Both meloukhia at this ain’t livin’ and Laura at Adventures of a Young Feminist have excellent reviews of this week’s Bones episode.

As I watched the episode, I was upset and disheartened to see how the show’s writers portrayed both autism and the disability experience in general.

I thought back to my previous post where I wrote how Brennan may have Asperger’s or be on the autism spectrum disorder. After watching this episode, however, I now have reached the same conclusion as meloukhia stated in her episode review:

“it tells me that perhaps Brennan does not have an autism spectrum disorder because the writing team can only conceive of one form of autism”

meloukhia over at FWD/Forward has an excellent post describing hipster ableism in detail – in essence, the act of making fun of people with disabilities and wrapping this humor in a package of what some hipsters deem as ‘edgy’ and ‘ironic’. Like meloukia, I take issue with this humor and the harm it causes to both the portrayal of people with disabilities in popular culture and people in the disability community in general.

Recently, I came across an online interview in Entertainment Weekly with Marlee Matlin – an actress who is a highly visible member of the hearing impaired community.  During the interview, she mentions appearing in a Seth MacFarlane ‘Family Guy’ skit (a bastion of hipster ableism, in my opinion) – where her speaking voice was openly mocked in the script. She stated she wasn’t offended by this humor and announced her intention to create a cable show based on very ‘un PC’  jokes similiar to the ‘Family Guy’.  This is troubling to me on so many levels and leaves me feeling very conflicted. On one hand – yes, she is an individual and it is her choice to endorse and participate in this humor if she so desires. But, what are the overall consequences to this – especially for the disability community?

Great post by Willowdove  at The View from Down Here on why a person may or may not decide to identify as having a disability.

Another excellent post by meloukhia on the same topic of identifying as a person with disabilities.

I’d like to share my own thoughts, but seem to have a bit of writers’ block at the moment.


Also cross-posted at Adventures of a Young Feminist.

Inspired by Ouyang Dan’s post at FWD/Forward on the TV character, Dr. House and his interactions with his co-workers regarding his disability, I decided to take a closer look at the TV show, Bones, and the character of Dr. Temperance Brennan, a brilliant forensic anthropologist, who has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome.

To be clear, Brennan’s Asperger’s is never directly mentioned by her co-workers. Her social awkwardness, typical of the syndrome, is frequently the punchline of jokes or leads to the repetition of one of Brennan’s favorite phrases, “I don’t know what that means.”  However in interviews, Emily Deschanel, the talented actress who plays Brennan, often states that her character does have a mild form of Asperger’s.

The lack of awareness Brennan’s co-workers show about her Asperger’s, leads me to believe it could be considered an invisible disability. At first glance, Brennan appears “normal” and the only way her co-workers would know about her Asperger’s is if she tells them and then proceeds to advocate for her unique needs.  In fact, she has made steps towards self-advocation already, at one point last season asking her psychologist, Dr. Lance Sweets, to help her understand social cues and to read facial expressions.

However, her other co-workers’ understanding of her disability – especially FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth’s – still remains rather murky. For example, after being asked by Brennan to be the father of her child – Booth confides to a co-worker that a child would be good for Brennan because it would help her to become more ‘personable’.  Now, if Booth had a true understanding of Brennan’s Asperger’s, he would know that a child would not be a ‘cure’ for all her struggles with social awkwardness and personability. (Also, I think his statement harks back to the Victorian era thinking that for women – children are the solution to many ailments ie hysteria, depression – but that’s a post for another day.)

Yes, all characters need to grow and change – but instead of pushing Brennan toward the marriage/baby route –  a plot twist I never  liked,  preferring the Brennan non-marriage/childfree, feminist stance portrayed so wonderfully in seasons 1-3 – why not show Brennan becoming more vocal about her invisible disability – why not mention it by name! And in turn, have her co-workers display true compassion and understanding rather than always cracking jokes about it.

Perhaps my expectations are too high – as Allie from Epic-Flail rightly points out in her recent post – the show’s writers aren’t exactly known for putting forth Emmy caliber material, so asking them to explore the subtle nuances and struggles of a woman and her invisible disability experience may be asking a bit much from this lighthearted (and sometimes corny) dramedy. But, one can always hope, right?

P.S. – If you’re interested in past Bones episodes, I highly recommend both Adventures of a Young Feminist and this ain’t livin’s excellent recaps/episode reviews from a feminist perspective.

Just found a great new blog – Feminists with Disabilities and a intriguing post on how able bodied people view people with disabilities. Check it out.


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