Well Written Women
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Well Written Women

Well Written Women : Bones (TV Show)

I was originally going to do this discussing just the character of Temperance Brennan but decided to make it about all the women in the show.

Bones, for those of you who don’t know, is a show based on a book series written by Kathy Reichs, about a female forensic anthropologist named Dr. Temperance Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel) and her staff at the Jeffersonian Institute in DC. Things happen and her and her staff basically become consultants for the FBI to help solve murders. The main FBI agent, Seeley Booth, is played by David Boreanaz, who also played our favorite teen heartthrob angsty vampire, Angel.

For several years now, whenever Bones comes up on Amazon Prime and is free to watch it becomes my go to chill show and that’s because Brennan, aka Bones (the nickname she’s given by Booth early on in the show) is basically my spirit animal when it comes to life in general.

She is one of the few, if not the only female lead character I’ve seen portrayed in a way that rings true to my lived experiences. She’s not overly emotional, not focused on relationships, is supremely confident of her skills and her self-worth. She shows no shame in stating quite openly that she is the best in the world at her job, because it’s true. She’s content being alone, enjoys her own company, is not out partying at night, doesn’t even own a TV, and none of this is driven because of bitterness towards men or as a result of failing at romance in some way. She’s like this because she wants to be.

She’s not sexualized,even though she has no issues pursuing sex and is very blunt and honest about what she looks for in a potential partner. She always makes it quite clear to her partners that the sex is on her terms and if she doesn’t enjoy it, she won’t be back. She has no desire to be married, the concept of needing a man in her life confuses her for the most part and she never, ever, ever diminishes her own intelligence to make someone else feel better.

Now, her “flaw”, if one can call it that, is that her emotional IQ is rather low, her blunt honesty frequently offends others, she doesn’t understand a lot of emotional cues that others pick up on and she never quite conquers the skill of communicating concepts to those that aren’t on the same level intellect wise that she is. Some of these issues stem from childhood trauma and her coping mechanism to deal with that was to keep people at arms’ length. However, I feel a lot of it is simply that she feels that all the drama around relationships and such is overblown and downright obnoxious, so she chooses to not get involved and instead pursue the things she enjoys. At some point however it seems that she realizes that her lack of these skills hamper her in some way, which is what eventually draws her to working with Booth, even though their working relationship has a very rough start.

Plus she wants adventure.

What I love about this show is that her desire to improve her emotional IQ never leads to her being written in a way that denigrates or changes her core character. She makes it quite clear that she sees no reason to change to conform to society’s version of what a woman should be, that her interest in learning how to interact better with people stems from her own needs to grow as a person, not because she feels pressured to do it.

Now, I haven’t watched all the later episodes so I can’t comment entirely on how things go when certain things finally happen but what I want to do is focus on how the relationship between her and Booth is written in a completely different way than most. Typically when a male and a female lead work together the female is often the one moping around after the affections of the male. She becomes infatuated with his looks, dreams about him or in some way or other becomes so caught up in her emotions that she becomes annoying, and if at any point the male lead says “Let’s stay professional” or “friends” within a few episodes they end up in bed together anyway or making some ridiculous declaration of undying love/lust.

Here it’s the opposite, so much so that I often found Booth and various supporting cast constant pushing that there’s something between Booth and Bones somewhat annoying. Booth is the more emotional of the two and even when Brennan starts to let her guard down a bit she doesn’t chase after him. There are several situations where there are opportunities for her, if she had been written differently, to fall into the same overdone storyline of woman chasing male but she never does. To her their partnership/friendship is much more important than any possible romance and it frustrates her that people refuse to accept that.

This goes on not for just a few episodes, but for seasons, seven of them to be exact; and even when they do get together, Brennan is still acting independently of Booth, which irritates him. He’s not trying to control her, per se, but she’s so used to just doing things on her own that she doesn’t understand the concept that he wants to be involved. The thing that is nice is that Booth, although he gets frustrated, understands why she is the way she is and gives her the time she needs to make the connections as to why what she did irritates him.

What is even more fascinating they repeat the same pattern of the women being in control with all the relationships in the show. Angela and Hodgins take several years to get together and Cam is basically single or having an off screen romance for the whole run of the show, (or at least all the eps I have seen).

In all the romantic situations in the show, the women are always portrayed as the stronger, more emotionally responsible characters (except for Daisy…she’s just the odd one out I guess), which is extremely rare.

To give the male characters some credit, they are also written in a rather abnormal fashion, and not just because of how they interact with the women. There’s no uber alpha male character, they all work well together, there’s no stupid love triangle, no lust filled looks. There is, however, massive amounts of respect towards the women they work with. I can’t think of one instance where any male main character treats any of the women in a way that indicates that they think a woman can’t do the job right. Brennan is the boss of the lab and no one challenges that. In season one her boss is a male African American character who gets switched out with Cam in the second season, a female African American character. Yet even in all the “testing the new person” that happens when Cam comes on board there’s never an indication that her gender is an issue. Brennan just doesn’t trust her at first and has to test Cam out to make sure Cam’s skills are up to hers, same for the rest.

The other thing I appreciate, as a creative, is how Angela’s character is developed. Angela is an artist, who is also Brennan’s best friend and tends to act as a “emotional IQ translator” for Brennan. She starts out as a sketch artist who creates sketches of the murder victims if they’re too decomposed or damaged to have a face. In the early seasons she’s portrayed as a bit of an oddball at the lab. They respect her artistic abilities and what she brings to the team but her role in solving the crimes is a bit one note. As the show progresses she becomes highly competent with creating software to help with re-enactments of murders, identifying weapons and a myriad of other things. She’s never really portrayed as “the hippie girl” entirely. Yes, she’s a free spirit of a sort, but she’s not flaky or unreliable. She works hard, learns new skills and becomes an instrumental part of the team.

I found the pairing between her and Hodgins fun as well, and refreshingly realistic. They have great chemistry but have a high level of respect for each other and even during their several romantic cooling off periods that respect never changes. There’s never overly dramatic scenes, or highly charged convoluted scenarios and certainly never an ounce of violence or insulting of each other. They act like rational adults, which is highly refreshing from the usual romantic scenarios one sees.

As I hinted earlier, Cam becomes Brennan’s boss, mostly in name only, because they all know that the lab is really Brennan’s domain. Cam’s introduction to the rest of the characters was interesting as well, she comes in with the assumption that she can just take control and change things, which Brennan rather quickly disabuses her of; but here’s another instance where the writing is different than usual. Instead of ratcheting up the tension between the two to ridiculous heights, Cam takes several steps back after being informed that if Brennan left, the rest of the crew would go with her, leaving Cam with a lab that has lost the prestige that Brennan and her team brought to it. Instead of taking it personally she and Brennan talk things out, acting, once again, like adults, not people in a soap opera. At the end of the discussion they put whatever drama there was behind them and get back to work solving murders. Which is so refreshing to see on TV.

Cam shows up to the show single with no children, something that is explained is mostly by her own choice and is causing some tension between her and her family. As the show goes on she ends up becoming a legal guarding for a teen-aged girl. Cam, having no experience raising kids is now thrust into being responsible for a teenager and once again the writers navigate all the situations that presents in a way that’s realistic and not cheesy. They have fights but the character drama is always well balanced with whatever murder case is going on at the time. Also, her ability to do her job while caring for a teenager is never called into question, which stays true for the other women who get pregnant. There’s never a “well, you’re pregnant, you can’t handle it” line coming from any of the male characters. They’re supportive but never condescending.

If you want to watch a show that deals in a healthy way with relationships and male/female dynamics. Bones is one you need to watch. If all of our companies treated women like they do in Bones, the world would be a much happier place.

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Kat Loveland

The only consistency in this author’s wheelhouse is mindfuckery. Writer, editor, blogger. Books here https://www.amazon.com/Kat-Loveland/e/B00IRRAMWO/re