Brooklyn Nine Nine: The Importance of a Diverse Show & Characters
In May of 2018 people around the world waited in anticipation, wondering whether or not their favorite shows were going to make it off the chopping block, and unfortunately for many people this was not the case. Many people were angry at these cancellations and their anger stemmed from their love of a TV show that made them laugh, smile, cry or all of the above. For others their anger came from the cancellation of a show they felt got cut too soon, while other shows such as Grey’s Anatomy (Season 15 & 16) or Supernatural (Season 14), both long running shows, were renewed for yet another season. One show that seemed to cause a huge uproar over being cancelled was Fox’s hilarious cop sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This anger and disappointment was felt not only among its regular everyday fans but also its celebrity fans such as Mark Hamill and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who both tweeted their disappointment at the unjust cancellation. However fans rejoiced when it was revealed, only a few days later, that NBC will be picking it up for a sixth season!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine centers around a unique cast of characters that all work as detectives in the NYPD, specifically Brooklyn’s 99th Precinct. Why is it that Brooklyn Nine-Nine draws people in so much and also made them so angry when it was cancelled? The most likely response is that while the show is hilarious and funny it also has relatable characters. We either relate to them or we at least we know someone who resembles these characters. It is a show that while has its hilarious and comedic moments it also is willing to tackle big issues such as racism, corruption, stereotypes, gender equality and homophobia.
We All Know Someone Like That: When Relating to the Characters Becomes the Best Part of the Show!
In any TV show the characters are often what keep people coming back for more or will cause them to turn away from a show altogether. One thing that Brooklyn Nine-Nine does right is its casting of diverse characters! All of the characters are relatable and can resemble some part of ourselves.
The Funny Guy: Jake Peralta
The main cast of characters are probably some of the best and most relatable people on TV today. The show centers around Andy Samberg’s character, Jake Peralta, a brilliant, young detective who can often get lost in the moment. He is an everyday man that makes us all remember those times that we forget what we’re doing because we get lost in the moment of bliss or satisfaction. One moment that really portrays this sense of relatability to Jake is during a cold opening (jumping directly into a scene, with no context, at the beginning of a show or movie) in Season Five. While trying to find the killer of a woman’s brother, Jake is told that she cannot identify the killer by face since she was hiding in the bathroom stall but by his singing voice since he was singing along to “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys that was being played at the club that’s night.
In this scene Jake tells the line up of prisoners (hilariously enough there are exactly five prisoners, like the five members of BSB) to each sing a line of the song starting from the beginning. As the scene goes on and each prisoner sings his line and Jake gets lost in the nostalgia and begins singing along to what can be assumed is one of his favorite Backstreet Boys songs. Finally, when the woman finally states who the killed her brother Jake’s response is hilarious. He states that he forgot that that was what they were there for in the first place. (Watch clip here: Brooklyn Nine-Nine “I Want It That Way”) There are many times in our lives in which we get so caught up in our love of something that we often forget there is a real world around us. Here the show takes a scene that would otherwise be intense and by the books in any other cop show and gives it that comedic and funny spin that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is known and loved for.
The Captain: Raymond Holt
There are some people in our lives that we view as uptight or too strait laced and then we make fun of them for being this way. Brooklyn Nine-Nine takes that view-point and judgment of someone and completely turns it on its head with the character of Captain Raymond Holt, played by Andre Braugher. It would be hard to find another character in television that would come close to the straight-laced and by the book ways of Holt. The best part about Holt is that he knows just what other people think of the way he acts and yet he doesn’t change a single thing about it. While a sense of humor isn’t something that is often attributed to people of this mind-set that is the complete opposite of Holt. Surprisingly, given his intensity, Holt is probably one of the funniest characters on the show. His dead pan delivery of jokes or criticisms often result in some of the biggest laughs. His humor is probably best displayed in his interactions with his arch nemesis Deputy Chief Wuntch, played by Keira Sedgwick. Holt vs. Wuntch: Best Insults Ever The best moments of the show however, are when Holt breaks his dead pan character traits and surprises audiences and characters alike. Such as the moment during an undercover operation when Jake calls out his code name of “wet blanket” he proceeds to tell Jake to instead call him “Velvet Thunder”, thus getting a hilarious response from Jake and the viewers as well. Holt embodies the personality of probably many people in our lives, whether it be our high school principal, the neighbor next door or maybe even our own father.
Holt also holds another important role in representing a different and more universal image of a gay man in the 21st century, compared to the more stereo-typically cast and represented versions in TV shows. Take shows such as Glee or even in Netflix’s original series Champions and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or in movies like Mean Girls where either the main or supporting gay character(s) are often presented as overly feminine and dramatic with a bright and sometimes over the top wardrobe. While there are many gay men that are very much like this stereotypical representation, Holt shows that gay men don’t have to present themselves in this way. Holt shows they can very much look like and be your everyday man. This aspect of Holt is especially inspiring since you find out that he came out as gay in the 1980’s, a time that is known for many people as still being very homophobic. Holt’s character represents the idea that out of diversity someone truly amazing can arise. Holt often states that he fought and worked long and hard to be in his the position of Captain, and that while it was not always easy for him be an openly gay as well as a black officer starting in the 1980’s, he would not trade the experience for anything.
You also find out that it is because of the struggles Holt faced that his husband Kevin has a hard time with viewing cops in a good light let alone liking them. Viewers learn throughout the five seasons of the show that Holt deserves his position as he is an inspiration to all of those around him and a truly amazing Captain, Jake even views him as a father figure.
Sergeant Big & Tall: Terry Jeffords
At some point in our lives we have all seen Terry Crews around somewhere. Whether it be his appearances in a movie like White Chicks, I mean we all remember that amazing “A Thousand Miles” scene, or for awhile as the Old Spice guy. Recently fans of the show got to see his short yet hilarious appearance in Deadpool 2. However, in Brooklyn Nine-Nine Terry Crews plays a different kind of role than what fans are used to seeing. In the show Crew’s plays Terry Jeffords ,the Sergeant of the 99th precinct who isn’t simply the man with all the muscles. While in the show the mention of Terry’s muscles or how strong he is, is often used for comedic moments and punch lines, Terry also represents the family man who many police officers are.
Many of Terry’s best moments are when he is interacting with the different characters of his police family as well as his biological family. It is hilarious, but also adorable, to see a grown man the size of Terry with his two young daughters as well as the struggles that he faces being their father. These struggles range from trying to find their favorite blanket late at night to feeling utterly defeated by their pink and purple doll house with wheels. Terry provides a fresh perspective on the family dynamics of a cop show. While he is a father to his own children he often acts like a father to many of the other characters on the show as well. Terry also provides many of the shows funniest one liners or he steals the scene when he is in it, from his moments as “Scary Terry” in the prisoner line up (just to fill in a space) who is afraid to miss the farmers market, to his unnatural love of yogurt. One particularly funny episode is when he becomes addicted to Charles’s organic chocolate niblets and he gains a ‘few’ pounds. Terry gives the show a fresh take on what it means to be a working family man.
The Loyal Best Friend: Charles Boyle
Charles, who is played magnificently by always funny man Joe Lo Truglio, is another character that fits the mold of amazing characters. Some people may also recognize Truglio from his role in the Pitch Perfect movies. Charles is Jake’s best friend and the relationship that these two have is wonderful and at many points hilarious. Charles is a special kind of character that in a show full of comedy, he can still be considered the comic relief. Charles is always upbeat no matter what kind of situation he is going through and does his best to try and make everyone around him see the positives.
Charles always wants to be involved in everything that is going on around the 99th precinct and if he is not involved, he becomes mopey and sometimes whiney. We all know someone like this or perhaps sometimes we ourselves have the anxiety that makes us believe that if we’re not involved in something we are missing out on something great! Charles for many people is the person that they want to be as a friend: loyal, honest, loving, caring and funny. However, they definitely could do without Charles’ less desirable traits such as his tendency for TMI (too much information), being involved in EVERY aspect of Jake’s life, including his romantic life, and his tendency to fall too fast and act too quickly, aka going ‘full Boyle’. Charles is a character that we tend to relate to on a more personal level and someone in which we could imagine as our own best friends. Charles is also an all around amazing man! Think of the way he treats Rosa after his tries to date her and when she rejects him instead of being angry, upset and revengeful about he treats Rosa with respect and dignity. It is a rare break from some of the other rejection stories you’ve seen on TV sitcoms (yeah Ross Gellar talking about you!)
The Lovable Extras: Scully & Hitchcock
We cannot talk about the characters in Nine-Nine without mentioning two of the most seemingly useless and yet never the less most enjoyable characters to watch, Scully and Hitchcock. Both of them spend most of their time in each episode either eating, sleeping, both or pretending to be detectives (although it is hinted in some episodes, they were both once great detectives with Scully holding the record for most arrests made at one point). Throughout the show you will question why you are completely enamored with these two and yet you will find that the show would not be the same without them.
The Women of the Nine-Nine
One of the greatest parts about Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that the show has a great female cast that isn’t specifically there to just support the male leads, rather they work alongside each other to create the comedic experiences we as viewers get to see.
The Badass: Rosa Diaz
One of the fan favorites female leads is Rosa Diaz, played by Stephanie Beatriz. Rosa is a tough, badass cop that tends to not show any emotion (she feels showing them are a waste of time, in most cases), nor does she like to talk about her feelings. However, this doesn’t mean she doesn’t have emotions, as there are a few times in the show we get to see them. Rosa also has a short fuse and quick temper and this causes many funny moments in the show. These moments include broken computers and more than one punch to either Scully or Hitchcock.Rosa keeps to herself and separates her private life from her work life and rarely wants the two to mix. There are many people in the field of police work that can connect to this want of work and life separation and it doesn’t mean that it is just police officers that connect to Rosa on this level.
Rosa is also a power house of a role model for women! Rosa knows what she wants out of life and who she wants in it. Rosa isn’t afraid of going after something just because it is viewed as something that is a little harder for a woman to achieve. Most importantly Rosa is extremely independent and can take care of herself and she doesn’t need anyone to tell her what her worth is. While there are many women on TV and in movies who fit this bill, Rosa is able to do it while never losing her sense of humor and quick wit. And in the rare moments when Rosa does smile we can’t help but smile along with her. Stephanie Beatriz does an amazing job bringing Rosa to life, and as a side note Rosa is and sounds much different from the actress who plays her in real life (just look her interviews up on YouTube, you’ll be surprised)!
Rosa is also another important character for the LGBTQ2 community, as we find out in Season 5 that she is bisexual and is dating a woman. This becomes even more of an important aspect to her character when viewers find out that Rosa is fearful to tell her very traditional parents about this. She brings Jake with her to tell them as he is her best friend and she needs him for emotional support. At first Rosa panics and tells her parents that her and Jake are dating, her plan to keep her secret. However her plan falls apart when Jake gets a phone call from Amy and her picture shows up on his phone with her wearing her wedding ring and Rosa’s Dad sees this and begins to question/interrogate Jake about it. Soon Rosa realizes she needs to tell the truth and so she tells her parents a short while later that her and Jake are not dating and that she is actually bi-sexual.
Rosa’s parents tell her that there is no such thing as being bisexual and that it is just a phase she is going through. When she tells them that who she loves doesn’t change who she is as a person and asks them if this point has changed them loving her and when neither of them respond, we as viewers are just as heartbroken as she is. Eventually, her father comes to her and tells her that while he doesn’t understand it all, he loves her and always will, and that he will try to understand it. He tells Rosa though to give her mother more time as she hasn’t accepted it yet. Another important moment is when Rosa comes out to the precinct and everyone takes it really well and they tell her they’re proud of her, in which Holt responds by stating this is a better reception then he received when he came out. Once again enforcing the idea of changes throughout the generations. (Video: Rosa Gets Personal With The Precinct)There are many people who can connect with Rosa on her journey of discovery and coming out, as many of them have gone through similar conversations with their parents, families and friends. More often than not they have the same outcome one way or another or some have a worse outcome than what Rosa went through. Rosa becomes both an inspiration and role model for the LGBTQ2 community as she doesn’t let these things deter her from being who she is.
The Perfectionist: Amy Santiago
Another one of the amazing female leads that Nine-Nine has to offer is Amy Santiago, played by Melissa Fumero. One of the most important things about Amy is that she is a character that is often found in sitcoms. She is the straight-laced, by the books, never break the rules kind of detective but the best thing about Amy as a character is that she breaks this character stereotype. Often these types of characters are older and thus harder for younger audiences to relate to, instead in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Amy is a young and determined detective trying to rise up the ranks of the NYPD. She is an inspiring character for both young men and women who have this Type A personality and she shows them that this is nothing to be ashamed of. While Amy tends to follow rules and is viewed by some of the other characters, mainly Gina, as boring or predictable she also has her moments where she flips people’s view of her and these are some of Amy’s best moments. In these moments Amy lets loose and realizes that even the most straight-laced person can have a good time. Both Amy and Rosa are role models that represent strong women who take no punches in a field of work that is very much male dominated (not as much as it used to be but the difference is still there).
The Superstar: Gina Linetti
Gina Linetti is another character on the show that can be categorized under the title of special and this is mostly due to the amazing comedic genius that is Chelsea Perritti. Gina is the only main character of the show that is not a detective. Rather she is the spunky, colorful and sarcastic administrator of the 99 that is often doing anything but her job. In most episodes she can be found trying to become the next big star in one way or another and she provides many of the laughs when it comes to her interactions with Charles (who was once her lover but is now her step brother) or her bosses Terry and Holt. Gina provides the everyday persons point of view on the show and she is the one character that is just like those of us watching. Brooklyn Nine-Nine offers its viewers a great set of characters that everyone can relate to in some way or another.
Not Afraid to Tackle the Big Issues: And Always with a Big Heart
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of those shows on TV that is for everyone. Why though? Why is the show is so great both off and on paper?
First of all the cast of the show is EXTREMELY diverse in both race and gender. Thinking back to the mainstream sitcoms from the 1960’s – 1990’s, how many can you name that features a lead cast that has two Latina’s (Beatriz and Fumero) as well as two black men (Crews and Braugher)? There are very few if you really think about it, however, both the show and the network were not scared to go ahead and cast all four of the actors to play the roles of Diaz, Santiago, Jeffords and Holt. Another point to look at while looking at the diverse aspect of the show, is to look at the types of characters Crews and Braugher play, Captain Raymond Holt and Sergeant Terry Jeffords, two black men in positions of power; which is something you never would have seen on TV thirty years ago. While television is becoming more inclusive in casting different races of actors in leading roles of power and prestige, shows such as Criminal Minds, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy all include lead characters of different races, Brooklyn Nine-Nine stands above them all with a lead cast that is completely diverse. Yet another reason to praise this amazing show!
These diverse characters are also not portrayed in stereotypical ways, they are all their own entity that give fresh insight into each characters special traits. Some of the great non stereotypical things that Brooklyn Nine-Nine does so well is, it takes a character like Holt, as stated before and separates him from the traditional over the top gay man persona. Next it takes Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz and instead of over sexualizing them or making them just another pretty face, like how many Latina characters are often portrayed in other shows, they make them strong and independent women who are not afraid to share their thoughts and to stand their ground. This show treats all of its characters with respect and dignity and allows us as viewers to take a deep and meaningful journey along with them through all of the seasons.
Nine-Nine is also not afraid to take a look at some pretty serious and relevant issues that are faced today, and that other TV shows often shy away from.
One example of this would be in Season 4 when they take on the issue of racial profiling. In the episode titled “Moo Moo” Terry is out looking for his daughters Moo Moo (her blanket), since she cannot sleep without it and she lost it while being babysat by Amy and Jake. Terry is wandering around his neighborhood looking for it, late at night, and when he eventually finds it he is overjoyed and relieved. This happiness ends however when he is approached by a white police officer who raises his gun and tells Terry to put his hands up. Terry tries to tell the officer that he lives in the neighborhood and when that doesn’t work he tries to tell the officer that he is also a police officer. The officer asks to see his badge and Terry tells him that he doesn’t have his badge on him since it is late and he is off duty ultimately leading to Terry being arrested by the officer.
When he is released Holt tells Terry that the officer who arrested him wants to meet him to apologize. Terry is surprised and happy but once again this happiness fades when the officer tells Terry that he wouldn’t have arrested him if he knew he was a cop and tells him that he should always carry his badge with him to prevent this from happening. Terry is infuriated with this and tells Holt that he wants to file a complaint about it. However, Holt tells him he is not signing off on the complaint or sending it in. Holt doesn’t tell Terry why and Terry is hurt because he believes that if there was anyone who would support and understand Terry and the situation it would be Holt. Eventually, Terry finds out that Holt didn’t want to sign off and send it in for Terry because Terry is currently in the running for a PR position with the NYPD and filing the complaint would give him an even bigger disadvantage than he already faces (meaning that by being a black man he already has a disadvantage). Holt then goes on to explain that he understands what Terry is going through since he himself faced his share of unfair hardships going through the ranks of the police force starting in the 1980’s by being not only black but then being openly gay in the 1980’s. In the end though Holt files the complaint.
One of the more real and heartfelt and real moments of this episode is while Jake and Amy are babysitting Terry’s daughters and Terry’s daughters ask them if the reason why their daddy was arrested was because he is black. Jake and Amy try the best that they can to go around the situation delicately but ultimately decide to tell the girls the truth. They tell them that yes this was the reason why, Jake goes on to tell them that it is not a bad thing to be black and that just because other people see it that way doesn’t mean it’s true. Terry’s daughters reply to this news with two words, “that’s scary”. These words not only break the viewers hearts but also make us face a reality. Even at a young age these two young girls realize just how scary a world that is full of hate and discrimination, for something so small, really is. Jake and Amy do a fantastic job at letting these girls know that there is nothing wrong with who they are and that there will always be people out there that are so full of hate that nothing will fix them; and that these are the people who are the problem. In this situation Brooklyn Nine Nine handled the situation and themes with class and while viewers are used to comedy, the show did not laugh at this situation or treat it like it is a joke or a punch line to one.
They also tackle the ideas of diversity and gender equality that are present in the field of the NYPD. The run for the new commissioner of the NYPD is a great example where this diversity is shown. Holt as well as four other candidates are in the running, one who happens to be a woman named Officer Olivia Crawford, the other three being old-fashioned white male officers of the NYPD. Holt is later told by a member of the selection committee that the only reason Officer Crawford is in the running is for PR reasons, and that she would never be chosen to be commissioner because “the NYPD isn’t ready for a female commissioner”. This upsets Holt because he knows what it is like to face diversity and these stereotypes in the NYPD, especially when you are different in any way that goes against what is normal according to the NYPD’s (old and outdated) standards. It is important for both of these candidates to be in the running because they cover two very different and yet similarly ostracized groups of people. The NYPD, in regards to Holt and Crawford, are shown to be stuck in their old ways and their viewpoints and are not ready to move on from these. While both of these characters are competition for each other they know the importance of them both being involved and possibly winning.
This show also tackles the issue of the corruption that can happen when someone in power uses this power to their own benefit. At the end of Season 4 and beginning of Season 5 viewers are immersed into a story line in which Jake and Rosa are wrongly accused of money laundering. This is after going undercover as dirty cops for a well-respected detective named Hawkins, who is actually a dirty cop, that is involved in money laundering and trafficking diamonds. Jake and Rosa are initially invited to be part of Hawkins team after solving a big case for her, only to find out that she is dirty and she only invited them to be part of her team to keep an eye on them. When they are discovered by Hawkins for trying to expose her she turns it all around on them (they had no idea she knew) and sets up and elaborate plot to get them caught as the notorious bank robbers (who are actually Hawkins and her team) they were tracking in previous episodes. Hawkins uses her power and influence in the NYPD to make sure that she isn’t discovered as the real dirty cop and because she is so well respected and accomplished people are willing to believe everything she says.
While in prison, especially on the side of Jake, we see the corruption that goes on in the prison as well and the violence that the inmates face from the guards. We also see the power imbalance as the manipulative warden of the prison gets Jake to do his bidding in the prison, which ultimately puts Jake’s life in danger. However, the warden doesn’t care about this as long as his will is done and he is looked at in a good light. This type of corruption is something that is often shied away from in most police dramas and shows as it is something that a lot of people don’t like to think about or don’t want to believe happens in their own police force. The one interesting and refreshing thing about this plot line is that Hawkins is a women who is corrupted by her power and thus turned dirty. Often in shows it is men that are corrupted by the power that they hold and the women are the pawns in this power struggle, so it was refreshing and tactfully done to show that women can be corrupted by power just as much as men. This isn’t saying that showing women in power becoming corrupt hasn’t been done in TV or movies before, it just doesn’t happen as often as it does with men.
The Relationships are Important!
The relationships between the characters in the show create such an amazing and wonderful experience for all of those watching. These relationships become the backbone of the show that keeps it moving forward and allows us as viewers to become part of the show as well.
We see the relationship that Holt has with his husband Kevin and see that while they are both stoic, straight faced and scarily similar they show their love for each other in weird but ways perfectly suited to them. We see the love that Charles and Jake share being best friends and the lengths that they would go for one another. Also how Rosa, who is viewed as emotionless and tough, actually loves everyone in the 99 in her own unique way, including Hitchcock and Scully. We see the love and respect that Holt has for all of his officers especially Amy, as he sees parts of himself in her personality and demeanor.
Then there’s Gina, who we are led to believe only loves herself, instead we see that in her own quirky way that she loves everyone that she works with in the 99. The way Scully and Hitchcock love each other is kooky and odd but yet it is such a genuine and loving friendship that we fall in love with them too and dismiss the weirdness. The characters of this show create genuine, strong and loving relationships with each other and whether it is the romantic relationships or the family bonds the 99 share with each other we fall in love with the relationships that are built upon and maintained throughout all five seasons of this amazing show.
When the Ship Finally Sets Sail!
One of the best relationships in the show and possibly the biggest romantic ships in the 2000’s sitcom era, is the slow burning and much long-awaited, romance that blooms between Amy Santiago and Jake Peralta. This relationship is comparable to the sweetness and cuteness that we saw between Jim and Pam in The Office thus Jake and Amy’s relationship is absolutely adorable and sweet.
They begin as two fellow detectives that are competitive and can’t really stand one another, to two people who are so madly in love with one another that they would take a bullet for each other. There are many times in Brooklyn Nine-Nine in which viewers are treated to watching both sides of the romance fall in love with one another. These moments are adorable, whether it be the moment we see Amy tuck her hair behind both of her ears (something Rosa says is her tell when she really likes a guy), or Jake’s sincere smile and gaze when he realizes he wants to marry Amy when she states that there is a spelling error in the crossword puzzle she is doing. During their relationship we see two people who are truly in love with one another and is based on the mutual respect for one another. Their relationship is so true to real life relationships and they face real life struggles. Real in way such as how Jake loves that Amy is ambitious and driven and yet he often fears that she will one day grow tired of him because he isn’t as smart as her. Amy reassures Jake that she will never grow tired of him and that even though though their brains work in different ways he is a great detective and she admires him. Then on the other hand Amy fears that by her being ambitious and rising in the ranks (her becoming a sergeant) that Jake will feel too pressured and leave her. Jake tells her that she is too good to be held back by these fears and that he will be proud of her and love her for every accomplishment she achieves no matter how big or small.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is an amazing show filled with characters that are as diverse, kooky, wacky, serious, loving and caring as those people who are in the audience watching the show! Each 25 minute episode is full of laughter, joy and kookiness but they are also full of heart and serious moments as well especially when tackling the issues that face everyday people. It is a brilliant show about a group of amazing and diverse people who represent everyone out there. They are a group of people who go to work everyday not knowing what will happen next and yet they are ready for whatever is thrown their way, because they are a family that sticks together. It is a show that not only shows love for the characters and story lines that it has built but also for the fans of the show. Brooklyn Nine-Nine gives viewers a show that is truly incredible in every aspect and may teach viewers something about themselves as they watch the show. For those who have yet to watch it, please do, and allow yourself the pleasure of taking in one of the best shows on television, and for those who are loyal 99 fans lets continue to watch this show (preferably on NBC) and show NBC why they made a brilliant choice in picking this show up for another season!
What do you think? Leave a comment.