Thursday, September 16

Cops is coming back to television and that’s a depressing sign of the times | US television


LLast summer, amid a series of protests against police overzealousness that erupted into more police violence, which only demonstrated its need, the silver lining was supposed to be the promise of lasting change. Judging by the passionate opinion pieces flying in all directions, the demonstrations had caused a huge leap in general consciousness, and average Americans considered for the first time that there may be irreparable institutional rot at the root of law enforcement. at the national level. Statistics on disproportionate racial dynamics in arrests, harassment of people with mental disabilities unable to defend themselves, and other damning perspectives at work poured in, fundamentally altering the perception of the police in the public imagination. The image of reliable and competent heroes who formed a thin blue line between society and anarchy began to fade, and the hope was that a more sober criticism would take its place.

There is no better indicator for this supposed shift than Cops, the long-running television series that documents the encounters at work between fuzz and real-life criminals. For more than 30 years, the show promoted the dedication and bravery of officers in front of the camera while minimizing the damage of their aggressive methods, sometimes even interpreting them as humor. The footage caused a scandal throughout its run, but objections that the show valued brutal protocols never stood until 2020. Its shortcomings and selective framing were recognized to an unprecedented degree, forcing Paramount to read the show. room and release season 33.. Those who were inclined towards cultural analysis took it as a positive sign, a step on the road to enlightenment.

But there is a magical place where none of this progress has stalled, a right-wing never-never-never country that allows aggrieved conservatives to hear their views parroted and affirmed as irrefutably correct, where recent developments in social justice can look more like a mess. passing fad that a step in political evolution. Cops have found a home within Fox News Media, announced this week as the new host for new episodes of the series. (There are rumors that A & E’s like-minded reality show Live PD may make a comeback as well.) Despite the wariness of this ideological “snowflake” faction, the Fox Nation streaming platform will provide a safe space not just for misguided TV ownership, but for the increasingly outdated school of thought it represents.

Going inside Fox online means this latest version of Cops won’t have to grapple with the difficult question of what a conscious, human version of the show would look like. If it is mounted on the television network for mass consumption, the segments would have to reflect the reality that we all know too well. It’s hard to imagine, for example, participating officers going out on a 5150 call (mentally distressed suspect) with a social worker or healthcare professional and trying to defuse the situation rather than fight to subdue it. The show cannot function in a world where a traffic stop feels less like a spectator sport than the beginning of the most real horror of everyday life.

This dilemma raises the question of what Cops is for, functionally speaking. It is not to faithfully portray the truth of police work, or else the rate of violent crime, sex work, and successful arrests would not be as high as depicted on screen. If it’s about uplifting the long arm of the law that’s a strange way to do it, the police often behave in a nervous and hostile way that doesn’t throw the badge in such a flattering way. That leaves just the fun factor, the notion that there is an audience with a dependable desire to watch chases and boardings, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s at the expense of the unstable, the drunk, and the defenseless. Anyone under the mistaken impression that Cops 2.0 would adopt critical reforms would do well to point out that Fox Nation has already offered all active police officers and first responders a free year of subscription to the service.

Just as hooking Cops symbolized a turning point in American culture, so the show’s withdrawal to the cozy haven of the post-Trumpist media sphere carries weighty significance. The gap that fractures America’s polarized population continues to widen, accelerated by the availability of televised and online content to bolster whatever stance it may choose. The fringe supporters can take refuge in their respective realities, separate themselves, and only stray further away. Like any of the experts or celebrities who denounce the so-called cancellation culture, literally canceled cops can find a refuge in the isolated but expanding universe of Fox News. There, time stands still. The decision to hold on to that era of unchecked authority only reinforces the disturbing link between police departments across the country and the far-right at the forefront of the Republican Party, after licking its wounds and re-consolidating its influence.


www.theguardian.com

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