Friday, September 24, 2010

Brennan vs. ‘Bones’ (by Suzie)

The sixth season of “Bones” premiered last night, and I’m still reeling from the anger aimed at women who love their work.

Last fall, when I was sick and my resistance was low, I chanced on the Fox TV show in which a forensic anthropologist partners with an FBI agent to solve crimes. Because I follow “the road to excess,” I watched every rerun until I had caught up. After 5½ hours in the recovery room after a major surgery in February, I was excited to get into my hospital bed in time to watch “Bones.”

Emily Deschanel plays Temperance Brennan. David Boreanaz is her partner, Seeley Booth, who gave her the nickname “Bones.” In the fifth-season finale, she and her assistant, Daisy, head to Indonesia to find a “missing link” in human evolution. Booth is pressured to return to Afghanistan to train soldiers. Others leave, too, promising to return in a year.

On the show last night, the forensics unit has fallen on hard times. Cam, the chief, cannot find any decent replacements for the scientists who left, and powerful people dislike her investigation into veterans’ health. Caroline, the prosecutor, persuades everyone to return early to keep Cam from being fired.

Cam blames Brennan’s selfishness for the ruination of the forensics unit. Brennan may be the world’s best forensic anthropologist, but she can’t take a year off from crime-fighting for a scientific breakthrough? Like so many women, she’s told that she needs to put other people’s desires first.

Daisy tells her former fiancé, Lance, that her idol, Brennan, is wrong to put her career ahead of love. Although Daisy had begged him to follow her, he didn’t, and he blames her for breaking his heart. Although women have often followed men who moved for work, Daisy grovels for forgiveness. The opposite happened with Angela and Hodgins. He agreed to go with her to France, and that gave him all sorts of bonus points for being a wonderful man. Now, to make him happy, she says they should stay in D.C.

Brennan tells Angela, her best friend, that she dreamed about work. Only half-joking, Angela interprets that to mean Brennan will “die loveless and alone.” Because having a husband is what really matters. So what if Brennan is brilliant and beautiful; has a great job at the fictional version of the Smithsonian; has traveled around the world on behalf of human-rights victims; has become rich writing best-selling novels; knows martial arts and marksmanship; has had romantic love and great sex; has reunited with a loving family; and has friends and co-workers who love her.

She lacks some social skills, and the creator of the show says he based her on a friend with Asperger’s. Her friends can be protective to the point of patronizing. They coach her on how to relate to people, and this includes, at times, telling her how she should behave as a woman. She often resists, and it’s her resistance that has kept me coming back.

The Hathor Legacy supplies this example:
Angela: For once can you just pretend to be the girl?
Brennan: Why is everyone so anxious for me to be a girl?
Angela: Listen, go to the basketball game, let him show off for you and see what happens.

Brennan: I don’t know, it sounds so passive.
Angela: Now you’ve got it.
I’ll be sad when Brennan and Booth finally become a couple. Brennan is an iconoclast, a liberal, an atheist, a feminist. Booth is a practicing Catholic, socially conservative, and appears to embody every stereotype of masculinity. It’s a TV trope: the mismatched couple who bicker all the time even though we’re all supposed to recognize them as soul mates. From Feministing:
He's used by the writers as a sounding board for Bones to point out the errors of his ways and intellectually smack him around. Booth IS society, essentially, and Bones rises above it to show that it doesn't HAVE to be that way.
I don’t think viewers who love Booth see him that way.

In a reversal, the man (Booth) is emotional and intuitive while the woman (Brennan) is logical and rational. Booth’s ability to manipulate people awes Brennan, who must not watch any crime shows. While their friends try to shake more emotions out of Brennan, they praise Booth’s empathy. But where's the empathy when he accuses a widow of selling her husband’s body for parts? While questioning suspects, he can say the most awful things to people who turn out to be innocent, but we rarely see him apologize. In contrast, Brennan often has genuine feelings for people.

Booth insisted on calling Brennan "Bones." But I call her Brennan; I don't want others to define her.