On television, the hero himself is a concept under review. Just a few years ago, at the height of the anti-hero craze, a prestigious drama might have seemed a bit mellow if its protagonist was not a real murderer. There is an artistic justification for humanizing the bad people and complicating the good. It’s hard to pretend that a show like “Watchmen” (in which a black policewoman brutally beats suspected white supremacist terrorists) or “Amazing” (in which two female detectives repeatedly stick the wrong guys) would make for better television if their star cops acted more like German Shepherd puppies.
After Inkoo Kang, a critic for the Hollywood Reporter, described “The Wire” as painting police brutality with a “brilliant heroic”, Wendell Pierce, who played detective Bunk Moreland on the show, repelled. “How can we look at” The Wire “and the dysfunction of the police and the drug war and say that we have been portrayed as heroic,” he tweeted. “We have demonstrated moral ambiguities and the pathology that leads to abuse.”
The most salient criticism of the crime genre is not how it portrays the police, but just how obsessively it prioritizes their ambiguities and pathologies over all other actors in the criminal justice system – namely, the people the cops target as suspects. “As viewers, we are locked into a police perspective,” recently wrote Kathryn VanArendonk on Vulture. Color of Change notes that defense lawyers, like Perry Mason and Matlock, “once played the character of the American hero”, defending the American people “against the many police, prosecutors and judges who drew conclusions too quickly and held as symbols of a deeply flawed system. ”
But a radical change led by Dick Wolf’s gigantic franchise “Law & Order” has realigned the genre of crime from the perspective of prosecutors and cops. “Our sympathies have generally been with the victims,” Warren Leight, the showrunner of “Law & Order: SVU,” said last week on the Hollywood Reporter podcast “TV’s Top 5” in a conversation about the redesign of the ‘program. He added, “The cops behave illegally, it’s not part of the Dick brand. “
Cops and Hollywood have a symbiotic relationship, as Alyssa Rosenberg detailed in a 2016 Washington Post series on policing in popular culture. The cops consult each other on movies and series, helping to shape the characters into their own design, and then they draw inspiration from these characters in their own police work. Detroit police have been spotted wearing the skull badge from the anti-hero Marvel the Punisher, and teams from Minnesota watched Disney’s “Zootopia” as part of their anti-bias training. “LAW AND ORDER” has become President Trump’s favorite call to arms as the government sends police and National Guard soldiers against the demonstrators.