Far be it for Bones to shy away from making bold, divisive statements. Those Bones fairies like to cause a stir, and they most certainly did with Thursday’s episode, “The Purging of the Pundit.”
Rather than focusing on gun control, cultural/religious diversity, gay marriage or pro-life issues, the viewer would be well served to see further into the true message in the delivery and focus of “The Purging of the Pundit.” As a matter of fact, if you really look at the title of the episode, it will tell you exactly what Bones was aiming at this past Thursday: one man’s attempt to exorcise from himself the ugliness of the narrow-minded persona he showed the world. This man was haunted by the extremity of his career choices. There is nothing wrong with being conservative, neutral or liberal as long as you know why you take that stand — but that stand is not at all what “The Purging of the Pundit” was about.
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Going beyond sitcom-ish humor, beyond the usual fare of blood and guts and beyond even your basic fluffy romance, Bones uses wry humor and subtle truthiness to open our minds so the subtleties of naked human nature seep into our brains while we think we are just being entertained. Any Bones fan knows they will get much more when they settle in for an hour of Brennan and Booth, et al., and that’s what we’ve come to expect. Fortunately for us, Bones continues to mature in its subject matter and its delivery of their messages. “The Purging of the Pundit” broached the issue of the appearance of extremes in contrast to the malleable humanity behind the public image.
Three major examples emerged this week around the issue of extremism which beg further discussion. The subtleties in the extremes I’m referring to are 1) ultra-political conservatism, 2) the evolution of diverse personalities as individuals and as a unit and 3) the extremes of change verses stasis (though I will warrant this third one is mostly an excuse to discuss Aubrey’s addition to the team). These are represented in the life of the victim, radio personality Thrush Whitehouse; the individuals of Brennan and Booth versus their unit as a couple; and the new FBI agent Aubrey as a character not meant to be a replacement for Sweets — a proposition that has some viewers up in arms and wielding unreasonable threats against the future of the show as a whole.
Now, what I mean by this is that on their faces, all three propositions seem quite clear and direct, but when you lift the top layers you see a consistent theme of appearances being deceiving.
The Not-So-Conservative Conservative
The victim in this past week’s Bones episode was about as politically extreme as one can get, or so he seemed on the surface. Hutch Whitehouse was a talking head with a conservative bent that could cut any slightly liberal person into a million pieces with his rapier commentary on anything that fell outside of what he considered to be the necessary norm of conservatism.
As wild and out there as Whitehouse was, Bones offered a delineation between what is real and what is simply for show. Did you catch that? Whitehouse was all about making a dollar (or $10 million per year), but that was because his superpower was inciting the masses, and what grander platform than that of the debate over morality and patriotism? This interesting twist was that Whitehouse, in his real life, wasn’t the ultra extreme conservative he represented himself to be as his professional persona. Who he was publicly made Whitehouse physically and spiritually ill. To counter the extreme nature of his sins and purge that nastiness from his being was to pay to have himself tortured — abominably and testicularly tortured.
Once we got into the episode, it became clear that the “self-induced” torture Whitehouse engaged in wasn’t at all for sexual pleasure; it was for the release of his own personal demons. Now, I don’t have my own set of testicles — well, I do, but someone else wears them for me, though I have some formidable ovaries, I’m told, but they aren’t as exposed as a set of balls, no matter what they are made of — but any man walking around with a full set will tell you that if you want to cause some extreme pain to a member of the fairer male gender, the testicles are the spot you want to target. My point is that Whitehouse was much more extreme in his self-flagellation than he was in his politics. Interestingly, his true extreme was kept secret while his false persona was right out there for everyone to see. So, don’t believe everything you see, people. We hear your message, Bones.
What the Hell is Extremism For?
The purpose of the extreme is to force people to think and, hopefully, to choose to be an active participant in not only their own lives but in the life of their community as well. I myself am a practicing Catholic. Do I ascribe to absolutely everything the Church teaches? No, I don’t, but it is some of their extreme positions that have caused me to energetically investigate what I do believe, why I believe it and how I will live my life as an example of what I espouse as a result of my commitment to the general principles of the faith I practice.
Ultra conservatives in the public eye don’t follow all the rules and BS they pedal either. But they stand for the absolutes that make it easy for people to take a public stand despite what they are forced to do in their personal lives when reality presents itself to them. In “The Purging of the Pundit,” Bones illustrated the delineation between the black-and-white and the gray (pun intended). In reality, most people, other than the whack job suspect who wanted to blow up everything that wasn’t his own clone, fall somewhere inside the gray. Humanity is gray. Bones reminded us of that this week.
Booth and Brennan Homogenized
Bones canon would have you believe that Brennan and Booth were, for the greater part of their relationship, opposites. If you listened carefully to the words of Gordon Gordon you will recall that this is not at all true. This was a point that Gordon Gordon and Sweets debated on numerous occasions. In this past week’s episode, we continue to clearly see how these two have had a slow-burning but intense impact on each other over the last nine years. Naysayers would posit that as each distinct personality leaned toward the other they became individually less fantastic and less dramatic in their differences. This is simply not so. Their experiences and perspectives have broadened as a result of their emotional and spiritual intimacy. Who they were in the beginning continues to evolve, but it is more accurate to say that their true natures have been given a safe environment in which to reveal themselves.
I mentioned last week how we are seeing the strength within Brennan rise up in fierceness on behalf of Booth in a more emotional and active way than she has in the past. But does her strength negate Booth’s own strength? Does one have to be weak in order for another to be strong? Are these extremes what life is about? No, it does not and no, it is not. Booth remains strong, but he is in greater need of the assertive display of strength provided for him by his partner. The character of Booth is being given the opportunity to rely on her and others to remind him of who he is and to challenge him to change his way of responding to crises so that in the end he can emerge even stronger and healthier.
That’s exciting, I don’t care who you are. These are adult issues, people. Some viewers might not enjoy a show without the bodice-ripping of nascent lust, but the mature viewer finds hope in the courageous ambiguity of relationship roles as the partners meld as a result of walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death side by side.
Enter the Swan
Speaking of extremes and relationship maturity, I present Special Agent James Aubrey (John Boyd). No, he’s not really a swan, but he’s no baby duck either. Now, those who loved Sweets may feel affronted/offended by the “fact” that the Bones fairies are trying to cram this Sweets’ look-alike dude down our throats. But those who see it that way are just going to have to get over themselves. It is much more likely that the best guy to play the part of James Aubrey just happened to have the same hair color and general build of John Francis Daly than it is that the Bones fairies went looking for his clone.
Seriously, folks. It is human nature to buck change. You do it. I do it. Stinkin’ Nathan, Hanson, Boreanaz, Deschanel, Daly, Conlin, et al. — they all do it too. We are all human. So cry your tears, watch all the reruns with Sweets in them, then go buy a ticket to JFD’s new movie and get on with your lives. Okay, I’ll hop down off my high horse now.
Extremes. Change. Anti-stasis. All are part of life. What I present to you, loyal Bones fans, is this: Aubrey is different than Sweets. He’s just as different from all the other characters as they are different from each other. And, truthfully, it was time for this new element to enter Booth’s life. He needs someone who dances to the beat of his own drum. Someone who will respect Booth, but has confidence in his own ability as well. Sweets relied a lot of Booth for affirmation. Even in his final scene, Sweets said, “I fought back. You’d be proud.”
Now, there is NOTHING WRONG with wanting approval, except that it stunts your growth. Aubrey doesn’t need Booth’s approval. He already knows he’s got the goods. Remember when Aubrey said to Booth:
“You’re an idiot, you know that? Do you really think you’re gonna do better than me? Look, I think what happened to you is messed up, and then what happened to Sweets. But remember that Sweets trusted me to work with you. So when you treat me like crap, you are treating Sweets like crap too.”
Holy crucified cojones on a cracker, Batman. Now, that took titanium testicles. Booth almost flattened the guy in the middle of that conversation … but he didn’t, did he? Booth sees something valuable and unique in Aubrey. If you listen to everything Booth says to Aubrey since the first time the younger agent walks on screen (yes, even his very early scenes), Booth seems to sense something genuine about Aubrey. His resistance in the beginning was a manifestation of Booth’s extreme disappointment in suspicion of the system. More recently, Booth’s resistance — which Aubrey calls him out on — has to do with Booth’s understandable grappling with the loss of Sweets. Our man is in the hurt bag in the worst way, my friends.
Aubrey’s familiarity with himself and his world comes from experience. Booth needs someone in his life who has a healthy background so he can see that it doesn’t take a life of nastiness for decency and wisdom to be reliable. I hope they don’t get Aubrey involved with someone romantically too quickly. We need an unencumbered character for a while, someone whose only job is to be a steady presence in Booth’s life asking only to stand alongside him and do a good job.
I love that Aubrey is a bit quirky with his Kramer-esque hair and that space between his teeth that gives him character. I love that he watches kids movies and that he thinks Christine is adorable — I gotta get me one of them — and isn’t afraid to say it. I love it that Booth offers him a drink and he doesn’t want to over-stay his welcome because he’s still the new guy. He just seems to be a great guy. You know what would be even better? If he thinks Hockey is kinda stupid, and he has some kind of logic that makes Booth realize that there are some stupid aspects to the sport. That would really make Booth think.
Aubrey is going to bring good things to Bones. And he doesn’t have to be an extreme in order to do it. He can be subtly, deliciously his own man.
Everything is not as it seems. Even the extremes are not really extremes; they serve as a springboard for us to examine what we want our own stand to be. Keep your eyes peeled for the subtleties within everything Bones-y going forward, friends. The better they get at their craft, which is what all artists strive to continue doing, the more sophisticated their audience becomes and they will attract more sophisticated viewers. So, again I say, keep your eyes peeled for the subtleties inside what appear to be the extremes.
Bones airs Thursdays at 8pm on FOX.
(Images courtesy of FOX)