Bones is a Fox Network (fictional) crime drama following the cases of a female forensic anthropologist and her team (working at the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington, D.C) as well as a male FBI agent. The show not only depicts the complex crimes but the even more complex struggles and interpersonal relationships between the characters. The target audience for the show is people between the ages of 18-45 that watch primetime television. Although the show features some roles that are out of the ‘norm,’ it still manages to downplay it by showing the consequences of breaking the status quo and stepping out of the normal. Basically, the show reinforces typical male and female societal roles. This can be seen through a liberal feminist (more specifically an occluded, preferred feminist reading) analysis of the characters of Dr. Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan, Seeley Booth, and Dr. Lance Sweets.
In Bones, the female main character and arguably the star of the show, Dr. Brennan, is portrayed as highly intelligent and very educated. She is white, very wealthy, at the top of her field and world-renowned. However, all of these seemingly positive things are not portrayed as being so. She is seen as being unhappy despite all of her success; later on in the show, she seems to finally be fulfilled only after beginning a romantic relationship and conceiving a child with her male co-star. Another example of her character being downplayed can be seen in how Dr. Brennan seems to always have an answer for everything, which visibly annoys her colleagues (especially the male ones) on more than one occasion. It is not ‘typical,’ or ‘ladylike,’ of her to correct or outsmart her male colleagues. Dr. Brennan is depicted as being almost robotic or emotionless in the show, which could very well be due to the perception of women as being unable to posses both intelligence/a high career drive and have empathy. It is almost as if she sacrificed her emotions in place of her intelligence and career, making her undesirable. Her strong career drive, ‘stubbornness,’ lack of emotion, and emptiness makes her not an ‘ideal,’ role model and not someone the average consumer wants to be.
Detective Seeley Booth is the male co-star in Bones. He plays a typical gun-slinging FBI agent. The character himself has a very solid build, a square ‘manly,’ jaw line, and broad shoulders. In the show, he is always ‘saving the day,’ in some sense or another. On more than one occasion, he is seen ‘saving,’ Dr. Brennan from impending danger, despite her stubbornness and lack of co-operation. Outside of their personal relationship, the same dynamic still applies. Although Dr. Brennan puts in the majority of the analytical work that leads to case resolutions, Seeley Booth is almost always depicted as the hero. Although Dr. Brennan is portrayed as being far more intelligent and rational, detective Booth seems to always be the voice of reason, talking her out of doing ‘stupid,’ things and telling her what the ‘proper,’ way to act in certain situations is. An example of this is when Dr. Brennan is pregnant and trying to do her job, Seeley Booth warns her of the dangers of working during her pregnancy and even tries to physically stop her (although she has a medical degree and is very aware of what she should and should not do during pregnancy), and she is the one portrayed as being unreasonable. The character of Seeley Booth always being the hero, being credited for all the work, and always being ‘right,’ in some sense or another reinforces male gender roles in today’s society.
The last character I have chosen in this analysis is Dr. Lance Sweets. He is a psychologist working for the Jeffersonian and his main job is to ensure mental health of the team. He is well dressed, white, has a tall thin frame, and curly hair. He is successful in his field as well, but is not portrayed as something people want to be. He is often emasculated by Seeley Booth and not taken seriously by the strong male lead. Even his name in the show, ‘Lance Sweets,’ says a lot about how the character is portrayed. He does not have a ‘strong,’ or ‘manly,’ name; therefore he must be weak, and ‘feminine.’ His profession demands that he often talk about feelings and things of the sort, things that are seen by society as being ‘feminine,’ because men need to suck it up and ‘take it like a man.’ Rarely do the male characters in the show (especially Seeley Booth) genuinely accept his help or respect his position. Even Dr. Brennan often puts him down in the beginning by saying things like psychology ‘is not a real scientific field,’ and insults of the like. Dr. Sweets is often seen almost lapping behind Detective Booth, wanting to be more and more like him; even he realizes that he is not the ‘ideal,’ man and idolizes someone who is portrayed as being so.
Although at first glance Bones seems to oppose normal social roles for men and women, at closer inspection, it becomes obvious that at its core it still sells the same messages that society has created. Dr. Temperance Brennan’s high intelligence and career success is downplayed and at times overshadowed by her lack of fulfillment and social incompetence, making her undesirable, Seeley Booth is the rugged and handsome hero, making him normal and something the average consumer wants to be, and Dr. Lance Sweets is the physically weak sensitive archetype, making him also undesirable. These roles and others in the show depict that even in seemingly oppositional character dynamics, society’s expectations of gender roles is often still met.
Fox Network. Bones. February 6, 2012 <http://www.fox.com/bones/_media/wallpapers/bones_wall05_1600x1200.jpg>