Dr. Temperance Brennan: I’ve never gotten a B and I never will.
Special Agent Seeley Booth: That’s my girl.

Temperence BrennanBy far, the character of Dr. Temperence Brennan is quite a step forward for female characters and Danger Gals everywhere for several reasons:

(1) Brennan doesn’t need a man for anything. If she can power a cell phone with the horn of her car (“Aliens in a Spaceship“), then I’m sure she can open a jar without manly muscles or change a flat tire.

(2) She’s highly intelligent and never hides the fact to make others feel better about themselves, something many girls and women do to make the men in their lives feel more intelligent.

(3) The show subverts the typical emotions=female and logic=male by attributing intuition to Booth and logic to Bones. In this show, Brennan is an atheist and Booth is the good Catholic boy who believes in God.

(4) Physically, Brennan can defend herself within reasonable expectations. Also, she continues to use her intelligence to not get herself into physical situations where she must be rescued.

Emily Deschanel who portrays Bones in the series has compared Brennan to a cracked egg:

“She’s very flawed in odd ways, but there’s something admirable, I think, in her attempt to move forward and put herself back together, like Humpty Dumpty.”

I don’t know that I’d call Brennan flawed so much as just someone who missed out on cultural and generational touchpoints. First she missed out on life due to being in the foster care system and then she missed out on other touchpoints by being more involved in academics than socializing.

Brennan is constantly learning, constantly observing. She may not know how to stereotypically act “like a girl’ — and SBG over at The Hathor Legacy has pointed out that trying to act like a stereotypical “girl” doesn’t get Brennan anywhere — but she has healthy interactions with other people. Her brain has only made her more endearing to those friends and lovers in her life. Certainly her intelligence hasn’t intimidated Booth, although they share issues of primacy in their respective areas of expertise.

Carly at Empowerment4Women points out about Brennan and the show:

A show about a woman doctor (Dr. Temperance Brennan, played by Emily Deschanel) whose main priority is her career but who also has a heart and a connection to her friends and family. But guess what? She doesn’t have children and doesn’t want any children. And she still, somehow, isn’t made out to be some sort of heartless villain. And did I mention that her boss (Tamara Taylor as Dr. Camille Saroyan) isn’t interested in spreading her gene pool either?

I suspect that if the series runs long enough the writers will bring up this issue again simply for the mileage they can get from Brennan’s childhood. However, even should Brennan decide to procreate at some point, it won’t be about completing herself as a woman or about being valuable to society because of her reproductive ability. It will be a choice Brennan makes, a path she decides to take for her life.

[Just for my bud Leslie]

5 Responses to “Danger Gal Friday: Dr. Temperance Brennan”

  1. Hi Lisa,

    Thanks for the link back – and for this great post! You’re so right – if Brennan decides to have a family, it will be for her own unique reasons. She is such a strong character – I can hardly wait to see where the show’s writers take her.

    On another note, I’ve really enjoyed looking more through your work… and have immediately subscribed to your blog’s RSS feed. Best of luck with your projects! If there’s anything we can do to help promote you and your work over at E4W (www.e4w.org), just let me know. We’re always on the prowl to work with some empowered (or, hey, in your case, “dangerous”) women. 🙂


  2. Thanks Carly! I really enjoyed your blog too. Brennan is new enough that few people are dissecting her as a Feminist character, but I think that will change soon.

    Please stop back and don’t hesitate to make a Danger Gal nomination. I’m always looking for suggestions.

  3. WOO HOO! Thanks for this Danger Gal post. I love Dr. Brennan and I love the show. It might have something to do with my love for Anthropology, or perhaps it’s that she’s a kick-ass character but not heartless. The subtleness of the show is just as powerful as the humor. She’s definitely my favorite character on TV right now!

    YOU ROCK!! Thanks!!

    ~ Leslie

  4. Brennan is a good character but I can’t help but always compare this show to a great British mystery show called Wire in the Blood. WITB doesn’t have as many of the comic twists as Bones but it does have a simular character dynamic only the sexes are flipped…Tony Hill the male lead is a quirky psychologist and the female lead Carol Jordan is a Detective Inspector. Carol is such a great female character, strong, independant and really smart and that’s so rare on TV.

  5. Thanks for commenting, Becca. I haven’t seen Wire in the Blood, but it does look very interesting. I’ll see if I can set my DVR to record it. Perhaps Carol Jordan should be the subject of a future Danger Gal post.

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