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Why NCIS Fans Are Fuming About The Portrayal Of Women

The long-running crime drama "NCIS" has is now in its 19 seasons on CBS. The reason for the show's success is not just because of the kinds of cases the NCIS team tackles or how it delivers both drama and action in each episode. A 2011 Slate story argued the series, then in its ninth season, was a smash hit because of how it fleshed out the characters with the seasons: "Over time, these folks have become more than the sum of their tics, thanks to scripts that have gradually filled in and rounded out their personalities."

People came to love the quirks of Abby (Pauley Perrette) and Ducky (David McCallum), and when core team members like Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) left the show, fans truly mourned their departures because they felt like they'd gotten to know them. However, some hardcore viewers have also noticed a critical flaw in how "NCIS" depicts the female characters. In July, a Reddit thread posted by u/HipChip_ on the r/NCIS page led to a discussion amongst fans on why they cannot stand the portrayal of women.

Fans argue female NCIS characters don't feel multi-dimensional

Redditor HipChip_ kicked off the discussion on how "NCIS" treats the women on the show. They explained, "Every female character has been so washy and over-sexualized, and the ladies who do get the good storylines use their sexuality as a weapon, or they succeed against all odds because how could a woman ever be a law enforcer?"

Ziva David was brought up as a prime example of this argument. User MizzGee wrote, "Look at the introduction of Ziva! Badass foreign agent who can kill you five different ways. Before the end, Tony's love interest," and went on to argue, "Bishop! Brilliant mind, sitting on the ground, surrounded by data making insane connections like a human computer. [...] By the end, a mess, divorced, acting as an average agent for several seasons, and Gibbs was a surrogate father."

Elsewhere in the thread, u/labchick6991 wondered if the "NCIS" fandom also bears some responsibility for the CBS procedural's depiction of women. "I think it has a lot to do with the fanbase too. I recently went back to watch the first few episodes of 'JAG,' and the glaring sexism and unprofessionalism of it made me want to gag, and I stopped the rewatch. A big chunk of the fanbase is probably [the] Boomer generation," they noted.

One comment also noted how often women are killed violently on the show in ways that feel exploitative: "This is the culmination of their character, their work, their beliefs, everything they loved; lying in a pool of blood." A few disagreed with the criticism, with one commenter feeling that "the main female characters make sense on their own," but it seemed like the negative post had struck a chord with other viewers.