By Margaret Curtis, PhD
As Patrick Jane, Simon Baker smiles at police, millionaires and psychos. He should. With Peter O’Toole’s magnificent mane, Baker appears to wear a crown of red gold. With Michael Caine’s sense of noblesse oblige, as well as his talent for roguery in roles like The Man Who Would Be King, Baker triumphs as The Man Who Can Read the Lizard Mind.
Jane reads motives, buried under surfaces carpeted with hyper-color—like Jane’s hair, his associates’ flame red veils and smoldering black helmets. Watching Baker’s popular series The Mentalist allows viewers to dive into a painting, created by pixels. If reality were this color intensive, who would leave it to luxuriate in fantasies?
Jane’s character smiles because he supposedly knows more about us than we do. Don’t we wish that he confided his resolutions to all our issues, outside the television screen? As he rolls and dances through the series’ plots, he advises criminals and co-workers alike on not dying from self-pity and not smugging their way to the top. No psychic he, more like hyper-psychologist.
He hears what we don’t say—a very old formula for TV success. He says what we don’t admit—that we, too, would roll and dance through our lives, if we felt as comfortable as he does consorting with lizards. The lizards among us do not intimidate him, for all the world’s lizards reveal to him their desire to become more than boots, belts, and boutique jackets.
Simon Baker deserves kudos for bringing off this role. He could have settled for smiling like Charlie Harper, who’s always got another hooker waiting in his bedroom. He could have settled for violence to settle conflicts with the rich and opportunistic. Instead, his character applies critical thinking to undress the lawless who—without his skills--drive the unthinking nuts.