Boning Up on Anacostia

Fox show gets D.C. neighborhood wrong

Washington makes good fodder for television. We’ve had political dramas like “The West Wing,” FBI shows like “The X Files,” and media shows like “Murphy Brown.” But they rarely go much beyond the touristy world of monuments and museums -- and when they do, they can get D.C. wrong.

The long-running FOX forensics dramedy “Bones” takes place in a version of Washington that is almost but not entirely unlike the real thing. The show, which stars the vampire from “Buffy” who wasn’t Spike and the Deschanel sister who isn’t Zooey, took a field trip beyond its “Jeffersonian Institute” setting to a certain much-maligned D.C. neighborhood on last week’s episode. And Now, Anacostia blogger David Garber caught this scene:

Hannah: What do you know about Anacostia?
Booth: It's a neighborhood about a mile and a half from here: seedy, prostitution, lots of gangs, bad activity. Why?
Sweets: Anacostia? That’s a really tough part of town.
Booth: Not compared to downtown Kabul, it’s not.
Brennan: Or the surface of Venus, which is covered by clouds of sulfuric acid and hundreds of active mega-volcanoes.

It’s also a historic neighborhood that is in the midst of a renaissance, with new businesses opening and new housing coming in, but that wouldn’t be as dramatic.

Garber says “Bones” displayed “a very typical outsider understanding of the Anacostia neighborhood.” He thinks his neighborhood is “on the right track,” but that the misrepresentations continue.

“What will it take to get the local and national media to stop scaring people?” he asks. “It’s gonna be a step by step process combining community building, new buildings, good role models, and investment of all kinds to get Anacostia off the ‘bad neighborhood name-drop’ list.”

For a more positive look at the neighborhood, check out the web drama “Anacostia” or these two recent documentary shorts:

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

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