Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Catholic League Protests "The He in the She"

"The He in the She" is not the first time Bones has taken on religion, and, since Booth is Catholic, Catholicism specifically. Until now, the Catholic League has remained quiet in it's objections. But, after "The He in the She", they have spoken out.

On the October 8 episode of the Fox program, “Bones,” the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation was ridiculed. The show, which features a female forensic specialist called “Bones,” and a male detective, Seeley Booth, began with an exchange regarding a female Protestant minister who is missing. Here is how it went:

· Booth: “She’s a pastor. Yeah. Looks like one of those grassroots community churches.”
· Bones: “Huh. She was preparing for a sermon.”
· Booth: “A pastor with augmentation and veneers.”
· Bones: “So?”
· Booth: “A spiritual leader shouldn’t be so vain.”
· Bones: “The pope sits on a throne. He wears robes worth hundreds of dollars. Isn’t that vanity?”
· Booth: “Oh, really? You’re going after the pope now?”
· Bones: “One pastor gets her teeth whitened, and the other drinks wine on Sunday mornings and tells everyone that it’s been miraculously transformed into blood. Which of those is more outlandish?”

Catholic League president Bill Donohue commented as follows:

“We had complaints about this show following the episodes that aired on March 28, 2007, and on April 19, 2006, but we decided not to make a public protest because we didn’t think the incidents in question were clear-cut cases of bigotry. But for two reasons, this one is different: a) it cuts to the heart and soul of Catholicism and b) it was entirely gratuitous.

“It does not matter that non-Catholics may not accept what happens at Mass. What matters is that they show respect. And to just throw this line in while the opening credits are running—about a minister, no less—shows how mean-spirited the writers are. If only they thought of Catholics as if they were an indigenous people, we’d be fine.”

Now, I'm not Catholic, but I am a Christian. I think, if they watched the show, they would realize that nothing Dr. Brennan does is gratuitous. The point of the interactions like this in Bones is to demonstrate how faith and science conflict and how two people on opposite sides try to work out their differences. The show never says that Brennan is right - Booth argues with her fiercely and, I think, shows Catholicism in a positive light.

I could understand their point if they had two people standing there disparaging Catholicism and faith, with no positive voice. But that's not what Bones does.

What do you think?

Thank you Brianne, of WatchingBones, for posting about this.


Jamie said...

Bill Donohue and the "Cathloic League" are not representative of right-minded Catholics. They're akin to the Family Research Council and other politically motivated "religious" groups who have agendas separate from religion. These people hijack religion for their own gain and hope to raise money. Why else would they get all fired up over a fictional TV character? Fictional!
And is Booth invisible? Anyone with half a brain knows that Seely is Brennan's foil when it comes to spiritual matters.

So basically, Bill Donohue is not to be taken seriously, and can also lick me.

Wendy said...

Mmmm, someone's feeling feisty today.

L said...

Very interesting. I must admit as a Christian (also not Catholic) myself, Bones often angers me a lot. She's so dogmatic and sometimes cruel - even to Booth, whom she supposedly respects and likes - about her views. This episode bothered me for that reason and I have to say the fact that the exchange mentioned in the quote above happened before the credits soured the rest of the ep for me. It was like, "Great, another Bones rant against belief in anything beyond science."

Booth is far more patient and indifferent about the whole thing than I would be. ^_^ (Which sometimes bothers me as well - that he's always so complacent - but that's a whole other thing...)

As for whether or not it was gratuitous, I couldn't say. It bothered me, but whether or not it was a necessary exchange for those two characters to have, I'd be hard pressed to determine... I will say that it seemed to me this episode had a lot less "closure" around the religious debate between Booth & Bones than I remember from previous episodes dealing with the subject. Bones disrupts a funeral to reinforce yet again that she doesn't believe in God, and they leave it at that (more importantly, Booth leaves it at that)... I do feel like the belief side got short-shrift, but that could be my own frustration talking. ^_^

Anonymous said...

Oh, honestly. People who can't handle Bones taking an outside vantage point on religion remind me of the Dark Ages. If your so-called faith is strong, it should be able to endure analysis.

All organized religion has weird aspects and contradictions.

As a Catholic, I loved it and am embarrassed for the leaders of the church. As usual.

Jeannie said...

My dictionary has failed me. What is "transubstantiation"?

Wendy said...


Transubstantiation (in Latin, transsubstantiatio) is the actual change of the substance of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ occurring in the Eucharist according to the teaching of some Christian Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, while all that is accessible to the senses remain as before.

cordy said...

@jeannie: laut leo: die Transsubstantiation - die Wandlung von Brot und Wein in Leib und Blut Jesu Christi bei der Feier der Eurcharistie ;-)

Jeannie said...

Thanks to both of you for explaining! Cordy, I actually did check Leo, too, but came up empty. It likes you better than me, obviously...;-)

Ok, am I right in assuming that the other two shows they had complaints about were Man in the Morgue and Priest in the Churchyard? There are probably a lot of shows out there that treat the Catholic church with a lot less "equal opportunity" kind of respect (opposed to the science aspect) like Bones does. I think the show does actually a great job of showing the very likable character of Booth as some sort of poster child for the Catholic faith. These people probably felt offended because he didn't have a good reply ready to answer Brennan's remark, just a facial expression. Ok, let's pretend this was real and one of your friends made that remark to you - would you have immediately known exactly what to say? I wouldn't. Gives you something to think about, no?

And while I usually get totally annoyed with Brennan's respect toward Christian religions myself I actually saw some growing during this episode. Yes, she disrupts the prayer at the beach but she also immediately lowers her voice when Booth tells her to, something she wouldn't have done during the first season. Or the fact that she actually attended a sermon in a church at the end (and again, went back to listening to it after briefly talking to Booth) after all that discussion they had in the gravedigger episode where he didn't want to take her because he felt she wouldn't respect it.

cordy said...

Yes you are right about the other two episodes. I just checked that.

But on the topic, seriously I don't care.
Bones is a show that often deals with controversial issues, but IMO it's always well balanced.
I'm pretty sure there are a lot other episodes where Brennan made a rude comment on other peoples beliefs or minority groups. Yeah but that is Bones an I love it. And as long as these protest won't stop the writers and producers from making this fabulous and intelligent show I simply don't care.

L said...

Jeannie: Good assessment of Bones' actions. Makes a lot of sense.

I guess the thing that still bothers me about her is that she's just so rude. :P Regardless of her target (religion or something else), her behavior in general would not be tolerated from anyone else. I know it's 'just her personality' but sometimes I really hate the excuses the show seems to make for her behavior ("she a genius" blah blah). There's a line, and imo this season she has crossed it one too many times. :/ I'm also getting sick of Booth's tolerance. He's losing "badass" points in my book.

(OK wow sorry if this is too meta for this post lol. I probably should have relegated this to my LJ.)

RMF said...

Of course Brennan was horribly rude about religion, but that's the character, not the show, talking. If negative views are never aired, they're never addressed, and in Booth, they have a wonderful spokesman for mainstream belief.

Jamie said...

Little known non-anthropological fact: "Reefer Madness the Musical" is (probably) the only musical to use "transubstantiate" in its lyrics. Love, Vino Delectable

heirofloki said...

Word to everything jamie said.

You know you've made it in Hollywood when the Catholic League protests you. I mean they have the right to do so, of course, but seriously? Seriously? It's a tv show. Deal.

And for the record, I'm not religious in the least but everyone in my family is; they're very, very, very devout south american Catholic people. So there.

Shep said...

I agree with Jamie entirely!

I am in fact a Hindu although not particularly religious. I hold great respect for all faiths but do these guys even watch the show properly? Part of Brennan's character is that she takes an extremely rational viewpoint and finds religious concepts difficult to understand and is very socially awkward - THAT IS WHY BOOTH IS THERE. He contradicts her and in doing so, represents the other side of the arguments. That is what makes Bones such a great show - it challenges these issues and I felt it handled the controversial topic of transgendered people maturely and positively. Do they honestly think the writers simply come up with these storylines without a second thought?

And Jeannnie is right - Brennan has become more accepting and respectful.

Furthermore, science has evolved so much that it's commmon for peopel to challenge religion - for example, at school I've had to write essays on whether God exists or not. Ok, so Brennan still has to learn to be less crass about it but as I mentioned in response to Wendy's review, if she was completely accepting she wouldn't be Brennan and there would be less to fuel her banter and growing relationship with Booth! Viewers should know by now that this is what Brennan is like (and its perfectly possible that there are others like her in real life) and part of what makes Bones so unique and incredibly awesome is Brennan.

Jeannie said...

Ok, this is not really on the issue but I believe they misquoted the dialogue. I'm pretty sure she says the Pope's robes are worth "thousands of dollars" because I immediately thought that that was a lot. Haha, misquoting on purpose? To draw attention away from the expensive robes and back to the religious insult?

Anonymous said...

I grew up as Catholic but not practicing anymore. I do myself have an issue with the way the pope dresses and all the money involved in the vatican.
Glad Brennan raised the issue, it is very felt by lots of catholics as well, so no offense here.

In any case, Brennan is as rude towards religion as much as Booth is rude towards science. How many religious people think they only have to teach and nothing to learn? How many think that atheism is wrong per se? Well, can't it be fair then that also atheists think religion is something they cannot really understand?

Respect has always to go both ways, and sincerely the catholic church is not showing much respect for science and people who believe in progress. So, in my opinion, the writers are really balanced and fair, they should never be afraid to raise questions about religions, otherwise we can say that freedom is lost forever.


Anonymous said...

I grew up as Catholic but not practicing anymore. I do myself have an issue with the way the pope dresses and all the money involved in the vatican.
Glad Brennan raised the issue, it is very felt by lots of catholics as well, so no offense here.

In any case, Brennan is as rude towards religion as much as Booth is rude towards science. How many religious people think they only have to teach and nothing to learn? How many think that atheism is wrong per se? Well, can't it be fair then that also atheists think religion is something they cannot really understand?

Respect has always to go both ways, and sincerely the catholic church is not showing much respect for science and people who believe in progress. So, in my opinion, the writers are really balanced and fair, they should never be afraid to raise questions about religions, otherwise we can say that freedom is lost forever.


Jeannie said...

Well said, Yssel, especially about them actually being equally rude about the part of the other's life that they can't relate to and how freedom of speech is essential, even for a TV show.
However, I believe the fact that those characters are fictional don't soften the issue at all; it is still very real and relates to life. Don't we all draw some sort of information that influences us on our opinions and decisions to a certain extent from fictional sources, like books or TV?

cd3010 said...

lol, sorry - that was my first reaction, don´t they have anything else to do than dissecting a tv-show,...maybe save a few souls

and, I myself was raised catholic, but do not practice it anymore, because I was fed up with the whole "don´t let our priest marry", "homosexuality is bad", and "and please don´t ever use a condom - it´s against your religion, but die of HIV instead"-stuff going on - so on most parts I am with Brennan,...

Shep said...

cd3010 - haha!

alison said...

As a professor in the academic world, I feel like I understand Brennan. Lots of academics argue for sport. They aren't trying to be offensive, they are just playing an intellectual game. Some might find it offensive to have their dearest beliefs challenged, but she doesn't intend to be offensive.
That kind of behavior is common among academics. She isn't even extreme. Especially at the beginning, Brennan didn't even realize that she could be perceived as rude. more recently, I get the feeling that this is her way of playing with Booth. (on topics like religion where she knows he has a firm belief)

Shep said...

I'm guessing the Catholic League haven't heard of that little thing called 'freedom of speech'. You know, where in a tolerant, democratic society people are allowed to voice their opinions...

cd3010 said...

@shep: I´ll second that

and as a PS to my earlier post: I do believe in some higher being, just not the one they want me to,...

heirofloki said...

cd3010 - I feel your pain.

Allison, you're right about argument for sport. In fact, I'm sure Brennan has mentioned that's her intent (somewhere...s3 perhaps?) when she starts a debate with Booth.

I know Fox has a reputation for being rude, and stuff but...I just hope that TPTB won't make HH and co. apologize. Frankly I think they remained true to character throughout the episode: Brennan is a scientist and a mainly logical human being. Religion doesn't make sense to her (it doesn't make sense to me and I have 17 years of Catholic School to help me with that). Ultimately though, she's accepting enough to go with Booth to the service, which serves to show the essence of the character: She won't compromise her core beliefs for anyone, but she's willing to accept that others see the world in a different way.

And now I'm wondering what the League thought of the Mummy in the Maze. Remember the abortion-drug addiction convo she had with that priest? I thought that was pretty balanced...

Shep said...

Is it me or does the Catholic League criticise everything which has a different view from theirs - I remember the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman (and the film version of Northern Lights) being heavily bashed. Donohue described it as 'atheism for kids'. What's wrong with atheism? A child should be allowed to make up his/her own mind on religion, I think its better for them to see different sides (as long as they are respectful) rather than being forced into believing unquestionably in an omnipresent, omnipresent, omniescent entity who influences everything that happens in this universe. If a child is raised as a believer in something and chooses to continue with it then fine, as long as it's his/her decision!

Shep said...

One more thing - wonder what DB would have to say on all of this; he's a Catholic isn't he, or he was raised as one at least!

Anonymous said...

Cd3010.. I'm totally with you. I don't practice anymore exactly for your same reasons (and for all the financial scandals related to the vatican..). Still I respect people who have really faith. Which is what Booth has, that's why he does not feel threatened by Brennan's inquisitve attitude. People who feel offended by this episode and Brennan's words have something else on their agenda.. and it's nothing spiritual.

I come from a catholic family but I am with Brennan.. all the way. To notice that what she says is also historically accurate.. she never says anything which is false or wrong. From the fact that Xmas was a pagan holiday to the fact the other religions lasted much longer than christianity and still they are now extinct. Nothing to be offended by that. I also perfectly understand why she is so cynic against some catholic rituals (the eucharist).. if you consider the fact the catholics still worship dried blood of a saint in Naples expecting to liquefy every year on a specific day. With all the respect, why should a scientist not argue with that?

In any case, religion can claim respect when it is also respecting all the non believers. That's not the case with the roman catholic church, therefore all this whining is just annoying.
Go Hanson!


Louise said...

This is just stupid. Just because a character in a fictional tv series doesn't agree with Catholicism, doesn't mean that the show has an anti-Catholic message.

They have murderous characters on the show as well ... isn't that a bit anti-Catholic as well?

Shep said...

Haha! Good point Louise

heirofloki said...

No, Shep, not just you. And it's funny, because I seem to recall the Archbishop of Canterbury praising Phillip Pullman's books. Go figure, I guess.

I keep coming back to this post, but man, this is the kind of thing that riles me up. One of the things I'm most grateful to my mother for is that, although she is a very devout Catholic -she literally goes to mass every day-, she never forced her beliefs on me. And she could have, she's my mom! She could have said: "I'll never speak to you again" or "this is my house, do as I say", or some other such thing. But she was always tolerant and understanding of my doubts about religion, and when I finally gave up on the church, you know? I don't even remember what she said to me. That's how little we argued. Freedom and inclusion, y'all. That was the message of the episode. Why couldn't the folks at the League take that out of it?

CupcakeBean said...

I don't even know if I should start this post because I'm really riled up about this! There is nothing that annoys me more than people who claim to be Christians, but remain intolerant of everyone else! In my opinion, that is the exact opposite of being a Christian! More to the point, I have always thought Bones should be commended for making their leading man religious. Few other shows have done this. If anything, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League should praise the writers for including this aspect in the show. Booth is a devout Catholic and isn't afraid to show it. How many of us are that open with our religious beliefs in real life? In defending his beliefs to Brennan, he tries to open her mind up to other possibilities. In my mind, being open-minded and accepting is the very definition of being a Christian.

Jesus was a Liberal said...

Personally, I hope it pisses the fundamentalists off, royally.

As someone who was not really introduced to Christianity/christianism till she was older, I am able to see it for what it is - just another world view.

I wonder. Did the Catholic viewers take any exception to Angela's reconstruction of the 'headless witch's' face? ... with its pointy nose? (i'm surprised she didn't give it warts.) I snorted when I saw that. I know dozens of wiccan women - none has a pointy nose...or green skin.

A crucifix hangs over my bed, and I still say the rosary (my late husband was Catholic), but I also smudge with sage and sweetgrass. I believe in transubstantiation(sp?), but believe that peyote use is every bit as sacred as any sacramental wine.

I resent like hell those christians who claim they know the truth, while the rest of us do not.

btw...did you catch this good christian's prayer in the news?

Stephanie said...

I almost think this is funny. This issue is one of the very reasons why I love Brennan so much. She believes in what makes sense to her, and she's vocal about her beliefs, and she won't let anyone change her mind or give her crap for it. I don't really think the Catholics need to protest just because a fictional character doesn't agree with or promote their views.

And, really, I don't think the people protesting have really watched the show. Yes, there is a character who is skeptical about religion and doesn't practice it. But there's also one who has so much faith that he won't be bothered by anything she says because his beliefs are strong enough that he feels he doesn't need to question anything. I've always thought that Bones did a pretty good job of tackling the logic vs. religion issue because they're not biased, they have a character on each side of it, and those characters' views make sense for who they are. Plus, they don't even bring it up that often, so I really don't think the writers have any kind of ulterior motive to be disrespectful towards religion.

brennanite said...

This is a really smart thread of comments. Lots of great comments. Kudos bones fans! My thoughts

1) Donahue and his "catholic league" is a well-known jack-ass

2) If you had any doubt, the dig at "if catholics were indigenous people" tips his hat. Because we all now that indigenous people are ONLY EVER treated with dignity and respect and NEVER mocked by ANYONE. Whatever.

3) I did think it was pretty ballsy of Bones to go after transubstantiation though. It really is the core defining catholic thing. It is a pretty provocative place to go, which is of course why it was so funny!

katjem said...

I was brought up a Christian and still consider myself to be one today. I have never questioned the belief, just accepted it for what it is. I have nothing against people who believe in a different form of Christianity, those who believe in a totally different religion or those who do not believe at all. Faith is a very individual thing. I welcome healthy debate as seen in Bones. I certainly do not take offence by Brennan’s attitude towards religion. The Catholic Church must be enjoying the media attention created by their comments. People who may not think twice about comments made in a television show are now having the opportunity to voice their belief system to who ever will listen. And I agree that the Church should be focusing on the positive side - a leading character having a strong Catholic belief is rarely seen on television.

alexandra said...

first af all I'm catholic (but I do not practice)
second I'm roman (but I should put it at the first place...)
third I haven't seen the full episode but just some scenes from beyond-bickering.net and I read Wendy's episode review.
I found the argument between Booth and Brennan no offensive and I felt that Brennan gave those answers only because Booth was closed to another kind of religion (or another way to believe in God). He found the priest vain (...) and Brennan rationally explains him that there are some aspects of the catholic religion that are "outlandish" as well.
Ok sorry for my english I hope to had myself clear.

RMF said...

Who ever thought the controversy in a genderbender episode would be about transubstantiation? ;)

Milky said...

To me, it all comes down to respecting each other. And being congruent with one's beliefs.

I guess that's the problem that believing one's idea is the True Truth (as Booth said to Brennan in 1x09, lol) presents: when someone tells you why they think it's not the True Truth but just Your Truth, they feel threatened. And then they feel they need to defend themselves because, after all... If you understand there is no True Truths but only Personal Truths and therefore it's all just your own choice, who asures you you're right?

That's the thing about Faith. No one tells you you're right, but you choose to believe it nonetheless.

Let's just never forget it's just your choice, and everyone has the right to choose diferently.

So let's respect each other, even those who don't respect you.

I know it's hard, but it's worth trying!

Just for the record, I was raised a Catholic and spent 13 years between 2 different Catholic Schools (flashback: in the second school I attended, an observant Catholic teacher once told us that if they were to sell the art pieces held in the Vatican and gave that money to poor people, there would be no more poverty!!). I left the church at the age of 12, more or less, but do believe in a Higher Being, The Essence of All Existing... some kind of an Ohm as the sanscrit describes it.
A part of my family is Catholic, also (Latin American over here! :) ). I've read about other religions and all I can say... Just respect other's points of views and choose to believe what makes you feel the best.

chattypatra said...

Well, well, well. I remember when the mere thought of a person having a sex change operation was a scandal. I too am surprised that the Catholic League didn't say anything about that.

Anyway, I grew up Catholic and then converted into Mormonism as an adult, so I know well what it is like to be mocked, etc. I don't believe that Jesus Christ wants us to think we are better than anybody else. Yes, there are people who are offensive (South Park comes to mind when they make fun of the Lord - THAT bothers me).

Still, I was not offended by this episode. Anyone who has watched Bones regularly knows what the character is like. However, I do understand why some Catholics would feel bad, simply because a person can get fed up with shows taking jabs at their religion. I don't think that was the case here, though. As others have mentioned, Booth is a devout Catholic who is not afraid to stand up for his beliefs, and I think his character is the Yang to Temperance's Ying. They balance each other out.

Like someone else said, what does bother me about her is how rude she is, how the writers are perpetuating a stereotype that highly intelligent and well educated people - especially scientists - cannot possibly have any good social skills, nor do they believe in any religion. Oh, please! Isn't that a little condescending?

It bothers me because it is not true. However, I love the show. The characters are interesting, the actors have great chemistry, and the science is intriguing, so I will continue to enjoy it.

Again, I understand why the Catholic League would complain, but I think the show does promote tolerance because Booth and Bones are able to work together and love each other in spite of their polar opinions about religion.

It's called actually being an adult!

Shep said...

I have to disagree that the writers show stereotypical scientists who can't socialise or believe in a religion - sure, that may be the case for Brennan and Zack, but Cam seems perfectly sociable as well as being intelligent. Also, we don't really see any of the other characters' interaction outside the lab since the show focuses on Brennan and Booth so maybe some do follow a religion.

Wendy said...

Goodman was a scientist and a church deacon.

heirofloki said...

Having met my share of engineers and science lovahs I can actually attest to the difficulty faced by very smart people when trying to socialize outside they're peer groups. In fact, far as I can see, they mostly don't, so the show's got that part right. Religion and spiritual beliefs are trickier. I know Stephen Jay Gould said something about Religion and Science not being incompatible because they're subject matters are vastly different (I can't recall the actual quote at the moment). But the show has touched on that dichotomy: In fact, during Man in the Fallout Shelter the only ones who admit to being all about cold hard facts are Zach and Brennan. The others, one way or another, believe in some sort of higher power; and they come out and say it.

heirofloki said...

I want to clarify: When I mentioned the difficulties socializing with very smart people, I didn't mean they suffer from total lack of awareness or social awkwardness displayed by Brennan. But they can be snobbish and impatient, especially when their train of thought is not properly followed (like the squints got with Booth at the beginning of the show). And argument really is a form of sport -which some people sometimes mistake for hostility and find offensive.

As for the show, I think they've done a good job building characters such as Hodgins and Sweets, who, although completely immersed in their fields of study and very confident of their intellectual talents, are still charming and lovable and not disturbingly out-of-touch with popular culture.

Michael J. McFadden said...

Jamie may be correct about the first "musical" to use the word transubstantiate, but I think it's worth mentioning Tom Lehrer's use of it in his rather irreverent "Vatican Rag." Worth listening to this and his other songs on You Tube.


Add to Technorati Favorites