The Unicorn Scale: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

11/13/2018

Well hey there, readers! Sometimes I’m absolutely convinced I already wrote a Unicorn review, but I am surprised I am wrong. Some characters and bi storylines are covered so thoroughly, celebrated so much that it stuns me that I haven’t written about them yet for bi.org. But that is the case with one of our community’s faves, Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She is so well loved she has even been suggested as a bi Halloween outfit! So I knew it was time to remedy that fact.

Before I get too far into the Nine-Nine, this is the part where I warn everyone that this article will contain SPOILERS for at least Season 5, and a touch of previous seasons. Also, if you are not familiar with the Unicorn Scale and how we rate different TV and film in this column, I highly suggest going to the original post, where Talia explains it all.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a comedy on NBC (previously Fox) that centers on a motley crew of detectives in a Brooklyn precinct, the goings-on of their work relationships, and their personal and professional lives. While Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is the lead – a brilliant but sloppy cop – Rosa is one of the best detectives in the precinct. Rosa is smart, capable, and downright intimidating in many situations, which is wonderful for interrogations but maybe not so much in finding out who stole her office ice cream.

Throughout the seasons we see Rosa warm up and open up a touch, revealing layers to her personality and quirks that do not come through on first interactions with her character. This takes time, as Rosa hates to smile, let alone smirk at anything that amuses her. In Season 2 the audience witnessed Rosa enjoy a long-term relationship with Marcus, Captain Holt’s nephew. But in Season 5 we got something a little different.

In this review I am going to focus on Episode 99 and 100, “99” and “Game Night,” respectively.

WHAT I LIKED:

Beatriz herself came out as bi a year before these episodes aired, and is very proudly out. and the writers and executive producers consulted with her as they developed the arc. (Sara Ramirez had similar involvement with her character coming out on Madam Secretary.) I think that gives her coming out an authenticity that sometimes lacks from other shows’ approaches.

There is so much to love about these two episodes. First and foremost, Rosa says “bi” so much that I honestly lost count. That’s a rarity in a TV landscape that loves to skirt around the word so much it starts to look like a Scarlett O’Hara hoop dress. She also comes out in degrees, first telling her coworker Boyle, and admitting relief she finally told someone at work, before coming out to the rest of her staff and her family. Her whole work crew (once she comes out) is supportive, and makes efforts to put together a chosen family space for her when they create a game night for her.

Even when she comes across common misconceptions (that it’s a phase, etc) she doesn’t back down from who she is, even though she is afraid it will hurt her relationships. And though her coming out process isn’t without conflict, it openly and honestly shows her struggles with her family in an immediately recognizable way. Most people I have met in the bi+ community don’t have their entire family embrace their orientation when they come out, so it feels accurate that her parents balked at first, but at least one of them accepted her sexuality.

Not only that, but the fact that this was the 100th episode is significant. In previous years of TV production, most shows hoped to get 100 episodes into production because that was the magic number that opened the show for getting bought up for syndication (which ensures residuals for cast and production alike). So not only was this a milestone episode, but it also ensures Rosa’s story will become part of what gets retold in reruns.

Also, on a writer front, I’m very happy with how her coming-out unfolded. One of the pillars of Rosa’s personality is that she is generally closed off – multiple storylines hinged on the conceit she is, by nature, a very private person. But as she opened up over the seasons, this felt right with her development. It didn’t feel like a stunt for publicity or ratings. “Game Night” showed the struggles of coming out while keeping Rosa strong and showing different levels of support. It’s an episode that resonated both within and without the LGBTQIA+ community. And Rosa (and Beatriz) are both queer women of color – so three cheers for queer representation that doesn’t devolve into the #KillYourGays trope!

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

To be honest, I’m having trouble with finding fault with these episodes. The writing and performances were lovingly crafted and executed with respect. If I were a television executive, I would say the best two words to the executive producers could hear: “No notes!”

THE RATING:

These episodes (and show) made me so darn happy. Rosa is a great character who showed an authentic coming-out story. She never backs down from using the word “bi” or “bisexual.” And it was all done while getting me to both tear up and bark out laughter – that’s a rare feat. Cool, cool-cool-cool-cool-cool, no doubt, no doubt.

Jennie Roberson
Jennie Roberson is a comedic actress and screenwriter currently living in Los Angeles. She just finished her first novel (a bi coming-of-age tale, naturally) and hopes to share it with the world soon. When she's not busy binging on Star Trek or dreaming of her future cat army, you can find her occasional thoughts between mountains of re-tweets at her Twitter handle, @JennieRoberson.