If You Want To Preach, You Have to Sing
I’ve been binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s a pro-gay show. Some would even call it “gay propaganda.”
It might even be “gay propaganda.”
And if it is, well, I’m fine with that.
The show itself has been teaching me some invaluable lessons about creating propaganda. Whether intended or not, as gay propaganda, this show gets its right, and what it does well, can be used to preach just about any message you want.
If you want to preach, you have to sing, you have to love.
Yes, that sentence seems, well, incredibly hokey. By the time I am done, I hope you will see that statement as a pragmatic observation about an effective way to EARN your preaching time. Yes, you liberty ‘preachers,’ I’m talking to you, so pay attention, because COPS are going to show you how to destroy the state.
The show is centered around Brooklyn Nine-Nine, an NYPD precinct. One of the characters, Captain Holt, is a gay character who has many moments in which his homosexuality is showcased. Yet, even at those moments, the “gay element” is usually secondary to an internal struggle with the character.
In the episode in which Holt (the gay character, the Captain of Brooklyn Nine-Nine) faces a challenger to his position as President of a black, gay cop support group, a group he founded and had been running for 25 years, the underlying conflict was not so much the struggle for gay rights in the NYPD as it was Holt’s fear of letting go the baby he created.
There was a particularly effective scene that highlights how this show consistently offers its social and political views in ways in which even those who might disagree with the views will find the underlying conflicts, the developing characters and their narratives, compelling enough to keep watching, and liking these same characters.
In this scene, Holt’s personal assistant confronts him about his militant opposition to someone running against him as President of his own organization. In the scene, the character reminds Holt that he created an organization to make it easier for people like him, black AND gay, who struggled with discrimination in the NYPD. Maybe it was time he let his organization do what it was designed to do now that so many struggles had been overcome.
In the end, Holt withdraws his candidacy and hands the Presidency over to the young guy. But, Holt also warned the new President that if he messed up his organization, he would have him impeached, and he would know how to do it because he wrote the bylaws.
If you follow the show, and this character’s development, the underlying issues he struggles with here are ongoing ones that are reflected, on the main, in situations that have nothing to do with his homosexuality. In other words, you don’t have to care about gay rights, you don’t even have to agree with them, to find many reasons to keep following along. You want to know how he develops. Does he overcome this repeating scotoma, etc.
His homosexuality is a PART of the plot, but not, by far, the only plot. Holt is not a man who requires love or acceptance, just respect. He is also a man who shows others respect, including his subordinates. Holt’s homosexuality creates a dichotomous dissonance within his character.
He is a man of little emotion who sounds and looks the same whether he is describing being burned alive or tasting the most delicious donut ever. He is, perhaps (and in my opinion), the most interesting character on the show. He has multiple dichotomies within him, from his ability to improvise in certain situations while still mostly consistently demonstrating a by the numbers, highly disciplined approach to his work.
He gives his team very little warmth, almost no affection. But he speaks to them more as peers, and he consistently demonstrates he views them as people he is able to serve rather than people he molds to more effectively serve him (saving for one highly recommended episode where he and the Sergeant try to micromanage the office space to avoid workflow pileups).
His homosexuality creates an interesting backstory for a man who is almost aggressively stoic. He was a man who came out of the closet 25 years ago, after a series of high-profile arrests of serial killers. He suffered the slings and arrows of both being black AND gay in the NYPD. His career stalled.
The show’s first episode is the appointment of the Captain, Holt, to his first Department assignment. Holt had been a Captain, but one in the PR division, not one running a precinct.
After 25 years of slings and arrows, Holt emerges as a stoic, no-nonsense man, with some control issues. But he is a man who is reliable, who has your back, who isn’t bitter, who isn’t vindictive, who isn’t a victim. He does his work well and he serves his team well.
That type of dynamic, to me, makes for a deep character that has the potential to tell a myriad of tales before the character is played out.
Holt’s character is one-man ensemble on an ensemble show. Holt’s character has a narrative that is tied to his homosexuality. That homosexuality is an ensemble element within an ensemble character on an ensemble show (I’m hoping you’re really getting my not-so-subtle emphasis of the word ENSEMBLE).
The key word here is, of course, ensemble.
This, in part, is why I like this character so much, and why I like this show so much.
This character, in particular, represents the totality of the (perhaps unintended) underlying narrative of the show. What you are presented with is an ensemble of characters whose core identity is not so much Brooklyn Nine-Nine as it is (and this is where I get hokey) simply caring for one another. The show is first and foremost about love, but practical love, doing love, risking love, not frou frou love.
The show itself (again, whether intended or not) is almost anti-identity, which makes the most ensemble-type character’s (he’s an ensemble cast all by himself) homosexuality all the more compelling.
This character, Holt, has a multiplicity of identities, none of which dominate him. The homosexual identity is simply one component of his life that, had people not made assumptions about him based on his homosexuality alone, would have most likely (within the context one can make about a fictional character) been a less significant identity than it is now (it is one of his major identities).
The struggle to simply be left alone and not judged based on aspects of his life that have NOTHING to do with the potential relationship one might have with him made his homosexuality a much larger issue than it otherwise would have been.
Holt is not a homosexual. He is a man who happens to be homosexual. And that, friends, brings us back to my opening salvo, Brooklyn Nine-Nine a pro-gay show. Some would even call it “gay propaganda.”
It might even be “gay propaganda.”
And if it is, well, I’m fine with that.
If it is gay propaganda (whatever that is), it is propaganda done right. What do you want to do? You want to change the way people look at another group of people maybe?
What do you do? Do you create moralistic plays with homophobic killers of angelic gay characters? Do you make the show about the message or do you make a show that has messages? If you make a show ABOUT a message (which is the way 99 percent of most Christian movies are made), you make a heavy-handed sermon where characters serve to illustrate the sermon. Because of this, the characters are one-dimensional simpletons with clean faces in mud baths.
Unless you REALLY LOVE that one message which every character lives to tell, you’re going to find very little else to identify with. And if that ONE MESSAGE happens to be that people like you suck cancer dick, well, it sucks to be you even more and have to watch that pule.
If you really want to create good propaganda, you have to have one of two things, a target audience that you KNOW will love that one message (in which case you are only reinforcing your choir, not singing beyond the pews, so to speak) or an entertaining narrative with AT LEAST one complex character in which that one message is not so heavily featured (like anvils being repeatedly dropped on your head from Elon Musk’s Tesla in Space).
I’ll put that second thing, the entertaining narrative, more simply. If you want to preach, you got to sing. And when you sing, don’t constantly sing about the same thing, the thing you want to preach about. Entertain me. Connect to me. Don’t declare me assgoo before you’ve preached your message.
Preach, go ahead. I got no issue with you preaching your views, even if I can’t stand them, so long as you sing, and you don’t fucking hate.
These, I believe, are tremendous lessons for anyone who hopes to use entertainment to share their ideas, their issues, their preachings, with others.
If you want to preach, you have to sing, you have to love, even the potential audience that doesn’t yet love you.
We all, in the “liberty community” have a LOT to learn about singing and a whole lot more to learn about loving if we’re to ever effectively preach.