Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Qingwen Dong

First Committee Member

Teresa Bergman

Second Committee Member

Graham Carpenter


The storytelling ability of television can be observed in any genre. Crime drama offers a unique perspective because victims and offenders change every episode increasing stereotypes with each new character. In other words, the more victims and criminals observed by the audience, the more likely the show creates the perception of a mean world. Based on previous literature, three questions emerged which this study focused on by asking the extent of Criminal Minds’ ability to portray crime accurately compared to the Federal Bureau of Investigations Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the Behavioral Analysis Unit’s (BAU-4) report on serial murderers and how those portrayals changed over the fifteen years of the show. A content analysis was conducted through the lens of cultivation theory, coding 324 episodes which produced a sample size of 354 different cases to answer the research questions. Two additional coders focused on the first, middle, and last episodes of each season (N=45) for reliability. The key findings are low levels of realism with the UCR and high levels of realism with the BAU-4 statistics. Mean-world syndrome was found to be highly likely to be cultivated in heavy viewers. Finally, roles for minority groups did improve overtime for Black and Brown bodies, yet Asian bodies saw a very small increase in representation. LGBT members were nearly nonexistent. The findings indicated that there is still not enough space in television for minority roles and found that the show perpetuated stereotypes. Additional implications and themes include a lack discourse on violence and erasure of sexual assault victims.