You Don’t Have a Gay-dar
You may be surprised to hear this but the guy on the left, Captain Holt of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, has a husband. This is established all the way back in the very first episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but that is shown shortly before the episode ends. Captain Holt, for me, was the first cultural transmission of a gay man, and definitely the first gay black man shown on TV that didn’t act overly feminine. It is my job to determine whether or not they have portrayed this character in a harmful way or not. I have pre-determined however, based on the episode titled “Cheddar,” that this character portrayal is nonharmful.
Captain Holt’s character, surprisingly, doesn’t focus on the fact that he is gay. It is simply a characteristic. Instead, they focus more so on the fact that he enjoys the simple things in life, such as expensive wine, having all his files in place, and ruining jokes before they can start. He is a very dry person in how he seems to show no emotions at most times other than angry, upset, or unbothered. When the lead characters, Jake and Amy, offers to watch over his house— Holt is leaving to visit his husband in Paris — things go awry. Jake loses Holt’s dog, Cheddar, and manages to set his (temporarily) blind friend Charles aflame. Holt finds out through his insurance company and immediately turns around to head home. He gets fed up with Gina who tries stopping him from finding out that the crew don goof’d. The rest of the episode is simply spent trying to figure out where the dog has ended up. Captain Holt eventually has to deal with all of the crew at once and doesn’t necessarily flip out, but he definitely shows more emotion than before in the episode. He has to get his crew out of his home firmly and surely. It shows his character well because of how he has to show leadership when his team screws up before his eyes. Many shows have displayed gay men to lose their cool whenever something goes wrong, and inevitably lose respect to their peers for overreacting. Luckily, he simply says to leave, and walks out to find his dog.
Later we find out more about Holt’s marriage when Jake finds out where Cheddar is most likely to be. Holt reveals that he has been missing Kevin, and before Kevin left, they had been fighting and arguing. Taking the time they needed apart was good for them, but clearly they’ve had enough time apart. It shows an unhealthy relationship, but it also taps into making it healthy again. Holt admits that he needs to deal with his problems instead of running away from them. It is, again for me, one of the first gay characters I’ve seen that have actually had to deal with an unhealthy relationship. Usually with the few times that a show has a LGBT character that isn’t the butt of a joke, they end up being happy with their significant other with no real problems. It’s simply unrealistic since relationships are hard work. No couple, gay or straight, can handle each other all the time. It doesn’t work out like that, and it was nice to see them display gay couples with this now.
I personally enjoy this show with its humor style. It never once makes fun of the fact that Holt is gay (except for one short joke in the first episode), or that he is black, but it does makes jokes incorporating the fact that he is gay, or that he is black. They simply make the fact that he is gay, just a characteristic. It doesn’t make him the feminine guy who has a lisp, like the standard cultural norms. It makes him the Captain, and you best show your respect to him. They present this character very well, and without all the harmful stereotypes.