I know, I know, I'm the last person on earth to watch this show. But I started season one of Brooklyn Nine Nine sometime late last week, and I've already hit season two. It's just such a smart, diverse, enjoyable show, if a slightly odd one to think about out of its own context.
A comedy about the wonderful NYPD isn't exactly timely, and I have to wonder how the show would have been received if it had started airing this season. But I think the fact that it has a season behind it partly shields it from all of the controversy and the abuse happening in its real-world equivalent. Its imaginary world is already well-established, so its far easier to separate it from events surrounding our NYPD.
At least, that's my assumption. A little googling revealed the show described as a "fantasy cop lineup," due both to the good nature of its NYPD force and to the diversity of the cast. And although it is potentially troubling to have a cop show where everyone is good and heroic and unconflicted (if also ridiculous), I really don't think a sitcom should be criticized for being more diverse than reality. Life can imitate art, after all, and establishing the idea of non-white, non-male cops as a norm can only be a good thing.
However, the show's handling of discrimination, while admirable in itself, does perpetuate harmful ideas about sexism and racism being things of the past. As far as I've seen, Detectives Rosa Diaz and Amy Santiago don't face any discrimination. Captain Holt frequently discusses the discrimination he faced as the NYPD's first openly gay black policeman, but these are past problems, shown in flashbacks. People back in the 80s were idiots, but he has overcome their stupidity, and there aren't really any problems now.
There is corruption in this police force, but on a bigger and more abstract scale -- no personal level discrimination, just the Commissioner protecting rich investors who also work for the Mafia. And our heroes themselves are beyond reproach.
And although comedies don't really want to get into anything too serious or heavy, that is a slightly troubling approach to take, especially considering current problems of racism with the NYPD. Yes, present a more diverse police force, but the show can present growth without suggesting that all sexism and racism ended with the 20th century.
That said, I love the characters, and I love that they seem to have been cast with no stereotypes or token diversity in mind. I love that Amy Santiago is basically Hermione Granger in the NYPD, and I love that although her ridiculous behavior is the subject of jokes, her ambition is never mocked, and she is always shown as capable and intelligent. I love that the hugely muscled cop Terry is the show's "mother hen" and has an episode where he has a breakdown over building a princess castle for his twin daughters. I love that the scariest person on the force is Rosa Diaz and the humor the show gets from her bad-ass-ness. I love that although one character, Charles, had a creepy obsessed love thing going for Rosa at the beginning, the show never suggests that she should just give dating him a try already, or sets things up in a way where the audience is waiting for her to "see the light." I love even more the fact that the two characters only get along and act as friends together after he gets over his ridiculous obsessive crush and starts acting normally.
When considered through the lens of the real world, Brooklyn Nine Nine becomes a little questionable, a little muddy. But within its own context, it is a tremendously fun, intelligent, progressive show, and I can't wait to watch more.