Origami Girl

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

In which I am obsessed with Bones for all the right reasons

I have been watching a lot of Bones lately. 
It is a tv show about a forensic anthropologist called Dr Temperance Brennan. The basic premise is that she uses her knowledge of bones to team up with the FBI, who know about people, to catch murderers -with the help of her team of talented scientists at the Jerffersonian Institute. There is often a clash played out between the anthropologist Dr Brennan (aka Bones) and her FBI partner Agent Seeley Booth. Although they care about each other, Brennan is all about the empirical evidence and Booth about the instinctive emotions, but between the pair of them and the 'squint squad' they always lock the bad guy up. As crime plots go it is neat, character drivenand we don't have gory shots of the crimes being committed like Criminal Mind, but it is just as, if not more, fascinating. 

I am a bit late to the party with this one I know as it has been out since 2005.
However with NCIS over for now and House over forever, I needed something new to watch. So when I said 'a lot of Bones' what I mean is we've been getting whole seasons out of Blockbuster and watching about four episodes a night for the last few weeks so I am in a good position to really comment on character and show development because I have seen it all in that intense space of time. 

When I watch a new show I have lots of criteria for judging it: originality, acting, good characters etc. the usual ones. But one thing that matters to me is the presentation and representation of women. I am an un-abashed feminist and I get so tired of bechdel-test failing shows or ones that play upon tired Hollywood stereotypes or are merely an overtly male story (Prison Break, for example). The real reason I feel the need to write this review is because Bones kicks ass on the feminism point and I want to celebrate that.

To begin with there is a wealth of female characters:
(as of Season 3)
Dr Temperance Brennan aka Bones -The lead of the show
Angela -Brennan's best friend and the artist who puts a face to the skulls
Camille -Brennan’s boss who provides a bit of lateral thinking to the team

Additional female characters:
Caroline Julian: the kick-ass lawyer who often acts as the prosecutor, using Brennan's team's evidence.
Booth's ex and other assorted love interests, Russ' girlfriend and then various victims, killers, suspects and everything else in between.

Keeping the Bechdel test in mind these women -they talk to each other, about things other than their relationships to men all the time! Usually about science and corpses. Men do come up, but the women's conversations are not there to highlight the character development of the men or merely reveal interesting plot points about the men. And talking of character development, the story does not play on tropes of women dying/suffering in order to progress the development of the men. The main male character Agent Seeley Booth has far less character development than the women. He is very likeable, but as the male lead he is almost too dependable.

In contrast Dr Brennan, although not an FBI agent herself, is often put in dangerous situations as she hunts down psycho killers. In these situations she demands a gun and, although Booth is not keen on this idea or her joining him in the field at times, this protectiveness is presented as the wish of a friend not rooted in an assumption of feminine weakness. Instead Dr Brennan saves Booth's life though shooting and, through skill at martial arts, beats up a cartel-leader as well as various other occasions of escaping from capture through either violence or ingenuity. She has brains and courage and surprising skills (she is also an author, a good cook and a diver). At this gushing point I became aware that this might put her at risk of Dan Brown-esque Mary Sueism of a hyperbolic level of talent. You know how Dan Brown writes these un-realistic women as though he's saying 'How can I be sexist? All my female characters are amazing' (Just take another look at them, trust me)

But when I thought through this fear I realised that Brennan is given character development and flaws -awkward family relationships, she is incredibly tactless, bad at boyfriends, sometimes selfish. etc.

I really could go on and talk in depth about the minutia of the show, the guest appearances and more, but overall this show has totally won my feminist heart. I hope I have said enough to convince you and if you have already been watching this show for seven years I apologise, but please let me know what you think! But no spoilers! I'm only onto season three!

p.s. This is my 100th blog post! 


  1. I have only seen episodes here and there on t.v. but I really enjoy the show. Maybe I should start renting the seasons :] Congrats on your 100th blog post - so exciting!!

  2. I agree with you on the non-sexist part - it's a great quality of this TV show. I've found Bones to be so interesting with so many anthropological facts, etc. Though sometimes there's a bit of over acting/over dramatic stuff, I do enjoy it and I think that Temperance Brennan's lack of empathy is a great twist. It's put together well with very lovable and quirky characters.