Sunday, January 01, 2006

Casual Racism Tuesdays

So I’m watching Bones. I kinda like the show, even if it is a little too episode-of-the-week-y for me. (I blame CSI and Law and Order for ruining the idea of subtextual character development. Bones is such an X-Files clone that you’d think the creators, while cataloging old Files episodes, would’ve realized that Mulder and Scully actually evolved, albeit incrementally, each installment.) Anyway, years of watching Buffy and Angel have left me a little predisposed to David Boreanaz. So I watch Bones.

This particular episode is about a hip-hop artist who is found mummified inside the walls of a popular nightclub. And then the investigation blah blah blah.

But here’s where the show kind of offended me: Every chance they get, Forensic Doctor Hottie comments on how she likes hip-hop. But she doesn’t like it because she likes it, she likes it because of its intrinsic anthropological value. Because of what it says beneath the surface, the assertion of the alpha male through taunts, the basic tribal call-and-response, etc. And so we have a white character who can only like black music by observing it through the lens of study, through the guise of information gathering.

And what, exactly is wrong with the surface? What is wrong with liking something for the way it makes you feel? Yes, you can analyze comedy until the borscht-belt cows come home, but we like comedies because they make us laugh. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you like hip-hop because it makes you wanna shake your ass. The fact that Dr. Hottie couldn’t, the fact that she is, essentially, the Great White Hunter in Darkest Africa tickled by what the Natives Do Amongst Themselves amounts to a lazy racism.

The sad thing is that the production staff at Bones was probably pleased with themselves for doing such a “diverse” show. Look, ma…black actors and everything! Too bad no one bothered to give the script the other think it had coming.


Jodi Davis said...


So there is nothing wrong with admitting that hip-hop makes you want to shake your ass - BUT... that character would have been out of character to say that. She breaks everything down like that.

I don't think having hip hop in your show makes it diverse - but I dont' think letting the character keep that character integrity makes it racist either.

marc bernardin said...

Wow...I wish I had a prize for "1st person to leave a comment." Alas, that wasn't part of the Blogger For Idiots Set-Up Kit.

I agree with you, that Bones does go down that road with everything. But, from a showrunner's point of view, they never should've put her at the head of that trail. I find the ugliness to come from the producers, not the character.

But that's just me.

Drew Melbourne said...

I guess the question is "To what extent does expressing a point of view equate to endorsing it?" I suspect the writer of that episode got to a certain point in the script and said, "Wouldn't it be interesting if Bones thought X?"

And yet there is a certain ethical responsibility that writers must accept for the way they present their work. "This just happens to be a guy that really likes watermellon and fried chicken" is not a good excuse.

I think the trick might be to identify those concepts that are ethically questionable and use context and opposing points of view to make clear that these are the opinions of a character and not the show itself.

Jodi Davis said...

I found it more offensive that their only show with some color involved hip hop and cocaine (or whatever drug that was in the walls.) Unless the drunken indian game warden one counts...

I'll happily take my no-prize for first comment - Thank you little people.