In honor of the weekend, and in memory of all the hours spent watching TV last weekend, I’ve decided that the time is ripe to begin a new segment: Unsung Heroes of Representation.
You might ask: Oh golly, who are these Unsung Heroes? Well, hold onto your seats, because they are a blast. Unsung Heroes of Representation has been devised to draw attention to TV shows and other media that represent marginalized identities in positive, realistic ways. Personally, I’m very tired of watching programs that rely upon stereotypes to characterize the few (if any) female, PoC, and/or queer characters – and I’m sure many of you agree.
That being said, what better way to kick this off than with the show I recently (shoutout to the long weekend) got all of my friends to start watching: Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
1. Girls just wanna have fun (and have complex characterization)
The main character of the show is Jake Peralta, but much attention is paid to the character development of the rest of the ensemble cast, which includes three tremendous women, all of whom are very different from one another. Out of these three, two are Latina – which is pretty unusual for a mainstream show. Generally, if there are any Latina characters, there is only one and she’s just there as the “Latin hot head” stereotype. As a Latina, the presence of multidimensional, intelligent Latinx characters is a huge appeal, and one of the reasons why I kept watching once I started the show.
And it gets better! All three of them are single for most of the series, and never used as arm candy for the other characters.
There’s plenty more to love about the portrayal of female characters, but that’s a different topic for a different subheading – which, coincidentally, is the next one.
2. Characters of color are normal characters, not stereotypes
Many of you are familiar with the typical Latina character: dimwitted, prone to irrational bursts of anger, pretty much only there for sex appeal. Think Sofia Vergara’s character in Modern Family. At least half of her jokes revolve around her being “exotic” or otherwise strange because of her ethnicity. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has none of that nonsense. Though Rosa has a temper, she is definitely a badass (as opposed to comic relief), often acts as the voice of reason for other characters, and is pretty much the embodiment of the leather-clad queen I wanted to be when I was younger.
The two top positions in the precinct are held by Sergeant Terry Jeffords and Captain Raymond Holt. Contrary to most media depictions of black men, both of these characters are emotionally stable, proficient leaders, and complex individuals – and neither of them are there purely for comedic relief!
Captain Holt is one of the best depictions of a gay man I’ve seen in popular media. He’s not flamboyant or otherwise television-coded as gay when he’s introduced – he’s just a regular guy who also happens to be gay. I’m all too familiar with the manner in which gay characters are often defined solely by their sexuality, so it’s refreshing to see a character like Captain Holt, whose biggest defining trait is his devotion to his team.
Like Captain Holt, Terry is considerably softer on the inside than his buff body and tall stature would suggest. He is a family man with a professed love for yogurt, fitness, and his daughters. Not only that, he embodies one of the few representations of a man struggling with body insecurities I have ever seen, an issue that is actively and healthily addressed within the narrative. He’s also a huge softie.
3. No hypermasculinity here, no sir!
This show is tremendously progressive in that it constantly subverts heteronormative standards of behavior – and I love it.
The men are allowed to be openly emotional, to feel insecure about their bodies, to express affection for other men. Maybe the latter doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but think about it: how often do you see supportive on-screen male friendships? On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, male characters talk about their feelings with other men, and generally these discussions don’t even revolve around romance, which is super rare for TV.
Some of the male characters like traditionally feminine things, are generally very open about their emotions, and even the most stereotypically “effeminate” character, Charles, is never ridiculed for his actions.
In short, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a fun, lighthearted series that knows when to get serious, has a diverse cast, and never fails to make me smile. There are also four seasons on Hulu (not on Netflix, sorry friends), so plenty of material for binge watching when you get the chance.
It even has these hilarious pec exercises.