Lets talk about the dudes on Brooklyn 99.
I talk about this show a lot because it is one of the very few mainstream shows I watch with any regularity.
When it first came out, I was all, “It’s a cop show by the guy from Lonely Island? Hard pass.” But the Geek Husband What Rules had heard good things, and he started watching it and convinced me to give it a shot.
I was really pleasantly surprised.
I should have maybe been more open to it, given that in their song “The Creep,” Lonely Island actually talked about female creeps as well as the male variety.* Which is not a thing you see often in regular media.
But anyway, the subversion of male tropes in Brooklyn 99 is fucking fantastic.
First off, it’s a cop show. The realm of manly dudes, with guns!
But the way they toy with the tropes is amazing. First off, the majority of the time the white dudes are the ones who bear the brunt of punchline more often than not. They are the minority, being outnumbered by male black and female Latina cops.
Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is the “protagonist.” Initially he comes off as kind of a Bro, definitely the “prankster” of the group, but then as the show progresses and if you pay attention, you’ll see he’s not really that bro-tastic. He respects the women and the POC he works with, and for. He tries to be “woke” and when he fails, he apologizes and they move on. This is frequently the punch line of episodes.
His statement about why he hates Thanksgiving is also pretty awesome: “…because the pilgrims were murderers and turkey tastes like napkins.”
The other white guys on the show are the two veterans, Scully and Hitchcock, who are older, near retirement, out of shape. They are frequently also the butt of jokes, but not always. And while the other officers have frequent, “Guys, no. We don’t do that anymore,” conversations with them, they do seem to genuinely be fond of the old guys who are confounded by computers, but whizzes at doing things the old-fashioned way when technology isn’t helping. The most recent example of this that I can think of is Scully helping to piece together shredded documents and being AMAZING at it, and helping to solve the case. Also, on occasion one of them will correct the other about something that’s offensive, showing that they are capable of learning and adapting.
And Boyle is a category all his own, trying to be “manly” while also being really into food and in general being a gentle guy. He’s small and a nerd, “dud” would be the best category, at least in the eyes of a lot of “manly” dudes. But he doesn’t lack for female companionship. He and Gina had an on again, off again thing for awhile, which. began because they got drunk and slept together. He never once slut shames her. No one does. I believe he’s currently married. That happened a couple seasons ago, and I think it stuck.
So, in addition to using white guys as foils, they subvert a lot of other tropes with their genesis in toxic masculinity, and often racism.
Terry Crews is most of these. He is a very large, very muscular black man, and also a fucking delight and delicate cinnamon bun. He is also a phenomenally brave man, who has come out as a survivor of sexual abuse. His character, Detective Sergeant Terry Jeffords, is a gentle giant who is very into parenting his twin daughters, Cagney and Lacey. He loves his wife, and is very fond and protective of his co-workers.
Usually a character in a cop show played by a huge black guy turns out to be a bad-tempered, angry racist stereotype. But Sergeant Jeffords is none of these. He’s a fantastic and well-rounded character. He can and does get mad, but it’s rare.
Andre Braugher is Captain Raymond Holt, the head of this squad of pure awesome. He is both gay and black, and is not a stereotype of either. In fact he comes off more as an homage to the character of Joe Friday in Dragnet with his flat affect and delivery. But again, we see a more human side of him, his affection for his equally ‘dry’ husband (who is white), his love of their corgis, the fact that marshmallows make him giggle. There is nothing flamboyant or “sassy” about either of them. Granted, Kevin, Captain Holt’s husband could definitely fall into the quiet, prissy, gay man stereotype, but even he has depth beyond the stereotype,
So again, we have a large black man playing a character that is pretty diametrically opposed to stereotype, two stereotypes actually. I mean, I can count the number of queer black male characters I’ve ever seen on television on one hand, and most of them get killed off within the first two seasons. And if you have never seen the flashbacks to Captain Holt in the 70s, go find those shows. It’s awesome.
So, yeah, if you have not watched Brooklyn 99 and you enjoy comedies, please check it out. It reminds me a lot of my other favorite cop show, Barney Miller, which was amazingly progressive for its era, with positive depictions of gay men, as well as the stereotypes, and of women cops. Their squad was made up of one black man (Ron Glass), one “Asian” man (Jack Soo, a Korean man playing a Japanese man), one Jewish man (Abe Vigoda), one clueless midwestern white guy (Max Gail), and one weird intellectual (Steve Landesberg). They tackled topics like gay bashing, rape and racism, and did it very well for the time. The gay-basher episode is fantastic.
Sorry, I just really love Barney Miller.
*Women are either fuckable, and sex objects, or unfuckable and psycho, never just creeps. For values of ‘just creep’ in proportion to trying to kill everyone the guy ever loved.
If you like what you read here, please consider donating using the link at the top right of the page: Keep Us Geeking, or checking out my Patreon. Thank you!
Also, if you’d like to see what sort of fiction I write when left to my own devices, please feel free to check out my fiction Patreon, Nothing Nice Comes Out of My Head.