Jennifer Jareau, also known as JJ, is part of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit on the hit television show Criminal Minds that airs on CBS. JJ comes from a small town in Pennsylvania, where she was a star soccer player and the valedictorian of her high school class. She received an athletic scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, and attended Georgetown for graduate school. In her senior year, she went to a book reading at Georgetown. The reading of the book was David Rossi, the founder and at the time unit chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. After this reading, JJ believe she finally found her calling in life, so she applied to the FBI academy after her graduation from Georgetown. She later became a special agent for the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, joining the original cast of Criminal Minds, Aaron Hotchner, David Rossi, Penelope Garcia, Emily Prentiss, Derek Morgan, Spencer Reid, and Jennifer Jareau work together to analyze the country’s most disturbing criminals. Together, the BAU team tries to identify the perpetrator, determine their next move, and apprehend them before they can affect the country again. Each member of the team plays an important role in capturing the criminal. JJ is mostly seen talking to the media, taking care of the families that are affected, and working in the offices.
Throughout the shows, JJ could come across as a radical feminist. Radical feminists strive to put a stop to patriarchy, a system where men hold the power, by challenging existing social norms. JJ is framed as the younger sister and the heart of the BAU family. She is also perceived as the most vulnerable because she is known as an emotional character. In many episodes, JJ justifies that she isn’t the “little sister” she is perceived to be because her emotions get the best of her. She also proves that just because she’s a woman doesn’t mean she can’t be a kickass FBI agent. JJ has a unique way of showing that even though she’s a female in a male dominated field of work, as well as having male superiors, that she can still hold her own.
In season one, episode fourteen, the team investigates a couple. The Dawes couple, Sarah-Jean and Jacob, are on death row for killing thirteen or more girls in 1985. When the case was first discovered, police got an anonymous call that Jacob Dawes was seen with some of the girls before their disappearances. Police followed up on the call by visiting Jacob Dawes in his home with his wife, Sarah-Jean, and his two-year-old son, Riley, present. Upon suspicion, the police decided to pursue a search warrant for the house of Jacob Dawes. Arriving three hours after their initial visit, Riley had disappeared. Searching through Jacob’s house, they found twelve dismembered bodies in the ground underneath Jacob’s workshop. After the police left the first time they visited, before coming back with the search warrant, Jacob believed the police were onto them. In believe of this, it is assumed that Jacob ordered Sarah-Jean to murder Riley in fear of the young boy slowing the couple’s getaway plan. Sarah-Jean admitted to murdering her own son, but didn’t admit nor deny that she was involved with the killing of the other girls. Jacob claims Sarah-Jean was fully complicit in targeting, abducting, and murdering every one of the twelve girls. Jacob is a sexual psychopath, shown in prison records, but there was never anything brought up about Sarah-Jean. Jacob has an obsession with his victims and the possession of them. The team was called into to interview the couple because there was a thirteenth body found, and there is believed there could be more. In one scene of this episode, JJ is watching news coverage with Penelope Garcia, the BAU’s Technical Analyst, when she gets an idea. The next scene is Detective Hotch back in the prison interrogation area with Jacob Dawes. JJ then joins Hotch in this room to talk to Jacob with him. Jacob gets this perverted twinkle look in his eyes when he sees JJ walk in. He then says, “Who are you?” In a slow, but creepy sexual voice.
“My friends call me JJ,” says JJ with a stern voice. Jacob starts to stand up.
“Well hel-,” Hotch cuts Jacob off by telling him to sit down, “-lo JJ.”
“You’re not my friend,” JJ states. “You can call me Jennifer.” Jacob pretends that this hurts him, but still has a flirtatious look on his face. JJ and Hotch sit down across the table from Jacob.
“That was a nice touch bringing in the hottie,” Jacob says to Hotch. “You really want to know if there’s others, don’t you?” Jacob has this weird obsession with poker, and he offers Hotch a deal. He tells Hotch to play a hand of poker with him; if Hotch wins, he gets to know if there are more bodies, if Jacob wins, he gets to smell JJ’s hair. Hotch automatically refuses, but JJ reassuringly tells him that it’s okay; she shows that she is fine with whatever happens. To find out who wins the deal, you’ll have to watch episode fourteen “Riding the Lightning” in season one of Criminal Minds because I’m not handing out spoiler alerts for this one. The point of telling you about this episode was to show that JJ stands up for herself, even when her male superior says no. She proves that she isn’t afraid of a sexual psychopath that has killed thirteen young blonde girls, despite that she is a young blonde woman. She was not forced into the idea of putting herself into a situation that could do her harm, instead she came up with the idea of it on her own. Even though she is perceived as the little sister, she validates that she can indeed hold her own as a young woman on the BAU team.
Throughout the episodes, JJ is constantly trying to prove that she, as a young woman, belongs on the BAU team despite the framing of her character as the little sister that is too vulnerable. It takes towards the end of season seven for JJ’s character to prove her worth of a young woman FBI agent working in the field. This happens in the episode, “Closing Time.”
In this episode, the team is called to Los Angeles to investigate the murders of men whose bodies were found in lifeguard towers. All the male bodies were found with a single gunshot wound to the head and were castrated postmortem. In this season, JJ returns as a full-time profiler and field agent, which is different from before when she was just the team’s liaison with the media, police departments, and families. In this specific episode, JJ finds herself alone with the unsub who has taken his own teenage son as hostage after the team splits up. The unsub is holding a gun to his son’s head while his son is strapped to a chair. JJ orders him to put the gun down, but he refuses. She tries to talk the unsub out of the situation, but it doesn’t work. She then, again, orders him to put the gun down, and he orders her to put her gun down first. JJ then follows this order, putting her gun on the ground. As soon as she does, the unsub looks away for a split second. This is when JJ runs towards him. She slams him against the wall, twists his arm, the gun goes off, and then the gun drops to the ground. She then knees him and punches him.
He manages to find a screwdriver on a shelf nearby and swings it at JJ. JJ surprises the unsub with a roundhouse kick, which sends him flying into shelves. He bounces back, grabbing ahold of JJ and shoving her into a wall face first. He punches her when she tries turning around, which sparks her to knee him in the groin…ouch. Later in the episode, the team is back at the BAU headquarters. JJ and Derek Morgan are walking down the hall. Derek says to JJ, “Look, JJ, all I’m saying is I am never making you angry again. I mean who knew the Pennsylvania petite could give such an ass-whuppin’.” Right then, JJ already proved her frame as the little sister who is too vulnerable wrong. Even though she looks “petite”, the younger sister can still kick ass.
These examples, and many others, indicate why Jennifer Jareau is a very significant YA heroine. From the beginning of her character, she took the odds of becoming an FBI agent, which is something most women wouldn’t do because it has a stigma of being a male job. She showed that even though she is a woman, she can hold her own, even to sexual psychopaths like Jacob Dawes. Even Derek Morgan was surprised that JJ could take down a male with a gun without using her gun, like the unsub in “Closing Time.” JJ might not be the typical “heroine,” but I think she proves that she should be thought of as one.