Brooklyn Nine-Nine is and always has been a lighthearted and silly sitcom since its premiere in 2013. While it includes a modern cast of characters ranging in race, sexual orientation, and more, it tends to maintain a certain laid-back and playful approach in plot lines.
In Season Four, however, the show addressed the elephant that has been in the room for years. Taking place in a precinct in Brooklyn, it is amazing that the many prevalent issues with police in recent years have been ignored thus far. Finally, in the episode “Moo Moo,” the show addresses the reality of the institutionalized racism that still exists in America, especially within the police force.
The episode depicts Office Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) off duty and looking for his daughter’s blanket in his neighborhood at night. Officer Jeffords happens to be a large, athletically built African American. As he is picking up the blanket off the ground, he is confronted by another officer who questions his being in the neighborhood and makes accusations that Officer Jeffords is acting out of line. It is not until Officer Jeffords proves his identity as an officer that he is let go.
The episode explores the implications of race from various viewpoints. From Officer Jeffords himself who felt victimized. From his young daughters who were only just learning how they are affected by racism. From his co-workers who could only sympathize and promise to not make the same mistakes as the other officer. And from his boss who had fought institutionalized prejudices on several fronts for his race and sexuality in order to become Captain.
By juxtaposing police officers on both sides of the argument, the show effectively takes away the premise that it is strictly an issue with cops or that all cops are the problem. Instead, it takes a stance that good and bad exist in every group. Also, it forces a realization that stereotyping goes both ways and it would be equally incorrect to assume all police officers are racist.
Reality is evident when Jeffords is denied a promotion likely because of his decision to file a complaint against the officer who stopped him. There is no happy solution at the end of a racially explanatory episode because there is no happy solution to those issues in reality.
For a show that is typically light, it is especially noticeable to see an episode of this valor. It also speaks to the necessity for an episode of that nature in a time when behavior so clearly incorrect seems so commonplace.