Penelope Garcia and Me

I have a confession to make– I am a long-time fan of the show Criminal Minds.  I probably watch way too many dark, procedural dramas and Criminal Minds can be pretty damn dark.  I try not to think too much about what it says about my psyche that I am more than a little obsessed with TV shows about serial killers. Criminal Minds is certainly not the best of its genre—The Killing, Wire in the Blood and The Fall are far superior shows that delve more deeply and compellingly into the lives of the victims, the detectives and the predators.  However, there is something oddly compelling about Criminal Minds that keeps me coming back.

Although I would never call character development Criminal Minds’ greatest strength, brilliant but socially awkward Dr. Spencer Reid (gloriously played by Matthew Gray Gubler) and quirky, wise cracking technical analyst Penelope Garcia (breathed into life by the delightful Kirsten Vangsness) are two of the most compelling and sympathetic characters on TV.  Arguably, these characters define important archtypes in this genre. The other regular characters on the show simply don’t have the depth, vulnerability or emotional resonance of Reid and Garcia.  Although I have enjoyed Joe Montagna’s character David Rossi romantic and sexually charged reunion with his ex-wife, a woman who actually appears to be his age!  Brava!

In many ways, Penelope Garcia is the character on TV that feels the most like me. Garcia and I don’t dress alike and I would never engage in the type of sexual banter with a co-worker that she sometimes engages in. But there is something about Garcia’s keen intelligence, her disregard for social conventions, her embracing of her inner geek goddess and her ability to do her job professionally while never pretending that her work doesn’t demand a high emotional price that make her so relatable to me.  Like Garcia, I am the woman in the quirky glasses, who has never been a size 2, who talks too much when she’s nervous, who sometimes feels too deeply but doesn’t want to lose her humanity.

If you have ever watched Criminal Minds, you know that an ongoing plot thread for many years was the friendship between Garcia and hunky profiler Derek Morgan, played by the largely wasted Shemar Moore.  You could practically feel the air sizzle when they bantered on screen, reminding me of the great chemistry between Bogart and Bacall and Hepburn and Tracey in classic movies from 1940s.  I found it incredibly frustrating how the writers of Criminal Minds relegated this relationship to the friendzone and never allowed it to breath.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that Morgan’s character was completely underdeveloped and that Garcia is 100 times more interesting than Morgan, but this was a relationship that actually would have made sense.  They had history, they genuinely cared about each other, they had great chemistry and you could buy them waking up one morning and starting to wonder if the person they were meant to be with had been standing there all along.

There are probably some viewers out there that think the show’s writers shied away from a Garcia/Morgan romance because Garcia is white and Morgan is black.  I call bullshit on this.  I think that the writers shied away from this because quirky Garcia wasn’t considered thin enough, hot enough, conventionally attractive enough to be sold as a creditable love interest for beefcake Morgan. Garcia is allowed to date and have a sex life, but only allowed to date other techo geek characters.  Women like Garcia are not allowed to land the hot guy on TV.  It is almost like the world will stop spinning on its axis if someone like Penelope Garcia ends up with someone like Derek Morgan.  Instead, Morgan rode off into the sunset at the end of last season with a thin and gorgeous female nurse whose name I can’t even remember.  Wow.

I started to have hope at the beginning of the new season that the writers had realized the error of their ways.  Super hot, but much better developed character Luke Alvez, played by the always intriguing  Adam Rodriguez was introduced this season and from the beginning the sparks have been flying between Garcia and Alvez.  For a few episodes, the writers even hinted that Alvez was smitten with Garcia and that we were finally going to see Garcia have a steamy romance worthy of her self-confident, sexy character.  No sooner had I gotten excited about this, the writers gave us whiplash and started hinting at chemistry between Alvez and newly returned character Emily Prentiss.  Who is thin, who is more conventionally attractive and who is generally more palatable to the American viewing audience.  Damn.

I am sincerely hoping that I am wrong and that Criminal Minds is going to finally give Garcia the romance she and the audience deserve.  She is just damn cool and Luke Alvez would be lucky to get close to her orbit.  Are you listening writers?  On behalf of the legions of geek goddesses out here, I implore you: don’t blow this.

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