Bones: How to be a Girl

I don’t watch Fox’s TV show Bones very often. I did happen to catch most of last Wednesday’s episode, which had a Valentine-y theme running through its B storyline.

“Bones” is a nickname for the primary character – a brilliant forensic anthropologist named Temperance Brennan. Dr. Brennan has a very difficult time understanding the nuances in interpersonal relationships. She’s very logical and scientific and can come across as a little cold because she’s viewing the world in quite a different way than the ‘average’ person.

Dr. Brennan has apparently recently entered a romantic relationship. Four dates have happened, and no sex. In this episode, her paramour has invited her to go watch him play basketball, which she doesn’t find interesting in the least – when he asked, she asked him if she’d get to play and he said, “You suck hugely at being a girl.” Brennan confides in her female coworker (Angela) that she can’t figure out why things are moving so slowly (in the bedroom), and her perplexity about the basketball game.   The following conversation occurs:

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.

It’s logical to conclude, then, that the message here is that to be a “girl,” one must be passive and one must praise men and their acheivements adequately in order to get, at the very least, sex. Perhaps even a romantic commitment.

So Brennan goes to the game, watches her new boyfriend on the court and praises him in her analytical, anthropological manner. It’s clearly awkward for her…and it doesn’t work. He doesn’t sleep with her.

What precipitates the actual sex event, as it turns out, is Brennan taking the proverbial bull by the horns and aggressively seeking it out. She grows altogether too tired of waiting passively and makes the first move, which was her instinct in the first place. Turns out that she didn’t need to be a “girl” to get what she wanted; all she had to do was be herself.

Comments

  1. SunlessNick says

    I was so afraid reading that, that the ending would turn out to be that the “how to be a girl” lessons would work. Glad they didn’t.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    It’s logical to conclude, then, that the message here is that to be a “girl,” one must be passive and one must praise men and their acheivements adequately in order to get, at the very least, sex. Perhaps even a romantic commitment.

    This is definitely the message I’ve always gotten. And my attempts to appear passive work no better than hers, perhaps because I’m also logical and analytical and think the way the average person looks at the world is mildly deranged.

    It’s a nice message that the aggressive approach works. It’s not been my experience in the real world, and for once I’d like to see a show represent the reality that men are not “pigs who’ll sleep with any reasonably attractive woman” (Patriarchal Myth #32). In my experience, some men are so turned off by an assertive woman, let alone one who is aggressive or takes initiative, that no amount of previous attraction to her can overcome it. But when we DO see that represented on TV, it’s always to show how bad the woman was for not being more submissive – that she doesn’t deserve to have a man.

    Sorry for using your point as a jump-off for another – it’s great to see the myth that women have to be submissive to “get a guy” debunked. Now, as an encore, I’m hoping to see the TV myth that men are NOT intimidated by assertive women debunked.

  3. sbg says

    It’s a nice message that the aggressive approach works. It’s not been my experience in the real world, and for once I’d like to see a show represent the reality that men are not “pigs who’ll sleep with any reasonably attractive woman” (Patriarchal Myth #32). In my experience, some men are so turned off by an assertive woman, let alone one who is aggressive or takes initiative, that no amount of previous attraction to her can overcome it. But when we DO see that represented on TV, it’s always to show how bad the woman was for not being more submissive – that she doesn’t deserve to have a man.

    Heh. I’m naturally pretty passive (or that’s how I see myself), and that hasn’t exactly worked for me in the romance department. If I were actively wishing for a mate, I’d never get one if I continue on sitting around and waiting. And, conversely, I doubt I’d get one if I stopped sitting around and waiting, because that doesn’t make me comfortable, either.

    In this particular case, Brennan’s aggressiveness worked because while the guy accused her of sucking at being a girl, he also mentioned that he liked her straightforward manner. There was already attraction there, I think, and it was a matter of two people who were both uncertain on how to make the next move because they were both slightly out of their elements.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    I think the bottom line is that things are not simple in the mating game, but people want to reduce all these complex variables to a few simplistic problems. Usually, the problems are allegedly “solved” by people “acting like” the way society preaches your gender should behave. And usually, it’s the woman who’s doing something wrong: either she’s not doing girly things to get her man, or she’s being mean in not choosing our fair leading man, or she’s entirely responsible for whether the couple is having sex or not because Lord knows the only response a man could have to the question of sex is “yes, baby!” /eye roll

    TV has done its level best to reinforce these ideas. It’s so painfully formulaic with romance – that’s probably why I generally hate it: it’s as predictable as an Agatha Christie knockoff. But on those rare occasions TV romances progress with the unpredictability of real life, I find them inoffensive at worst and sometimes really enjoy them.

    Again, sorry I’ve kind of hi-jacked this thread. :D

  5. says

    She’s already showing passivity right from this point: “Brennan confides in her female coworker (Angela) that she can’t figure out why things are moving so slowly (in the bedroom), and her perplexity about the basketball game.”

    I read this and immediately think “If sex is what you want, then why are waiting around for him to initiate it?” The happy ending jibes with my own experience.

    I have a bit of an anthropological streak (see: The Mating Game: A primatologist looks at the mathematical community), and I have a whole, elaborate theory for this sort of thing: An Immodest Proposal.

  6. sbg says

    She’s already showing passivity right from this point: “Brennan confides in her female coworker (Angela) that she can’t figure out why things are moving so slowly (in the bedroom), and her perplexity about the basketball game.”

    I read this and immediately think “If sex is what you want, then why are waiting around for him to initiate it?” The happy ending jibes with my own experience.

    I’m not sure I agree. I see it as uncertainty of the rules of her situation, and a basic lack of experience with it more than out-and-out passivity. She’s aware there are rules, genuinely likes the guy and doesn’t want to fuck it up by acting inappropriately for the situation. She sought resources before doing anything further…someone she thought had more experience and would have the information she needed. Turned out the information she got was just wrong.

  7. says

    sbg: That’s a good point. It depends on the character and what kind of relationship she wants.

    The fact that she’s sitting around wondering why he hasn’t made a move just jumped out at me because it smacks of that “the rules” mentality that women have to trick men into things since being clear and straight-forward isn’t feminine.

    I’m probably just projecting, though, because I’m also annoyed with the stereotype that being book-smart means being clueless about relationships. But I haven’t seen a single episode of this show — notably I didn’t see the conversation in question — so I can’t tell you if I would find this particular character and situation realistic and reasonable.

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