Bones Theory

Clark Kent or Superman-Will the Real Seeley Booth Please Stand Up?

45 Comments

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.

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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!

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45 thoughts on “Clark Kent or Superman-Will the Real Seeley Booth Please Stand Up?

  1. I think that to some degree he does self-sabotage. However, I’ve always felt that even if he got a promotion, he wouldn’t take it unless he could still work with Brennan. Things might change when they are finally an official couple or if they ever get married, but I don’t see her working with anyone else and he seems to convey the same. Granted, the writers are talented and can make anything happen, but that’s just how I see it.

    I think he did (to some degree) sabotage his relationship with Hannah. He tried to do what was right, but his heart wasn’t fully there… just his need to follow through.

  2. I think that you nailed it!

    “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.”

    Very well said. Booth is a great guy, he’s a hero, there is no denying that. But he’s also a product of his upbringing, as is Brennan and Sweets.

    There is a grain of truth in what Jared says, and that is why Brennan is able to believe him…but he’s only right about what you are saying, mariu100. I think Booth definitely has self-sabotaging tendencies. We’ve also seen this in his relationships. I believe he’s subconciously chosen women that will disappoint/leave him/not be “the one”, because he probably thinks he’s not worthy of that kind of love, even though he believes in it.

    I think, going beyond the alchoholic father thing, Booth has a regular touch of firstborn child syndrome. First borns in studies tend to take more responsibility on their shoulders, be more serious, and see success: “Overall, the IQ of the first-born child was higher than the second-born…It can also affect personality, achievement, and career, with first-borns being more academically successful…However, eldest children are less likely to be radical and pioneering.” (Times Online)

    But, we cannot forget the abuse. This can skew the traditional first born tendencies. “In a 2005 study, investigators at the University of Birmingham in Britain examined the case histories of 400 abused children and the 795 siblings of those so-called index kids. In general, they found that when only one child in the family was abused, the scapegoat was usually the eldest. When a younger child was abused, some or all of the other kids usually were as well. Mistreatment of any of the children usually breaks the bond the parents have with the firstborn, turning that child from parental ally to protector of the brood.” (Time Magazine)

    (I’m an eldest sibling myself, and I’ve always been interested in studying birth orders)

    According to these studies, first borns tend to make more money, be more successful, be more intelligent, be the CEO of the family, etc. This might have been Booth’s trajectory, however, his background tweaked that. He took upon himself too much responsibility to his detriment. He’s always righting wrongs and fixing people, behaviors he’s learned since childhood.

    To answer your question specifically, Booth is both Clark Kent and Superman. Booth should naturally be Superman, but his life experiences have brought out and strengthened the Clark Kent side.

    Brennan, well, she helps him bring out that Superman side again. He doesn’t necessarily need to micromanage her like Jared, she’s intelligent and sufficient on her own…but she still needs saving a bit. Brennan, helps him feel like a guy, remember? And, “I find it interesting that I’m only afraid of snakes when Booth is around to be jumped upon.” He’s saved her from being shot, stabbed, being eaten by dogs, buried alive…

    Yes, Booth has been focusing on that Clark Kent side much of his life. He had to. But the great thing about Brennan in his life, is she gives him the confidence to be that Superman, wear the flashy ties and Cocky belt buckle. Thus, the awesomeness of their partnership. 🙂

  3. I think you are onto something. In the first season, before any of the Booth backstory was fleshed out, we saw him refusing to take credit for killing the terrorist in Man in the SUV. Brennan points out that he is giving up a Rose Garden ceremony and he says people shouldn’t get medals for something like that.

    The thing that Booth is really, really good at is….killing people. The thing he is most ashamed about in his life is that he’s killed so many people! No wonder he’s so messed up!

    Jared’s perception that Booth wouldn’t be comfortable at that party is wrong though. Booth is uncomfortable being the center of attention, sure, but he wasn’t hesitant about attending Brennan’s award ceremony in Hero in the Hold or the museum event in Night at the Bones Museum. Which is why I’ve never thought that when he and Brennan became a couple he would be wracked with feelings of unworthiness or what have you. He’s very proud of her and her success. He just doesn’t want any of that acclaim for himself.

    I agree that Booth has low self-esteem. Brennan has been telling him for years that he’s a good man and a good father but he still needs to hear it over and over. People with low self-esteem do tend to self-sabotage. They assume that when people find out the “truth” about them, they will leave anyway, so why not just get the process over with sooner rather than later. There are lots of reasons Booth proposed and that might have been one of them.

    • Congrats on your first post! It was lovely and very thoughtfully done. I agree with Barbara that, both Booth and Brennan are afraid that people will see the truth about them and leave. In the case of self-sabotaging, I don’t know if Booth does it purposefully, but I do think that it happens. At the end of “Daredevil”, we can see this shine through more than ever. He immediately believes that it’s something that HE did, rather than something that went wrong. He takes the blame and especially the guilt, 100% of the time. Poor Booth is a sniper. Talk about cognitive dissonance! It definitely has had a strong affect on who he has become. Combine this with the daddy issues and who knows what could have been. We don’t know the extent of the damage, but we do know that it runs deep. Yet, Booth has managed to become a superhero, in every sense of the word. And yes “We know the truth of Booth (well most of us, anyways) and are dazzled by it.” PS: That line will never get old.

  4. Great post – congrats!

    I love everything you’ve said here – particularly the mirror between fighting for others and fighting for yourself. I definitely think Booth has a tendency to stick up vehemently for those around him and not enough for himself. I’m one of those who wishes Booth had given Brennan what-for when she effectively called him a loser, rather than just walked away, but I know why he didn’t.

    I’m not a fan of Jared, not because he’s relaxed and easy-going compared to his more highly strung older brother, but because he’s so ungrateful for everything Booth’s done for him. Protected him. Physically, emotionally and from the law. He should be more appreciative. But then I often think people should be more appreciative of the things Booth does for them.

    I love the Clark Kent / Superman comparison – the more I think about it, the more it fits!

  5. I really don’t see Booth as self-sabotaging, self-sacrificing yes, but self-sabotaging no. He does put others before himself and that can work to his detriment, but he’s not doing it in order to not succeed (neither consciously, nor subconsciously), he’s doing it because that is who he is; a caretaker, someone who looks out for others.

    Now I really would like to know more about his childhood. About his mother and his relationship with her and where she is now. The stuff with his dad and the abuse and was it always there, or did it start at a certain point. I do think all of that plays a large part in who Booth is now, and I have this whole scenario in my mind in how it all played out. I’d really love for them to reveal all of that in the show that way I’d know if I’m right. 🙂

    As for his position at the FBI, I believe he is very happy where he is, he’s a field agent and that’s what he likes doing. I don’t think his low-profile is holding him back, he has received rewards for his work (remember him turning down a Rose Garden award ceremony — yes more low profile, but still he is given accolades). I’d imagine any promotion would entail less fieldwork if not actually taking him out of the field all together. I view his not getting promotions and such not as self-sabotage, but him knowing what makes him happy and staying there.

  6. I really don’t think career-wise Booth sabotages himself. Being successful and staying out of the spotlight don’t have anything to do with each other. Booth is the best at what he does. That’s success. Staying out of the spotlight just means that he doesn’t require praise and recognition for a job well done. He does the job well because that’s how he’s made. He doesn’t do it because he needs the pat on the back. Jared needs the praise and acceptance shouted loudly before a crowd to feel good about himself. Booth is the “quiet man” who does what is needed and to the best of his ability. As Gordon Gordon said “whatever you aim at-you hit.” Booth is a success. He has a job he excels at, a son who he loves and who loves him back and he has a small, but caring group of friends. As Brennan came to realize, shiny baubles do not make a successful man.

    Relationship wise perhaps he does sabotabe his success by not realizing the women he wants aren’t in the same place as he is or they don’t want the same things as he does; even if they love him. They aren’t on the same page or the right place in their lives to be what he needs them to be. I think however, that he has finally learned that lesson and is now biding his time with Brennan so they can move forward to a relationship they are both ready for.

  7. I would disagree that someone who does his job, is good at his job, but shuns the limelight is somehow sabotaging themselves or is weaker than those who crave the spotlight. In fact, throughout history there are “powers behind the throne,” so to speak. The people who truly weld the power but do it through someone who can be controlled because of their desire for fame or attention.

    The situation with Jared is an example of Booth sacrificing for his brother something he had earned. Before Jared broke ignorant, Booth was looking forward to the attention and the rewards that would come from breaking the case. It takes a very strong person to sacrifice that much, especially when Booth acted that way not expecting anyone to find out about it. Not only did he give up his glory and Hawaiian vacation, but he didn’t blame Jared for it. Not out loud, anyway.

    It takes a much stronger person to live quietly, to “keep your head down” than it does to constantly seek attention. Booth is getting ahead in a way he can live with, and that doesn’t include smoozing with the bigwigs or kissing ass.

    I think Jared was right about Booth and that party, but for the wrong reasons. The men at that party were pencil-pushers, men who sat behind the safety of desks and sent others to do the dirty work. Booth would see right through them.

    • MJ, on the comment to your party, I have another insight. I don’t know if this was ignorance by the writers, but Jared was shown as a Lieutenant Commander, which is a very junior rank at the Pentagon. They do a lot of stubby pencil and scut work. So even Jared’s own claims of being important are either a lie, or an exaggeration or just sloppy writing. He wouldn’t be head of anything, but the third deputy under-assistant’s helper. That may not have been the writer’s intent, but it makes Jared look even more devious and petty to me, along with some added disappointment that Brennan didn’t see though his posturing.

  8. Caprigirl and MJ, I got a different impression from the post completely. I don’t think that mariu100 is saying that Booth’s career is a failure or a deliberate sabotage, but merely just wondering if Booth choosing to be a sniper is indicative of his desire to stay out of the spotlight/not comfortable with praise and attention focused on him. Not that the career is a failure or sabotage, but more just self-sacrificing. I think there is truth to this. Gordon Gordon called Booth out on downplaying his intelligence to others, and so I think perhaps his chosen route in the military might be a manifestion of this. Yes, Booth gets the job done, but quietly and off the radar. He clearly is intelligent and skilled enough to do any number of jobs, so why choose sniper? I think it is a question worth considering. Not that I have an official answer, but it is interesting to think of maybe the “whys” behind it. I had not really thought of that before this post and the wheels are still turning in my head as I think about it!

  9. First, congrats on your first BT post! You did an amazing job of laying out your thoughts, particularly for someone for whom English is not your first language.

    That said…I mostly disagree with what you’ve said. Some of it I’ll be going into with my follow-up post to Booth as gambler, about the effects of being the son of an alcoholic abuser, but for now I’ll just make a note of a few things.

    You’re right, I think, in that he doesn’t see the need to draw attention to his accomplishments, but that’s not the same thing as sabotaging himself. It also has as much to do, I think, with Hank’s influence as anything. Hank is of the generation of men who were taught to do the job and deflect glory, and I think we see that – and a number of other things – reflected in Booth. I think to look at Booth’s childhood and see only the impact of the abusive drunk and not the influence of the grandfather who rescued and raised him (as Hank himself claims) is to see only part of the picture about Booth.

    The reality is that Booth is a very successful man – he just doesn’t feel the need to introduce himself as, ‘Hi, I’m a Very Successful Man’ the way Jared and Hacker do. Beyond the fact that the army views him as successful enough to want him back – and not just as a sniper, as if his only value to them was shooting people from distance – he appears to hold a position of some significance and leadership within the FBI – something I feel is being ignored here.

    Being a Special Agent implies a certain amount of success in the Bureau. Plus, they have always given him some leeway with Brennan, which implies that his superiors trust him, trust his judgment. We see that in the pilot, even.

    The other agents are in the bullpen; he has his own office. In Harbingers, we see him function in a supervisory role over other agents – he has the right to give a roomful of them instructions on finding the spear gun, and even when they think it can’t be done, they leave to make the effort. He had the right to tell them what to do, which someone of a lower status wouldn’t have. He may not be their boss (though given the position of his office in respect to the bullpen, that may be possible) but there’s no question that he’s running that task force – and those other agents.

    He plainly thinks Hacker’s an idiot, and I, at least, never pick up any jealousy of him (well, not in respect to his position, at least). There are people in the world who don’t equate success with promotions, and I think Booth is one of those people. He knows what he’s good at and he enjoys it. He has a goal – to catch as many killers as those he’s killed – and being promoted would end that goal. (Hacker and Cullen and those in their types of roles do not typically go out into the field.)

    Does that mean he at times wants to be acknowledged? Sure – who doesn’t? But I suspect the acknowledgement of those he respects matters to him a great deal more than simply being promoted.

    So you’re right in noting that we don’t see him trying to draw attention to himself. But as to why, and whether that has much to do with the role he occupies (his success or lack thereof)…I don’t really think so. He had the money to buy a very expensive ring and then toss it away, which implies some financial success, despite his lifestyle. (Grumbling about plumbing expenses, etc.)

    • rynogeny, all FBI agents are Special Agents. “Special” is not a special designation. An agent is called a Special Agent from his first day out of the Academy.

      The correct title for a Special Agent with higher “rank” is Supervisory Special Agent. Which has never been Booth’s title.

      I’m sorry but I see this all the time and it drives me nuts. When Booth points out the “special” in Special Agent, he’s making a joke. There is no just plain Agent.

      • Actually, I suspect he’s at the rank of ‘Senior Special Agent.’ (I found a description of this rank at the FBI website a while back. Unfortunately, I can’t find it in a quick search this morning and don’t have time to do a more in-depth hunt.) He’s not in the bullpen, and appears to have some supervisory responsibilities. Marliu commented negatively on it taking Brennan’s assistance to get him the chair without noting the higher, IMO, significance of his office.

        People who think he’s just a low level FBI grunt are going to see that, regardless. But I don’t think it’s supported by the show. I really don’t. 🙂

      • I don’t think he’s a low level grunt, rynogeny. I just think it’s silly to emphasize the Special in Special Agent, when it is not actually significant.

        People take a scene in which Booth points out his nameplate to a child and says “see, I’m Special Agent Seeley Booth” and use that to extrapolate a scenario that is factually incorrect. That just annoys me.

        Your other examples make sense. Your emphasis on his title does not.

      • Honestly, while you’re correct (of course!) about the pay grades, etc., it’s worth noting that the show doesn’t bother with that level of details and accuracy. That’s why I think noting what the show actually shows is more relevant. (And in terms of his worth despite not calling attention to himself – see Brennan’s conclusion at the end of Con Man.)

        You’re right that I shouldn’t have noted the Special Agent designation as important…beyond that being an FBI agent in the first place implies success that many aren’t seeing here. I had a friend in college who went through all kinds of hoops to be accepted at Quantico, and then noted that the training was more challenging that anything he’d ever attempted before.

        That’s probably factoring into what I’m seeing when I’m looking not only at that but also the trust we see his superiors have in him, the fact that he does have supervisory responsibilities, etc. He’s a very successful man from a career point of view.

    • that doesn’t mean your examples of his authority (the office, giving instructions, etc) aren’t valid, it just means the show needs to promote him already.

      • But I really think from where he is right now any promotion would take him out of the field. I don’t think Booth wants out of fieldwork right now, I don’t think the show wants to go that route, and I might be wrong, but I don’t think the majority of the fans would be happy with that route.

      • That’s fine, but we can’t point to the title “Special Agent” as indicative of Booth’s status in the Bureau because it’s not. Special Agent is the title all agents have unless they are promoted. It’s just something I see all the time in fanfics or on the boards and it’s a peeve of mine.

      • I should also add that SSAs still do field work. Special Agent is at a pay grade of GS10-GS13.

        SSA is GS14 and GS15. It’s about pay scale as much as authority.

      • I wasn’t debating the fact that all FBI agents are called Special Agents. I’ve known that for years…at least since my X-Files days. 🙂

        SSA is Supervisory Special Agent isn’t it? Do we know for a fact that this is not what Booth is? All of the stuff Ryn described would seem to fit with that, and if it was his title would that mean he’d list that long title when he introduced himself?

        I really think it’s just the structure of the show that has Booth were he is not any self-sabatoging inclination of Booth. They want to tell specific stories in a certain way and to do that Booth needs to be a field agent, not someone with an excessive amount of supervisory duties, but someone with enough authority to get things done.

      • Can I just butt in here and point out that it says SSA on Booth’s badge

  10. I can’t speak to Booth’s personal motivations for being a sniper because I don’t think we’ve heard anything about that. But I do believe that Jared was completely wrong about what type of person Booth must be to want to be a sniper. Especially a Army Ranger sniper.

    My first husband was an Army Ranger. Except for the Navy Seals – and we all know Seals are the toughest mo’fos out there – Rangers are the baddest of the bad. You have to be one cocky SOB to want to go through that training and to actually survive it, you have to prove you are that cocky SOB. The last time I did any research, the attrition rate through Ranger training is something like 40%. It’s not like earning your jump wings, which almost anyone can do.

    Rangers don’t become snipers because they want to keep their heads down and stay off the ridgeline. They become snipers because (i) they’re marksmen and (ii) they CAN keep their heads down. They don’t make stupid moves that are liable to get them and/or their spotter killed. They’re slow and deliberate and think things through and don’t act irrationally. And they’re strong enough emotionally and mentally for the stresses of being a killer.

    Jared is a typical male peacock who doesn’t understand that all those feathers are just decoration, not armour.

  11. I think what Booth needs to realize is that he can’t be a superman, but that he is a good man and that he can be loved as such, just a human being with needs other than the need to be needed and fix everything for everyone all the time, which in the end doesn’t even help his loved ones because it’s belittling for them and makes them needy/dependent, or himself cause he is scarifying his own needs.

  12. Wow! Great post! Because everyone else has said a lot of great things I think I’ll just simply say this: I’ve always thought Clark Kent was hotter than Superman. Oh and Booth is just plain old smokin’ hot. (Yes, I know this is pretty shallow but to get to the deep end without drown we all need a little bit of shallow in us, right?)

  13. Maria – congrats on your first post! I second what rynogeny said – this is quite well written and had you not said anything, I would have never guessed that English is not your first language.

    Your argument about Booth’s home life was compelling to say the least, and I truly enjoyed reading it but…I have to agree with Frankie, MJ, Lisa, and rynogeny when it comes to the self-sabotage. I just don’t see it – not on a personal or a professional, conscious or sub-conscious, level. I get that Booth plays dumb and that with how good he is at his job, he should probably be more than just a field agent (albeit one with his own office) by now, but I just don’t necessarily see that as indicative of him purposely holding himself back.

    Booth does his job and he does it well. And furthermore, I think he loves what he does (not the least of which is because it allows him to work with Brennan). Not everyone would be happy doing what Hacker does – and I definitely see Booth as being one of those people. Just because someone CAN move up the ladder into a supervisory position doesn’t mean they should or that there’s anything wrong with them if they don’t want to. Booth doesn’t want to be the cookie-cutter, standard-issue agent he would need to be in order to “make it,” not to mention the fact that he has no desire to play office politics or kiss the number of butts he would have to kiss (a la Hacker) in order to make it up the ladder.

    I also think it’s safe to say that whether he looks for it or not, that Booth has received plenty of public recognition for his work with Brennan. If I remember correctly, we see him looking through a file folder of newspaper clippings about his and Brennan’s work/partnership in Harbingers.

    Unlike Jared and Hacker who are preoccupied with outward appearances, Booth is strong and secure enough to BE Superman and still be content to let the world think he’s Clark Kent. And I really, honestly love him for it.

  14. I can’t reply 0n my ph0ne t0 the wh0le special agent discussi0n but d0es any0ne remember if they call per0tta agent 0r special agent? I think they said agent t0 diffrentiate btwn their status. but n0w I’m learning special d0esnt mean anything 😦

  15. Thank you for all of the kind comments; and thanks to Seels for posting my essay and adding the pictures since my computer skills are practically non-existent. I think that BB above was closer to my idea about what is behind Booth’s career choice. Not that he’s afraid of success per se, just that someone with his incredible abilities would choose a line of work where an individual has a hard time standing out for them. Of course, I don’t believe it’s quite as simple as that, nor do I want to downplay Pop’s influence on him. Booth’s ability to harness his anger and use it for something positive is most likely a direct result of Pop’s rescue. Where other people have turned to a purposeless life because of their upbringing, both Booth and Jared became successful in different ways. Pop’s influence is also seen in how loving and patient Booth is with Parker and also with Brennan and the other women in his life, since the abused so often become abusers themselves and this is obviously not the case with Booth.

    Regarding his career, Booth comes from a long line of military men so the military and then the FBI must have seemed like natural choices for him. I also think he felt comfortable working in regimentalized environments where he could find direction and where causes and consequences were clearly spelled out, a probable reaction to the unpredicatble nature of his chaotic upbringing. There’s also the issue of atonement for what his relative did to president Lincoln; paying back to the country for what Wilkes Booth took away. Still, I’ve always gotten the feeling from Booth that he’s uncomfortable with being too visible, including in his job, which in a way has been reinforced for me by many moments in the show. We wouldn’t think that the socks, the ties and the belt buckle are significant but for the fact that that they have been made significant as evidence of an emerging desire to be noticed. But I never meant to imply that he’s unhappy with the level of success in his career; I agree with all who said that a promotion would result in great unhappiness for him if it meant that he couldn’t work with Brennan or that he would spend a lot less time in the field doing paperwork instead. Agreed too that he has a nice office, so he’s obviously higher up the food chain than some of his peers-but this may be a function of seniority and years of service-so I’m not entirely sure the office itself is proof of a reward. Regardless, invisibility is more of an issue for him in his personal life and much less so in his professional one. As someone who worked for the government, I never minded being considered somewhat of a drone with limited chances for recognition. When the rewards came, they were welcome; but mainly, I got all the satisfaction I ever needed from knowing that I was in a position to help people and that I actually did.

    • Speaking of John Wilkes Booth, I had a thought recently related to a discussion earlier relating to sniper vs. assassin.

      When you think about it, Booth isn’t so far removed from his inglorious ancestor. JWB considered himself a patriot and viewed his assassination of President Lincoln from the viewpoint of a patriot. Booth considers himself a patriot, and his killing of sanctioned targets from that point of view.

      (btw, also congrats on a really good post. Obviously it’s thought-provoking and if you had not mentioned that English was not your native language, I wouldn’t have known.)

      • “When you think about it, Booth isn’t so far removed from his inglorious ancestor.”

        Just don’t mention that to Booth. Or if you do, make sure that you reaffirm that he’s good 😉

      • 😀 😀 😀

        Booth…..good. JWB…..bad.

        Got it.

  16. Thanks for sharing….great post!

  17. I agree with Frankie, I don’t I think Booth is self-sabatoging. He was actually looking forward to the aclaim he was going to get for the RICO case in The Con Man In The Meth Lab. He lost that aclaim rescuing Jared from a disaster. Jared could have lost his position in the Navy if Booth didn’t give the RICO case to the State Police so Booth did it. It wasn’t sabatoge; but, an act of duty.

    Booth has a very protective personality and it is almost a compulsion to fix the things that are broken. He feels responsible for the people he loves and thinks that they come first, not him. This in turn does cause him to have low self-esteem as you can’t capture glory if you are looking out for someone elses. Since he has grown to love Brennan and fears being seperated from her partnership, he will give up any movement up the chain to stay with her. To me this is not self-sabatoge; but, love. He is where he wants to be in his career and it is not wrong if that is what you want.

    As for his problem with the women in his life, he has (or at least had) a fairy tale idea of marriage and has been looking for that “happily ever after” moment for a long time. Since his childhood was a horror show, he must have idealized the marriage of his grandfather, Pops. He wants to be married and has searched for that idea of marriage with women who don’t believe the same things he does. He is drawn to smart and successfull women. His idealized version of “happily ever after” is not their version and this is where he has failed. I think if her stops thinking of marriage as a quest; but, as the result of finding true love, he will be better off.

    A comment about being a sniper and a Ranger. This is a specialized field in the Army and only a small select few achieve that. Booth is a sniper because he is patient when he needs to be and is patriotic enough to want to do the job. That he feels guilty for killing so many (even though he did it for his country) is because he is a fixer not an undoer. He doesn’t want to be the executioner; but, the one who stops the evil doers and makes them stand before justice. He believes in justice and helping the weak when they are mis-used. He values life and the accumulation of dead bodies had to wear on him. That he gave up the Army and moved into the FBI to bring a voice to those that don’t have one is admirable and heroic. He is Clark Kent doing a Superman job.

  18. I have a slightly different take on why Booth does not seek the limelight. I think it is to protect his relationship, both professional and personal, with Brennan. We continually hear her say that she is the foremost expert in her field, a best selling book author and, to Cam, the most valuable member at the Jeffersonian. He lets her have the glory, recognization and supports her in any way he can. He is proud of her and her accomplishments. A less mature man would throw his hands in the air or ask for a transfer when she constantly needs to assure, at least herself, that she is the best thing to ever happen to the Jeffersonian. Thank goodness her work group understands and tolerates her idiosyncrasies and lack of humility. It does make for amusing television.

  19. I see Booth as an action guy, through and through. He likes “to hunt,” and he describes himself as a full-speed kind of a guy. He fidgets when he has to sit still. He’s happiest when he’s out in the field doing what he does best. He would be miserable sitting behind a desk all day, playing the bureaucratic game, like Hacker does.

    As MJ pointed out, going through the rigorous training to be a Ranger, and then a sniper, means Booth is tough as leather. In one of my last posts, I commented that Booth excels at everything physical he does. He’s confident in his abilities, and he wouldn’t be able to do any of these things if he continually second-guessed, self-sabotaged or doubted himself. It’s only when his emotions take center stage that he falters, and his low self esteem only shows up in his personal relationships, which are connected to his abusive childhood. Another day…another post.

    Booth doesn’t draw attention to himself, unless he’s done something extraordinary…like the Rico bust in Con Man. That was a big deal…and Booth knew it…so he wasn’t bashful at accepting the accolades for his actions. And this situation is different than what he did in Man in the SUV. Turning down an award in the Rose Garden was the Booth that doesn’t feel a hero at taking out the bomber. It was another instance when he did the right thing…for the common good…but it involved taking a life. He never gets over that life or any other he’s taken. In Con Man, he didn’t have to kill anyone…it was his skill and expertise as an FBI agent that sealed the case. That he can be proud of. He didn’t have to resort to violence or killing.

    Part of the reason I love Booth is that in many ways he reminds me so much of my late husband, who was a Green Beret and a paratrooper (he figured that was the way to overcome his fear of heights)…an optimistic man of action. He was highly intelligent, excelled in everything he set his mind to, and never drew attention to himself. Always on the go, he hated being idle. Professionally, he could have been anything he wanted…but he worked only to sustain us comfortably, choosing to enjoy life, rather than worry about how high he could climb a corporate ladder. He hated small talk and large social gatherings…yet when forced to attend one, he made the best of it and frequently ended up being the life of the party. He had a quirky sense of humor, enjoyed teasing the heck out of me, and was the first to pitch in and help his friends whenever they needed him. Like Booth, he wore a noticeably different belt buckle, although not a “Cocky” type, and displayed other little rebellious signs that set him apart from the rest. I don’t mean to paint the picture of perfection, because he did have flaws, as we all do, but his attributes far outweighed any shortcomings…and this is how I see Booth. So, forgive me if I’m a little biased where Booth is concerned. I’ve lived with one. 😀

    I think Booth said it best in The Blonde in the Game, when he admits that if you have to tell everyone you’re a hero, it doesn’t make you one…something along those lines (sorry I can’t remember the exact words). And I recently read an article about heroes, and it was mentioned that part of being a hero is that even if defeated, a hero will pick himself up and keep on fighting. Never give up. That defines Booth in a nutshell. Regardless of his childhood, his sniper past, his failed relationships, he dusts himself off and keeps on trying…to be better.

    Clark Kent is the persona Booth wears on the outside, but he’s all Superman on the inside.

  20. My dad is the child of an abusive alcoholic. His experience with his father is different than the relationship his youngest sister had with their father. Being the youngest she was often unaware of what was going on in the house and only remembers the good things she shared with her father. My father being older understood what was going on and was more affected by his father’s drinking and abuse. I sometimes wonder if it isn’t the same for Booth and Jared. Do we know how many years are between Booth and Jared? I think the difference in attitudes towards each other and their differing personalities could be attributed to how each one remembers what happened when they were younger. Their differing experiences and memories can make each see the other differently, and determine how they might act toward each other.

    Adults who grew up in an environment with an abusive alcoholic parent often crave stability. My dad does, especially. He doesn’t like change and is content where he feels safe and secure. My dad has had the same job for fifty years and never even imagined doing anything different. I see this in Booth. He likes his job, his apartment and doesn’t seem to strive for more than he has. He is fine where he is at. He is only discontent in his personal relationships. He likes his job as it is and I don’t feel like he aspires to change what he is doing. Advancement isn’t his priority.

    I think Booth feels like he needs to be Superman, but would really prefer to just be Clark Kent. I get the feeling that Booth tries to be everthing to everybody, and sometimes forgets about Booth. He lets those around him see the Superman side of himself, while keeping the Clark Kent part hidden away. What would make Booth happy? How does he go about getting that? This is something Booth doesn’t always strive for. He takes chances but never follows them through to the end. Its like he is afraid to ask for more and puts up with less. This can go back to his relationship with his father. He wanted the the father he loved, not the father he feared. No matter what he probably did he wasn’t able to get what he wanted though. Booth doesn’t expect more than what he already has. He expects to be often disappointed and doesn’t always fight to change this. Low self-esteem could be the root of Booth’s problem. I see the abused child in my dad still. His father has been dead for almost forty years. That experience never goes away. I also see glimpses of this in Booth, too. He is never able to get away from that part of his past. He’ll settle for being Superman because he doesn’t think he’ll ever get to be Clark Kent.

    • I agree. I think Booth is Superman on the outside and Clark Kent on the inside, because he believes he has to be superman/perfect to be loved, that otherwise is not valuable with his shortcomings/needs/weaknesses.
      Just like Sully said about Brennan in the end of bodies in the book, I think Booth is afraid his loved ones will leave if he has needs, if he needs them, if he is vulnerable. That he is only valuable if he is the rock that takes care of everything and doesn’t need to be taken care of. But he is just a man, not a superman, so he does need to be taken care of too sometimes.
      And if he really wants his loved ones to be happy, he needs to be happy too and not just by making them happy by taking care of everything, but by letting them take care of him and his happiness too directly, and letting them enjoy his happiness when his needs are fulfilled/desires too.
      Everybody has the need to be needed, not just Booth, and everybody has more than the need to be needed, and everybody has the need to fix some things themselves. You feel belittled when there is always someone who wants to do everything for you like you wouldn’t be able to do it, like they think less of you.
      I don’t mind Booth helping Brennan, but just when she really needs it, and he should let her help him too directly and not just asking her to fulfill his need to be needed.

      JMO 🙂

      • IMO, Booth’s need to be needed is an issue that comes from his abusive childhood, and if Brennan is supposed to overcome her childhood issues, I think it is only fair to expect Booth to overcome his. I find unfair to expect Booth to be a hero IMO ^^

  21. Love, love, love the comparison to Superman/Clark Kent. I think Booth and Bones are a lot like Lois and Clark. Actually, the reason I started watching Bones is because I loved Lois&Clark so much back in the day and this show reminds me of L&C.

    Congrats on your first post and FYI, your English is great! It is not my first language either so I know the feeling 🙂

  22. Excellent post that points up the complexity of Booth. While he has many of the attributes of the first-born child and family hero, he also has the scars of growing up in an abusive home. He wants recognition but even that is controlled by the person he’s seeking recognition from.

    The mantle of Superman is inherent in his role as an FBI agent, as a sniper, as a protector. But so much of Booth is about being the common man who disguises his abilities behind a veneer meant to hide his true desires. It’s interesting that Booth chooses to solve murders, especially some of the most disturbing murders, just as it’s interesting that he takes on a most unsavory task of being a sniper. Both jobs are truly horrific in their own ways and demand the person performing the jobs has specific skills sets as well as the personal values and fortitude to deal with what most people would rather not deal with. Again, it points up the complexity of the man which you define so well within your post.

  23. (To get the comments) 🙂

  24. fantastic post – some really interesting insights and ideas.

  25. Thank you for your post which is really tought-provoking as somebody already said. Now, a question that is always in the back of my mind regarding his office is that : could he have been promoted and received a closed office between their first case (the 100th ep) and the pilot? Because in the 100th ep, he shares a regular office space, but in the pilot (if not mistaken) he has his new closed office. I always wondered if this wasn’t a result of their first case together, the one that Brennan totally cracked for him! If yes, then maybe that does add up to the drinking-dad issues regarding the low self-esteem (more in the sense that he owes her something for that). While his guts could tell him right from the start that the guy was guilty, it was Brennan who found the motive and that was what put the guy away …
    I agree with those of you who wants to know more about his mom and his past in general. We know that when Pops took over, she was already not there anymore… And the fact that he never talks about her … I really wish we get more information on that side of him!

  26. First off congrats on your first Bones Theory post!!

    Now secondly i need to apologise…i am having a ‘thick’ moment (….ok ok. Day!) and i can almost guarantee this will make no sense. Don’t say i didn’t warn you!

    I both agree and disagree with your post. I think with regards to his personal life he does self-sabotage. (I actually had this discussion on Twitter a while back with some fellow Bones fans…i couldn’t think of how to sum up his attitude to his personal life and eventually settled on ‘self sabotage’. Spooky! Great minds think alike 😛 ),

    Particularly i’m thinking of the two big relationships we’ve been allowed to see, Brennan and Hannah. (Can’t count Rebecca as we don’t know enough about their past to say for sure or not). With both Brennan and Hannah, Booth offered them something he knew they would turn down…or that they couldn’t accept. For Brennan it was an offer based on feelings and charming ancedotes. For Hannah it was marriage. Both things he did freely knowing he wouldn’t get the answer he wanted. (You can try telling me he didn’t know but i won’t buy it! The man isn’t an idiot!) He may not have done it consciously but he did it…kind of like he was forcing the other person to end the relationship for him, reaffirming his idea that he’s not ‘worth it’…whatever it may be!

    That made no sense, did it?

    Anyhoo…re his professional life i do disagree. Booth is an FBI agent yes, and he doesn’t have a fancy title but i think it’s clear from what we’ve seen that he has seniority. For one he has his own office where as when we first meet him in the 100th he was in the bullpen with all the other agents. We also see it in his interactions with the other agents. He has status within the FBI…even if he doesn’t have the relevant title to go with it.

    For me, his professional career is the area where he most excels. He is good at his job, he takes pride in his job and he stands up to be counted in his job.

    OK…if any of this made any sense i’ll eat my hat. It’s been a long old week!!!

    Once again congrats on your first BT post! 😀

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