60 Brooklyn 99 (2013-2021)

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Of Stuffed Animals and Systemic Racism”

by Jordan Gates


Brooklyn Nine-Nine has long been a favorite show of mine, its diverse cast of characters and unique brand of comedy and storytelling were immediately compelling. It is this idealized, diverse group of people that we should strive to measure people in similar roles up to. The seventeenth episode of the fourth season titled “Moo Moo” is where we really can see that shine, when one of the minority members of the cast is racially profiled by an officer from another precinct while they are off duty. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows however as there are longstanding issues with depictions of police in American media that also need to be addressed. For all its strengths, the show also navigates the complexities of portraying law enforcement in a comedic light, acknowledging the real-world challenges and controversies surrounding policing while still providing a platform for meaningful discussions on social issues.

Brooklyn Nine-Ninee is an American police procedural comedy show created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur. It stars Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, and the late Andre Braugher as the police force of New York City’s fictionalized 99th Precinct. This cast of characters from every walk of life shows off the rich, colorful backgrounds of the people of New York City, Andre Braugher commented in an interview “We finally have a New York that looks like New York” (Brydum) when talking about the diversity of the cast. It is these differences that are integral to how the characters interact with each other, but are never made to be the butt of a joke. The show made a concerted effort to never reduce its characters to stereotypes, always showing the emotional depth of the characters and capability of empathy, something not easy to do in a half-hour comedy. The show’s commitment to avoiding stereotypes and showcasing the emotional depth and empathy of its characters within the limits of a half-hour comedy is a testament to its thoughtful and nuanced approach to storytelling.

This diversity in casting was some intention, and some luck, when talking about the casting process show creator Dan Goor remarks “We cast the roles in a color-blind manner, and really, the best people won” (Brydum). This process led to a main cast of four men, and three women, with 4 of them being people of color, something practically unheard of in network television, let alone the realm of police procedurals. This was something that even the cast members themselves found unbelievable, in an interview about the audition process Stephanie Beatriz had to say this “Melissa [Fumero] got cast … and I was like I cried because I thought I’m so happy for her, but I also know that there is no way that a network is gonna cast two latinas there’s just it doesn’t happen, there’s only one of us ever” (Story). To that we add in the character of Raymond Holt, portrayed by Andre Braugher, the Captain of the 99th Precinct and an openly gay, african american cop in New York City, and you have a recipe for a wide array of stories that these characters can share. This commitment to diversity not only challenges industry norms but also reflects a broader societal shift towards more inclusive representation in media.


cast of Brooklyn 99
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE: Cast L-R: Chelsea Peretti, Joe Lo Truglio, Joel McKinnon Miller, Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Stephanie Beatriz and Dirk Blocker. (Photo via Getty Images)


“Moo Moo” as an episode does not prepare the audience for where it is planning to go, it starts with a comedic cold open bit not connected to the episode as a whole, a long running trend for the series. We move from there to Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) looking to expand his roles and responsibilities in the NYPD and consulting his commanding officer Cpt. Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) offers him the opportunity to apply for a position liaising with city hall, however the application is due that evening and is of considerable length. This causes an issue for Terry as his wife is out of town and there is no one to watch his kids last minute, Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Det. Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) offer to watch the kids for some of the comedic highlights of the episode however in their lackadaisical attitude toward babysitting the titular “Moo Moo” a blankie belonging to one of Terry’s two daughters, Cagney and Lacey, is lost somewhere nearby Terry’s house. It is here that we hit the focal point of the episode, Terry finds Moo Moo, but is immediately stopped by a uniformed police officer, the situation rapidly escalates with Terry not able to get much of a word in before he is on the ground and cuffed.

Cut to the next day back at the precinct as Terry replays his evening for the rest of the team who express condolences and disbelief at the situation, encouraging Terry to bring the issue to their Captain, who would destroy the career of such an obviously racist officer. Much to Terry’s shock Captain Holt says that he will not file Terrys complaint against the officer, he believes what the officer has done is wrong, but knows exactly the kind of blowback it would have on Terry’s career and would rather see him rise through the ranks and effect larger change than just get one bad cop off the streets. The climax comes as Terry visits Captain Holt at his home and they have a more in depth discussion about the issue, all the while Jake and Amy are once again tasked with babysitting and are faced with explaining issues of racism to two small children. The episode finishes with Captain Holt submitting Terry’s complaint and acknowledging that he has had to pick his battle as gay African American man, but that is exactly why he is in the exact position he described to Terry, and he is now able to effect real change.

This episode carries with it some important words that I believe merit inclusion here as they truly exemplify the issues faced by people of color and their interactions with law enforcement.:

I wanted to help people like that cop helped me. But right now, I don’t feel like a superhero. I feel the opposite. When I got stopped the other day, I wasn’t a cop. I wasn’t a guy who lived in a neighborhood looking for his daughter’s toy. I was a black man, a dangerous black man. That’s all he could see: a threat. And I couldn’t stop thinking about my daughters. And their future. And how years from now, they could be walking down the street, looking for their kids’ Moo Moo, and get stopped by a bad cop. And they probably won’t get to play the police card to get out of trouble. I don’t like that thought, and I’m gonna do something about it. So I don’t care if it might hurt my career. I’m filing that report. Even if I have to go over your head to do it. (0:16:15)

In these words we truly see the disparity in power between varying groups of people in America, doubly so when talking about law enforcement. Terry wasn’t let off for complying, he wasn’t let off for being innocent of any wrongdoing, he only gets off because he himself is a cop, a card that a vast majority of people who look like him in his position won’t have the ability to play, and it is those people who are most frequently disenfranchised by law enforcement. It is how the character of Terry Jeffords carries us that we hope to see in all of our law enforcement officers, he does not care about what happens to his own career, he aims to do something about a cop making bad stops.

When talking about policing and police officers, it is nearly impossible to separate it from long standing issues of racism, moreso in our current political climate. Being able to view things, even through a bit of an idealistic lens, from multiple perspectives I feel can be very beneficial to forming well rounded ideas. Procedural police shows have long been used to paint a picture of law enforcement as heroic and just, always out to catch the bad guy and protect the innocent, the truth of reality has many more shades of gray to it unfortunately. Brooklyn Nine-Nine while striving and succeeding at doing better, still falls into many of these categories, even as we examine the addressing of racism in policing, it is only ever presented as one bad cop, nothing more than that, the idea that it is systemic and pervasive not just across their city but the country as a whole is never mentioned as mentioned by Steve Rose “Even a comedy series like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, with its harmonious, multicultural police department and casebook of charmingly petty crimes, does its bit to cast American policing in a favourable light.” (Rose).

Brooklyn Nine-Nine stands as not just a source of entertainment, but also as a bridge to for important conversations about representation, diversity, and the complexities of policing in society. Through its diverse cast of characters and thoughtful if not a bit outlandish storytelling, the show challenges industry norms and provides a platform for discussing real-world issues with humor and empathy. The episode “Moo Moo” exemplifies the show’s ability to shine a light on sensitive topics such as racial profiling while still maintaining its comedic roots. However, it is essential to acknowledge that while the show makes strides in addressing these issues, there are broader systemic issues within law enforcement that need to be cannot be ignored. By examining the show’s portrayal of policing, we gain insights into the complexities of real-world issues and the need for more nuanced discussions surrounding them. Overall, Brooklyn Nine-Nine serves as both a reflection of societal realities and an inspiration for positive change in media representation and storytelling.



Works Cited 

Brydum, Sunnivie. “Fox’s Newest Cop Comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Is Quietly Breaking Ground.” Advocate.Com, Advocate.com, 17 Nov. 2015, www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/television/2014/03/11/foxs-newest-cop-comedy-brooklyn nine-nine-quietly-breaking Accessed 18 March 2024

“The Story behind Stephanie Beatriz’s Audition for ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine.’” YouTube, BUILD Series, 27 Oct. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAw23v4Wcg8 Accessed 18 March 2024

Rose, Steve. “How Hollywood Has Tried, and Mostly Failed, to Tackle Police Racism.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 June 2020, www.theguardian.com/culture/2020/jun/08/how-hollywood-has-tried-and-mostly-failed-to-tackle police-racism#:~:text=In%20the%20present%2C%20Black%20Lives,Talk%2C%20the%20list% 20keeps%20growing Accessed 18 March 2024



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Difference, Power, and Discrimination in Film and Media: Student Essays Copyright © by Students at Linn-Benton Community College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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