Violence on TV often gets viewed harshly by the medium’s strongest critics, but it’s usually cable series like The Walking Dead that bear the brunt of the judgment. On the broadcast network side of things, CBS’ Criminal Minds has been at the center of violence-related conversations – not that it’s stopped mass audiences from watching. Star Joe Mantegna recently took some time to defend the necessity of the show’s more lurid material by saying that it would show a lack of respect to the profession to depict things any other way.
Mantegna and his Criminal Minds co-star Esai Morales took part in a Reddit AMA, and they were about as unironically forthcoming as anyone has ever been for an AMA. One questioner brought up former star Mandy Patinkin having left the show due to its violent content, and asked if either of the actors had ever been heavily affected by an episode. Here’s how Mantegna responded, making it clear he wasn’t speaking for Patinkin as he did so.
None of it bothers me, because there are real men and women who do this every day. And so for me to be bothered by it is almost disrespectful for these people. And I’m sorry they have to do this work, but I think it’s important to show people the way it happens, because this is a real organization, and this is what they deal with every day. I deal with it on a pretend basis. So no, it doesn’t bother me.
To his credit, there are people that do deal with horrible events as a part of their jobs, but Criminal Minds has definitely upped the shocking violence and disturbing material over the years in a way that presumably doesn’t reflect real life so strictly. The show used to delve more into the profiling aspect of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, but as the plots needed to get more exciting, the actions of the murderers and other criminals took precedence. It’s hard to imagine what Patinkin would think of the show now, after it’s had multiple cannibal plotlines.
Morales comes down more in the middle of the argument, understanding how Mantegna feels while also grasping how the media thrives in showing the horrible side of humanity. But they both agree that the show’s basis on real life helps. Mantegna continued…
And our show is different, in that it doesn’t glorify shooting, or murder; we just show it as it is, and we show men and women who are combatting it. There’s a difference between stylized entertainment and glorified entertainment, where you don’t show the impact on the family and others. This show does that. It doesn’t make it cool.
Criminal Minds ended Season 10 earlier this month, though it’ll be back on CBS for Season 11 this fall. Will either it or its spinoff Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders tone the violence down, or will we see the same amount of sordid bloodshed? So long as there are criminals out there making life hell, as well as other shows pushing the envelope, I'm betting so.