Chicago PD: Good Cop, Bad Cop
036:065:001-002 Spr14 Television Criticism
Who doesn’t love a good cop show? A little shooting, a little blood, and a whole lot of badass. You can be a part of the action all while sitting safely in the presence of your own home. Crime shows have made a significant increase on television in the last few years giving viewers the opportunity to see how cops deal with life threatening crime cases. But are these representations of cops accurate to the real life cops that roam the streets? No, not really, but that does not change the fact that viewers think that the cops on TV are accurately represented. What is seen on television significantly influences viewer’s outlooks on the world around them. Television helps sculpt viewer’s opinions of the world based upon what they see on TV, even if what is being shown is not entirely accurate. The representations on a show can lead to negative outlooks by viewers. An example of negative representation is present in the American television legal drama, Chicago PD.
Chicago PD is about an intelligence unit that cleans up the streets of Chicago dealing with extreme levels of violence and hostility. Like most crime shows, the cops in Chicago PD solve crimes for their city and lock up the “bad guys”, however, in this particular show the cops do not always take on the “good cop” role as most cops do. Many of the cops in Chicago PD are represented maliciously through their dirty actions. The way the majority of the cops on Chicago PD are represented gives viewers a negative outlook on the real life Chicago cops. The show represents the cops in a negative light, which is then transferred to how viewers of the show view the Chicago cops in real life. Examples of the malicious and violent behaviors are seen in episode 2, “Wrong Side of the Bars”. In episode 2 Sergeant Hank Voight is shown on multiple occasions mentally torturing criminals, where at times viewers might mistake him as a “bad guy”. Sergeant Voight is one of the main characters in Chicago PD and he takes on the role of the “bad cop” by verbally and physically abusing suspects throughout the show, so viewers are exposed to these unacceptable behaviors in each episode. He is seen mentally torturing the suspects by handing a knife to his partner telling him to stab a knife into the suspect’s eye if the suspect fails to give them the evidence they are in need of. Another incidence in this episode where the cops take on a “bad cop” role is when one of the officers punches a criminal repeatedly in the face after the criminal is handcuffed. Another officer is seen verbally assaulting a criminal and then punches and kicks the man until he falls to his knees. The suspect is denied a lawyer and is instead verbally abused by the cops. In the end, the cops may have locked up the criminals, but the malicious actions portrayed in the episode keep viewers from looking at the officers as “heroes”. The cops in this episode are represented negatively which is obvious to the viewers of the show. The negative representation of the cops creates a negative outlook on the Chicago cops that in real life protect the Chicago community. Viewers will see the Chicago cops as malicious and each violent act that takes place in Chicago PD will be associated with Chicago’s real life cops. In reality the Chicago cops are not brutally assaulting suspects and playing the “bad cop” role. They are simply doing their job with no unnecessary violence. Each cop wants to be seen as a positive role model for society, who protects and serves his or her community to make the community a safer place. These positive actions portrayed by cops are not always displayed in the show because they are not as entertaining to watch as watching an officer beat up a criminal. Viewers do not always get to see the accurate representations of the Chicago cops in this show because the accurate representation is not as dramatic and exciting to watch.
The negative representations of cops in Chicago PD are not the only aspect of the show that has an affect on the outlook of viewers. The way viewers view the city of Chicago is altered as well due to the increased and intense amount of crime that is portrayed on the show. Chicago PD makes the city of Chicago appear as if it is filled with crime and gang violence. In each episode the Chicago cops are chasing after gangs and serial killers making the city look dangerous and brutal to live in. The show makes Chicago look like a dark and unsafe place. The positive aspects about Chicago are not expressed to viewers and the city is only seen as a crime filled danger zone. Chicago PD makes it hard for viewers who have not traveled to Chicago before to see Chicago in a positive light. Their outlooks on Chicago are influenced by the way the city is perceived on the show. The negative actions that are portrayed belittle what the city truly has to offer. While there is crime in every city, the amount of crime and level of violence represented on Chicago PD is significantly increased. In order to have an entertaining show that viewers want to watch, the plot of each episode must excite the viewers in some way and violent crime tends to do just that, so the intensity and amount of crimes represented in each episode is heightened for entertainment purposes. The accuracy of how Chicago cops really act (not engaging in unnecessary violence) is not always displayed, but the portrayal of dirty cops that supply sweat and blood makes for entertaining TV.
Chicago PD negatively portrays Chicago cops and the city of Chicago, which in return leads to viewers having a negative outlook on both the city of Chicago and its cops. The show represents Chicago as a crime filled danger zone with dirty and malicious cops who serve it, which in reality is not the case. The representations made in Chicago PD are crucial to the outlooks viewers will have. Viewers must keep in mind that the actions made during the show are exaggerated for entertainment purposes and are not a realistic representation of the City of Chicago and its cops. What is seen on TV helps shape viewer’s attitudes of the world around them, even if what is being shown is not entirely accurate.
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