There was some drama surrounding whether long-time regulars A.J. Cook and Kirsten Vangsness would be returning to Criminal Minds before the current season after leveraging their contracts for higher pay (read: ALMOST equal to the male actors on the show). But it makes me happy no one that I met in fandom, male or female, saw any issue with them demanding pay at least approaching their male counterparts. Their fight was met with overwhelming support once more fans understood exactly why they were renegotiating.
So I have faith in this fandom. I know they love and respect the women of Criminal Minds enough to support the actresses that bring them to life. However, they’re not too kind to newbies. I know that, back when Jennifer Jareau (or J.J.) was replaced with Agent Seaver, people rebelled as they didn’t like the scuttlebutt behind that, which is that the producers decided to take the money they were paying regular A.J. Cook and put it into funding the failed spinoff. They did that by finding a less expensive hire in newbie Rachel Nichols. I don’t blame the fandom for railing against that move. I know that it wasn’t so much against Nichol’s work, but more against a replacement blonde being given to them as if they shouldn’t know the difference.
The fandom saw a similar upset when Lola Glaudini’s Elle was replaced with Paget Brewster’s Emily Prentiss when Glaudini decided she didn’t enjoy living in L.A. Good writing and solid work from Brewster, however, helped the fans overcome it… until she decided to leave. Mandy Patinkin became disillusioned with the violent nature of the show and left to be replaced with Joe Mantegna.
I’m just saying that I get it, Criminal Minds Fandom. You’ve been hurt before. You’ve been left and, hence, it’s really hard for you to accept new members encroaching on your BAU family. Hell, sometimes you’re not too into the old timers as I see everyone but fetishized Reid and fan-favorite Garcia get all kinds of heat. Still, allow me to make a case for Jeanne Tripplehorn’s Agent Alex Blake. She's on her second season by now and I feel people have sort of warmed up to her, but I did see a lot of complaints when Paget Brewster recently guest-starred, wanting Prentiss back and Blake out the door. It makes me a bit sad.
I was so excited when I learned Tripplehorn was joining the cast before the previous season. I really enjoyed her as Barb on Big Love (which had a surprisingly female-forward ending for a show about a polygamous marriage. I recommend it). She’s just a lovely and subtle and underrated actress and I liked that Criminal Minds was smart enough to snap her up. I was excited after her first appearance, then I saw the reaction…
And I get it, CM fandom. People leave just when you’ve learned to love them. But give her a chance. I loved her storyline where she chose active duty, despite the hit her personal life would take. I enjoyed meeting her cop father and brother. More than that, I just like seeing her on my screen for this reason:
How often do you see a fifty-year-old woman creeping along the side of a building, surreptitiously pulling a gun out of a holster?
Wait, don’t answer!
How many times do you see a man of the same age do the same thing?
Okay. Now answer. Then compare the two. Please do comment if you’ve seen the former more than five times – because I’ve barely seen it once as compared to dozens of instances of the latter. I’m no expert on criminal shows. I just watch what I watch and see what I see. What I don’t see is women of a certain age being treated as active and vital. If you have numerous examples of just that happening on a TV show with a middle-aged woman, then don’t hesitate to tell me so I can watch the crap out of that show.
Women past their child-bearing years are rarely in active roles. Criminal Minds did have Strauss, but she was either behind a desk or at a table or lecturing over video. We also had General Diane Beckman on Chuck, also generally behind a monitor. Captain Victoria Gates on Castle? Always in the precinct.
Women of a certain age seem to be welcome in television’s crime/spy/military world, even in positions of power, just so long as they stay in a safe, almost motherly position of authority and out of the field of active duty.
And that’s not me taking anything away from these characters and the women who play them. It’s great to see these “tough broads” in charge. I’d just also like to see them in action. As I creep ever closer that certain age as we all do, I’d like to think my best days won’t be spent behind a desk. I might not personally go into law enforcement (I probably won’t. I’m really clumsy and forgetful and decidedly non-aggressive.), but I‘d like to have the fantasy preserved in women like Blake, who choose action.
I’d like to think that Alex Blake will be there in those days when I rewatch the shows of yore on TVLand to tell me that it’s never too late.