Criminal Minds - Season 13
“The absence of LGBTQ from 13 seasons of Criminal Minds rings hollow, especially disappointing when the show fares so well in other categories.”
Title: Criminal Minds Season 13
Episodes Reviewed: S13E01 - S13E05
Creator: Jeff Davis 👨🏼🇺🇸🌈
Writers of Season 13: Breen Frazier 👨🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), Bruce Zimmerman 👨🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), Christopher Barbour 👨🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), Karen Maser 👩🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), and various (4 ♀ and 2 ♂)
Reviewed by Laura Hindley of Strong Female Lead 👩🏼🇬🇧🌈
Criminal Minds is a fast-paced crime drama that centres around the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU).
The driving force behind the show has always been the chemistry between BAU members, a close-knit team that behaves more like family than work colleagues. Thus, Criminal Minds hit somewhat of a stumbling block in Season 12, when fan favourites Aaron Hotchner (played by Thomas Gibson) and Derek Morgan (played by Shemar Moore) depart the show.
Luckily, after a shocking opener which saw the death of one of the BAU's newest agents, Season 13 seems to have regained its footing, going from strength to strength across the episodes released thus far.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Criminal Minds hits the jackpot when it comes to female empowerment. In Season 13, BAU veteran Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) heads up the team and has the unwavering support of three strong female leads who all kick ass in their own way.
Across the years, each of those women have received standout episodes, whether it’s JJ (A.J. Cook) in Season 9, whose mysterious past with the State Department comes back to haunt her; Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) in Season 3, who is shot on her doorstep and struggles with PTSD in following episodes; or Tara (Aisha Tyler) in Season 12, who races against time to save her brother from the menacing serial killer, Mr. Scratch.
This latest season features heavily on team leader Emily Prentiss. After faking her own death in the finale of Season 6, Emily returns to the fold in Season 7 to smash the glass ceiling and work her way up the BAU corporate ladder. In doing so, she spearheads the downfall of Mr. Scratch. And it isn’t just Emily who is written into powerful roles—each female character in Season 13 so far displays strength, tenacity, empathy, and resolute loyalty to the team.
Criminal Minds scores well on the race index. The BAU is based in Quantico, VA, a small town that lies inside the Washington D.C. metro area which reveals a breakdown of 48% non-Hispanic white, 26% black, 14% Hispanic, 9% Asian, and 4% other. As such, you'd expect to see racial diversity and that's what Criminal Minds delivers.
While the team in Season 13 doesn’t quite reflect the D.C. area, the 8 members are still well balanced: 5 agents are white, 1 is black, 1 is Hispanic, and 1 is mixed-race Asian. Furthermore, Criminal Minds has an established history of casting BAU agents from a variety of backgrounds.
Neither does the show discriminate in casting its suspects. The show illustrates that psychological illness and childhood trauma can affect us all, regardless of gender or race.
Although the show focuses on police work and catching bad guys, we do meet the partners and family of of BAU agents. Yet there is no LGBTQ representation in Season 13 so far. In fact, in the entire decade-plus history of Criminal Minds, not one recurring character has identified as anything but cisgender and heterosexual. That’s 251 characters when counting those who appear in at least two episodes. Even going by conservative estimates, if 3.4% of the U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ then we should have seen at least 8 characters representing them.
To make matters worse, the only LGBTQ character we do see is Mark Tolson (Ivan Hernandez), a homosexual killer who appears for one episode in Season 12. He murders four innocent men.
Overall, this awful take feels even stranger considering the robust LGBTQ talent behind the scenes. The show’s creator, Jeff Davis, is openly gay and one of the main leads, Penelope Garcia, is played by bisexual actress Kirsten Vangsness. Penelope appears in fully 287 of 289 episodes and surely, there are other actors in the show who identify as LGBTQ. So why deny their existence so vehemently?
Mediaversity Grade: B- 3.81/5
Criminal Minds is a fantastic show, perfect for TV fans who enjoy delving into the psyche of some of the world's most deranged serial killers. The combination of action and drama enables the audience to really empathise with these characters—a necessity when backstories are explored and additional characters are brought into the fold to further the narrative.
Unfortunately, the absence of LGBTQ from Criminal Minds rings hollow. It’s especially disappointing when the show fares so well in other categories. Come on guys, sort it out.