TV Corner: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

[Content Note: Discussion of rape culture trope; spoilers for Brooklyn Nine-Nine; disablist language.]

image of actress Melissa Fumero, a young Latina woman, and actor Andy Samberg, a young Jewish man, on the set of Brooklyn Nine-Nine as Detectives Amy Santiago and Jake Peralta

When Brooklyn Nine-Nine first premiered two years ago, I gave it a tentatively positive review. And, well, two years later, I'm still watching it!

The show isn't perfect: There have been a number of fat jokes, some pranks on and/or bullying of various characters, and some "ironic" humor around race, sexuality, and gender that doesn't always land, as examples—and, if you're thinking that sounds a lot like Parks & Rec, well, you are correct, because the show's made by some of the same team.

But there is a lot I enjoy about the show (which inevitably gives me a couple of belly laughs every episode): It passes the Bechdel Test all over the place; it has a genuinely racially diverse cast, where the actors of color are not just supporting players and also not one-dimensional racial stereotypes, and there are multiple recurring characters who are also played by people of color; and it constantly challenges the toxicity of patriarchally-defined masculinity.

I mean, listen: Terry Crews plays a feminist police sergeant with adorable twin daughters named Cagney and Lacey.


In last night's episode, something remarkable happened.

Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy (Melissa Fumero) have been sorta-crushing on each other on and off throughout the duration of the show, but not getting the timing right and blah blah standard sitcom convention. Enter some super cop on whom Jake and Amy both have a professional crush, and they are assigned to work a case with him. Wouldn't you know it but Super Cop is interested in Amy, and asks Jake if she's single and would it be weird if he asked her out. Again, standard sitcom convention.

At this point in most sitcoms, here's what happens: Jake goes ballistic and tries to figure out how to stop this from happening through a series of increasingly inappropriate actions, because he likes Amy and thus believes she belongs to him.

But here's what happened in Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake confesses to Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) that he's upset Super Cop wants to ask out Amy. Rosa asks why he didn't just tell him to back off. And Jake replies: "I can't go around telling guys not to ask Amy out because I like her and I'm too dumb to do anything about it. I can't make a woman's choice for her. I stand with Wendy!"

Literally, he calls out the exact rape culture trope that would usually get activated in that exact moment. Brilliant.

And that would have been terrific enough on its own, but then Rosa advises him: "Look, if you want to give her a real choice, you gotta let her know that you are an option."

It was at this moment that I realized how radical it was that Jake was even going to a female colleague, instead of a male colleague, for dating advice in the first place. He wasn't going to some dudebro buddy who will tell him how to manipulate Amy into liking him. He was going to a woman who told him how to communicate with Amy to respect her autonomy.

And, the thing is, there's no dudebro buddy on the show for him to go to, anyway. Jake is as dudebro buddy as it gets, and he's the one saying he can't make a woman's choice for her.

Anyway. Jake goes to tell Amy how he feels, but she's on a date with Super Cop. So he doesn't pull a Graduate at the Church and bust into her life to force her to make an on-the-spot choice. He backs off, because that's the decent thing to do.

Good job, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It's pretty pathetic that this scene was as radical as it was, but congrats all the same for being willing to step over the lowest of low bars! No one else is.

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