Way back in the infancy of this website (February 2013 was SO LONG AGO you guys), I wrote a post naming my Top 5 TV Boyfriends. Number one on that list? Seeley Joseph Booth. My TV Crushes come and they go, but Booth remains a constant. He’s THAT guy, you know? He’s the Alpha Male who is a gigantic mushball. He believes in romance and fate and soulmates. He laughs at fart jokes and sexual innuendo. He’s dark and twisty and wrestles with his own demons. He loves strong and intelligent women who challenge him. He’s just…SO MUCH. And there are very few leading men on TV that are as well-rounded as he is, so let’s appreciate him, shall we? — Kim
1. LOOK AT HIM
Look, I get that this is a TV show and the goal is to always cast the most attractive people possible because it’s always more interesting to see pretty people solve crimes and have interpersonal drama every week. But damn if Bones didn’t hit the genetic lottery with David Boreanaz as Booth. Boreanaz is your classic tall, dark, and HANDSOME leading man. As Booth, he KNOWS he’s handsome, with his sparkling eyes and mischievous smirk. But the knowledge of his handsomeness is not off putting…it’s just a state of being. You know what? I think I’m just going to let the characters speak for themselves here. –Kim
Brennan: I believe that dopamine and norepinephrine stimulate euphoria because of certain biological triggers like scent, and symmetrical features.
Booth: Symmetrical features?
Brennan: Yes it’s an indication of a good breeder. You appear to be a very good breeder.
Angela: Hey, listen. He is very cute.
Brennan: Well, I do respond to the breadth of his shoulders and strong jaw line.
Brennan: [admiringly]: You have a perfect acromion. [Booth looks pleased]
Brennan: I don’t understand, what way do I look?
Booth: Well, you know. You’re structured very well.
Brennan: As are you.
Angela: Booth is a big, strong, hot guy who wants to save your life. I mean, you actually have a knight in shining FBI standard-issue body armor, so cut him some slack.
Booth: Now you’re looking at me like I’m some piece of meat.
Brennan: I would never look at you like that. I’m a vegetarian.
Angela: Uh, are we doing experiments on Booth? Because if so, I’d like to help.
Margaret: His eyes are too small to be really handsome.
Brennan: Well, I have to admit, I…find him pleasing to look at.
Booth: That’s like me saying I don’t want to be a sexy FBI agent. We can’t change who we are. (YES I KNOW SAGE USED THAT ONE IN THE LAST POST, IT BEARS REPEATING.)
2. His Strong Moral Code
Sure, they make good movies. But there’s only so much loose-cannon cops can get done.
Seeley Booth is the polar opposite of that archetype, though he has had to go outside the law on occasion. This is a guy who returned to FBI service even after he was framed for murder by an inside man. He believes that the ideals that law enforcement represents are bigger than any one person, including him. There’s a lot of self-preservation in his dedication to these higher callings. We all hold tight to the things that ground us.
Unlike his partner, Booth doesn’t take any pleasure in violence. (And thanks for reversing THAT generalization, show.) He’s not a pacifist – not by a long shot. But he does only what’s necessary, and he usually drowns himself in guilt afterwards. Bones never put Booth in one of those male hero situations where the by-the-book officer gets emotional and Loses Control™, giving into some inner wealth of manly rage and animal bloodlust that’s been there the whole time. Booth isn’t an angry guy. He’s not teetering on the brink at every second. He thinks the world is a fundamentally good place and that he’s in a position to make it better. Force is available and sometimes required, but only as a last resort.
Booth has never used his stormy childhood as an excuse. For anything. (In general, the Jeffersonians are NOT complainers.) Instead, it was a catalyst for his constant pursuit of fairness and nobility. Booth’s father taught him everything that he didn’t want to be: selfish, pathetic, unreliable. Vicious. So if there was anything in Booth’s life that could put him at odds with FBI protocol, it had to be his family. That’s the other golden rule that he lives by: a man takes care of his family. And feeding them and keeping a roof over their heads doesn’t cover it. (Brennan makes more money than him anyway.) It’s being a partner and a parent, someone Brennan and his kids (and Hodgins and Angela and Cam and Jared and…) can count on in every possible way.
Booth’s faith usually comes up when it’s comically at odds with Brennan’s pragmatism, but his Catholic roots are a big part of who he is. It’s really important to me that Booth sees the divine in other people, even if they (like his wife) aren’t believers. Take the chapel scene at the end of “Aliens in a Spaceship”:
Brennan: I’m okay with you thanking God for saving me and Hodgins.
Booth: That’s not what I thanked him for. I thanked him for saving…all of us. It was all of us. Every. Single. One. You take one of us away, and you and Hodgins are in that hole forever. And I’m thankful for that.
God didn’t reach a magic hand down to pull Hodgins and Brennan out of their early grave. As far as Booth is concerned, he gave Angela her skill and Booth his determination and Zack his brilliance. He gave them all this fierce love for Jack and Brennan that wouldn’t let them quit. And that’s why they survived. It’s the same faith that Brennan has in all of them, it just comes from a different place. And though she can’t share Booth’s beliefs, she’ll always respect them. –Sage
3. He’s Got Flair
Yet for all his strong moral code and belief in the SYSTEM, Booth likes to assert his individuality and set himself apart from his peers. How does one stand out when your job requires you to wear suits every day? Accessories, of course!!! Wacky socks. Ties with pin-ups on the back of them. THE COCKY BELT BUCKLE. These are all the little bits of flair that Booth uses to set himself apart. Do you want to feel some pain? The very reason Booth even works in these small rebellions is because Temperance Brennan gave him the confidence to do so.
Booth: The shoes, they’re part of my uniform. The FBI, they just have a way of doing thing.
Brennan: Well, anthropologically speaking, para-militaristic organizations tend to constrain individuality.
Booth: That’s for sure.
Brennan: But any group, no matter how restrictive, the free thinkers, the mavericks, rebels with leadership quality, find ways to declare their distinctiveness.
Booth: I’m a free thinking real rebel.
Booth always had the desire to assert himself and set himself apart from his colleagues, but Brennan gave him the means of doing so. Booth’s flair is a non-aggressive means of declaring himself the alpha male. He’s saying “I’m different and you should pay attention to me.”
Booth: Oh, hey, Doc, Doc, Doc, um…W-why is it that the, uh, the belt buckle is provocative?
Wyatt: Oh, it’s a modern-day codpiece. It forces the eye to the groin.
And if his flair is also a way that he can peacock for Brennan, then’s that’s just that. — Kim
4. He’s Hot-Blooded
I suggested this bullet point without really thinking about what it means. Booth’s hot-blooded! Check him and see. Everybody loves Foreigner, but this is their SONG.
The first time Booth and Bones dance to “Hot-Blooded” is in “Two Bodies in the Lab” when Brennan is shot at on her way to a blind date and Booth steps in as her personal bodyguard. As such, he has to come home with her. And since it’s the best way to get to know anyone, he rifles through her music collection. His selection leads to a premium Booth goofball moment, but he’s not being as spontaneous as it might seem. He’s taking Brennan’s mind off the threat that’s outside her door, that’s obvious. But he’s also making an idiot out of himself to make her more comfortable with him there, in her inner sanctum. Booth knows Brennan values her privacy, and if he has to intrude, he’s at least going to make it fun for her.
So I guess that’s what I mean with this one: Booth is FUN. Sex-on-the-washing-machine fun, even. –Sage
5. Two Words: Brainy Smurf
I’m no anthropologist, but I DO know that traditional rituals of wooing involve giving gifts to the object of your affection. Seeley Booth woos the shit out of Temperance Brennan in those early seasons and it’s a LOT.
Brennan: Did you bring that for me?
Brennan: Good, because it’s the wrong Smurf. I liked Smurfette. That’s Brainy Smurf.
Booth: Well, Smurfette was a stupid, shallow Smurf who only had her looks. Look, you’re better than Smurfette. You have your looks and a whole lot more.
Brennan: You did bring that for me to charm me in case I didn’t find your humiliation story impressive, but I did, so…
Booth: Aha! So I did impress you.
Brennan: That’s what impressive means, dummy. You’re such a Philistine.
Booth: I’ll tell you what. You can hold on to this, and it will remind you how far I’ve come.
Booth is SO THOUGHTFUL. His gifts for Brennan are not extravagant. They are trinkets, little things that he buys just because they made him think of her. And clearly he thinks about her all the time. He spends time tracking down presents to give her. I just…HE SOUGHT OUT A BRAINY SMURF FIGURINE FOR HER. And THEN he uses that figurine to completely change her Smurf narrative. What’s important is the meaning behind Booth’s gifts…well, he may as well have been showering her in diamonds, that’s how significant they are. They show that he pays attention to her. (“If you had a pet pig, what would you name him?” “Jasper.”) They are an opportunity for him to get all up in her personal space. (I mean HONESTLY, did he have to get that close to her when he presented her with Jasper? NO.) But ultimately, they show that he knows the truth about her and is dazzled by it. — Kim
6. “Okay there, Bones?”
It doesn’t matter much what it is. It’s just a little bit thrilling when a hot guy gives you a nickname.
My theory is that Brennan immediately intimidates Booth. She sets him back on his heels, and crowning her “Bones” is his way of maintaining some control and disarming her a little bit. It comes to mean much more than that, obviously. Because like “Hot-Blooded,” it’s theirs. (Just like with Mulder and Scully, his near-exclusive use of this name made any deviation from it, be it “Temperance” or (rip) “baby” really stand out.) No one else is close enough to Brennan to get away with calling her Bones. Well, almost no one. The first time I heard Parker use that term of endearment, my heart broke into tiny pieces. He may as well have called her “mom.”
Booth is right in “Movie in the Making.” Brennan just pretends to be annoyed. Booth’s pet name for her is a constant reminder that he knows her better than anyone else in the world. –Sage
7. He’s the Gambler
What I find most impressive about Booth is his willingness to put his heart on the line. It’s what makes “The Parts in the Sum of the Whole” so fucking painful because we KNOW that Booth has been carrying the burden of being in love with his partner around for ages, debating on whether or not to reveal his hand. Brennan is the biggest gamble he’s ever made and with a little nudging from Sweets, he realizes that it’s time to go all in on her. And then he LOST. (Cue me throwing my remote at the television.) WHY YOU GOTTA DO HIM THAT WAY, SHOW?
A less brave person would have just packed away his heart for a long time after that kind of rejection. Not Booth. As much as I LOATHED the Hannah storyline, I respected Booth for his willingness to still try to find his happiness. (HE JUST WANTED TO BE IN LOVE AND HAVE A PARTNER WHO IS THIS GUY?) And he really gives his all with Hannah, he genuinely means it when he says that she’s not a consolation prize. Was his proposal possibly a little misguided? Of course it was. Does it make it hurt any less when Hannah rejects it and the relationship ends? NO IT DOES NOT.
8. He Reminds Us What Real Masculinity Looks Like
I said it in my Bones marathon post and I’ll say it again here: I don’t understand how Booth subverts so many Alpha Male/TV cop stereotypes while simultaneously being a hot Alpha Male TV cop.
Seeley Booth is a prime example of why MRA propaganda is a constructed entirely out of lies. We’re two staunch feminists over here. And while we loathe the patriarchy, we LOVE men and masculinity. Real masculinity is not to be confused with pointless aggression, being completely out-of-touch with your heart, or taking whatever you want whenever you want it. Real masculinity is Booth going to Gamblers’ Anonymous meetings and admitting that he needs help because he knows he has to be better for Brennan and their kids. It’s Booth holding Brennan while she cries and not letting her vulnerability diminish his view of her as a completely self-sufficient, scary badass. It’s taking the blame when he screws up; looking out for a hot mess brother who he probably should have written off; treating the women he works with (including the ones he’s slept with) with utter respect and deference; and yes, kicking down a door and tackling a bad guy every once in a while.
Fox just released a Bones retrospective that included some interesting background on the pilot. Initially, test audiences were pretty down on Booth. The reason? They were automatically on Brennan’s side and the bickering came off as mean. His scores improved when they added the scene where Booth defends Brennan’s involvement to his boss. (“Oh, she’s amazing. If the only way I can get her back to my side is to bring her out in the field, I’m willing.”) It was more important to a prospective audience that Booth gave Brennan her due as a professional than that he liked her.
Which he also did.
Anyway, the ultimate expression of Booth’s brand of non-toxic masculinity is that he appreciates and is in awe of this famous, hella-wealthy, obscenely clever woman he hangs out with, because no accomplishment of hers makes him any less. –Sage
9. His Pining Face
HEART EYES, MOTHER FUCKER.
Seriously, the way Booth looks at Brennan causes me PHYSICAL PAIN. He looks at her like she’s the most precious thing in the universe and he’s CONSTANTLY in awe of the fact that he gets to be in her presence.
He has NO control over his fonding. If you look REAL close at that gif above, you can see the drool about to start.
You know Booth’s got it bad when AS A DEVOTED CATHOLIC he STILL can stop himself from sneaking a peek at her while Grace is being said over Christmas dinner.
SOMEONE HELP HIM.
“Baaaaaaabe you had a crush on meeeee.” “We’re married.” “…I know.”
Moral of the story: find someone who looks at you the way Booth looks at Brennan. — Kim
10. His Faith In His Emotions
It’s not as easy as it looks, to trust your emotions. Brennan used to struggle with it daily, so she’s come to understand how impressive it is that Booth feels what he feels and never looks back. 100% Gryffindor concentrate, that guy.
The work that he does isn’t as straightforward as what happens in the lab. He has to know how people behave – how to read them and how to manipulate them. And if Season 1 Brennan had gone in and tried investigating cases on her own, she would have failed. And we know how much she hates to fail.
It’s brave to live so openly, knowing that when you wear your emotions on your sleeve you’re basically broadcasting exactly how to hurt you. But I figure Booth feels as though he’s gained a lot more than he’s lost, not just by putting himself out there in big gestures (“I’m that guy”) but by refusing to hide behind some false stoicism. Ex-Army Ranger or not, BRAIN SURGERY is a terrifying prospect. Booth is scared shitless. And though there’s no logical reason to believe that Brennan’s presence will make the procedure more safe, he’s emboldened and comforted just by seeing her face. It’s written all over his.
I don’t think Booth realizes how many people are influenced by his example. Tragically, it was the death of Sweets that helped him to understand. He gave a kid a hard time, but Sweets’s hero-worship of Booth couldn’t be extinguished by big-brother teasing. He wanted to be as generous and valiant as his friend, and he posthumously gives his son Booth’s name to give him a head start. –Sage
Bones Week isn’t over yet! Coming up next: a countdown of the top 20 episodes of the entire series. Until then, let’s gush about Seeley Booth in the comments.