Could our normalization of "good cops" on television contribute to the institutional failure of police departments? Some believe so.
When the official Twitter account for kids' cartoon 'PAW Patrol' posted a tweet supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, folks in the comments section criticized the show for positively representing police officers, The New York Times reports. One Twitter user wrote, "Euthanize the police dog." The cartoon 'PAW Patrol' is about a squad of "canine helpers." There's a firefighter, a construction worker, and among many more characters, a cop named Chase, the show's protagonist. In the cartoon, Chase is pictured as the epitome of service and justice. As he rescues pups in need, he barks catchphrases such as, "Chase is on the case!” And, “All in a police pup’s day!”
In solidarity of #amplifymelanatedvoices we will be muting our content until June 7th to give access for Black voices to be heard so we can continue to listen and further our learning. #amplifyblackvoices pic.twitter.com/NO2KeQjpHM— PAW Patrol (@pawpatrol) June 2, 2020
While the calls to end 'PAW Patrol' - or at least the positive way Chase is represented - seem like a big joke, protestors may have a point. "You’ve already brainwashed a bunch of kids into thinking law enforcement is a noble and just profession," a commenter posted. "Better to scrap production forever if you want to make lasting change." Another added, "I have always been uncomfortable with the increased militarization of Chase. I am being serious." As we unravel just how problematic our police departments are at an institutional level, the show appears to propagate the idea that the police are meant to protect you. When children grow up, especially BIPOC children, and realize those ideas don't extend to them, how do you tackle that?
Struggling to talk to your children about racism?— NBC10 Boston (@NBC10Boston) June 10, 2020
These books recommended by a librarian in Lexington, Mass. can help: https://t.co/LSsQnmoZ5y
Now, I can already hear several people suggest that the show is harmless. "It's just a kid's show," right? Well, it's not. The continued oppression of communities of color depends on these seemingly harmless representations. Now more than ever, we need to critically analyze the media we and our children consume. Tom Scharpling, an executive producer of 'Monk,' criticized his own show on Twitter. He stated, "If you — as I have — worked on a TV show or movie in which police are portrayed as lovable goofballs, you have contributed to the larger acceptance that cops are implicitly the good guys."
Scharpling isn't alone in his criticism. LEGO has halted marketing on its “LEGO City Police Station” and “Police Highway Arrest” sets and Griffin Newman, an actor who appeared as a detective in two episodes of 'Blue Bloods,' donated his $11,000 in earnings to a bail fund. From our televisions to the toys our children play with it, America is reckoning with the idea that perhaps our normalization and acceptance of an inherently cruel institution, wrapped in a certain "lovability," is part of the problem. Dan Goor, the co-creator of the hit sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, relied on this trope to develop his show. "A police station was a shortcut," he said. "Because people are very aware of how police television works. You know instantly who the good guys are and who the bad guys are."
INTERIOR. BROOKLYN 99TH PRECINCT SPERM BANK— Stagger Lee (@leslieleeiii) June 5, 2020
Hey Andre Braugher, isn't it weird that after the NYPD was disbanded they sold the building to a local sperm bank along with our contracts?
I'm just happy that we're creating life instead of taking it.
The thing about tropes is, unfortunately, they are rarely founded in truth. The racial justice organization Color of Change analyzed the depictions of police that we're fed through television and other media. It found that modern cop shows "make heroes out of people who violate our rights." In fact, many of the shows represented the "good guys" committing more violations than the bad guys did. This made police misbehavior feel "relatable, forgivable, acceptable, and ultimately good." What does this mean for our real-life experiences with cops? They're often nothing like what we see on TV. Cops are some of the most humanized characters we see on our screens, whereas the same cannot be said for Black characters. If we want to make real, lasting change, we just have to start with the media we consume. Yes, even the anthropomorphized talking dogs.