Healthy masculinity, as seen on Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I’m a universally avid TV-addict. Yet never did I think that perhaps perceived as a mundane, everyday police comedy show would appeal to me as one of the most fascinating shows I’ve ever watched.

A simple comedy, but when paired with compelling character development, featuring only a small cast of six, the variety of seemingly typical police officers manifests into demonstrations of what we can see as healthy masculinity.

1. Homosexual and black Captain Holt,

2. Pushover/best buddy Charles,

3. Muscular Terry Crews (need I say more),

4. Emotionally immature Jake

To understand the writers’ successful exposition of healthy masculinity, we have to think about what we know better: toxic masculinity.

Illustration by Kate Bernardi

Captain Holt

Openly gay and black, Holt is a dynamic character that serves the role of a leader, husband and friend. As a leader, he is upfront. Despite his lack of emotiveness, his form of self-expression is alternative, some of which may not always be comprehensible, although gives his character some type of masculine flamboyance. Sexuality aside, Holt enjoys the art of opera, classical music, and even aerobics. He indulges in activities in an almost pan(-sexual) way, and eventually, his dominating captain role is contrastingly portrayed as someone who is calm, collected and masculine, in the most open-minded and forward way. Perhaps one of the most strikingly memorable scenes was his decision to withdraw his candidacy for commissioner based on the fact that another female opponent would not be considered in an equal manner. Holt has earned the prestige of being my favourite character. Regardless of his difficult past, being both openly gay and black, his character is more than meets the eye.

Terry Jeffords

Loving father and husband, Terry’s appearance demonstrates a dramatic contrast. Despite his damning muscles and occasional intimidating glares, he is also one to be found crying over a romantic comedy with yoghurt or deemed as sensitive as a young teen going through puberty. His role as sergeant, husband and father of two has been difficult, yet he is never the nagging husband complaining about missing Saturday with the boys. This is a man who is emotional, yet expressive, strict, but merciful. The kind of man who would bawl over a show finale (and has appeared to multiple times throughout the seasons). Terry is someone I find relatable. Who doesn't cope with binge eating?

Jake Peralta

Star detective, and also one of the most respectful and the most socially-aware in an inspiring way. Though he is depicted as a typically immature character, particularly emotionally, we have observed significant development in Jake’s character above all others. He is socially aware, always aggressive only within reason, granted that he does present some traits of toxic masculinity (lack of maturity, arrogance, cockiness and such), he chooses not to hide them, and instead actively seeks help to become a better self. His relationship with Amy is mutually respectful, and he has shown nothing but support for his female best friend and partner. Jake’s character may indeed be perceived as the most ‘masculine’, yet he is unafraid to step beyond traditionally masculine boundaries. I’m constantly amazed by his show of resilience without having to resort to violence or aggression.

Charles Boyles

Probably described to be the ‘least’ masculine character of them all, sometimes we have to

observe from another gaze and realise that he is also another working husband and father. Although his personality is the most definitely least unorthodox of all, the urge to be ‘masculine’ or promote unhealthy stereotypes has never occurred to Charles as a way of life. His continuation to instead advocate for nonconventional and in providing an upbringing that is far from what is stereotyped. He may be described as ‘feminine’ to most, but he is has proven to be courageous, physically strong and also charming as hell. Charles’ character is complexly multi-faceted, as a loving father figure and the best buddy friend, and yet, he exemplifies all features perfectly.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine does a tremendously great job at promoting healthy masculinity in a rich and diverse cast. It incorporates male figures but does not hesitate to portray them in conjunction with feminine features. It’s taking a simple set of even seemingly simpler characters but with a fresh look. Hands down, one of the best TV shows and a great step towards witnessing what modern day masculinity should testify.