It’s About Time Someone Called Out “Blue Bloods”

Blue Bloods on CBS
A few years ago
, when I was still living in Philly, I slept most weekends at my parents’ house, visiting friends around the town where I grew up. I’d get home Friday evening and find my mom and dad tuned in to Blue Bloods a new CBS show starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg as members of a multi-generational family of white New York City cops.

While I never watched an episode from beginning to end, it didn’t take long to pick up on the show’s dynamic: The heroes, white male police officers, spent each episode protecting society from criminals, who were almost always minorities. Not only that, but they were played by actors cast according to the most stereotypical ethnicity for their crime. Car thieves were invariably black or Latino; a mugger, drug dealer, or liquor store robber would be black; chop-shop owners might be Asian or Mexican.

There was an episode–forgive me if I don’t remember which season, but I think the second–in which Tom Selleck’s patriarchal character is shot on his front stoop in a drive-by shooting. You don’t see the shooter initially, just a black van and a shotgun barrel emerging from the window, and the bulk of the episode is dedicated to finding the shooter.

“It was either the blacks or the Mexicans,” I told my parents.

“Why would you say that?” My father demanded, incredulous at my assertion. I explained because those are the two races most stereotypically associated with drive-by shootings, and that’s how the show worked.

(I should point out here that my parents are very liberal people, especially when it comes to racial equality, though perhaps not the most sophisticated TV viewers.)

I then went upstairs to my room. Half an hour later I heard my mother call up, “It was the Mexicans!”

Writing at Slate, Laura Hudson does a fine job outlining the real problems with Blue Bloods. It’s not just about bad writing, which is harmless on its own. This kind of repeated narrative reinforces the beliefs of viewers who see America a certain way–specifically, that white people are a force of civilization among a barbaric mix of minorities, and that police are noble and infallible and criticisms directed their way are universally the tactic of an anti-police agenda.

These are the kinds of views reinforced by right-wing pundits and Fox News; the views that lead to pro-police rallies in response to outcry over unjustified murders-by-cop; the views that inspire police to pen essays about how their every command must be followed without question, and perpetuate the absurd myth of the “thin blue line,” the idea that without police our society would collapse into anarchy.

This kind of television is anything but harmless. Shows like Blue Bloods affirm and even inspire a value system that marginalizes and oppresses millions of people, and it’s about time someone called them out on it.

43 COMMENTS

    • OK Eric, you baffled me enough with this comment that I looked around, and it means exactly what I think it means. But now I’m curious: What do YOU think it means?

    • Yeah, that agenda being good family values, doing the right thing always, and if we do make a mistake, forgive. Life is short. I can see why you would be turned off by that.

  1. “It’s About Time Someone Called Out “Blue Bloods””

    It’s also about time someone called out a liberal.

    I realize this post is almost a year old, but I’ve only recently discovered it (testimony to its importance?). Having read it, which is no small feat when you’re suppressing the urge to vomit, I now feel compelled to rip it apart on a point-by-point basis:

    1. “….starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg as members of a multi-generational family of white New York City cops.”

    —Well, no shit. Are they supposed to be members of a multi-generational family of black New York City cops? No, wait, I get it – Selleck and Wahlberg are supposed to be portraying black transgender women, and all the kids are supposed to be adopted or in vitro, right? Perhaps, just perhaps, they’re portraying white cops from a white family because – gasp – they’re white, and such multi-generational same-career families exist?

    2. “While I never watched an episode from beginning to end,….”

    —Then why are you even commenting on it? Oh, let me guess, you’ve got a degree in ‘social basket weaving’ that you feel entitles you to comment on a show you never watch? Did you start your ‘writing’ career reviewing restaurants you never ate at?

    3. “…protecting society from criminals, who were almost always minorities. Not only that, but they were played by actors cast according to the most stereotypical ethnicity for their crime. Car thieves were invariably black or Latino; a mugger, drug dealer, or liquor store robber would be black; chop-shop owners might be Asian or Mexican.”

    —Ever worked in law enforcement at ‘street level’? Of course not. You’re too busy writing “…fiction, essays, comics, and thousands of poorly-considered tweets.” This has, naturally, given you the expertise to comment on the demographics of inner city street crime.

    4. “There was an episode–forgive me if I don’t remember which season, but I think the second–in which Tom Selleck’s patriarchal character is shot on his front stoop in a drive-by shooting. ”

    —Lucky for you, I do remember. S1,E15 — Frank and the Monsignor were smoking cigars in front of a restaurant, when a sedan rolled up and someone in the back seat fired a shotgun. The importance of this will soon be revealed.

    5. “I explained because those are the two races most stereotypically associated with drive-by shootings, and that’s how the show worked.”

    —See my answer for #3.

    6. “I should point out here that my parents are very liberal people, especially when it comes to racial equality, though perhaps not the most sophisticated TV viewers.” “I heard my mother call up, “It was the Mexicans!””

    —Perhaps they’re “…not the most sophisticated TV viewers,” but at least they actually watch the show. However, you may want to brush them up on their ‘racial equality’. While the driver was indeed a hispanic male, the shooter was the Irish son, of an Irish criminal, who was arrested decades before by Frank – an Irish cop (what are the odds). Damn that Blue Bloods and their racial stereotyping, huh?

    7. “It’s not just about bad writing, which is harmless on its own.”

    —Just like this blog post – bad, while harmless at the same time.

    8. “…among a barbaric mix of minorities, and that police are noble and infallible and criticisms directed their way are universally the tactic of an anti-police agenda.

    —Attend your nearest Academy (if they’ll even have you), vest up, gear up, work the streets for at least 10 years, and that just MIGHT give you the right to comment on what cops deal with day-in-day-out. I’m not holding my breath, because I know you won’t. Liberals like yourself are never willing to put their own money where their mouths are, never willing to put their own lives at risk. You’re all content to hurl your little half-witticisms from behind a keyboard, safe in the knowledge that there are men and women (with guns, gasp!) willing to do a job that would make you bleeding hearts soil yourselves.

    9. “…outcry over unjustified murders-by-cop…”

    —In a country of approximately 340,000,000 people, many of whom are connected electronically in some form or fashion, if this was truly an epidemic, we’d be seeing much more of it. I’ll attribute this to the usual sjw mountain-out-of-a-molehill syndrome.

    10. “….the absurd myth of the “thin blue line,” the idea that without police our society would collapse into anarchy.”

    —I’m going to let you slide on this one since I’m willing to wager that even you have watched the news since January, and have seen what happened to sections of Baltimore that police pulled out of.

    11. “Shows like Blue Bloods affirm and even inspire a value system that marginalizes and oppresses millions of people,…”

    —Stories about a multi-racial police department, in arguably the most diverse city in the country (if not the planet), arresting criminals of diverse backgrounds, interspersed with stories dealing with the personal lives of the central characters. Marginalizing? Oppressing? Might I suggest dropping the social justice placards and picking up a dictionary and thesaurus?

    • It’s a reasonable point that it’s not fair to comment on a show you haven’t watched all the way through, however I must admit that after quite enjoying it for 5 seasons, I feel it’s now becoming ridiculous. I was always aware of a pro-cop agenda, but forgave some of the issues for the reasons above: it IS a white family, so lack of diversity is somewhat understandable (though I was also aware that the entire senior echelon of NYPD is also all-white, apart from the occasional high-ranking black guy who generally doesn’t survive an episode), etc.

      However some kind of balance was generally at least nodded to, with the characters of Erin and her daughter, both social liberals, who took part in the lively debates round the dinner table. That, plus the good acting, kept me in.

      However, now the dinner table scenes are simply ‘everyone pile in on Erin and prove her wrong’: she’s become a ‘straw man’ figure for stupid liberal values that everyone can feel superior to. The police are always right, there’s no corruption ever, not even in letting people off parking tickets (which, apparently, is only ever done for saintly reasons), all minorities, journalists and community leaders are evil (except the aforementioned one-off black cop) and so on. It’s gone from a show promoting a pro-cop outlook (which is fair enough, and someone should be allowed to) to an insanely pro-cop show which has become utterly unrealistic.

    • Well I both work for local law enforcement and am a minoritty and a woman. The show is biased and insulting. The majority of black people I know are, gasp, hardworking, lawabiding citizens. I am not personally involved with or knw any person black or otherwise who are gangbangers, drugdealers, or unethical. Imperfect yes, unlawgul no. Please let trhe show reflect real life and legitimate research that refutes your stance. Time to down off that self serving, condescending grand stand and get to know the other side of our society’s coin, so to speak.

      • I always find it interesting the typical views from a political standpoint. Liberals of course only see racial profiling on this show, I see a good show dealing with what police have to deal with everyday (this happens to be in NY). I’m guessing the show would like to remind people about the good – police do for our communities. And Chris, I would like to point out, that you should watch the entire seasons/episodes and maybe not judge from your pre-conceived notions about this show without actually ever watching it. I also see a feel good show about the values of family and people doing the right thing, and making good choices. Not glorifying people who make bad choices like we have been seeing lately. And the episode you are referring to, if you actually watched it (and not sure why your parents didn’t correct themselves if they finished watching the show), because they would have realized that the guy who actually did gun down Tom Selleck’s character was actually a white guy who had an axe to grind with him. Now the driver of the van was Hispanic, but was only the driver, they didn’t dwell on his character, and in fact he was murdered by the white guy for trying to do the right thing. I’m almost finished with Season 2 on Netflix and most of the bad guys so far have been white people including the corrupt police. Not to say there hasn’t been a few minorities committing crimes on the show, but nothing that doesn’t happen in real life and certainly not a recurring theme on every episode; seriously, most of the criminals are white on this show. So are you saying that no minorities (in your mind) commit crimes in real life? Maybe you shouldn’t write about things you don’t know anything about (your words – you’ve never watched an episode of Blue Bloods in its entirety). Maybe you people bashing the show should drive around with the police and see what and who the police are dealing with (criminal activity wise) on a daily basis. Its easy to bash without knowing the facts as we have been seeing these past 7 1/2 years.

        • If you care to take the time, Susie (and this is sincere, not snarky) I’d be very interested to see a list of crimes depicted on the show and the race of their perpetrators. Perhaps you’re right and I’m seeing a problem that isn’t really there–but my argument isn’t that it makes all the criminals minorities, it’s that the crimes in question are committed by the most stereotyped ethnicities for those crimes.

  2. Beyond all of the other “bull” that everyone else has to say I totally agree with your views on this show and I couldn’t have described it better myself

    • So you’re saying you don’t need facts, you’re happy to rely on the opinions of people who have never watched this show? Maybe you should watch the show with an open mind, not brainwashed by someone who doesn’t like family values, doing the right thing, and minorities being arrested if they do commit a crime. By the way, last time I checked, this country has laws and the police are there to enforce them (regardless of color). That is what is wrong with our country. Rather than people do their own homework and check out things for themselves, they are happy to rely on strangers and their biased opinions. Sad. No wonder this country is such a mess these days.

  3. The show is absolutely biased against minorities. Today it ticked me off so much that I’ve finally had to decide that enough is enough. It continuously stereotypes minorities in negative ways, and out of all the episodes I’ve watched (which is a lot), I’ve only seen them cast minorities in positive law-abiding roles two times. Furthermore, they make it seem as if there are absolutely NO Blacks, Latinos, or Asians employed with the NYPD at all! Now how stupid is that??? But anyway…

    Unfortunately, I have become so disgusted with this show and its obvious propaganda that I’m now more inclined to opt for watching black & white re-runs of Gilligan’s Island in its place. As sucky as that is, it’s just better entertainment and less of an insult to my intelligence.

  4. Replace Stereotypically with statistically and you’d be more accurate. Yes, Blue Bloods portrays NYC police in a favorable light, and I think it’s about time someone did. But, they are not shown as saints. As for your problem with their casting of criminals, check out a year end crime report and you’d see that the show protrays police procedure and perpetrators demographics very realistically. Plus, I love seeing the way they shoot the city itself. It’s an amazing place and they film it well.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/analysis_and_planning/year_end_2015_enforcement_report.pdf

  5. Only REAL MEN enjoy this show. Something
    liberal idiots like you wouldn’t understand . So….think up more idiot stuff like which bathroom to use Sweetie!

  6. Apart from the racism, the show is painful to watch for the sheer stupidity of having members of the same family (sister ADA, brother detective) coincidentally and unethically involved in investigating together the same crime and then talking with father comish about it. It’s nice if boring that they all have dinner together, but when they so frequently get involved in the same investigation it’s ridiculous and not excusable even as TV license.

    • Yes agreed. Also,besides the racial and ethnic stereotypes that are prevalent in every episode, it seems in this show police work doesn’t involve suspects who have lawyers or cops needing warrants to kick down doors, let alone having to fill out some paperwork every time they shoot somebody, which is at least once an episode. Honestly, the only thing that saves this show from being total shit is the acting, and even then its a stretch.

  7. Last episode I watched was all “bad white guys.” Especially over the top was the white bomber upset about “minorities and women taking all the jobs.” Seriously, Chris, you have no idea what you are talking about.

  8. The episode you cite had NOTHING to do with “Mexicans”. It was an Italian mobsters sons. Jesus Christ, this is why the Internet should ban someone from claiming to be a ‘journalist’ without verifying credentials.

  9. I hate cop shows. With their . Let’s rough up this guy to get the truth ,or talking and harassing people at their workplace, to find out about the crime , unfortunately alot of people know about dancing with the stats then knowing well their constitutional rights,

  10. The truth hurts. You apparently don’t get factual news. Blacks and Hispanics DO commit these types of crimes. You don’t appear to be anything more than a reporter. I am upset by the cast. Tom Selleck sons would not be short and blond. Nor ugly grandsons. Geez.

  11. Chris, good article you are right on!
    You missed the fact that the show is also a commercial for the state alcohol and tobacco drug cartel, the folks who the cops really shill for (where in every show the righteous Reagans sit back and consume gallons of booze at their pretend dinner table). Also never mentioned is THE FACT that cops create more crime than they could ever hope to mitigate by enforcing opportunity denying protectionist laws that serve only the rich gangster corporate elite. Crooked laws that fill the private prison systems.

    Keep hammering!
    http://saintaugdog.com/sadissues/issue1/1page16sad.html

  12. What is even worse than anything people complain about here is that every article almost eveywhere has to be political in some way. The new American religion is politics. Can’t watch a comedian or any other show without any political message behind it. This is an abnormal psychology on a mass scale. Joseph Goebbels would be tickled silly seeing such improvements of his work. What does this mean to me? It means the artistic value of every show and movie from Hollywood has been forfeited. It means boring. Regardless of Blue Bloods’ agenda, cops should point out that Danny is just a terrible cop. Just terrible. He is a terrible example, and following his example could get people killed. Danny is a public safety nightmare for NYPD. At the very least, he should be put on any duty that does not involve protecting living people, because Danny really sucks at that. Usually, he gets his CIs, witnesses, other cops or persons he persuades to help him, bystanders, suspects or victims killed because he is a d$#mb a$$, followed by glaring at them with that dumb look on his face. His righteousness is enough. No need for back-up. Drafting operations at a Greek Diner (the owner of which was a sort-of-friend of Commissioner Regan and also got killed as a result of sloppy police work of Danny or his daddy, or both – can’t remember which) on the back of a napkin with Diaz while complaining about things as he works. Sometimes he calls for SWAT, as he should. Sometimes he plans and coordinates a takedown of a dangerous suspect (why is he allowed to set-up impromptu operations based on his gut feeling qualifications, or does he just do it?) with just him and Diaz safely outside, while someone Danny sent in (so they could “go easy on him”) to get the suspect to confess is following Danny’s instructions (and about to get himself killed because of that). I admit that I myself was slow in school, but smart enough to know my limitations. But even I know that, slow as I was, I could do better than Danny at everything he does (police-related). So could my gardener, my Uber driver or the call center employee for my bank who lives in the Philippines and remains so cheerful after you yell at him so happy to be employed at 40 cents a day he is paid by Synchrony Bank and to be alive (at the same time). And that putz, Danny, who has a nice salary and pension has the nerve to complain while he works, while doing his job wrong all the time is the only thing he is good at?. I think the way the commissioners second and third in command speak to Commissioner Regan is both sterotypical and funny. Like the cartoon of the 2 dogs, one of which jumps around saying yeah yeah yeah Spike, you’re the boss. Spike is so smart, he is…” What should we do Spike, what should we do Spike..what should we do?. Except, unlike Spike who smacks his underling saying, “shut-apppppp”, questioning the commissioner’s judgment and then symbolically ducking for the smack, which never comes. Instead, he let them talk back to him and test his limits, like toddlers. His second and third approach the commissioner like one would approach a King which could result in a giant turkey leg and some ale for them or the chopping block, depending on the king’s mood. The NYPD is one of the greatest police departments in the world. It does not deserve to have Blue Bloods as their mascot. Danny should not be allowed to promote peanut butter, let alone the NYPD. Or maybe he should (but not Skippy), because he constipates the entire show. In tribute to Tom Selleck’s intensely long self-affirming speeches, as if bellowed from the peaks of Mount Olympus to the mortals who cannot understand the words, just that the speeches are just and right, I sadly must apologize for my insanely long reply which, I admit, that even to myself is barely coherent, rambling and not sticking to one subject (which is redundant, oh boy.., as my English lit professor would say on my papers. If one reads this message while drinking, a hidden message is revealed that can only be deciphered by Tom Hanks, and can only disclosed by Nicolas Cage, or no one will understand it anyway.

  13. Folks, are you really watching a tv show for up to date factual information? Training to be an NYPD cop by watching Blue Bloods or watching an epidode as a substitute for going to the academy? Chris, why do you take the time to dissect a tv series that you haven’t watched? The show puts on entertainment once a week for about 42 minutes. It displays people in various jobs, members of highly trained teams who care about helping people and their communitues. It focuses on a family who regularly eats Sunday dinners together because they care about each other and want to be physically present in each others lives. These tv characters are displaying people who take a stand for what they feel is right (which, yes, for creativity sake will vary from week to week). They hold dear the laws that give us necessary boundries. Yes, I agree that creative liberties are used to write a show that is yes, entertaining. A cop and a family related Ast DA would not regularly work the same cases. It is true that many criminal confessions on this show would not hold up in court or some of the information obtained by detectives could be deemed entrapment, etc. But really, this is not what would-be lawyers would watch to study to pass the bar exam. What about this tv show merely making people think about issues which face their very own communities. The show strives to have viewers feel what the police give up to protect those involved. Why should we dissect every piece of “entertainnent” as political propoganda? Geez, why can’t we just watch this show for what it is meant to be, a birds-eye view from another nest. If you want factual information on crime or crime statistics by city, race, gender, or socio-economic class, then look them up on the internet. For me, I enjoy watching the Reagan family and the issues the show brings to light.

  14. I don’t watch it anymore. I feel the same way Chris. I like that it shows a strong white Police family but it doesn’t depict a strong black family which there are plenty. It brings to light some of the problems that’s going on now, but the show doesn’t show the cops as ever being wrong and getting in trouble for it. I realize that the cops have a (?????) job. Oh, I used ???? because i really can’t define the job with one word. Not everyone can be a cop. With that said they are letting awful ones in this highly proud order. This show is one sided. Not every person of color is a criminal and not every police office is racists. I think what Chris was trying to say that this show is not helping the situation but we all do have to realize that it is a tv show. Me being a black mother and have family that are police officers can’t watch because I know that the struggle is real to both police and to black men.

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