I have an unpleasant confession to make: I’m totally a fan of the television series Bones.
Bones is about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, who works with FBI Agent Seeley Booth to solve often bizarre crimes. Brennan (nicknamed “Bones” by Booth because she analyzes skeletons), works at the Jeffersonian Institute, and is aided by a rag-tag team of socially awkward weirdos. There’s Zack, her graduate student (who bears an unsettling resemblance to a robot); Angela, the free-spirited, glorified sketch-artist; and Hodgins, the “bug and slime guy” who happens to be the heir to a vast fortune (and a conspiracy theorist extraordinaire). During the first season they all had a boss named Daniel Goodman, but his beautiful, rolling bass voice couldn’t make up for the fact that his character was profoundly boring. So they ditched him, and now they all work for Cam, a coroner who looks likes she could be Rosario Dawson’s slightly older, slightly hotter sister.
Bones very badly wants to you to think that it is edgy and transgressive and cool. “Look!” every episode seems to scream, “Our main character is a borderline sociopathic misfit who is always saying the wrong thing because she was so traumatized by the disappearance of her parents! Our lead male is a single father from a working class background who made good and now fights crime with the FBI! We have a conspiracy theory crankpot! A free-loving hippie artist! A pet robot disguised as a graduate student! A criminally hot boss! You know you love us! Now please, TELL US THAT WE ARE LIKE NOTHING ELSE ON TELEVISION!11!”
But the thing is, Bones is exactly like everything else on television: every single character is a stereotype (hippie! Robot! Conspiracy theorist!), and conservative values always win in the end. The writers have tried to set Booth and Bones up as this dichotomous pair (He believes in God! She’s a hardcore atheist!), but scratch the surface and you’ll find that their worldviews are remarkably in tune. Bones’ academic job and fondness for dangling jewelry and natural fibers code her as a liberal, but time and again, the writers subvert this coding by making her highly sympathetic to Booth’s (and Fox’s) conservative core values. She’s pro-death penalty, she loves her the guns, and out of everyone on the show–serial killers excepted, of course–she’s the character who displays the most outrageous disregard for the rights and dignity of others. One episode features a high-ranking employee of the State Department who just happens to be a dwarf. Okay, scratch that, he doesn’t “just happen to be” anything: the fact that this character is a Little Person is essentially the whole point of his story arc. Brennan, the forensic anthropologist, immediately asks the character what condition he suffers from; when he (quite justifiably) tells her that it’s none of her fucking business, she excuses herself by saying that bones iz her business and his bones iz weird. Which would be hilariously socially awkward, except for the fact that Brennan then proceeds to spend the rest of the episode insulting the crap out of this poor guy because he’s a dwarf–the meanness actually culminates with, “Don’t say that! You’ll hurt his tiny feelings!”
…okay, admittedly that is the best line in the history of ever. Because I am a terrible person. But anyway! So Brennan continues to mistreat this man solely based on this size, and eventually informs him that he’s using his dwarfism to intimidate the people around him into giving him what he wants.
Let’s break this down, shall we? Let’s translate. What Brennan is really saying is basically this: “So, I know you have this characteristic that sets you apart from what we consider to be ‘the norm.’ People look at you funny and treat you differently and you have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. But you know what? That’s a horrible burden to me, and to everyone else who’s ‘normal,’ because-get this-I feel bad for you. I feel bad and awkward and don’t know quite where to look because you’re not ‘normal,’ and guess what? That’s your fault. Goddamn you for making me feel this way! Quit milking this for all it’s worth!”
Dude, doesn’t it remind you of a bad relationship? I kept expecting Brennan to fall on her knees and start sobbing, “Why do you make me hit you?” Jesus, showrunners. Way to make other people responsible for your own crappy feelings. Why don’t you take some of that money you’re making off this and use it to A.) go to diversity training; and B.) go to therapy? Because you need both. Badly.
Ultimately, though, Brennan’s politics aren’t just icky because they are inherently icky; they’re icky because she’s supposed to be so smart. “Look!” the message seems to be. “Truly smart people agree with horrible conservative theories! Ergo, those theories are smart!” Um, no thanks. Really.
On top of the gross politics, though, the writing is just plain shoddy. In one second season episode, they find the body of a little girl. “But wait!” the crime-fighting nerds cry, “she’s only nine, but she already had false teeth! And veneers! And her hair’s been bleached! OMIGOD, WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? ERROR, ERROR, ERROR, DOES NOT COMPUTE.” And you know, I can believe that no one in that lab had ever heard of JonBenet Ramsey, because I’m pretty sure that no one in that lab’s been outdoors since 1994. But Booth? Booth? He’s the token normal person! How did he not automatically Go There?
The show is littered with internal inconsistencies and general wtfery like that. I love it. Because I am sick. I am sick and bad and wrong and I’m not going to apologize for it. The ridiculousness of it all amuses me, and I freely admit: my amusement comes from a very wrong place. I…I like watching these people humiliate themselves! I enjoy knowing that everyone involved thinks that this is a smart, unique show when it is anything but! I can’t wait to see what completely generic premise they will try to sell as fresh and interesting next! I CANNOT WAIT!
Also, I hear there are cannibals in the third season. Cannibals! MOTHERFUCKING CANNIBALS, GUYS!
I can die a happy woman now, thanks.
Recommended for: No one. Seriously, do not buy this. Please.
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