Hello, fellow BONES fans!
As a person involved in the BONES fan community, I enjoy conversing with other fans, writing about the show, I moderate on a fan forum…and lately I’ve noticed something. Parts of the BONES fan community seem to have lost hope lately, in parallel with the significant changes in the lives our favourite TV characters as they make their way through Season 6. Is it simply because the show and the characters are so well written, so well acted, that we empathise so strongly? Why do we find it difficult to sustain hope through trust in ‘everything happens eventually’?
At this point, I’d like to make a confession; as well as being one of those annoying rational types, trained in the scientific method; I also have a great love of literature, which is one of the things that attracts me to blogs like Bones Theory. Since my first Tolkien books were purchased on a blisteringly cold Yorkshire day at age 9, I have been a voracious consumer of the written word. Next to extracting a meaningful story from millions of data points, there is nothing better that I enjoy than a literary-style critique of an issue. Because I think too much, I observe a lot, and I analyse in order to find meaning.
I’ve been thinking…and reading, analysing…and writing – now I’m a little nervous, because I’m publicly sharing what I’ve written in a genre that I am very much an amateur in. Essentially, I’ve got a theory or a thematic perspective, if you want to be more precise about it, with respect to what is going on with our favourite crime-fighting duo. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t devoted my every waking moment to what I’m writing here, but my process involves keeping little puzzle pots bubbling in the back of my mind, until I can work things out and share my perspective. To avoid me having to type ‘thematic perspective’ and for the sanity of fans, we’ll just call this piece a ‘theory’, okay? So, what better place to air my musings, *ahem* theory, than here at Bones Theory?
Anyhow, my theory is this: Booth and Brennan are going through Hell.
“Duh?”, I hear you say…“Thank you, Captain Obvious!” you snark. “Wow, genius…totally (not)!” you mutter sarcastically.
Yes. Hell – but a classical interpretation of Hell. I’m going to take you on a tour so that you can take a peek at how I’ve thought through the angsty signals coming from episodes of BONES of late. This is the way that I have worked my way past the dismay of losing my weekly instalment of no-strings happiness. I refuse to speak for anyone except myself in terms of ‘a reaction’ of course. The storyline, as necessary as it may be right now, just adds a fictional element of angst to all those very real life issues that I already have to deal with. This post deals with the way that I have responded and adapted to change; I’m simply sharing it.
Let’s take a candid look at Booth and Brennan. These characters have both taken a self-centred path lately. Sure, you can argue that both characters are damaged goods, I agree with that having a lot to do with what is going on (or not going on) between them these days…but that’s Psychology, which is a whole other variety of rabbit hole heading straight down to brimstone. That’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m here to introduce you to the concentric circles of suffering which make up Hell.
Once upon a time, there was an Italian poet called Dante Alighieri, who lived in the Fourteenth century; before the interwebs, before television, and a couple of hundred years before the Pilgrims had Thanksgiving with the Native American Indians…Yeah, I know, right? A really, really, ‘long’ time ago. Dante wrote an epic poem called ‘Divine Comedy’ which had three parts (kind of like a Fourteenth century Italian Star Wars). The three parts were named ‘Inferno’, ‘Purgatorio’, and ‘Paradiso’ – which translate into English as ‘Hell’, ‘Purgatory’, and ‘Paradise’. Essentially, it tells an allegorical (symbolic) story of the poet Dante, his soul and its journey toward God. I’ll just add here, that religion was ‘huge’ in the Fourteenth century.
So how did I make this connection between Booth and Brennan’s journey and some dusty old Italian poem? Well, I watched the 100th episode of BONES last May, and my mind was trying to trick my eyes into seeing something in the closing scene, as Booth and Brennan walked away down the plaza. My mind inserted a banner over the skyline, which said “Abandon all hope, you who enter here” (Inferno, Canto III:9). At first, I thought that I could be tripping because my discarded hommus snack might have passed its expiration date; then I realised that other people watching TV with me were also crying and saying, ‘Oh, crap!’ So I quickly reached the conclusion, that they too thought that things were looking bad for Booth and Brennan (despite all the earlier canoodling in the episode – my word, that Hart Hanson is a sweet ‘n’ sour kind of guy…).
I intend no disrespect to what is undoubtedly a great literary work, but Dante’s Inferno has been widely popularised for centuries. You may have heard or seen the ‘Abandon all hope…’ or a variant of this sign in modern times, on TV, in cartoons, referred to in books, or articles. Yes. That’s right! It’s that Italian, Fourteenth century Star Wars dude…he wrote that epic seven hundred years ago, and people still reference it today! (Imagine the royalties if agents had been invented in medieval times…) Actually, Dante’s work has been translated and written about by many famous historical figures, including Longfellow, an American nineteenth century ‘Fireside Poet.’ The original famous quote was likely to be from the Italian that Dante chose to write in: “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” Or it could have also been from a Latin version: “Omnes relinquite spes, o vos intrantes,” which was the popular language in the day – but I digress, plus both my Italian and my Latin are abysmal, okay?
Now, whether you believe in the religious interpretation of Hell or not, is semantics at this point. Modern interpretation tends to be done around the moral tale, which is still applicable today. Dante Alighieri clearly considered sin and his mortal soul quite seriously, but according to the allegory, Hell is actually right here on Earth. I made a little BONES-style mud map of the circles of ‘Inferno’ on a microscopic image of a bone cell…
There are nine circles of suffering, divided into many sub-sections depending on which one of the hundreds of publications you happen to be reading about this epic. Interestingly, there are 100 Canto (sections) to this work, which has a total of 14,233 lines. I’ll admit that I have a preference for prose over poetry, but I found structure of this epic to be an impressive attempt to compartmentalise Hell, using mathematics, medieval science, historical figures, politics and religion. Dante describes how he travels through ‘Inferno’ to reach the centre through the circles of suffering, in order for his soul to escape and move on through Purgatory to reach Paradise. Yes, I purposely am alluding to ‘the centre’ reference in BONES here, because let’s face it, they brought it up first – but I’ll return to the centre later on.
To continue along with my Booth and Brennan are in Hell theory, let’s posit that in the lead up to episode 100 and the ensuing aftermath, that they enter into the upper section of ‘Inferno’, the five outer concentric circles of suffering for the sins of self-indulgence (five of the seven deadly sins). On his travels Dante also found a few poor souls suffering in the circles of Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, and Anger. Apart from some of the direct references in BONES cases that played out, I’ve listed a few themes of suffering at the Booth and Brennan level, which you may have also picked up on in the episodes toward the end of Season 5.
- Grief over separation without hope of reconciliation.
- Hope for something greater than that which the rational mind can conceive is lost (Brennan has tried to grasp the metaphysical concept of love).
- Punishment for being overcome by sensual love (Booth, ‘Gambler speech’- enough said ).
- Condemnation for letting reason be swayed by appetite, leading to aimlessness (According to our favourite Chef/Shrink, Brennan is not yet ready to lead an aimless existence).
- Mutual indulgence backsliding into self-indulgence, becoming more cold, empty, and selfish along the way. I saw a major backslide occurring in The Boy with the Answer seeing Brennan take a big step back from the partnership in an attempt to preserve her self-control. Then Booth also takes the option to leave his son to go to Afghanistan, to also do what he believes he does best.
- The hoarder storyline in the ‘Beginning in the End’ was something that I found particularly symbolic of the classic circle of greed. So absorbed in his individual pursuits, the hoarder became estranged from his girlfriend and persuasion became pointless. Similarly Booth and Brennan become self-absorbed, then arguably squandering their relationship, part ways for a year.
Then I turned to them again to speak
and I began: ‘Francesca, your torments
make me weep for grief and pity,
‘but tell me, in that season of sweet sighs,
how and by what signs did Love
acquaint you with your hesitant desires?’
And she to me: ‘There is no greater sorrow
than to recall our time of joy
in wretchedness…and this your teacher knows
Dante to Francesca in the second circle (Inferno, Canto V: 115-123)
Of course, for all of us hoping (along with Cam) that Booth and Brennan would return from their overseas separation and be a ‘real couple’, the opening of Season 6 presented us with a very different kind of Hell. I’m not talking about who is ‘figging’ who here, it’s about ‘what’s up’ between our intrepid partners. This is the lower part of Hell where the malicious sins of envy and pride are punished in the circles of Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. Do we truly see Booth and Brennan as ‘the centre’ anymore? It took Caroline Julian as the lynchpin personality to pull the Squintern team back together. Yet, both Booth and Brennan stake a proud claim to being the lynchpin personality in the season opener. Employing a more concrete metaphor, the lynchpin holds the centre of the team together now.
As the episodes of Season 6 unfold, the awkward undercurrent of discordance between Booth and Brennan has become the norm, rather than an issue that occasionally bubbled to the surface in the past couple of years. Booth, the guy with his heart on his sleeve, is trying his hardest to convince all and sundry that he is in love with his new lady – to a bunch of people (including the fans) who have watched him quietly smitten over Brennan for years. Brennan has wrapped up all those precious admissions celebrating her jagged emotional growth in acid-free paper and archived them, returning to her hyper-rational shell.
Despite their outward protestations that they are happily ‘moving on’ – why don’t we believe them? My humble opinion is that it has absolutely nothing to do superficial issues such as the quality of acting, or writing. The storyline is confronting because it is presenting us with precisely what the majority of us do when adjusting to a new dynamic; adapting to change. Change hurts. It causes suffering. It’s personally expensive and we don’t enjoy paying the price. In an attempt to adapt, we heretically abandon that which we professed to believe in previously, we envy that which we can no longer have, we snark and viciously snipe at those around us, we lie and dissemble around tough moments. Ask anyone who has been through a relationship break-up, or a major life-changing event; or even worse, consider some of your own. It hurts. We often refer to the experience as hellish, or say ‘I went through Hell’. My incredibly long-winded point here is that perhaps we don’t want to, or enjoy seeing Booth and Brennan suffering this kind of Hell, because it is too close to home.
So if these two are in Hell, what happens to Dante on his epic journey? Well, he escapes Hell and reaches Purgatory, before making his way through to Paradise in due course (because seven hundred years ago, the word ‘comedy’ referred to a story for the common people with a happy ending).
we climbed up, he first and I behind him,
far enough to see, through a round opening,
a few of those fair things the heavens bear.
Then we came forth, to see again the stars.
(Inferno, Canto XXXVI: 136-139)
Will Booth and Brennan get their happy ending too? I certainly hope so, but I suspect that they too will have to traverse Purgatory for a time, which in the classical context of ‘Divine Comedy’ examines past motives and seeks a path of redemption through love. Yet again, I find the metaphor is as apt today, as it probably was seven centuries ago. Perhaps once Booth and Brennan emerge to see the star studded sky of Purgatory on their way to Paradise, I’ll have the opportunity to continue on with this metaphor. Until then, I’ll simply have to be content to empathise, to feel, perhaps even celebrate the depth of humanity that these characters have.
So there you have it, a glimpse at the show in the context of an archetypal literary text. And since we’re being literary and all, maybe it’s time to replace that touchstone of ‘eventually’ to a synonym that provides more of a security blanket for the time being, such as ‘in due course’. Okay, okay…only Stephen Fry would really sound good saying that line, but hey…that’s never stopped us before, right? What do you think? Does the idea that B&B are on this journey together give you a little bit of hope? Based on the chart, what other episode moments can you attribute to their journey? Are there other literary texts that remind you of Booth and Brennan? And how happy will you be when they finally reach their ‘Paradise’? Let’s discuss!
References and further reading:
“The Divine Comedy: Introduction.” Epics for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes.com. January 2006. (Accessed: 27 November 2010).
Dorothy L. Sayers. “The Divine Comedy: An Introduction to Dante: The Divine Comedy.” Epics for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1998. eNotes.com. January 2006. (Accessed: 27 November 2010).
Italian and English text of Dante’s Divine Comedy can be found at the Princeton Dante Project. http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/commedia.html
HOLLANDER, R. (1998) The Moral Situation of the Reader of Inferno. Available online at: http://etcweb.princeton.edu/dante/pdp/moralsit.html. Princeton Dante Project
WIKIPEDIA (2010) Inferno (Dante). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Available online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferno_(Dante)