Loose Ends from a Fan (Personal Reflections on Bones)

(For Karen)

“‘I will show you fear in a handful of dust.’ — T.S. Eliot. We don’t actually fear death. We fear that no one will notice our absence, that we will disappear without a trace.” – (Dr. Gadh, The Doctor in the Photo)

I’m thinking a lot about my friend Karen today.

She was such an important part of my life for so long, that few are the days she doesn’t pop into my mind at some point, but today? Yeah, she’s front and center, and it’s making me bit weepier than I would already be.

Karen died in 2014 after a long health battle, and I eulogized her then in this post, but I barely mentioned that she was responsible for my love of Bones.

She knew me well enough to know I’d like the show if I’d only sit down and give it a chance, and so she kept telling me to do just that, at every opportunity, for the first three seasons of the show. I meant to, honest! But I was working two jobs, and the sister who’d raised me was fighting cancer (resulting in my traveling from Chicago to Indianapolis about every weekend for close to a year) and television was even less on my radar than usual.

I do remember noticing when others would talk about the show, though (including a discussion on a writer’s email list I was on about the kiss in The Santa in the Slush) and promising myself the day would come when I’d check it out.

Meanwhile, Karen, taking all the prizes on the World’s Most Determined Friend front, recorded a few eps of S1 from TNT onto homemade DVDs and sent them to me. Fast-forward two months: I’d lost my job (this was in 2009), moved to Indianapolis, my sister had died, and I was job-hunting.

Emotionally tapped – I remember this being one of the few times in my life I couldn’t concentrate on books – I picked up the first of the DVDs Karen had made me, and watched The Man in the Fallout Shelter and Two Bodies in the Lab, postponed dinner, and then watched The Woman in Limbo. Twice.

I had a gift card someone had given me after my sister’s death, so I promptly used that to buy Seasons 1-3 (the only ones currently available on DVD), and discovered I could buy S4 (which had just ended) on what was then called Amazon Unbox.

I watched all eighty-four episodes in two weeks, and then went looking for people to discuss my new obsession with. Karen, of course, was delighted (and not remotely above saying, “I told you so,”) so if anything I’ve ever written or said about Bones has mattered to you, or if my being a Bones fan has mattered,…think of Karen. It brings me joy.

What a long strange trip it’s been since then.  My brain is crowded with memories, some good, (the show itself, meeting friends I’d made in the fandom, wonderful conversations over on Bonesology, the pleasure I’ve taken in writing about Bones), some not so good (the whole catfishing experience with someone we’d believed was a friend, fandom panics (aka ‘fanics’), troll attacks.)

Life is a mixed bag, though, and good can grow out of bad. Case in point: those of us who were caught up in the catfishing betrayal? Closer than ever. The show’s entirely right about ‘more than one kind of family,’ and happy and blessed am I to know that a group of amazing women have my back.

I said when I started the farewell posts that I was trying to figure out how to say goodbye to the show, and by that, I meant everything that the show’s meant to me. During the last eleven days, while I was generating nearly twenty thousand (!) words on the characters, themes, and moments I’ve loved, I’ve also thought in a big picture way about what Bones has given me.  Besides hundreds of hours of entertainment, it turns out to be a lot:

The Fandom: 

I keep re-writing this, because I want to be honest, but don’t want anyone to misunderstand. I’ve learned a lot from Bones fans, and some of the, er, loudest conversations have taught me the most.

But my single biggest takeaway from my experience in the fandom as a whole is: we choose whether or not we’re happy. In the micro sense, yes, I’m talking about people who set such narrow expectations of what they’ll enjoy from the show that there’s no possible way for it to satisfy them, but in the larger, real-world, macro sense? It’s about looking for joy where you are.

So often, people are unhappy because they focus on what isn’t, rather than what is. Instead of looking at what’s there and saying, ‘how can I enjoy this?’ all they see is what’s wrong with the show/a situation/their lives, and they focus on that to the exclusion of everything else.

I’m not saying the answer is to deny what makes you unhappy, to pretend to enjoy what you don’t, or to ‘settle,’ and I’m really not talking about those who struggle with depression, or who are dealing with grief in their life. But the happiest, most contented people I know are those who choose to be.

Know when it’s time to move on, but look for joy where you are.

The Cast: 

Dear Emily, David, TJ, Michaela, Tamara, John B, John FD, Eric, Ryan, Eugene, Carla, Pej, MGT, Laura, Ignaccio, Joel, Patricia…(who am I forgetting? I’m terrified of forgetting someone…)

Thank you. Thank you for bringing these characters to life, thank you for being the kind of people to create an environment where people wanted to keep showing up and putting in fourteen hour days for over a decade.

Thank you for caring so much about the characters, their stories, and their relationships. Thank you for never settling in terms of improving at what you do.

I don’t pretend to know you, any of you, beyond the what you put out in interviews and social media, but I know that while other sets develop reputations for tension and conflict, there was never any of that with Bones, and not only that, but the opposite was true, with people like Betty White asking to be on the show because it was such a good place to work. And I figure that’s as much on you all, as anything, so…thanks for that reminder that life never stops being about how we treat others.

My prayer for all of you – and for the crew – is that you get the jobs you want (and deserve!) as soon as possible. I’ll be watching.

The Writers:

No way I get all of these, but, dear Karine, Eric, Yael, Ted, Keith, Hilary, Joe, Jon, Emily, Kendall, Mary, Gene…and all the others (!)

Thank you for inspiring me. While knowing it’s all a collaborative process, I’ve picked apart your stories, studied your dialog, asked why some scenes moved me to tears and others made me laugh; and yes, why some fell flat. (Ensconced in fandom as I was, I also learned a lot about all the million ways it was possible for a scene to be interpreted, and don’t know why that fact alone doesn’t scare more people away from writing.)

Fingers crossed for you, too, that you get the jobs you want, deserve, and will find challenging and satisfying.  I’ll be watching.

The Showrunners*:

Dear Jon, Michael, Stephen, Hart, and Kathy* (who I’m granting honorary showrunner status because I don’t know where else to put her…)

Thank you for telling your stories, no matter the pressure from fans to tell a different one. And thank you, a thousand times over, for telling stories of hope and redemption, of good, if believably flawed, people making a difference.

Hart, thank you for the characters, for the strong women who talk about more than just guys, for the guys who are such guys while still being romantic, for the humor, for the rule that Booth and Brennan would always rescue each other, and for the cases that sometimes made me cry. Oh, and for The Woman in Limbo, which always makes me cry.

Stephen, thanks for making lemonade out of the lemon of John F Daley needing off the show.  Specifically, thanks for using Sweets’ death to throw Booth off the gambling cliff so we could cheer when he climbed back up it. And thank you for The Patriot in Purgatory, which will continue to be a tradition for me on 9/11.

Jon and Michael, thank you for telling the story of Hodgins’ paralysis – and for not blinking on leaving him that way; thank you, too, for taking this final season to throw some heavy stuff at all of them, so we go out knowing that whatever comes, they’ll always win.

Kathy, thank you for being part of showing me all the different kinds of stories that can be written about a character (show!Brennan, book!Tempe); thank you for being part of showing the world what smart women can be and do.

Confession: I used to think I wanted to write a novel, but when I started looking around at what was being written, what people were talking about, it felt like in world of antiheroes, there was little room for the types of characters I had in my head wanting out.

To an extent, I understand why anti-heroes can be interesting, and firmly believe that the world of storytelling is (or should be) big enough for all kinds of characters and stories and plots and themes and…yet, there was the voice nagging in my ear, ‘no one’s interested in what you want to write.’

I don’t know if I have what it takes to write a novel. I’m going to find out. But because of you all, I’m going to write what I want to write, about characters I’m interested in, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.

Thanks for that.

Rynogeny, of the way too many words

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7 thoughts on “Loose Ends from a Fan (Personal Reflections on Bones)

  1. thanks for sharing this post. I guess the best thing to me about Bones is that even though there will be no new episodes (arrggh) I can still enjoy watching the old episodes and then I can discuss them with other people I know via social media. I can also still write about it (my newest obsession) and share with my friends. We have a huge body of work to enjoy, and the fact that we can still enjoy it demonstrates just how well made the program was.

  2. And you’ve made me cry again.

    That Karen was one smart cookie. Not only picking wonderful episodes of Bones, but specifically episodes that would speak to you (and see “The Man in the Fallout Shelter” I told you it was a must see as an introduction to Bones). I’m so glad I got to meet her, however briefly for one afternoon and evening, it was a true gift.

    And yes, I am so thankful to Bones, not only for the years and hours of entertainment, but for the people like you it has brought into my life.

    All the rest you said? Me too. LOL You are much better at the writing of the words than I am, so ditto. 🙂

  3. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the things I’ve appreciated most about your posts is that your approach to the show has almost invariably been to “choose happiness.” You have highlighted the beauty the writers so painstakingly crafted into the show. Such a breath of fresh air. Thank you.

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