stand alone, based entirely on the representative cover images. So will we keep watching it? No. We decided that our time was better spent with Red on The Blacklist.

What about you? Do you agree with the equations? Are you a Sleepy Hollow fan? Did you watch Beauty and the Beast?


Dolly Sickles is a Southerner with a lifelong penchant for storytelling. Her Secret Squirrel identity is Dolly Sickles, but she also writes romance as Becky Moore, and this year her first children’s book will be published as Dolly Dozier. She’s an avid reader of all literature, but she takes refuge in the romance genre, where despite the most grandiose, exhilarating, strange, and unlikely plot that’s out there, every story has a happy ending.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
Your points are absolutely valid, and yet--I love Sleepy Hollow. What I like best is the dynamic between Ichabod and Abbie, I don't care so much about the witness thing/Washington's Bible/etc. I just like to see those two working together (and I don't want them to get involved romantically). I watch the Blacklist, too--yay for the DVR!
Donna Thorland
2. DonnaThorland
I adore this show. It's got strong female roles, charismatic leads, and an irreverent "1066 And All That" approach to the Revolution that thrils me.
Anna Bowling
3. AnnaBowling
I love this show. It first got my attention because I spent most of my childhood living within spitting distance of the real Sleepy Hollow, always loved the story, and it spoke to the part of my TV-viewing heart still mourning for Highlander, New Amsterdam and Moonlight. Sleepy Hollow fit right in with those favorites.

Not even trying to keep up with the mythology there, and if the gangly, awkward schoolmaster of the original story can be reimagined into a suave, well-mannered man who looks like Tom Mison, well what the hey, let's go with that. Completely different animals.

The best part for me is the relationship between Ichabod and's so...them. I'm good whether or not they become romantically involved (and if they do, at the end, please,and Katrina would have to be really truly super dead-dead first.) as long as I get to see them keep on being them.
Dolly Sickles
4. Dolly_Sickles
Megan, I really enjoyed the Ichabod/Abbie chemistry, too. And Donna, I love a strong female lead, too. Plus it's so nice to have a strong female police officer who wears smart shoes for running around town kicking ass. No stilletto platforms like Kate wears on Castle now. Geesh.
Dolly Sickles
5. Dolly_Sickles
Anna, I don't know that I could actually close my eyes and sleep at night if I had grown up near the real Sleepy Hollow. o_o
Rebecca Eschliman
6. Cyranetta
For me your equations are missing a certain dimension in that they seem to be strictly visual, where one of the things I always appreciated about both series was the verbal expression of the heroes.

Vincent's voice was compelling, and the use of classic poetry was hypnotic. Crane's 18th-century language engages my attention almost as much as his appearance, and one of the delights of the series is his subtle yet captivating reactions to modern life are verbal as well as visual.

The heroines in both series are way beyond "damsel in distress" and are as likely to be proactive as reactive. Dimensions, these dames got 'em.

The other appealing thing for me about both series is particularly good world-building, both in complexity in what is shown and complexity in what can be developed.
Lori K
7. LoriK
I never got on the Fabio train, either Fabio himself or most of the books for which he was the cover model. Neither Fabio nor purple prose are my cuppa. I liked Beauty & the Beast OK, but was never what you would call a fan. I love Sleepy Hollow. For me it's almost enirely about the chemistry between Ichabod & Abby. I love them both and really love them as a team. The rest of the plot is fine, and I'm entertained by it in a National Treasure kind of way, but it's not why I watch the show.

I think it's an ordinary issue of taste, not formula. I watched the first few episodes of Black List and just could not. As some guy once said, we can't all like the same things or everyone would be married to my wife.
Darlene Marshall
8. DarleneMarshall
Well, I would like to hang with Red because he knows all the best restaurants...

I find myself still watching Sleepy Hollow, even though the un-history makes me want to tear my hair out. The leads are captivating and manage to show chemistry, something other series can't always offer.
Carmen Pinzon
9. bungluna
I actually stopped watching Sleepy Hollow after the 3rd episode because the un-history, (thanks @dalenemarshall!) was driving me crazy. Then several people whose taste I share started raving about it, so I went back and watched the rest of the season. I find that the relationship between Abbie and Crane, her sister and all the other characters make up for whatever repulsion I still feel for the mixed myths and warped history.

I guess I'm all about the relationships.
Isabel C.
10. Isabel C.
I just figure SH is to American history what Xena/Hercules were to the ancient stuff: yeah, it probably didn't happen that way, but it'd be pretty cool if it had, and if you're watching primetime fantasy shows to learn history, that's your funeral.

I totally agree with the elements (but I like Crane's skinny legs!) and I'm torn: on the one hand, I like the idea of a male-female partnership that doesn't end in romance, but on the other hand, Abbie is active and action-girl-y and snarky, and Katrina just sort of wafts around either being in distress or delivering vague warnings, so I'm kind of rooting for Abbie/Crane.
Barbara Bauschka
11. njoireading
We (husband and I) have really enjoyed SH. I think we like it as a "possibility" show....what could have happened to help shape our country's birth. I equate it to Dan Brown's books. I loved B&B but for different reasons. Strong heroine who looked below the surface (lol) to find the poetic man who loves her.
Isabel C.
12. Shark with Lasers
I am a Sleepy Hollow fan. I have not watched the old school Beauty and the Beast, although I might now. I have watched the new Beauty and the Beast on the CW though. Vincent has the big hands and is definitely outdoorsy, but his hair, while floppy, could not accurately be described as flowing. And while his pants are usually tight they are generally denim.
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