“Stop—put your hands where I can see them and don’t move.” In a world that has become increasingly wary of its police officers, these words can send a chill down your spine. However, there is nothing to fear about the officers of the New York Police Department’s 99th precinct on FOX’s hit show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The award-winning show captures your heart with its witty sense of humor, relatable characters, and unique ability to portray several characters of minority groups without falling into the trap of overused stereotypes.
What makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine so special is that it boasts one of the most diverse casts on current television. The cast includes two Latina women and two black men, who nonetheless play characters in the highest positions of the precinct. The show successfully avoids the “token minority” trend that plagues most “diverse” casts on television now. In fact, characters of the same ethnic background could not be any more different from one another. Stephanie Beatriz plays Detective Rosa Diaz, the tough, mysterious heroine with an affinity for aggression. Melissa Fumero plays Detective Amy Santiago, a pantsuit-wearing nerd obsessed with earning her captain’s approval and outperforming the competition. Terry Crews’s character, Sergeant Terry Jeffords, is the incredibly muscular, soft-hearted older brother of the precinct who loves and cares for his wife and three daughters dearly. He projects the same near-paternal affection on his co-workers, is always willing to help out his fellow police officers, and gives meaningful advice. Andre Braugher stars as the stoic, no-nonsense Captain Raymond Holt, who is strict in his dry and boring ways. The rest of the cast includes Andy Samberg as Detective Jake Peralta, a notoriously messy, juvenile, all-American goofball; Joe Lo Truglio as Jake’s best friend, Detective Charles Boyle, a strange but endearing man who loves with his whole heart; Chelsea Peretti as Jake’s childhood friend Gina Linetti, an outwardly self-centered woman who hides a heart of gold; and Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller as Detectives Michael Hitchcock and Norman Scully, respectively, whose prolonged careers at the precinct are often questioned due to their continuous mishaps. Brooklyn Nine-Nine portrays its extensive cast of different cultural backgrounds with casual, realistic human characterization that breaks stereotypes like “the flamboyant homosexual” or “the spicy Latina.” In addition to race, it also discusses sexuality through Holt and his relationship with his husband, Professor Kevin Cozner, played by Marc Evan Jackson. So far, Holt and Cozner are the only prominent homosexual characters, but there have been recent rumors regarding giving Diaz a female romantic interest, a movement supported by Beatriz, who identifies as bisexual. The show builds meaningful relationships between the vastly different characters, such as the strong and supportive platonic friendship between Diaz and Peralta and the loving, slow-burn interracial relationship between Santiago and Peralta.
In the real world, the NYPD is an iconic staple of New York City. However, with that constant spotlight comes controversy surrounding police brutality, racial profiling, and corruption. This is a stark contrast from their hilarious fictional counterparts who can be seen as fumbling and flawed, but nevertheless, they always stay true to their morals and care for all of the citizens and the city of New York.
The show is not afraid of confronting issues such as police brutality, which was explored in the Season four episode “Moo-Moo.” It is possibly one of the most devastating episodes, not because of a blatantly depicted tragedy, but because it provided a simple understanding of the reality of racial profiling. To those who had not been able to understand the issue before due to inexperience with and detachment from the issue, this episode provided the right insight for an important wake-up call. The story begins with Jeffords looking for his daughter’s favorite toy on the sidewalk outside his house when he is stopped by a white police officer, Officer Maldack, who pulls a gun on him before he can explain the situation. When the officer finally listens, he only apologizes for the incident because Jeffords was a high-ranking police officer. Maldack believes—and outright says—that if Jeffords were an ordinary citizen, what he did would be the correct response. He responds to Jefford’s request for apology, “I’m not apologizing for doing my job.” Jeffords wants to report the officer to the NYPD authorities. However, Holt encourages him not to report the officer due to his own experience as a publicly gay black officer who rose through the ranks by his perseverance throughout decades of harsh discrimination. Throughout all of this, Peralta and Santiago are tasked with taking care of Jefford’s young children, which proves to be extremely difficult as the girls ask why their father got in trouble. Watching the couple figure out a way to explain racial profiling to the toddlers sends a sobering message to the audience, showing millions of viewers what news stations cannot. For once, we are able to experience the emotions and reactions of being forced to go through these trials and tribulations, and we come out at the end of the episode with a deeper, personal understanding of issues that the news stations can only scratch the surface of.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is what the rest of the entertainment industry should strive to be: inclusive and illustrative with the perfect balance of side-splitting humor and tough but important messages. The show creates several realistically complex relationships between its diverse characters, but the most important one is the relationship between the detectives and the audience. In a world that is mistrustful of its law enforcement, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not only an example for the entertainment industry, but for all police officers too. Like Peralta says, “That’s how we do it in the Nine-Nine, sir. Catch bad guys and look good doing it.”