A Broken Penis: How “Brooklyn 99” Addresses #MeToo

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Danielle Tilp, Staff Writer

A serious and controversial issue like the #MeToo movement doesn’t seem like the right topic for sitcom Brooklyn 99 to tackle, but they do just that. In Season 6, Episode 8 “He Said, She Said” Detective Jake Peralta and Sergeant Amy Santiago jump on the case when investment banker Seth is left with a broken penis after attempting to sexually assault female coworker Keri. As the episode progresses, the audience sees this show address the various aspects of the #MeToo movement while maintaining their comedic theme through its developed characters and lighthearted jokes.

When this episode aired in the sixth season, the audience already knew and loved the characters and their complicated personalities. This allows for various characters to lighten the mood during the more tense times, without it seeming out of place. 

The characters in this show serve different roles, but all are intended to be funny. Detective Jake Peralta is the sometimes immature, animated, and well-meaning partner to Sergeant Amy Santiago, the hardworking goody-two shoes. Scully is the incompetent side-character, who often bears the brunt of the joke.
In one scene, Keri describes the events of the previous night and how Seth attacked her and tried to take her clothes off. She ends her statement saying that she took Seth’s “stupid golf club and [she] hit him in the Cookie Monster, which is what he calls his penis, by the way.” Jake ends the scene by accurately guessing that Seth calls his testicles “Bert and Ernie.” By interrupting with jokes, Brooklyn 99 eases the tension surrounding sexual assault without taking away from its importance.

In another scene, Jake enters the break room to find Amy sitting on a couch. He asks if she’s doing okay, to which Scully replies, lamenting about missing his best friend Hitchcock. Jake responds he was obviously talking to Amy, which Scully responds with “Oh and who’s talking to Scully? Nobody. Come on sandwich!” Scully exits the scene holding his sandwich. This scene has no real impact on the plot; it simply exists for comedic relief before an intense scene.

Immediately after, Jake and Amy have a heartfelt conversation about Amy’s experiences with sexual assault. Towards the end, Jake states, “Everytime I think I understand how bad it is, it’s just way worse than I imagined,” to which Amy responds, “This kind of stuff has happened to literally every woman I know.”

Like Amy tells the audience, sexual assault is a real thing that so many women deal with. In a national survey of 1000 women and 1000 men, 81% of women reported experiencing sexual harassment and/or assault. In a more recent survey of 1000 women and girls, it was found that 97% of the women ages 18-24 had experienced sexual harassment in a public space, and over 70% of all the women had experienced it. Brooklyn 99 uses its platform of about 2.7 million viewers to bring attention to this widespread issue.

Another time Keri states that she plans to take a deal offered by her firm to stay quiet about the assault. She wants to take the $2.5 million dollars offered to her because she thinks no one will believe her over Seth. She claims that “the system’s as broken as Seth’s dong.” This is another serious moment but Keri brings humor to the situation by mentioning Seth’s broken penis. Brooklyn 99 makes fun of the issue in order to bring attention to it, and to show the problem with how sexual harassment and assault is treated in today’s world. 

Keri being offered a NDA(non-disclosure agreement) to keep quiet is just like real UK universities offering NDAs to students claiming they were sexually assaulted. Amy urges Keri not to take the NDA and instead make sure Seth does not get away with what he did. This is like how the #MeToo movement has urged female victims to speak up about their experiences to show women that they are not alone, and to hold the aggressors accountable for their actions. 

Brooklyn 99 uses its character-based humor to lighten the mood while also showing the realities of sexual assault and how it is treated by the #MeToo movement.  Other shows should follow in Brooklyn 99’s footsteps and use their comedic platform to address the issues surrounding the #MeToo movement, as well as other social issues that exist today. They should bring light to these issues, make people aware of the problems that exist, and urge them to take action.