David Boreanaz is not Seeley Booth. He’s not Angel, either.
I know. It’s okay. Take a deep breath. I’ll give you a minute to absorb this.
Ready to move on? Okay. When David Boreanaz told People magazine that he had cheated on his wife, I expected his fans to be sad, or outraged, or even just not care. And some of them reacted that way. But what I didn’t expect was the sizable contingent of fans who were happy. Excited. One might even say gleeful. This reaction struck me as odd, not to mention in poor taste, so I asked someone more steeped in Bones fandom than I what was up. She told me that the fans who were rejoicing were the “Demily” fans: those who want David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, the actors, to be romantically involved. In real life. Not just on the show. Go ahead – Google “Demily.” There are whole sites devoted to this. Pictures, quotes, fanfic, videos, the works. Now, let’s get one obvious issue out of the way: it simply doesn’t make a lot of rational sense that Boreanaz cheating on his wife with someone else would somehow set up a happily ever after with his costar.
But what I find really odd and, honestly, rather abhorrent is this whole concept of treating real people as though they were fictional characters: ‘shipping them, writing fanfic about them, talking about them like close personal friends, etc. It’s natural for viewers to associate actors with their characters to some extent, and, especially on TV shows that run for years, these associations can grow pretty strong. It can be tempting to think that a character’s behavior, mannerisms, tastes, and even personality are reflected by the actor in real life. And sure, actors always bring something of themselves to roles, but at the end of the day, actors are being paid to do what someone tells them to do and say what someone tells them to say. That’s really the whole point of acting.
So just because a couple has great chemistry on TV – well, it means absolutely nothing. Sure, odds are they don’t hate each other. They might be friends. But let’s not leap to writing creepy short stories about their secret love. Why do fans want these things to be real? Why this level of not only interest in actors’ lives, but strong feelings about them? Is it that people want to think of their favorite TV shows as realistic, in some way, and so since they can’t convince themselves that Boreanaz is actually an FBI agent, they convince themselves that he’s actually in love with Deschanel? And this sort of thing is by no means limited to Bones fans. A similar thing happened when news broke of Bradley Whitford’s divorce – fans immediately began hoping he’d marry Janel Moloney, even though Moloney is in a committed relationship and the show on which they’d appeared together (The West Wing) has been off the air for years. Disney and the CW make use of this impulse by encouraging their young stars to date, or “date,” in a very public manner. Just look at the string of young pop stars linked to the Jonas brothers, or the dating frenzy among the Gossip Girl cast.
Or is the problem actually what Aaron Sorkin wrote about in the wake of Newsweek‘s piece about gay actors?
The problem has everything to do with the fact that we know too much about each other and we care too much about what we know. In one short decade we have been reconditioned to be entertained by the most private areas of other people’s lives.
When we’re used to consuming this ongoing stream of entertainment based on strangers’ lives, it’s perhaps too easy a leap to start writing the stories ourselves when real life isn’t going the way we’d like.