Socialized through Monk Season 1

All right y’all,

I know it has been a really long minute since I posted. And I know there are a lot of other things that I should definitely be posting about. I do think the work I’ve been doing with my podcast has been a source of letting me get at the original intention for this blog.

There have been a few things that I started to write about and then stopped writing. Because I don’t know. I’m not totally clear on how to process these last few months, so I’m not going to yet. Or ever?

What I am going to do is write about how we get socialized into accepting police brutality without necessarily realizing. I’m going to do that through an analysis of a show that I absolutely love.

The show Monk is one of my favorite shows. I watched it while it aired and have re-watched the series at least once. Recently, my mother started watching it, and because of that, I revisited the show. And I saw some things that had me thinking about the socialization process. So I decided to start the whole series over, but with a new, critical lens.

The first thing that I can definitely say about the show is there are almost no Black people or POCs in general in Season 1.
-Pilot episode: There is one Black detective who has a speaking role.
—Episode 4: There is a Black male nurse who is pretty rude to Monk the whole episode.
-Episode 8: The main character is a Nigerian marathoner who, for parts of the episode, Sharona, Monk’s assistant, thinks might be the murderer. Also, the head of security of a political campaign is Black man who gets mad at Monk for wiping his hands after shaking his hand. Monk does this for everyone, but the security guy gets mad and states, “I’m gonna go… if I stick around I might do something I regret.” After this interaction, Monk spends the rest of the scene dealing with comments from campaign staff like “we’re all just people, Mr. Monk.”
-Episode 9: The Latinx characters are maids at a hotel who commit a murder. When caught, one says to Monk, “You think because you’re rich and white you can accuse anybody of anything.”
-Episode 11: The murderer is a blind, Black woman, and many background actors are black including some reporters. And I would say that in this episode, I can see some concentrated effort to have some diversity in the background actors.
-Episode 12: There were two TSA agents with speaking lines, and a lot of background Black folks.
So if I had to take my lessons on Black folks from Monk, I would think they can be murderers, service people, or athletes.

The show also includes a lot of effed up policing practices, but the two that stood out to me were:
-Episode 3: The suspect is a police officer. There is a lowkey reference made in background news reporting that internal affairs was investigating him for police brutality. Despite this past, a blue wall of silence comes up to keep him quiet while his fellow officers try to figure out what happened. When the officers are talking to the coroner, their first question is “Self defense?” To which the coroner replies, “maybe.”
-In Episode 10: After catching the suspect, Captain Stottlemeyer says, “I’m surprised you can speak with a broken jaw.” The suspect replies, “I don’t have a broken jaw,” and then Stottlemeyer punches him.
And we, the audience, are supposed to be cheering this behavior on.

There are some other problematic things that happen as well.
-Episodes 2: There is a shout out to phrenology, the mother load of fake race science, when a psychic measuring Sharona’s head says she can tell stuff about Sharona from her head size and shape, and that it’s called “phrenology.”

-Episode 8: They assume a murder victim has a boyfriend because she has “Beer in the fridge and cigars in the humidor,” as if women can’t have those things for themselves.
-Episode 11: In this episode, Monk has a disassociation issue and forgets how to speak English. While taking a cab, the driver goes on a racist rant about how people who come to the US not speaking English but are willing to accept welfare.
Most of that type of thing just passes without notice or redirect from any character.

I don’t know if I’m gonna keep doing this for the other seasons, but I needed to write this down because I was way too deep into the rabbit hole of looking at this show with a critical lens.

I kind of see myself finishing this project. When you a nerd, it be like that sometimes

Update: I’m probably not going to finish this because this podcast series does it so much better. Six episodes. Worth the listen.

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