A few years ago, I had the honor of traveling through Accra, Ghana. As I rode down a main avenue, images grabbed my attention. On one side of the street, African children wearing rags played in an open sewer. On the other side of the street, there was a towering billboard advertisement featuring palm trees, a beach, and a Caucasian man lowering sunglasses from his eyes. The ad was for actor David Caruso, starring in the television series CSI: Miami.

The dichotomy of images was a reminder not only of the international reach of American pop culture, but of the specific influence of TV police procedurals.

In Hollywood, I’m a rare creature. A black man who has made a career, in part, writing for network police shows, having eventually created my own show, S.W.A.T., for CBS. For me, writing television can never simply be about entertainment. Many people in Hollywood have a fear of being didactic, preaching messages that risk making an audience feel uncomfortable. But, in the shadow of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers, a question persists—how are the shows we are writing contributing to perceptions of the justice system, class, race, and the image of black men? I look at this, not as a creative burden, but a necessary responsibility.

Traditionally, the domain of TV police procedurals has been as morality plays, where clear lines are drawn. The past 60 years have seen shows like Dragnet, The Untouchables, and Adam 12 establish a formula where, within an hour of story, good lawmen, also known as square-jawed white cops, defeat bad guys, often known as poor people of color. This stark clarity, indulging the idea of the hero cop, often provides a sense of satisfaction for some viewers in an otherwise complicated world. This can make for wildly popular entertainment, but also risks encouraging fantasies to be perceived as reality rather than idealized comfort food. People watch TV to see heroes, but how are we defining who a hero is? For people of color, especially black people, the viewing experience is complex.
传统上,电视警匪片一向是品德剧,情节清楚明了。在之前的60年中,《Dragnet》、《铁面无情》、《Adam 12》等作品的套路是,收场不到一个小时,就会有法律的大好人打废弛可以上下分的电玩软件人,大好人普通是方下巴的白人警察,坏人则是贫困的有色人种。这类光秃秃的暗示塑造的是豪杰警察的笼统捕鱼电玩上下分,平日会给复杂实际世界中有些不雅众带来满足感。这能满足大众的娱乐方法,但也有风险,会让人们把幻想当作实际,而不是把它当作精力安慰。人们看电视是为了看豪杰,但我们怎么给豪杰下定义呢?关于有色人种,特别是黑人,这类不雅影感触感染很复杂。