Today I have been trying to understand my visceral reaction to the firing of Thomas Gibson from Criminal Minds, and I’ve come to several realizations which I will explain in a moment.
I have grown up in and around Los Angeles California all my life. I have seen movie and television sets and had the occasional encounter with celebrity over the years. When I was in my twenties I worked at a temp agency that dealt mostly with the studios. I had temp gigs at Warner Brothers, DIC, CBS etc. This put me squarely in the middle of celebrity. Thing is, it never affected me. I never cared who they were, they were people doing a job. I never had the ‘fan girl’ syndrome. My obliviousness to celebrity is so bad that at San Diego Comic-Con several years ago it didn’t register that Joss Whedon was actually walking on the same street I was and coming towards me. Or the time that I was excited to meet Colin Baker (The sixth Doctor from the original run of Doctor Who) that I didn’t even realize I was standing right in front of the guy. What I’m trying to say is, while I might have on occasion gotten a little excited to meet someone, in the long run it’s never really made me turn into the traditional fan. I don’t bother them out in public. I don’t run up and ask for things, or try and talk to them because I don’t want to interrupt their day.
What does this have to do with Gibson and his firing from CBS? Everything. Thomas Gibson as Aaron Hotchner is probably the first time that I have completely fangirled over an actor in a show. I love the character and I love Thomas Gibson playing the character. I’ve actually been a fan of his since Chicago Hope, but it was Aaron Hotchner that cemented my love of the actor.
I’ve had a couple of days to think over why my reaction made me sad, angry, depressed and confused. I’ve come up with several reasons for this and I’ll try to break it down here.
First, television is a strange medium. Unlike a movie that has a singular story with actors often playing these characters only once, a television show gives us a look into an evolving character(s). We stop what we are doing to tune into our favorite shows, they become a part of our lives, part of our time and our favorites, somehow, become a part of us. We become invested to see their stories unfold whether it be comedy, drama, procedural, mystery, sci-fi, it doesn’t matter the genre. We always find that one show that captures us, pulls us in and makes us care. Now while I am a huge fan of a lot of television shows, no show has captured me like Criminal Minds has. I became invested. I wanted to know more about these really flawed, and human characters. Each one has their story, their pain, their past and I wanted to know more.
The writing was tight, the crimes gruesome, but compelling. The story arcs pulled at me. I love them and I gave them a piece of myself every week. I’d sit in anticipation of Wednesday nights at 10:00 to see my favorite show.
Second, I think there is this idea that the actors on our favorite shows shouldn’t have flaws. They should be there every week giving us a new story, a new piece of the character, even a new piece of themselves. I know they are human and they all have flaws. Thomas Gibson is a human being, he has flaws and it pains me that he let one of those flaws fuel the confrontation that resulted in his firing. I felt betrayed and sad that my favorite actor on my favorite show let me down. Let the fans down by letting his temper get the better of him.
I do understand he walked away and what happened was instinctual, but it was still fuelled by his temper. It pains me and saddens me that he is now gone from this show that I grew to love.
There has been a lot of rumors about his attitude on the show and they are all conflicting. Many say that he is a passionate actor and director, that he loves the show and his fellow actors. Many others have said they have never seen this supposed “dark side” that keep being batted around on the internet. Others say he is very mercurial and you don’t know what Thomas you are going to get that day.
The truth is, we don’t know. We aren’t there. I am not going to crucify the man for being a human being on a high-pressure show. There has been talk about his demands in his contract over the years. What people don’t like to acknowledge is that every single actor on every single show or movie has contract demands. AJ Cook wanted her son to, well, play her son. It was one of the demands she was making in her contract negotiations that helped get her fired several years ago. Shemar made contract demands, and so did every single actor on that show. Thomas is no different. Trying to eek out more time with family does not seem that unreasonable. Jared Padelacki and Jensen Ackles of Supernatural have it written in their contracts that they gets x amount of hours for family during filming. Its nothing that anyone else hasn’t also asked for.
Gibson has been called out on his arrogance. Really? This is acting. The television and movie industry is overflowing with arrogant actors. I would even go so far as to say that almost all actors have a healthy sense of ego. Some handle it better than others. These people get praise heaped on them, they have adoring fans, they get accolades and praise from peers, you don’t think that this goes to their head? Even the nice guys in Hollywood have their egos boosted and will sometimes act out. Many have said that even Matthew Gray Gubler has been known to let his temper fly on set. Though a much longer fuse, he can be pushed, just like anyone else. So, I’m not going to crucify the man for his ego and arrogance, Hollywood fosters it and does nothing, absolutely nothing, to help these people learn to manage it. Why? Because the industry is a huge dysfunctional workplace. I could go on, but I hope you understand what I’m talking about.
Third, I am a fanfiction writer. My favorite character to write is, not surprisingly, Aaron Hotchner. Spencer Reid being my second. Aaron Hotchner is brave, self-sacrificing, emotional, loves his team and holds their secrets dear. He’s loyal and tries his hardest to be a good father. He is the man I wished my own father to be, but wasn’t. He’s fuelled my imagination and my stories. I felt a connection to the character like I haven’t with any other character on TV. There’s a part of me that became invested and wanted more. And, though I saw the writing on the wall that the show wasn’t going to last much longer, I still wanted more stories with Aaron Hotchner to help fuel my own stories.
Bottom line is I forgot the blase attitude I normally have when it comes to celebrity by letting myself get invested in Aaron Hotchner and in turn Thomas Gibson. I forgot that he is a human, with flaws and probably a fiery personality. Working on a set twelve, fourteen even sixteen hours a day is not easy. Working with the same people day in and day out on those sets isn’t easy. Television and movie sets are a hotbed of simmering emotions. Some actors can also become so invested and care so much for a show and for the character that they can get too emotionally wrapped up in said character or production.
There are many confirmed stories of Tom Baker, the fourth incarnation of the Doctor on BBC’s long running Doctor Who, where he actually made a producer and or director cry. He almost came to blows with another producer, yet he was on the show for seven seasons. The longest period any actor played the character.
I also think this is a horrible double standard going on in CBS and ABC. Charlie Sheen was very publicly abusive to crew and cast members. He not only instigated verbal altercations, but there were a few, well confirmed, physical altercations on the set of Three and a Half Men. This went on for years, yet they hardly sanctioned the man till he fell off the wagon and his behavior became even more unstable. Yet, Gibson has a couple of incidents and he’s fired? Seems to me that CBS has their head up their asses when it comes to their casts and crew. Virgil Williams should have also been punished for his part in this whole incident and especially since it is well known and well documented that for all of Gibson’s fiery temper, Williams is an abusive, abrasive asshole who CBS lets bully everyone around. And i’ll tell you, anyone comes after me like Virgil did after Gibson walked away, I’d lash out to. Of course, I would have punched, but all Gibson did was instinctively kick out and hit the guys shin.
This whole thing is a clusterfuck and really its us fans who suffer. We won’t get to see Aaron Hotchner on the show anymore and that is a real shame. The show hasn’t had good writing the last couple of seasons. Its run its course and I was ready for a good ending for the show in general. I could handle that. I could handle them finding a good way to close out at season 12. Now, though, this season is tainted for me. It makes me sad that this is how this whole thing has played out. I hope that Gibson can recover. I hope that he can get a new show, with better working conditions and better writing. It would be sad that this is the last thing he was known for.
I know that Gibson, CBS or anyone connected won’t see this post, but I’ll just say this, I don’t know the full circumstances over the firing. No one but those in the know do, but I have to go with my gut and say this was stupid. This also shows the glaring issues that face all actors in television. How they have to somehow be more than human in the eyes of the studios and the fans. Criminal Minds will not be the same without Thomas Gibson as Aaron Hotchner. I’m sad it’s gone down like this, but I still have nine amazing seasons to watch and to keep my love affair with the show going. I have not been happy with the last two, and maybe, just maybe this was part of Gibson’s frustration also. Like I said earlier, we’ll never know the whole truth because truth in Hollywood doesn’t exist.