Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of the funniest shows on television. The workplace sitcom follows the fictional 99th Police Precinct in New York City and the crazy group of people who work there. The series is so much more than just another sitcom, though. There has been an endless well of serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine throughout the years. Sexism and police brutality are just two examples of several real-life issues addressed on the series. The brains behind this comedy are not scared to talk about what's important!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn't just do "very special episodes," though. They highlight specific topics without taking away the humor of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and they don't feel "preachy." A TV series that can seamlessly combine seriousness and hilariousness is a rarity! The police comedy has never been afraid of losing viewers due to their progressive views and politics and it's refreshing.
There is no character on TV that challenges the idea of toxic masculinity more than Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews). At first look, Terry is a "man's man": He's a cop, he's super buff, and he has a commanding presence. But when you dig deeper you realize that he's one of the most emotional people on the show. He isn't afraid of his emotions — or shedding a few tears! — and no one ever bemoans him for it! He's a man with feelings and it's never recognized as anything out of the ordinary. Aside from Terry, none of the male leads are stereotypically masculine. They're all layered and complex without ever being made to feel lesser because they're not "manly enough."
Let's be honest — families are the worst sometimes. Almost everyone has dealt with some type of familial dysfunction and Brooklyn Nine-Nine is never afraid to show that families are complex! Everyone has a story to tell. Jake's (Andy Samberg) father left his family when he was young after his philandering ways led to a split with his mother. Years later, the two have reconciled (somehow!) and Jake still has lingering abandonment issues. Oh, and don't get us started on the Boyle family. Full of weirdo cousins, vacations to Idaho, and too many "I love you"s! The series never makes family dysfunction a one-off episode kind of thing, it's ingrained in the fabric of the series as something that informs who all the characters are!
Obviously the hazards of being a cop is one of the serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine! Though, we'll be honest, not many series about police work put in the effort to make sure the depiction is accurate. Brooklyn Nine-Nine does this tenfold and even takes on a realistic look at the incredibly dangerous situations cops can be put in. On the season five episode "Show Me Going," Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) responds to an active shooter situation because she's close by, sending her co-workers into a fear spiral. Instead of being an episode centered on the shooting, they focused in on those left helpless at the precinct and how their job can and do lead to dangerous situations.
This is one of the few shows on television that never mocks other cultures or uses someone's ethnicity for a gag. But they take it even further and show acceptance of other cultures, not just tolerance. When Charles (Joe Lo Truglio) adopts a young Latvian boy, he doesn't force the boy to fully assimilate into American culture. He embraces the Latvian side of his son and works to teach him about his home country's food, culture, and toys (Captain Latvia for the win!). It's this effortless acceptance of a culture that isn't 'Merica that sets Brooklyn Nine-Nine apart from the rest!
Several times over the course of the series, those working at the 99th precinct have made it known that they believe in strict gun control. In some instances, it's a serious conversation. In others, it's a small joke. On "Coral Palms Pt. 2," Jake and Holt (Andre Braugher) are stuck in witness protection in Florida and ready to take matters into their own hands so that they can go back home. This involves getting a firearm and — oh boy — is it easy! When the "database is down" and they don't need ID's to get guns and a bucket of bullets, Jake unforgettably mutters, "Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool. Our country is broken." TBH, he's not wrong. As cops, they recognize their responsibility to carry firearms responsibly and it's extraordinary that they don't shy away from one of the hottest issues in the country!
Sometimes, we just need an ally. It's a tricky subject — how men fit in a feminist world and how they can work to not make feminism all about them while still being supportive participants. This is one of the many complex and serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine with subtlety and grace. Every male on the series is incredibly supportive of the women around them without having to tell everyone how supportive they are. It's just implied! Not a single man on the show is asking for praise for being a feminist. The guys just think it's the right way to be and that's the end of it. Even Jake's marriage proposal to Amy (Melissa Fumero) is as much about his love for her as it is about her being the best detective he knows. He even started it with, "I love how smart you are," and then talked about how much he loves her butt!
Instead of focusing a whole episode or storyline on "mental health issues," the series acknowledges naturally that some of the characters have real struggles — just like real life! At the beginning of the series, Terry is dealing with extreme anxiety after policing-related trauma. It's an accurate portrayal of how anxiety can cause erosion in home and work life. Another character, Adrian Pimento (Jason Mantzoukas), is very clearly suffering from PTSD due to a long tenure undercover. His manic, paranoid state is a bit overexaggerated for laughs, but at his core, there are clear issues to be addressed.
Let's take a moment to acknowledge that one of the serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the established fact that these are good, moral cops! There is no dirty police work or cutting corners. Everything they do is as servants of the people and they do everything in their power to help others. On the season three episode "Boyle's Hunch," Amy and Holt work on promotional posters for the NYPD but they end up getting vandalized. Instead of calling it a wash, they worked to find out why their community reacted that way and proactively opened a dialogue with those in the city about what they want to see from the NYPD. They're always working to better serve the people they're sworn to protect — even when they're vandalizing their posters!
It's time to talk about Captain Raymond Holt a.k.a the gay African American police captain in charge of the 9-9. At first, when we learn that Captain Holt is gay, it comes as a bit of a shock. He's stern and objectively masc, so considering the bias we all (unfortunately) instinctively have, it's a little bit of an "oh wow!" moment to learn Holt is married to a man. That "oh wow" moment is part of what flips stereotypes on their heads. Fans were quick to see that it wasn't some "gay plotline" to force representation. He's gay, he's married to a man, and that's (part of) who he is. His personal life is approached in the exact same way as the hetero characters' on the show. Showing a gay character as more than their sexuality is so rare on TV and the ease of representation on the show makes it one of our favorite serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine!
Holt isn't the only LGBT character on the show! On the season five episode "Game Night," Rosa came out as bisexual when she revealed she was dating a woman. What followed was an honest look at a woman coming into her sexuality and coming out to those around her. The difficulty her parents have with accepting Rosa's sexuality feels incredibly true-to-life. Coming out is hard and just because this is a sitcom doesn't mean they're about to make it seem like it's not! The other side of her coming out story is that it gives representation to bisexuality. A lot of television shows are slammed for bi-erasure or biphobia. Having someone on 99 who is a little more fluid in their sexuality that we often see is a big deal!
On Brooklyn Nine-Nine's sixth season, the cops took on the #MeToo movement and sexual harassment in the workplace. On the episode "He Said, She Said," a woman is charged with attacking her boss with a golf club after he allegedly sexually assaulted her in his office. Without faltering with the comedy, the episode sensitively explores the gray area of reporting sexual harassment when it's your word against theirs. The episode also digs into the complexities of women working in a male-dominated field and how filing a complaint like this can ruin a woman's life despite not doing anything wrong. This also ties in with another one of the serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine — male feminism and support for women. Jake works the case with his wife and learns how to be a better ally and participate in the conversation as a guy.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is all about strong female characters! Let's be real, Rosa and Amy are the best detectives on the show, hands down. But aside from their success in the workplace, they're portrayed as strong, confident women — nothing like the female stereotypes we often see on television. They're both tough and commanding while balancing their caring sides. Of all the serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we love how the show approached Amy's sergeant promotion storyline, showing how moving up as a woman in law enforcement can be difficult. In true Amy fashion, she nails it!
This has only been touched upon lightly so far, but it's significant when it comes up. On the sixth season, there is a huge pushback from Captain Holt against the new Police Commissioner about a policy he equates to "stop and frisk," a program that allowed police to stop and search anyone they wanted and led to severe racial profiling. In an effort to curb potential police brutality, Holt fights back against the program and ends up paying the price for his open views. Sure, the Commissioner wreaks havoc on the precinct but, in the end, Holt finds that it's worth it. Why wouldn't you fight for the people who could possibly be negatively impacted by the NYPD's policies? This is a serious issue we'd love to see explored more, especially considering the current conversation surrounding the police.
Jake and Amy are the ideal romantic relationship. They're pretty perfect. But it's not just because they're ~in love~ and have cute moments. It's because they're a great depiction of an actual healthy relationship on TV. So many of the relationships we love on television are horribly toxic. Like, let's be real, Chuck and Blair? McDreamy and Meredith? Amy and Jake, though, are the real deal. They're loyal to one another completely, supportive of whatever the other wants to do, and are great at communicating. It's not a common serious issue to be tackled on television — people love dramatics! — so it's a little surprising how great it actually is to see a positive, functioning couple on TV!
One of the serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine was taken on before the show even aired. The diverse casting for the show lent itself perfectly to one of the most diverse workplaces on television. There are two African American men in power as well as two Latina detectives in the precinct. Brooklyn Nine-Nine works hard not to whitewash New York City. They're representing the actual people they serve and protect! Plenty of workplace comedies act as if only white people work together and Brooklyn Nine-Nine shatters expectations and blows certain other workplace comedies out of the water!
One of the most powerful episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is "Moo, Moo" from season four. On the episode, Terry is walking down the street at night looking for a toy his daughter threw out the car window when he's stopped by a cop for looking suspicious. He's nearly arrested for walking around near his house at night and only gets away when he tells the cop that he's also a police officer. When he eventually meets with the officer, one thing is clear: that man stp[[ed him because he was a black man walking around in a nice neighborhood at night. From there, we get a stark story about racial profiling from Terry's perspective. We also see his confused and inquisitive daughter who may have to go through the same thing someday. It's one of the biggest serious issues tackled on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and it made for an unforgettable episode.