Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 17: Bones Squintern Arastoo Vaziri

I just watched last weeks episode and I'm having feelings about this man and so you must all suffer.

Things to get out of the way first:

a) I realize that he is a fictional character. So when I propose that he marry me immediately, this is to be taken as fangirling and not creepy stalking of the actor.

b) That being said, this man needs to marry me. I'm ready.



Arastoo Vaziri is an intern on the show Bones, where he is played by Pej Vahdat. Bones is one of my favorite crime dramas, winning out easily over CSI which feels more and more repetitive and played out to me. Though admittedly Bones has David Boreanaz and no other show does. So...there's that.

The set up for the interns on Bones is thus: her old intern went kind of nuts and became a serial killers playmate and is currently (as far as I remember) incarcerated for assisting in murders. Sweet kid otherwise. Anyway. She couldn't find a single intern that replaced him, what with him being a genius and all, so she hired all the interns that tried out for the position and rotates them.

Arastoo is one of the rota-terns and clearly one of my favorites. When he came on the show, for the first couple of episodes he was in, he had a heavy Middle Eastern accent. We find out later that the accent was a put on so that people would think he was 'fresh off the boat', his reasoning being that the other scientists would find it odd that he could be both a brilliant scientist and deeply religious. So, at first, he found it easier to let them think that his faith was an unimportant remnant from his upbringing. It only comes out because he slips, when the head of the department is sort of freaking out trying to be politically correct and he's telling her it's okay and she just doesn't believe him...

Cam: sorry! Sorry! Pig bones, God!

Arastoo: (speaking with accent) I’m fine, Dr. Saroyan. Perhaps the killer assumed the victim’s remains would never be noticed amongst the pig bones?

Cam: really Arastoo there’s no reason for you to—

Arastoo: I appreciate your concern but I am fine.

Cam: no! Really, most of us aren’t devout here and I respect your religion.

Arastoo: he hath forbbiden you the flesh of swine, but if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits - then is he guiltless.

Cam: the point is you shouldn’t feel—

Arastoo: — (speaking with no accent) I’m a scientist, okay? Just like the rest of you. I can deal. So just back off and let me do my job like anyone else.

Cam: …wow.

Arastoo: (speaking with accent) eh… I apologise for my outburst…

Cam: oh, you are not even going to try to unring that bell, are you?
— Bones, season 5, episode 4

Apart from being adorable, which he *is*, what I like most about the character is that he's portrayed as a real person. It's far too easy and common for shows to portray religious characters, especially ones who are meant to be Muslim, as caricatures. It would be much easier for the show to leave out all mention of Arastoo's faith, or to make him an atheist or to not have him on the show at all.

Arastoo's issues with being comfortable being open about his faith are dealt with not by the other characters harranguing him about them, though he does get some flack for the fake accent thing, but by sitting down and going through why he feels like he has to hide (in part) this aspect of himself.

The search for truth is honourable and I honour Allah through the search for truth.”  - Arastoo Vaziri

So, you know, he's always been one of my favorites on a show where I think that they consistently do characters as real people and not as caricatures though by no means do they get it perfectly every time.

Hodgins: This baseball thing…you allowed to play?

Arastoo: No, the Qur'an strictly forbids baseball, lacrosse, of course, and any bored games with hungry hippos.

Hodgins: That’s a yes, with an additional comment on my ignorance.

Arastoo: I was a state all-star in high school, I even got scouted by a couple of farm teams.

Hodgins: No way!

Arastoo: Yeah, I still play on the weekends. My mosque is in a league that plays against churches and synagogues. You should join us sometime! 

Hodgins: Oh, come on now, I can’t be on an all-Muslim team. I’m a lapsed Episcopalian.

Arastoo: You know, every team has a few ringers. The Jews have a Unitarian batting 400.

Hodgins: Really. Huh. Never tried to beat the infidels before.

Arastoo: As long as you can find me something in your washer goop that determines cause of death, you can play short-stop.

Hodgins: You’re on.

Arastoo's a real guy and he probably gets sick to death of peoples' misconceptions about him due to his race, let alone his religion, but he does his best to educate (sometimes with snark, depending on the situation) and to just live his life like anyone else because he *is* like anyone else. The writers have been careful to develop Arastoo as a character without either ignoring his religion or making it the defining characteristic of him.

Favorite. Like I said.

And then this episode happened. It's called 'The Patriot in Purgatory' and it starts with the squinterns being assigned to the cold case room in a kind of competitive moment that Bones is having. The boys (Daisy the female intern is not in the ep) make it even more competitive and having a scoring system, etc. for who figures things out the fastest. However Arastoo's first case is a homeless man found in a parking garage and the wounds don't make sense. In spite of the others encouraging him to just put it aside and move on, he refuses because their job is to give these people back their names, not to score points off of one another. In the end he gets the others to help him in spite of themselves and they figure out that the man was wounded in the attack on the Pentagon on September 11.

It's a very emotional ep, of course, and full of good scenes that I don't want to ruin in case anyone hasn't seen it yet.

But here's the part that made me decide that Arastoo is my future husband:

The squinterns are working on the body and getting nowhere since the wounds don't make a whole lot of sense. One of the other interns questions whether or not Arastoo is thinking clearly:

Finn Abernathy: Is this too difficult for you Arastoo, because I'd be more than happy to do as much as needed to ease your load.

Arastoo Vaziri: Why would it be more difficult for me than anyone else?

Finn Abernathy: Because of... Because you share the share the same religion as those men..

Arastoo Vaziri: Is it too difficult for you to work with Dr. Edison?

Finn Abernathy: Um... Excuse me?

Arastoo Vaziri: You share the same religion with men who cherry picked the Bible to justify slavery.

Finn Abernathy: I'm sorry... I didn't mean nothing..

Arastoo Vaziri: But still your words have meaning, don't they Mr. Abernathy? Those assumptions you made, those quick generalizations, what about the vengeance and the blood shed in the Old Testament?

Clark Edison: Okay, he's just a kid Arastoo.

Arastoo Vaziri: If he's not old enough to know, he's certainly old enough to learn. The Crusades, the Inquisition, are these events guided by a religion of peace? No, they were guided by self important men who think that they know more than the god they claim to worship. This was not the work of religion, it was arrogance, it was hypocrisy, it was hate. Those horrible men who hijacked those planes, hijacked my religion that day too. They insulted my God so no, this isn’t too difficult. It's a privilege to be able to serve this victim, to show him the care and love that was so absent that day.

Finn Abernathy: Thank you, Sir. I'm sorry. And thank you for taking the time to set me straight.

Fischer: That was awesome. 
 Keep talking forever and marry me.


  1. I love him. And I love how they use his character. Not just to show Islam in a normal light but to show a cohabitation of religion and science. People assume science = atheist. It does make it harder to believe in religion, I'm learning that with all my biology classes. It does create this tension and it does involve a lot more "face to palm" action when people say stupid things. But it doesn't make it impossible and it certainly doesn't make you swear off God. It just makes you believe in evolution and some other stuff LOL

    1. Yup. I think Bones does some of the best characterizations currently out there and they've done really well, in my opinion, with Arastoo. Religion and science are not inherently incompatible, it's our perspectives on each that make us think they are.


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