I was at a screening of The Avengers* last night and up late talking about it with some of my colleagues about it after, so shorter thoughts about this than usual. But I thought this episode of Community, a Law & Order parody, did a really nice job of exposing the ridiculous things we let people get away with when they have badges or the power of the district attorney’s office behind them. It’s not like readers of this blog don’t know that I find it disturbing that our cop shows tend to legitimize a certain amount of police brutality when it’s performed by cops we’re supposed to be emotionally invested in. But it’s still really funny to see Troy rage around an interrogation room, insisting “You don’t order ketchup! It’s a condiment!” And it was a treat to see Leslie Hendrix, who played Law & Order medical examiner Elizabeth Rodgers for years pop up to explain “This level of smashing is consistent with someone stepping on the yam after it was dropped” in the same deadpan TV doctors use to give the impression that crime-solving science is precise and unbeatable.
Crime TV may strive for certain kinds of nuance, but it’s always very invested in conveying how powerful the police are. And goodness knows that’s justified—the state hands the police a lot of power, and protects them when they use that. But approaching the police with respect and caution doesn’t mean we can’t look at the power we give them ourselves, and the ridiculous things we dignify. Laughter at the latter is a good place to start.
*Three-word review: it is awesome. More details to come.