Gosh, posting here for the first time kind of feels like being called up for an Oscar when you don’t think you’re quite worthy; you go up, amazed to be in such illustrious company, and then you pray that you don’t make an utter fool of yourself in the process.
So here it goes, with the disclaimer that English is not my native language, so please bear with my grammar.
I have to confess that the party scene between Brennan and Jared in Con Man in the Meth Lab is always in the back of my mind when I think of Booth. Could (shudder) Jared possibly have been right about Booth? Maybe just a little?
Before y’all start throwing little metal bowls at my forehead, please let me explain. Although I don’t have much respect for Jared or how he treats his brother, I’ll admit that sometimes his words about Booth to Brennan when they’re out on their fancy date get me thinking. “Seeley would never be comfortable in a place like this. It’s like he’s afraid of success…he stays in his comfort zone. It drove our dad nuts. He doesn’t like being visible above the ridge line…keeps his head low. Maybe this is what made him a good sniper.”
Could this part of his assessment of Booth really be right? It makes sense in the context of Booth being a sniper. Clearly the guy has outstanding sharp-shooting skills that are basic requirements for sniping, but the fact that he can make himself inconspicuous to the point of being undetectable has got to play a role in his success, which makes one wonder about his overall level of comfort with being noticed.
So, does this implied discomfort with being seen extend as Jared hints to other aspects of his life? Does Booth habitually sabotage himself? Is he really afraid of success? Do these things necessarily go hand-in-hand? We know by the end of the episode that Jared had it all wrong on this occasion; Brennan freely admits to that.
Seeley’s sabotage was actually an act of self-sacrifice, the giving up of good press and any attending rewards for himself in order to keep his brother out of hot water. But is there a larger truth here about Booth in Jared’s words, words that got dismissed once we all realized what an absolute ass Jared was?
As much as it pains me, I have to agree with Jared on the notion that his brother avoids attracting attention to himself and that this limits his ability to get positive recognition, not only professionally, but even more so in a personal way. It all makes sense to me in the context of Booth’s past, and I hope I can be forgiven for veering off into the Sweetsmeister’s territory.
Booth and Jared grew up in a violent household, one in which unpredictable behavior by an alcoholic dad must have been the norm. I assume that the guy wasn’t drunk or violent 100% of the time, yet figuring out what would trigger an episode or when one would occur must have made living in that house a nightmare. A normal person’s reaction to that environment would have been to lay low. Yet I would posit that Booth would have become his dad’s first target, at least more so than Jared (the mom remains a question mark-one that I for one would love to know more about) due to his need to stand up for others. Booth was the oldest yet at this point most likely not physically intimidating (remember “shrimp?”)
We also know from Jared that his brother protected him from their dad, probably taking more than a few hits for him in the process if Jared’s smart-aleck, happy-go-lucky persona is any indication of his ability to irritate. Cam also said that Booth is always cleaning up after Jared, who invariably comes out “smelling like a rose.” So, is it possible for a person to both try to be invisible and yet constantly face up to an aggressor? Are these two things mutually exclusive?
I look at Booth, and I see perfectly how these things could go hand in hand. He must have gone out of his way to keep a low profile at home; attention is probably never a good thing when you’re living with a human time-bomb. Yet I see his overwhelming need to protect kicking in any time Jared and possibly his mom were in the line of fire.
This contradiction is summed up perfectly when he tells Brennan in The Finger in the Nest (bear with my aging memory) “I told [Parker] to walk away for himself but to fight if it was for others.” So Booth tries to remain invisible for the sake of his own safety, but will not hesitate to take action and become visible in order protect others. Not so terribly different from sniping, I guess, because in order to take the shot you may have to eventually surface above the ridge line.
The invisibility remains even as an adult where he blends into a sea of army uniforms, and later, of dark suits and ties. This isn’t to imply that he isn’t superb at his job or that he refrains from standing out for his skills. The mere fact that Brennan was willing to work with him is a testament to his qualifications.
But still, there doesn’t seem to be much room for recognition in the fields he has chosen-a few awards and an ergonomic chair made available only through Brennan’s intervention seemingly being one of his few, obvious rewards to date. Even Hacker is perplexed by how good Booth comes off compared to him, yet Hacker is the one with all of the promotions and the sexy titles (not that I don’t think “Special Agent Seeley Booth” doesn’t sound sexy enough…)
Booth seems to puts up with this inequity most of the time without complaint. It’s as if he’s come to accept being dismissed as a way of life, possibly a side effect as well of his low self-esteem. So in a way, his efforts at invisibility have become a double-edged sword. While they may help him get through life and job, they also keep him, well, invisible. Gordon Gordon noted how Booth often plays dumb. It’s probably helpful for an investigator to appear to be less intimidating than he is when trying to get information, just as it’s crucial for a sniper to keep a low profile during a mission. And given his background, I could understand why Booth has come to equate not being seen with keeping safe. But we’re often judged by what we appear to be and not necessarily by how we really are. Witness how even after years of working with him Brennan still reached the wrong conclusions about Booth’s “alpha-maleness” in Con Man. Booth’s refusal to explain himself or offer any background information also contribute to his invisibility and to the negative perceptions that tend to surround him.
I maintain that if he’d let people know more about him they’d like him better. I know every time I find out something more about Booth I melt a little inside. We know the truth of Booth (well most of us, anyways) and are dazzled by it. Of course, Brennan likes him well enough now but it took a while to get her there, no thanks to Booth’s reticence. In this regard, his unwillingness to sell himself to others in an attempt to remain safe and keep people away from his perceived shortcomings is decidedly a form of self-sabotage.
It’s interesting to me how once he meets Brennan he seems more willing to stand out, to indulge in little variations on the norm with the socks, ties and belt-buckle. It’s almost as if she gives him the courage to want to stand out from the crowd. Or maybe the incentive, because it’s clear that on some level he wants her to notice him, even if he’s not doing a very good job at it (especially now that we know she thinks his socks are silly-wonder if he’ll be taking them off!) And it’s no coincidence that once he finds out that Brennan and Sully have finally hooked up he immediately makes the comment about needing flashier ties; his need to make himself visible is almost exclusively tied to her. Intriguing too that in his coma dream he wears all sorts of showy, highly individualized clothes. I assume this contribution to the story was his, and not hers. That on a subconscious level he wants to stand out, but he’s hampered by the possible repercussions as they played out in his childhood.
He’s also been willing to give Brennan bits and pieces of himself over the years. It’s been more than he’s given anyone else but it’s still not nearly enough as I see it. Of course I disagree with the implied conclusion that Jared draws: that at some level Booth is a coward and a conformist, and isn’t really worthy of someone as talented and beautiful as Brennan. Outwardly he may conform, but we know that Booth is definitely not a coward and that he doesn’t conform to the rules of the book if the particular book perpetuates an injustice. He follows the spirit, but not necessarily the letter, of the law. And maybe this is why Hacker is outwardly more successful; he sucks up when he has to and makes himself look good on paper when we know that Booth has a hard time doing either of these things.
So, is Booth afraid of success professionally? No, but he does himself a disservice in that he’s unwilling to do the things he needs to do to get ahead in a bureaucracy where plumage and connections are often valued over true worth. And although at some level he must care, I believe that in this area he is secure in the value of his accomplishments whether he gets rewarded for them or not. In many ways, he’s a lot more invested in how Parker, Pops and Brennan perceive him than in how he’s seen on the job. Sadly, he self-sabotages in his personal life as well.
Booth is so inherently uncomfortable with the idea of being noticed that he methodically withholds any information that would shed more light on him and increase his visibility. You can just feel how hard it is for him every time he reveals stuff about himself-it’s like watching a tooth extraction without the patient having the benefit of Novocain. Yet, I’m hopeful that his willingness in Blizzard to open up to Brennan is a sign that he’s putting aside this last of his self-destructive habits. She’s certainly made an effort to make things “safe” for him by virtue of her kindness and loyalty and I hope he’s picked up on that.
Assuming you survived through this post awake, do you agree with my assessment of Booth and his tendency to “self-sabotage”, or do you think I’m oversimplifying (or overcomplicating!) things? Vayan todos con Dios, amigos!