Fighting with the Sky

Bones Examination

Posted on: September 9, 2009

bones-booth-photoThe new season of Bones starts next week and since I will be doing a weekly analysis of the show, I wanted to introduce my lovely readers to my interpretation of the show.  Bones is one of my favorite shows on television right now, so I do have a little bit of a bias.

I really like crime-solving shows and Bones is pretty unique in that genre.  Bones is about a forensic anthropologist who works for the Jeffersonian (aka Smithsonian) and consults with the FBI.  Her name is Dr. Temperance Brennan, but her FBI parter, Seeley Booth, calls her Bones.  Dr. Brennan is the unemotional, scientific one where as Booth is the emotional, instinctual one, so of course they are going to butt heads at times.  Dr. Brennan and her team solve murders by examining the bones or bodily remains of the victims to find things that might not be easily recognizable.  They can identify victims in no time, determine if they broke a bone in childhood, clarify means of death, and find miniscule clues to who the perpetrator is.  Using forensic anthropology to solve murders is something that is not always seen on television.

Bones is also unique because the gender norms are reversed, which doesn’t necessarily make the use of gender norms better, but it draws attention to these gender norms.  Booth is instinctual and emotional, but he isn’t portrayed as being feminine.  He’s still a “manly man” because he uses these instincts to catch bad guys.  Dr. Brennan, on the other hand, is sometimes portrayed as not a “real woman” because she is not emotional, she uses her head to think (shocker!), she doesn’t always understand social norms, and she doesn’t want to have a child (more on this in a bit).  One thing that I don’t like about this is that Dr. Brennan is portrayed as being sooo opposite of the stereotypical woman.  While Booth is not a stereotypical man, he doesn’t face the same criticism that Dr. Brennan sometimes faces (usually from Booth, granted).

At the beginning of the show, Brennan is everything a stereotypical woman is not (except for beautiful, this is television by the way).  As the show has moved on, she has become more feminine.  For one example, during this most recent season, Brennan decided that she wanted to have a baby and wanted Booth to donate his sperm to make this happen.  While I don’t think that there is anything wrong with Brennan wanting to have a baby, or for Booth to be a father (because we all know they belong together anyways).  What was weird about this though was for the first couple seasons, Brennan was adamantly against having a child.  Her recent desire to have a child was a surprising change of events and seemed to only be predicated by a “biological clock” desire.  It did add an interesting twist to the story line for Brennan to ask Booth for his sperm, but I still don’t really appreciate her sudden change of heart with very little explanation.  If there had been a reason for this other than something other than “I’m not going to have a chance for much longer.”

Other than relying on gender norms and stereotypes (or using the opposite of them), I do think that it is great that there is a crime-solving show on TV where one of the main crime-solvers is a woman.  Brennan’s team is made up of her, two women, and two men…all of whom play a pretty equal part (Cam is technically the boss and Brennan is the who the show centers around, but each person plays an integral role in solving crimes).  Brennan and Booth are a team, and Booth gets the “joy” and glory of arresting people because he is the FBI agent, but Brennan is the woman who usually solves the crime.  She is smart and strong (and attractive).

As much as I love watching the crime solving every week, I find myself preoccupied with the romantic story line between Brennan and Booth.  We all know they belong together, they just haven’t realized it yet.  But they are supposed to realize it this season.  I’ve been wondering what a romantic relationship between Brennan and Booth would be like.  Their differing personalities make for a really good partnership in the FBI and friendship, but would that work romantically?

Anyways, I’m excited for the premiere of the new season next Thursday.  What do you all think of the show?

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16 Responses to "Bones Examination"

Looove Bones. One of the few shows on TV that I watch and enjoy.

One aspect of Brennan that I really like is her take on relationships and sex…seems healthy and not unlike my own.

I am also extremely wound up in the Brennan/Booth saga and will be curious to see how they deal with the marriage issue. Brennan supposedly doesn’t ‘get’ marriage but Booth thinks it’s important.

Can’t wait for the season to start!!!

I’ve long been a fan of this show, ever since my friend K introduced me to it. I, too, like the reversal of the gender paradigm (and the fact that Booth shows that it’s possible to be sensitive, emotional, tender, and still a man). But, I also have a lot of the same problems you do with the show’s play on stereotypes. I HATED the Bones Baby Plot last season because it felt like it went against everything that her character stood for, and it played on the biological clock stereotype, that all women who “claim” to not want children will change their minds. I think that’s a really hurtful/hateful thing to perpetuate, as a childfree feminist, and I thought it was a betrayal of her character.

I also dislike that they’ve pushed B&B into a romantic relationship. I thought that they worked very well as platonic partners, setting a great model of how men and women can work together, and that the decision to push romance suggests that a. men and women can’t just be friends b. male/female coworkers will always pair up which means c. it’s fine, as a dude, to be pushy with female coworkers because they SECRETLY WANT YOU. I don’t really see where the show is supposed to go if the two get involved, so I hope they back off on that.

Can you tell I’m excited for the premier next week?!

It is never said explicitly in the show, but it seems that the character of Dr. Brennan (with allowances made for TV attractiveness levels) has an autism spectrum disorder. My wife likes to poke me and say “You so do that.”

Mostly I so do.

I figure tension is better, narrative-wise, than consummation, so having her and Booth actually hook up would — if I were writing it — be disastrous. Of course I’m not, so who knows how it will go? The baby plot seems a little weird, if for no other reason than even given her approach to social matters she’d have to have known that asking Booth for his sperm and nothing else would be a wildly inefficient way of getting what she wanted. Especially when there are such things as sperm banks that are guaranteed entanglement-free.

I love BONES… in fact, I am watching it right now on TNT. I disagree that they are reversing gender roles. Really, they are showing gender in its natural way. Booth is protective and sensitive and a great father. Bones is intelligent and a great friend to Angela and slightly socially awkward (but she would be incredibly unpleasant if she wasn’t socially awkward – imagine a Bones that is a knowit all, beautiful, funny, and a social butterfly…no one would like her. She has to have a flaw. And in fact, I think that makes it more feminist because it shows that men and women are people and not defined strictly by their gender). thoughts?

kaninchenzero, I think her obsession with having Booth’s baby is actually supposed to illustrate that she’s, you know, a crazy woman who is subverting her obsession with Booth into a desire to have a baby. Because her attitudes toward sexuality and relationships are a threat to heteronormative values, so she needs to be punished for them (remember the episode where multiple boyfriends clashed?) so that she will eventually mend her ways and realize that the only way she can find meaning in her life is by marrying Booth and having his baby. (But gee, it would be nice to be wrong with this theory.)

Or it could just be that she wants a child. I mean, yes, there are women that go their entire lives without deciding that they want children, and they never waiver on that. I’ve got two aunts who made that decision and they and their husbands don’t seem to regret it at all.

However, some change their mind. My sister once didn’t want children, and now she seems to have some interest in the prospect.

I’m not trying to say that she doesn’t really want a child. I’m just saying that it’s such a severe change of heart that was given little explanation. Why does she all of sudden want a child after spending four season so intensely against it? I’m not saying that women can’t change their mind about wanting or not wanting children. I would have just liked a better explanation than the “biological clock” kind of thing that happened.

I really think that a romantic relationship would ruin the show. The sexual tension is needed to keep things moving along. I also found it interesting that they had her dress up like wonder woman. It was supposed to be empowering however I felt like they were playing on her sex appeal.

I love Bones.

Brennan’s reversal on the child issue made me wary of the direction they were going. I also didn’t like how the more intuitive and emotional character, Angela, wanted “a million” kinds while decisive and strong boss Cam didn’t…I felt it was playing into stereotypical notions of femininity and of working moms (Cam has the notably more difficult job.) I suppose it makes sense when looking at their characters. Now, however, it looks like all 3 women are on their way to the mom title.

One thing I always loved about the show, though, is that they have 3 very DIFFERENT, very fleshed out female characters that aren’t catty to each other. Where else do you find that on a drama?

I’m with you, Laura; I feel like the classic stereotype about women who don’t want children is that they will change their minds when they are driven to do so by the “biological clock,” so it would have been nice to see that stereotype refuted, and have Brennan stick to her guns. Do individual people indeed change their minds and decide they want children? Yes, of course. But for the sake of all of us who are childfree and are sick and tired of hearing “you’ll change your mind,” it would be nice to have a role model to point to and say “not necessarily!”

While I agree that Brennan’s sudden desire for a baby was a shock and not necessarily a good one, I don’t think it really has to reinforce the “biological clock” stereotype. The reason she offered was that she decided she ought to have offspring to carry on her intelligence (problematic, but characteristic for her). It seemed less like she was suddenly possessed by a hormonal urge to reproduce, and more like she had quietly ruminated over the arguments of her peers and decided that it was a rational decision after all. Moreover, we have seen Brennan warm up to various kids (“dancing phalanges!”) over a few episodes now. Even though she claimed many times that she still didn’t want any of her own, frankly she may have just wanted to get people to shut up and let her think about it for herself in peace.

That aside, what I enjoy most about Bones is how it shows a true partnership between Brennan and Booth that has no trappings of dominant/submissive identities. Booth is not automatically “in charge” because he is the man. Brennan is every bit his equal. Both have rescued each other. Both respect each other. It proves that you can have a male/female partnership without making one of them “the boss.”

The problem with “sticking to her guns” is that it doesn’t really provide any new plot lines or such. I mean, when she didn’t want children, it didn’t seem like anyone was trying to talk her into having children (at least, not in the episodes I’ve seen, which, I’ll admit, I haven’t seen all of them. I didn’t start watching Bones until it was on TNT.) As long as her friends respect her ability to make a decisions about her life, which they seem to do, they aren’t questioning her about the choices she makes.

Childless just seems harder to write in a way that it comes up regularly. It’s just a lack of change. I suppose you could introduce a character asking Dr. Brennen to bear her/him a child. Maybe a significant other who wishes to start a family with her, and Dr. Brennen is involved enough in the relationship not to end things immediately, but still doesn’t want children. You could get a few episodes with that tension, but I imagine if the significant other kept pressing after Dr. Brennen outright said no, the relationship wouldn’t last too much longer because there’s no way Dr. Brennen would keep dating someone who didn’t respect her decisions.

I’ve just noticed that most people have seemed to take offense (or at least fought against) the idea that Brennan wanting a baby is a “biological clock” thing. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just an observation I made.

As for the Brennan and Booth possible romantic relationship — Renee said that it would ruin the show because they need to the sexual tension in the show. I think this could be true if the writers don’t handle it well. For example, on The Office, I thought Jim and Pam being together would ruin it because there would be nothing left, but they have done a pretty good job at that relationship. I think what will happen is that Booth realizes he loves Dr. Brennan and then there are many many episodes where he struggles with these new found feelings to keep that sexual tension up.

Well, I think Bones was childfree, rather than childless, to be strictly accurate. And I hardly think it’s fair to say that keeping a professional women childfree would leave the show spinning its wheels. There are a lot of directions the show can go in, none of which involve children.

That aside, I think it’s important to point out that Hollywood actually has a lot of trouble writing for children/babies, unless the show is centered around that. Look at Cam’s adoptive child…oh, wait, you can’t, because she is never shown on screen.

Babies in particular tend to be subjected to Soap Opera Aging Syndrome or other tricks. Especially on a show like this, which revolves around forensic issues. If I wanted to watch a show about parenting, I would, and I suspect a lot of viewers feel the same way, so the producers know that they can’t suddenly show Bones in a domestic setting. Nor can they really include the baby since a forensic lab is not an appropriate setting for a child. Therefore, *if* there is a baby and I sincerely hope that there won’t be, viewers won’t see it except on the occasions when it’s trotted out as a prop, which is actually pretty offensive.

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