As someone who cherishes and takes her free time very seriously, I am particular about the shows I choose to indulge in. After a long work week, I love to lose myself in television shows that are a perfect mix of comedy and drama. So, when a friend suggested I watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I was hesitant.
Television is my method to escape the horrors and stress of the real world. As a Black woman, I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable watching a show I thought was about a bunch of cops making light of the harsh realities of police brutality.
I started the show back in 2015. I watched about two episodes and then quickly abandoned it.
It wasn’t until this past winter when my seasonal depression began hitting me hard that I tried again in earnest.
This time, it stuck.
I watched all of the past seasons and caught up in about a month and a half. I’ve been preaching the wonders of Brooklyn Nine-Nine ever since.
One of my favorite things about this show is how diverse the cast is. Nowadays, networks and compacts love to throw the term “diversity” around like an empty buzzword.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine actually follows through. The main cast is compromised people from different ethnicities, religions, and sexualities. It is honestly refreshing to behold.
This leads directly to my second favorite thing about the show: Captain Ray Holt. Holt is a gay Black man and he is the most powerful person in the show. Even though Holt is a queer person of color, that isn’t the be all, end all of his personality or character development. In many shows, characters from a marginalized group aren’t allowed to simply exist. Instead, they must embody and become a representation of the entire group.
All of their storylines and plot points are all created in relation to their identity as a member of group X.
However, this isn’t to say that Brooklyn Nine-Nine completely ignores and attempts to sanitize Captain Holt’s history as the only openly gay police officer in his precinct, prior to his becoming captain. The show does a great job at highlighting his experiences without reducing him to solely these experiences.
Through my watching of the series, I found myself constantly impressed at how incredibly self-aware it was. My initial reservations soon melted away, because the show’s characters were consistently on-point in addressing the tension between the police force and civilians.
In the season three episode, “Boyle’s Hunch,” when Officer Amy Santiago’s subway posters get vandalized, the characters are forced to acknowledge why the members of their community felt outraged enough to carry out this act. The officers manage to discuss ways to better serve, in turn, creating an open dialogue with the people they are hired to protect. In real-life Brooklyn, I don’t think it’s always as easy to come to resolutions like this, but I appreciated the show offering a way to remedy the situation – rather than pretending that New York City was some sort of utopia.
My love of Brooklyn Nine-Nine truly cemented during a more recent episode.
In a season four episode entitled “Moo Moo”, Office Terry Jeffords, second in command and a Black man, is racially profiled in his own neighborhood. He is stopped and questioned by a white police officer, who is extremely aggressive and does not allow Terry to get a word in edgewise.
What follows is an extremely powerful scene, where Amy and Jake, two officers under Terry’s command, must sit his twin daughters down and explain the situation. The girls immediately want to know if Terry was targeted because he was black.
This is never an easy answer to give any Black child, but Amy and Jake do a really awesome job at answering their questions honestly, while also making them feel safe.
This episode was eye-opening and drove home the point that even if a person is “blue” some of the time, they are Black all of the time.
Which, unfortunately within society today, comes with an unavoidable level of suspicion and discrimination.
There’s no such thing as perfect and unproblematic media.
If I stopped watching a show every time it didn’t completely line up with my own politics, I would have zero shows to watch and my days off would be a lot more boring. That being said, I appreciate Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s attempts to tackle important issues. The show’s ability to balance comedy, drama, and current events, without ever feeling callous or overdone, is a feat to behold.
It’s quickly managed to become one of my all-time favorites and I’m so glad I decided to give it a second chance.