A wandering post in which I recommend the TV show “Bones” and bring up the death penalty *UPDATED*

I’ve mentioned before that I pretty much sat out the first decade of the 21st century when it came to pop culture, which is how I entirely missed Ricky Martin.  Having young children simply left me uninterested in things other than diapers, soccer carpools, etc.  Now those same children are bringing me back into pop culture.  Not only am I doing a better job of tracking current trends, I’m also learning about past pop culture trends I might have missed.

One of these trends, which is both current and past, is the show Bones.  My daughter discovered it on streaming video last summer while she was trapped in a Greek hospital following an appendix operation.  The show follows the exploits of shiny, pretty forensic anthropologists and FBI people as they solve gruesome crimes.  With rare exceptions, each show begins with the discovery of a gruesome, maggot-infested corpse, and then shows the scientists/anthropologists use incredibly high-tech equipment, plus their encyclopedic minds, to discern the truth about the corpse’s life and death.  It’s a surprisingly enjoyable show, made more so, for me, by the fact that it’s very nice to look at David Boreanz, the lead male actor.  (In my dotage, I seem to have turned into the “cougar” equivalent of a chicken hawk.  “Chicken hawk” as you may recall, is the derogatory term given to armchair warriors who advocate a hawk-like military stance, secure that they’ll never actually have to be in the line of fire.  But I digress, quite wildly . . . .)

Aside from being fairly entertaining on its own terms, I find the show fascinating because of the messages:  The lead FBI agent is a former special forces sniper, and the show doesn’t think less of him for that fact.  He’s also religious, and the show doesn’t think less of him for that fact either.  In “The Man In The Wall,” a dead man’s father convinces the FBI agent (correctly, as it turns out) that the dead man was not involved in drugs and crime because “I taught him to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”  It’s peculiar to see a show that, instead of sneering at this viewpoint, apparently approves of it.

The lead forensic anthropologist, the eponymous “Bones,” is a genius who is totally invested in scientific truth, but is often at a loss to understand ordinary human interactions.  Because of her almost child-like intellectual honest, she speaks the truth in a way many of us would find admirable (and irritating).  Bones doesn’t believe in God, because there is, in her mind, no proof that God exists, but she believes in morality.  In “A Man On Death Row,” she firmly advocates the death penalty, provided one is sure that the killer did indeed kill.  Under those circumstances, Bones says, there are definitely people who deserve to die because (although she doesn’t articulate this as clearly) through their callous disdain for human life, they have forfeited the right to that life themselves.  This episode, incidentally, is worth watching in its entirety, because I’m pretty sure that the episode’s writers and producers also believe in the death penalty.

And speaking of the death penalty, Dennis Prager believes in it too.  I find his proposal a bit silly (sorry, Dennis), but I do think that both he and Bones are on to the core point about why the death penalty, provided that it is hedged about with due process, and rigorous moral and intellectual honesty, is the right thing for a functioning society that, counter-intuitively as far as death penalty opponents are concerned, values human life.

UPDATE:  This post, about the silliness of applying the Occupy movement to prisons, seems apropos.

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  • excathedra

    I have seen and enjoyed a lot of that series.

    One of its virtues is that the regular cast is racially mixed and the issue of race never comes up. They just deal with each other as individuals. No game playing on that front, although we do have the obligatory Black Head Honcho running the place for some parts of the series. Blacks who are brilliant scientists, computer geeks and such, while not common in real life, are greatly overpopulated on the dreamworld of TV.

    Regarding Mr Boreanaz, a fine looking fella who fits the character very well. It is indeed rare that a very admirable and heroic, though human and unsaintly, American male is also portrayed unironically and non-condescendingly as a man of faith, especially Catholic faith.

    Your assessment of yourself as a cougar means, I believe, that you are a more mature woman, shall we say, who appreciates a younger man. “Chicken hawk”, while having the meaning you mention, also means, in gay parlance, the very same thing as cougar, with the gender of the object of interest changed…

    So you’re right twice :)

  • vanderleun

    The scariest phrase I’ve seen lately on Bookworm has to be: ” trapped in a Greek hospital following an appendix operation. “

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    I thought that one was in Italy.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    I suspect that the show (which my wife REALLY loves) was based on the book, Dead Men Do Tell Tales:
    GREAT book!!
    There’s another show on right now that treats religion appropriately – I don’t watch it, so can’t remember the name, but Gail has brought her Mac in to show me five-minute clips…it stars Tom Selleck (and others, but that’s the important one to Gail).  The clips I’ve seen are TERRIFIC.

  • Charles Martel

    I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to “Bones.”
    I used to watch it religiously, but tuned out when one episode was based on how a workingman sitting in a portable toilet came to be exploded into a bunch of flying parts. I could have stuck with the series if they hadn’t decided that particular episode to show graphically where the s**t from the Porta Potty had hit the trees, hedges, trash cans, construction materials, passersby and anything else that could get in the way of flying fecal matter. Didn’t really appreciate the gratuitous by the ever-so-scientific Bones on how crap is just a bunch of cellulose and loose ends—all benign stuff that only dimwits like me would find to be icky.
    My take on the Bones character is that she’s an Asperger Syndrome semi-autistic, and David Boreanaz’s contrasting savvy-about-the-real-world personality sets up a great dynamic between them. It doesn’t hurt that for several seasons they had the pair dancing around one another in slow-building heat. They didn’t get together until after the s**t episode, after I stopped watching. Anyway, though the Boreanaz character is supposed to be a good Catholic, his fornication with Bones tends to dull the luster of that assertion.
    (Reminds me of when my across-the-street neighbor was kvelling about this nice Jewish boy her daughter was dating. “He’s very Jewish,” she told me. “He keeps Kosher and is very observant.” I told her that I tended to doubt that, and she was puzzled as to why I said that. “Well, he’s sleeping with your daughter. No observant Jew in this solar system sleeps with a woman he is not married to.” She was shocked. She didn’t say anything in his defense, but I could see that what I’d told her made a lot of sense. We’ve not discussed the lad’s robust Jewishness since.) 

  • Tonestaple

    I like Bones and I watch it when it shows up on Hulu.  I like the characters, particularly the T. J. Thyne character’s boyish enthusiasm for blowing things up. in a scientific way of course.

    The one thing about the show that does bother me is Booth’s inability to defend his faith against Bones’ pure materialism.  Someone smart enough to have Booth’s job ought to know a little more about his own church so he could explain it to someone who sneers at it as superstition.  The best Booth ever manages to do is the equivalent of “the church says so” which is pretty darned lame.

    As to Booth’s having canoodled with Bones, would you have been able to turn down someone as lovely as Emily Deschanel after the traumatic day they had just had with one of their friends having died?  Sure, Booth is a sinner but I believe he would marry Bones in a heartbeat if she would just marry him but she doesn’t “believe” in marriage, whatever the hell that means.

    OK, clearly I have spent way too much time on this show.

  • Charles Martel

    I’m with you, Tonestaple, on how pathetic they’ve always made Booth’s defense of Catholicism. I think it’s because the writers are certain that there are no arguments that can really counter atheism, so why even bother writing any into the script? The problem, of course, is that although atheists can make some very strong arguments, they have never been able to make a persuasive one.
    Bones’s materialism, at least from my point of view, is juvenile—she sounds like all the snotty sophomores I knew in high school who, fresh off of (mis)reading Nietzsche, would spew village idiot-level arguments at us about the non-existence of God.
    Good times, those.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The problem with Bones will be, as with all other Hollywood productions, the fact that the original writers don’t exist. They have to farm out the writing to a “team” or “committee” of writers who will supply some of this, some of that, for each episode.

    Thus, technically, the characters are full of multiple personalities. The plot is full of dimensional quantum fluctuations in quantum state changes.

     One moment you could have an episode about Catholicism. Another episode could be about the absolute power of atheism. If that seems like too much of a gap, check the name of the writer.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Dude, Western medicine and science is superstition to Asian martial arts that studied the human body for 4000 years.

    They want to talk about superstition, now huh? 

  • Blick

    re the death penalty.  A murderer has already agreed that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for an offense. The only position for the STATE is to ensure the murderer is found, due process followed and apply the penalty. There can be an argument about the method of the penalty but not the penalty.